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Home arrow Rinpa Kai arrow FAQ
Frequently Asked Questions Print E-mail

Written by Mr. Jeff Myers, San Kyu.

1. Where does Aiki Jujutsu come from?

2. What makes Aiki Jujutsu different from all the other martial arts out there?

3. Will Aiki Jujutsu help me to win tournaments?

4. How long will I have to train before I really know how to fight?

5. How long will it take me to get a black belt?

6. All these new blocks, steps, strikes, etc. are confusing and a little overwhelming. How am I supposed to figure this all out?

7. I've noticed that all the blocks, strikes, and techniques seem to come in sets of ten.
Why is this?

8. I don't understand all the Japanese names for everything. Do I need to learn Japanese before I can study Aiki Jujutsu?

9. Some of this stuff looks pretty dangerous. Is it really safe to attend class, or am I running a high risk of getting injured?

10. Why is class so formal?

11. Why do we bow to the Shinzen, the plaque with those Japanese characters at the front of the dojo? Is this a religious gesture?

12. I always thought Jujutsu was about grappling and ground fighting. Why don't I see much of that here?

13. Why do we practice so much repetition?

14. Are there spiritual aspects to this martial art?

15. What's the point of training to use archaic weapons? Swordfights are cool in movies, but when will I ever really need to use one?

16. How practical is this art overall?

17. How versatile are the techniques?

18. The knowledge of the advanced students is kind of intimidating. How long will it take me to catch up to them?

19. I want to learn to defend myself, but I don't want to hurt or kill anybody. Is this art really for me?

20. Are there other benefits to training besides learning to defend myself?

1. Where does Aiki Jujutsu come from?
Aiki Jujutsu is an unmodified art from feudal Japan. It is a battlefield art used by the Samurai class for centuries. The teachings have remained intact and complete along an unbroken line of succession to the modern day.

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2. What makes Aiki Jujutsu different from all the other martial arts out there?
Each martial art has its own particular flavor and its own philosophy. Several martial arts are focused on sport, while others have been softened to bring out an emphasis on spirituality. The system of Hito Ryu remains true to original practical aspects of martial training. That is, to defend against multiple attackers, using whatever tools and means are necessary to walk away with minimal injury, and most importantly of all, to stay alive.

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3. Will Aiki Jujutsu help me to win tournaments?
Aiki Jujutsu is, in general, not a tournament-based art. However, students of Aiki Jujutsu do learn to strike effectively, to block attacks, to watch for and create openings in an opponent‚Äös guard, and to utilize footwork to their advantage. Students also will notice that their stamina, speed, balance, and sense of timing improve with practice in this art. All these qualities are useful in tournament sparring for those who are so inclined.

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4. How long will I have to train before I really know how to fight?
From the very first day of class onward, students learn techniques and strikes that will provide them with confidence and skills useful in a violent encounter. It‚Äös a poor idea to go out and start a fight after you‚Äöve attended a few classes, but the Senseika are here to give you as many tools as possible to help you when the situation is unavoidable. As far as knowing how to fight, well, it's more about learning that about knowing. The goal is to continue to learn and improve as you train, even well past black belt. There‚Äös always room to grow.

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5. How long will it take me to get a black belt?
There's no real cut and dry answer on this. Some systems will promise a guaranteed black belt to anyone who trains for two years. That kind of approach doesn't really give a lot of room for personal development and produces a lot of underqualified black belts. In Aiki Jujutsu, your ascent to black belt depends on how much time and effort you put in training and on your personal development of technique, as judged by your Sensei. The best way to get to black belt quickly is to come to class consistently, take advantage of special training opportunities, and work with the Senseika to improve on your personal weak points. When you get your black belt, you will feel confident in your abilities and know that you have earned it.

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6. All these new blocks, steps, strikes, etc. are confusing and a little overwhelming. How am I supposed to figure this all out?
Just relax and take in as much as you can, a little at a time. Nobody learns everything overnight. It is the job of your Sensei to expose you to a lot of technique and to help you assimilate that information as best you can. As long as you make a focused effort to watch the demonstrations, practice the techniques correctly, and follow your Sensei‚Äös personalized instructions, you‚Äöll find that the movements become familiar, and the structure of the system will begin to fall into place faster than you think. And of course, if you don‚Äöt understand something, ask your Sensei for clarification while you‚Äöre working on the technique or after class.

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7. I've noticed that all the blocks, strikes, and techniques seem to come in sets of ten. Why is this?
One of the foundational principles of Hito Ryu is that of taisabaki, or footwork. There are ten directions in which to step to block or otherwise avoid an attack, and each of these stances suggests a different variation for each technique. There are also, for each attack form, at least ten variations on the strike, each of which suggests a different taisabaki on the part of the defender. I use the word 'suggest' because in advanced practice, any variation of a technique can follow any block. However, the study of taisabaki is very important for defining a structure by which to learn the system as a whole.

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8. I don't understand all the Japanese names for everything. Do I need to learn Japanese before I can study Aiki Jujutsu?
The system is Japanese, so Japanese names are used to describe all the movements, strikes, and techniques. This does not by any means imply that one must be of Japanese ancestry or must speak Japanese fluently to train. The vast majority of western students speak little or no Japanese the first time they come to class, and that‚Äös perfectly okay. Over time, students are expected to become familiar with the Japanese names for techniques and their English translations, but few students have trouble with this, and beginners need not worry.

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9. Some of this stuff looks pretty dangerous. Is it really safe to attend class, or am I running a high risk of getting injured?
Safety is a major concern for all the practitioners of Aiki Jujutsu. Injuries can take away weeks or even months of training time and are thus to be avoided at all costs. In the dojo, we work to take care of our training partners, and the Senseika work to maintain a safe atmosphere for everyone in class. While injuries do sometimes occur, they are usually minor and happen with rarity.

