How We Practice Jujutsu - Shibukawa Ichi Ryu
Shibukawa Ichi Ryu is an old style (koryu) of jujutsu that was practised in the Hiroshima and Matsuyama domains of Japan. It was created for self-defence, however, it was also trained for warfare by the samurai of the Matsuyama clan.
Une Shigemi Tsuguaki 畝 重實嗣昭 ,
the 4th headmaster and official successor of Shibukawa Ichi Ryu Jujutsu
The main method for learning the techniques is through the practice of kata. In kata there is a designated attacker (uke) and a designated defender (tori). In Shibukawa Ichi Ryu the kata are grouped based on the type of attack. For example, the first group of techniques that students learn, called Kutsugata 履形 , consists of 35 methods (kata) for defending low thrusting knife stabs. The next 25 kata involve defence against a chest-level thrusting action that could be applied for pushing, grabbing or punching. The curriculum goes on to address defences against an even wider variety of attacks in standing, sitting and ground grappling situations.
Additionally a wide range of weapons are practised. There are many stick techniques which are collectively referred to as bojutsu. They involve the use of various types of sticks or bo (bou) such as the 6ft staff (rokushaku bo), the half-stick (hanbo), the 3ft bo, and 2 shorter sticks called gobou and kobou.
In addition to this there are chain and bladed weapons. They include techniques for the kusarigama (the sickle and chain), the fundou, jutte, hojojutsu (restraining with rope) and sword drawing techniques called iaijutsu. Altogether there are over 400 techniques.
A typical class in Jikan Dojo starts with reiho, the bowing ceremony in which we show respect to the tradition, the teacher and each other. Next we usually have some kind of warm up and some physical conditioning exercises such as load carrying and balancing exercises. Following this, kata or applications of kata is taught. Some classes may cover a large number of kata, and other times, focus is placed on just a few kata. In time, the kata are explored quite deeply and students learn how to adapt them for various scenarios. We call this adaptation 'oyo' 形の応用. In order to learn the throwing techniques students learn how to fall safely. This is called 'break-falling' or ukemi. We have a comprehensive set of ukemi techniques that start off quite simple for beginners helping them to develop their coordination and physical condition. It can take between 6 to 18 months for the average student to learn how to fall safely from the most powerful of throws.
There are also striking techniques, however they are not suitable for sports such as boxing and MMA. Instead, they are more suitable for self-defence or mortal combat (as practiced by the samurai) because they aim to cause maximum damage to vulnerable parts of the body. For this reason we do not practice them in full force against our training partners. However, we often practice striking against pads. Other unarmed techniques include escapes, chokes, joint locking & breaking, throwing, sweeping and restraining. A lot of attention is placed on finer points of bio-mechanics to reduce dependency on brute muscular strength.
There are other training methods, beyond the kata called tanrenho 鍛錬法 used to improve skill, strength, speed and the toughness of the body. One such method is the free-sparring practice called iji keiko. It is similar to judo's randori, but with less of a focus on scoring points and more focus on executing techniques that will be effective in self-defence. Iji keiko is also quite often done with (safe) training knives, which the samurai used to highlight the real risk of getting stabbed. In our school we introduce iji keiko very slowly to beginners to minimize the risk of injury but eventually when students become more skilled, they can practice a little more intensely. Many of our free sparring techniques will be considered illegal in judo!
Classes sometimes end with a recap or a discussion of the techniques practiced and some students even take their own notes. Lastly, all classes end with reiho, because showing respect and gratitude is an essential part of Japanese martial art culture.
Beyond weekly classes, we often have special seminars (koshukai) and intensive training camps (gashuku) for our members. These may be in our dojo venues, outdoors and even in Japan. Last but not least, we also have embu, which are public demonstrations. In feudal times an embu would be performed by students of a martial arts school in honour of the gods or an official such as emperors and daimyos. Today we still carry on the practice to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their skill.
An embu may sometimes cause a little anxiousness for students and therefore demands a great effort to keep focused and mentally composed. For this reason, the embu itself can be considered to be a form of training.
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