Monday, March 11, 2013

Swinging big wood

The Chinese use the same word for challenge and opportunity.  Well, that is not actually true but it’s one of those things that is said over and over so often that everyone thinks it’s true.

The challenge I faced recently is that the department is short three Patrol Officers.  Kind of like every Marine is a Rifleman, every Officer is a Patrolman (or woman).  So I am back on patrol for a few months.  No big deal I always kind of liked patrol.  The challenge was making sure I still got all of my training in.  That challenge also created some new training opportunities.

Before we get to the new stuff lets review where I am coming from.  If you will recall the super soldier project, which trans-morphed into Batman by 40.  One of the requisites was training I can do in the morning before work, that increases cardio vascular stamina, works specifics combative skill sets, and doesn't lead to over training when combined with strength training and running.

For strength training I like to do a whole body suspension body weight circuit along with skill specific training.  Looks something like this:
Saturday – Strength & Fundamental Motions Tabata
Monday – Strength & Nage Waza (Throwing Techniques)
Wednesday – Strength and Kansetsu Waza (Joint Locks)

I also run three times a week
Friday – Distance
Sunday – Sprints and Plyometrics
Tuesday – Interval training 

My usual schedule is Monday through Thursday 0630 – 1630.  Thursdays are almost always tactical training days so I made that my rest day (sometimes a not so much rest day depending on the training).  So that meant I needed three (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) A.M. training workouts.

Monday – Atemi Waza (Striking) A heavy bag and jump rope circuit
Tuesday – Fundamental Motions Plyometrics.  Tabata training explosive fundamental motions against the resistance of plyobands.  A longer more intense version of what I do after strength training on Saturdays
Wednesday – Kenjutsu

Even Fridays I got extra training combining elements of Wednesday and Monday.

With the new schedule I work Saturday, Sunday, Monday every other week and on Fridays the opposite week.

So I needed some new A.M. workouts

I didn't want to just recycle the workouts I already do to prevent boredom and repetitive use over training.  So, I needed to develop training that fit my Batman by 40 criteria, and covered other aspects of combatives

Physical Skills Platform (Aspects of Combatives)
A use of force continuum is an example of rules of engagement found in most Law Enforcement agencies use of force policies.
Here is an example of a use of force continuum
1.       Presence
Physical Fitness
Awareness* situational awareness program
2.       Verbal commands
Communication Skills
3.       Contact Controls
Touching or Seizing the offender
Escort Compliance
Standing Controls
Pain Compliance
Joint Locks
4.       Compliance Techniques
Soft Hands
Take Downs
5.       Disabling Techniques
Hard Hands
Impact Techniques
Striking / Kicking
6.       Potentially Lethal Force
3 5 7
Weapons Techniques

If you are going to employ your martial arts skills in the professional use of force you must assure that your own personal style covers all these aspects.

All Operators have to have skill sets at all levels of force.  I like to use this model as a frame work for operators to develop their own operational style.

Most of that is covered with my current training except for Pins (Osae Komi) and weapon techniques.

So I combined elements of the offensive ground work class I teach and transitions into different shooting positions into a workout.

But that’s not what this blog is about.  Maybe the details of that training and what I’ve learned from it will be the topic for a different day.

The title of the blog is swinging big wood.  Sexual innuendo aside what I’m talking about is Suburi.

Specifically how to get a good work out that improves skills applicable to 21st century combatives from swing a big sword around.

Suburi is a Japanese word for practice swings.  Outside of Japan, the word is used exclusively for repetitive individual cutting exercises used in Japanese martial arts such as kendo, aikido, iaidō, and kenjutsu.

I like Suburi but I needed to switch it up from practice swings to incorporate more fundamental motions.

I have been very fortunate with the Kenjutsu training I received in that it tied directly back to the principles of what made empty hand techniques work.  Now, if I can find the sword in the motion then I know the technique no matter what the style.

Most combatives can be traced back one way or another to Jujutsu.  Jujutsu can be traced back to the noto techniques of Kenjutsu.  So it stands to reason that the fundamentals of the foundation would be universal to anything that came from it.

I train fundamental motions so often because they apply to all aspects of combatives.
If you boil it down there really only so many ways to move in relation to another person

Lateral             (Yoko Sabaki)
Circular           (Tenkan)
Opening          (Hiraki)
Entering           (Irimi)
Direct Entry    (Shomen Irimi)
To the rear       (Ura)

No matter what the weapon, no matter what the art, no matter what combative aspect within that art in fits within one of those six general motions.

Cops don’t want to learn a bunch of Japanese terms so when Jimerfield Sensei teaches cops he assigns numbers to the motions.
Lateral             (Yoko Sabaki)             1 & 2
Circular           (Tenkan)                      3 & 4
Opening          (Hiraki)                        5 & 6

He took that from his training in Nihon Jujutsu.