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10. Why is class so formal?
Formality is a way of showing respect for each other, for the Senseika, and for those who have gone before us and were generous enough to pass on their teachings to yet another generation. Japanese culture, especially in feudal times, was very formal in many aspects, and that comes down to us as part of the system's teachings. Producing an atmosphere of formality and respect is a positive way to create a good environment in which to learn and train, and it maintains organization and safety better than an overly casual environment would.

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11. Why do we bow to the Shinzen, the plaque with those Japanese characters at the front of the dojo? Is this a religious gesture?
The Shinzen displays the Japanese characters for the official name of the system. Bowing to the Shinzen at the beginning and the end of class is just another way of showing respect for the teachings and for our Samurai precursors. It is not a religious symbol, and bowing is not a religious gesture.

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12. I always thought Jujutsu was about grappling and ground fighting. Why don't I see much of that here?
There are other forms of Jujutsu which emphasize grappling and ground fighting as ideal situations in an encounter. In Aiki Jujutsu, grappling and ground fighting are also taught, but they are given the status as less-than-favorable situations which we‚Äöd generally prefer to avoid whenever possible. This is because the focus of Aiki Jujutsu is in dealing with multiple attackers, and being tied up with one opponent on the ground is not a good thing to do when you have one or two additional enemies closing in on you. In the philosophy of Aiki Jujutsu, it‚Äös better to remain standing and aware of your surroundings and to just put your opponent on the ground rather than follow him there.

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13. Why do we practice so much repetition?
Repetition is the basis of good practice. Even if you think you know a certain technique, there are likely fine adjustments that you can make to improve it. Sometimes a minor adjustment can have a major effect. Also, the goal of training is not to build the techniques into your mind so much as to build them into your body. If you‚Äöre attacked out on the street, you don't have time to think. You just react, and your reactions will serve you better if your technique is solidly ingrained into your body mechanics. In a pinch, you do what your body knows best, and the more repetition you get in, the more likely it will be that a technique will come out at the right moment.

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14. Are there spiritual aspects to this martial art?
There are certainly spiritual aspects to Aiki Jujutsu. This is not to say that the study of this martial art constitutes a religion, nor should it be misunderstood that the spiritual aspects of the art are at all meant to conflict with any individual student's chosen spiritual or religious beliefs. The art is routed somewhat in Buddhism, and there are aspects of Zen philosophy built into the art. The ideas of spiritual balance, movement of ki, or energy, and the mind of no-mind are definitely Zen in nature, and students will start to notice and understand these principles slowly as they progress. Of course, Zen philosophy or no, the system maintains eminent practicality.

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15. What's the point of training to use archaic weapons? Swordfights are cool in movies, but when will I ever really need to use one?
The weapons traditions in the system came down from the Samurai, who used these weapons frequently and with deadly efficiency. Granted, it's unlikely that you'll ever use a sword against a mugger when you're getting money from an ATM late at night, but it is possible. And if you take a moment to consider it, not all the weapons in the syllabus are so archaic: knives and staves are very common weapons. A steak knife might not be a tanto, but it‚Äös still a knife and can be used the same way. A broken pool cue might not be a shojo, but it's still a stick and can be used the same way. We train in the weapons arts of Kenjutsu and Jojutsu because they are still practical and because they constitute a vital part of the teachings which would be sorely missed if they were to be forgotten.

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16. How practical is this art overall?
As mentioned in many of the answers to the above questions, the art of Aiki Jujutsu is extremely practical. From the very first day of class, students begin to learn blocks and techniques which could realistically save one's life, prevent injury, or at the very least, make a potential attacker think twice. The art places its primary focus on dealing with multiple attackers in an efficient manner. Students interested in self-defense are highly encouraged to attend class and see for themselves.

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17. How versatile are the techniques?
The techniques of Aiki Jujutsu are designed to be extremely versatile. Rather than provide only a single response for a given situation, the system is structured to give students literally hundreds of possible techniques and combinations of techniques to follow up against any attack. More versatility means a better chance of getting out of a violent encounter uninjured, and that's one of the major goals of the teachings.

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18. The knowledge of the advanced students is kind of intimidating. How long will it take me to catch up to them?
Don't worry about catching up, so to speak. Everyone starts at the same place, and everyone works at their own level during class. Don‚Äöt get preoccupied with comparing yourself to the other students. It is not the destination but the journey which is most important. Focus on your own development while trying to be a good uke for your training partners, and you'll find that before long, you'll be one of the advanced students yourself.

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19. I want to learn to defend myself, but I don't want to hurt or kill anybody. Is this art really for me?
Sure, it is. In class, your Sensei will often show you how a certain technique can be used to injure, break bones, and yes, even sometimes to kill. By no means does this constitute an endorsement on the part of your instructor to work the technique at this level when you leave the dojo. Rather, the Senseika are trying to show you the many different ways the techniques can be used so that you‚Äöll have more tools at your disposal if you ever need to use your techniques in the street. When you leave the dojo, you are the one to choose how to apply the techniques. You need not ever injure someone who attacks you if you don't want to. The techniques will still work if you don't. The instructors are just showing you the options so that you can choose how to apply. Just remember, every choice has consequences.

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20. Are there other benefits to training besides learning to defend myself?
Certainly. In addition to learning the strikes, blocks, and techniques of the system, it is common for students to experience other physical benefits such as increased strength, stamina, speed, flexibility, and balance. Also, self-esteem, confidence, serenity of mind tend to come with increased exposure to the art, all of which can play a great part in reducing the stress of daily life. Some people eventually find a deeper spirituality within the martial arts, though that is not for everybody. There are a myriad of benefits to be had by training besides the ones listed here, and each personal experience is different.

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