Shock & Awe Article
by Terry L. Wilson
It’s the first lesson in judo. you learn how to disrupt your opponent’s balance so you can throw him. this is called kuzushi, and there are eight directions in which a person can be pushed and or pulled to accomplish “off balancing.” Because judo is considered a sport, kuzushi is achieved without injuring your opponent.
In the Japanese art of shinto yoshin ryu jiu-jitsu, strikes and kicks are often employed as a form of kuzushi. A much more lethal method of taking an opponent off balance, these karate techniques are used to win a fight in the street, whereas judo kuzushi is used to win trophies and ribbons.
This in no way diminishes the effectiveness of traditional judo as a self-defense art, it is just that jiu-jitsu was created for combat and all of the subsequent techniques were designed to kill or maim an attacker.
Although shinto yoshin ryu is one of te oldest systems in the martial arts, there are only 40 plus schools in the United States that teach this combination of karate and throwing techniques. One such dojo is Sierra Jiu-jitsu and Karate in Caron City, Nevada.
“Our system is a Japanese-based style of jiu-jitsu that focuses heavily on blocking and striking before doing anything else,” says seventh-degree black belt John Chatwood. “Many other styles will practice their nage (throwing) and their mat work from a defensive posture. While other styles practice their kuzushi by extending their opponent’s balance. We want to hit them as hard as we can, numerous times before doing a throw, takedown or armbar.”
Let’s see how he puts everything together. Let’s say an attacker goes at Chatwood with a huge punch. Initially Chatwood would block the technique to the outside. Then, he would step inside and deliver an elbow strike to his opponent’s ribs, taking away his balance and air. From there, Chatwood swiftly moves to the rear of the attacker, grabbing the collar and throwing him backward over a bent knee.
“I like this move because the attacker has no idea where he is going,” says Chatwood. “Then we allow for the hardest hit there is…he hits the ground. I then follow him to the ground with an armbar or another appropriate submission technique.”
As in any form of fighting, the ability to “set up” your opponent for an attack is paramount to success. In shinto yoshin ryu, Chatwood employs the strategy of countering an attack to set up his offense.
“What we do is sort of a counter art,” says Chatwood. “Although we do have numerous first strikes, I like to wait until the opponent makes a move, which commits his balance, then we’ll move inside. We don’t stay to the outside like many other styles of jujitsu or karate. We believe in staying very close to our opponent. However, on that inside move we do use a strike or kick to take away their balance as we move in for a throw.”
While watching Chatwood and his students go through their workout, it’s obvious that their forms, strikes and kicks have a strong Japanese base. In face, shinto yoshin ryu is the foundation for one of the oldest of the martial arts.
“From shinto yoshin jiu-jitsu came wado-ryu karate,” says Chatwood. “so this is one of the rare cases in which a karate style can trace its lineage directly back to a jiu-jitsu system. We have stayed true to the jiu-jitsu principles of the art because we like the ‘tools’ that it give sus to work with.”
Like all good karate systems, hands set up the feet and feet set up the hands in free fighting. this adage is also true in setting uo a shinto yoshin ryu jiu-jitsu attack.
“We’ll use a number of kicks, but we don’t do a lot of high head-hunter type of kicks,” Chatwood explains. “Our focus is more on a low roundhouse kick against the outside of the thigh or lower calf. foot sweeps are also an important part of our set-ups. We’ll also use a very fast snap kick to the groin and inside of the thigh to attack and off balance our opponents.”
When an opponent throws a roundhouse kick, Chatwood likes to counter by stepping inside of the attack using a punch or elbow strike to counter attack.
“If someone throws a back leg snap kick, we’ll move off to the side and grab the leg,” he says. “Then we’ll extend it out and help our opponent drop down to the splits.”
Free fighting takes a different attitude at Chatwood’s dojo. The blend of karate kumite, judo and jiu-jitsu makes for some interesting sparring sessions.
“We do kumite, but we do jiu-jitsu kumite,” Chatwood explains. “We start off in a very regimented program with limited amount of actual sparring. As their skills improve, I’ll increase their degree of contact. Then after they achieve a green belt, we’ll introduce a handful of takedowns and sweeps. Eventually our students will be encouraged to get inside their opponent, execute throws, sweeps and takedowns after doing a striking or kicking entry.”
One of the training procedures incorporated into Chatwood’s program is a high regard for control and safety. the person executing the throw is responsible for the safety of the individual he is throwing. Subsequently, the student must have perfect “control” of his counter (none to light contact with strikes and kicks) and he must have total control of the throw to insure that his attacker lands properly.
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