Teaching by Principle in Wa Shin Ryu Jujutsu

V1.08/ 8-30-2010

Andrew Yiannakis, Ph.D., 7th Dan (USJJF, ATJA, AJA)


Introducing Students to the Basic Principles of Jujutsu

When introducing students to the martial arts there are certain principles that need to be stressed before any actual teaching of technique takes place. This is extremely important because by introducing beginners to activities that stress such principles students have a much easier time learning the more complex skills that follow. They also acquire a stronger foundation upon which to build technique and, they are less likely to get injured.

There are 10 Beginning Level Principles. These address such areas as:

(i) Rough Handling and Restraint, (ii) Ways of Escape (Fusegi Waza), (iii) Basic Movement Patterns (Taisabaki), (iv) Timing and Spatial Positioning (Debana and Tsukuri), (v) Destabilizing the opponent (breaking balance mentally and physically (Kuzushi), (vi) Using the Body for Leverage, (vii) Using the Body as a Weapon, (viii) Reading the Opponent's Intent (Metsuke), (ix) Basic Hand/Leg-Eye Coordination, and (x) Falling Ways (Ukemi) for personal safety and body control

Let us discuss each one briefly:


  1. Rough Handling and Restraint
  2. For most people there is nothing more scary than being grabbed and restrained by an aggressor who intends to do them harm. The proximity, the loss of control and the rough handling that accompany such an attack causes most people to panic. This is also true for students in some martial arts that focus exclusively on distance form of fighting. With carefully introduced training routines and drills students can be desensitized to the threat of rough handling and restraint and they can be trained to remain calm and collected under such pressure.

    Instructors should therefore introduce beginners to such routines, drills and games that help students become comfortable in such close quarter fighting contexts


  3. Ways of Escape (fusegi waza)
  4. Knowing how to escape from rough handling and restraining situations is a very empowering feeling. It helps students understand that even though an assailant

    may be temporarily in control, not all is lost. There is a way out. Instructors should teach, early in the course, therefore, basic escape techniques and tactics in order to help students develop confidence in close quarter fighting situations. The use of strikes and kicks, joint locking, leverage, deception strategies, and the like (used singly or in combination), are effective ways to begin the confidence building process.

  5. Taisabaki, Basic Movement Patterns (the way of the martial arts)
  6. We all know how to walk (or run) in order to get from one place to another. Those of us who grow up with sports also feel comfortable executing somewhat more complex movement patterns even under pressure. And superior athletes are able to combine a number of movement patterns (dodging, twisting, turning, leaping and running, all at the same time. In sports, of course, the consequences of failure to move effectively are not life threatening. Unlike the sports world, however, individuals in the martial arts who are unable to perform complex movement patterns while under attack reduce their chances of survival because the ability to move effectively determines what they can and cannot do under such conditions.

    Instructors, therefore, should focus early on teaching students how a martial artist moves. The concepts from Taisabaki (Principles of Movement) should be introduced using basic drills and games stressing centered action (back relaxed and straight, knees slightly bent, shoulders relaxed and arms in the proper position), control and fluency. The concepts of walking, sliding, recentering, stepping through, balancing on one leg, leaping and rotating/spinning the body should be gradually introduced and practiced using basic movement patterns, drills and/or games.


  7. Timing and Positioning (debana and tsukuri)
  8. Timing is a function of reading the opponent and producing an appropriate response that places the opponent (Uke) at a disadvantage or enables Tori to evade, block or join for an effective counter attack.

    Timing and positioning often work together because without good timing proper positioning is more difficult to achieve. Proper positioning is only effective when Tori is where he/she needs to be at a particular point in the attack, counter-attack cycle. Part of this process is of course the ability to estimate distance (Maai - See Heiho, Principles of Combat Strategy).

    Good positioning requires correct foot/leg placement, centering and control

  9. Destabilizing the Opponent (psychological and physical kuzushi)
  10. This takes two forms. The first is a psychological type of destabilization which causes the opponent to lose confidence, to be confused, or to act rashly. Causing pain through a hard strike or kick often achieves this effect but other strategies are also effective. Inevitably this type of destabilization makes the opponent a less effective foe.

    The second form causes the opponent to lose his/her physical balance. An opponent is said to be unbalanced when he/she is no longer able to maintain a centered posture. A state of imbalance is a state of weakness and that is an optimal time for Tori to mount an attack.

    Tori may unbalance Uke by striking or kicking (or by pretending to), by using other forms of deception, by pushing or pulling, by using good leverage and combination techniques. All the above may be used singly or in combination.

  11. Using the Body for Leverage
  12. Leverage is the efficient use of body parts that help facilitate the execution of technique. It is an essential component which helps ensure that a technique is executed with maximum efficiency and minimum effort. Leverage requires the proper use of body parts (arms, hands, legs, hip, back) to off-balance an opponent and complete a technique.


  13. Using the Body as a Weapon
  14. With proper training almost every part of the body can be used as a weapon. The most obvious applications involve striking and kicking, head butting and the like. It can also be used as a weapon in throwing, in strangling, in joint locking and when applying pressure to sensitive areas of the body.

    The body becomes a most effective weapon when the principles of power (Ki, Shin, Chikara and Kokyu) are employed concurrently while executing technique. These, however, are advanced level principles (discussed in folder titled "Shuchu Ryoku").



  15. Reading the Opponent’s Intent (metsuke)
  16. Beginners should begin to practice this principle early in their training. It takes a long time to develop this ability so it’s important to introduce beginners to this skill early in the course.

    The ability to read an opponent’s intent is an extremely important skill because it

    enables Tori to anticipate and, therefore, respond accordingly. Untrained people are relatively easy to read but advanced martial artists, especially those who employ stealth and deception, are much more difficult to "read".

    In the early stages of learning, the ability to read an opponent is based mostly on carefully observing his/her body language, breathing, and eyes. Later, and with much practice, one develops a higher sense of awareness and the advanced jujutsuka no longer needs to consciously monitor an opponent's body language but simply "senses" his/her intent.


  17. Basic Hand/Leg-Eye Coordination
  18. This skill is especially important in the punching/kicking arts and needs to be developed early in one’s training. Jujutsu systems, such as Wa Shin Ryu, which incorporate punching/kicking skills in their systems, need therefore to address this skill early in the course.

    Developing this type of coordination requires of course the ability to track and "read" an opponent’s movement patterns, quickly make sense of them and then respond accordingly. Instructors should therefore introduce games and drills that require students to respond to punches and kicks by blocking, evading, joining and deflecting early in the course.


  19. Falling Ways (ukemi)

Most combative situations eventually cause one or both combatants to fall to the ground. Whether this is the result of a fall, a trip or an actual throw is not the point. Falls can cause pain and injury and they can incapacitate the person who doesn’t know how to fall properly. Therefore, regardless of the martial art in question, all student should be taught how to control their body in space, land correctly and get up unharmed. The ability to control one’s body in space, especially when going over upside down, helps develop confidence, helps protect the student from potential injury and helps expand their repertoire of techniques to include going to the ground with the opponent. (when appropriate). Students who don’t know how to fall often shy away from developing skills and techniques that take them, and the opponent to the ground.



Advanced Principles (The Four System Principles of Wa Shin Ryu Jujutsu)

At advanced levels, beginning level principles are further refined and the underlying forces that characterize a system begin to come together in an integrated and harmonious manner. That is, the advanced student begins to understand that what originally appeared to be ten separate and independent principles are actually segments of a larger, more coherent whole.

This coherent whole is represented by the Four System Principles of Wa Shin Ryu Jujutsu. They are:

(for a discussion of the four System Principles above see file on "System, Philosophy and Principles").