That is cool but it didn't explain other motions that have worked for me.  So in the training I provide I added
Entering           (Irimi)                         7 & 8
Direct Entry    (Shomen Irimi)            9 & 10
To the rear       (Ura)                            0

There is a saying in Judo – When pushed, pull – when pulled, push.  Similarly in Aikido the saying goes when pushed open when pulled enter.

These ideas / motions complement or cancel each other.

Push / Enter                                         Pull / Open
Circular (Tenkan)                                Opening (Hiraki)                    
Entering (Irimi)                                   Lateral  (Yoko Sabaki)
Direct Entry (Shomen Irimi)               To the rear (Ura)

What makes fundamental motions so cool is that they are universally applicable
Those motions are also what makes Kenjutsu work.  

Ok, ok, you may be asking how does this apply to suburi specifically and working out in general?

Suburi training usually consists of standing still and doing a few cuts.  Not great for drilling specific useful motions, more just a warm up or a work out for arms and shoulders.

However, if you use the complimentary motion principle and work opposing motions together you get all the benifits of regular suburi training, plus fundamental motions training, plus good cardio vascular effect because you are constntly moving.

The next part might get a little inside baseball but bear with me take the principles and apply them to any weapons training that you may do.

The Suburi I do now looks like this

OFFENSE                                                      DEFENSE     
7          8          Entering                                  2          1          Lateral Motion

3          4          Circular                                   6          5          Opening
SUIHEI                                                          UCHI OTOSHI SHINOGI   

9          10        Direct Entry                            0          -1         Enemy to the rear
SHOMEN UCHI                                            URA TSUKI 

2          1          Lateral Motion                        7          8          Entering

6          5          Opening                                  3          4          Circular
YOKOMEN UCHI                                        HASSO GAMAE      

9          10        Direct Entry                            0          -1         Enemy to the rear
TSUKI                                                           HILT STRIKE           
ONE MINUTE PER SIDE (left and right) REPEAT X2 = 24 MINUTES              

{Side Note - when you add the number assigned to the motion to it's complimentary motion it always adds up to 9.}  

Now you may ask is this a coincidence?  Isn't 9 sacred to the Ninja?  Kasey are you a Ninja?

Of course not there is no historical proof that Ninja ever even existed, much less still operate today.  But isn't that exactly what a Ninja would say? 

Ok back to the point of the blog...

This motion training not only helps with fitness and Kenjutsu but has positive crossover training effects to empty hand combatives, and firearms skills

It takes about 24 minutes, it's fun, and it kicked my ass.

When you work the complimentary motions together (9) it creates a flow that reminded of Indian Club training.

For those you unfamiliar with club training I paraphrased the following information from

Every workout, there you are, pushing and pulling heavy weights (which is definitely a good thing), but there's more to it than strengthening the muscles alone... You must maintain stronger joints as well. 

After all, when you lift weights, you can only lift them in straight lines...but your body moves and functions in a circular manner.  This is especially true for the ball-and-socket joint of the shoulder. Think of how many different directions you can move your arm and how few of them you can reach with "weights" alone.

There's no question that the shoulder girdle is by far one of the most movable areas of the body but it is also one of the most fragile. Regardless of how you use your body, it is very important to keep the shoulders strong, loose, and flexible. 

But many people never fully develop their natural shoulder girdle mobility and muscular balance. Let me tell you about a simple training technique that will help..


Several thousand years ago, Indian wrestlers and warriors prepared themselves for battle by swinging wooden "clubs" to condition their bodies and build upper-body strength. This practice spread amongst many different countries throughout the ensuing centuries - club swinging of various forms can be found in just about every middle-eastern and Asian country.

In the 1800's, British soldiers started practicing "Indian Club" techniques and brought them back to Europe where the clubs became part of the physical culture tradition. 

In time, European immigrants brought Indian Club training to American shores. Club swinging was adopted into American school physical education programs and military physical readiness training. 

In the early 20th century, many students began their day with a few minutes of club swinging to wake up mind and body. 

Utilizing a series of graceful swinging movements, Indian Club training was a simple method for individuals to build stronger, healthier bodies while promoting joint integrity and improving strength and overall vitality. 

You simply need a space big enough to let you swing the clubs with out interference and you are in business.  Keep in mind that just because the clubs are "relatively" light doesn't mean that you aren't going to get one hell of a workout. 

When used correctly the clubs can humble even the strongest of athletes
(As I mentioned this type of training kicked my ass, and I of course am awesome)

This is what Indian Clubs look like. They range from one to three pounds in weight and from 16-1/2 inches to 20 inches in length.

This is what a suburito looks like.  

suburitō is commonly around 115 cm (45 in) in length, with a mass of 1 kg (2.2 lb). However, these bokuto (wooden swords) can vary widely in size and weight.

Look at this maniac swinging around a railroad tie

So bottom line - Work out.  But don't just work out, use your brains.  Find training that not only makes you more fit, but also makes you a more skilled combatant.

Physicality has it's limits, but you can always become more efficient and smarter.

Train hard, Train smart, Be safe

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