Friday, January 8, 2010

Leadership Development Group - January 9, 2010

Midwest Academy students in the Leadership Development Group, we will be training on January 9, 2010 at noon.

- David

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Integrated Training ("Ju" Part 2)

As outlined to in the last article discussing “ju”, a certain environment best fosters the attributes of “ju” to develop. Recall from the previous article on the topic that we defined “ju” to include attributes of “softness” in the sense of being malleable, supple, and energetically efficient. We also stated that “ju” extrapolates itself into all areas of a practitioner’s life and is not just something that is temporal to the training mat.

Most writings at this juncture would delve into the aspects of learning basic movements and repeating them until such time as the ‘neurological pathways’ develop and the movement becomes ‘internalized’. For those who desire a greater understanding on the process of internalization, please refer to the work done by Bruce Siddle in this area; a working understanding, however, should include the basic process that memory is based upon the repeated firing of electro-chemical impulses within the neurological system. These impulses travel from nerve cell to nerve cell. When something new is learned, the sequence of cell-to-cell electro-chemical communication is not as efficient as it is after repetition and/or strong association. Myelin is a fatty protein which ‘coats’ the pathways between cell-to-cell communication; greater repetition or association results in a greater coating of myelin which, in turn, allows for the electro-chemical impulses to travel from cell to cell more efficiently and accurately (Siddle, 1995, pp. 25-30).

The process of internalization and the training cycle is discussed frequently at the Academy, however, there are numerous other studies and writings that detail the training cycle that any serious student or teacher should become familiar with. The training cycle essentially describes these four general stages of learning/skill progression:

· Unconscious incompetence – one is not aware of the gaps in one’s knowledge;
· Conscious incompetence – one is aware of the gaps in one’s knowledge, but not able to correct them;
· Conscious competence – one can correct the gap in knowledge actively thinking about it;
· Unconscious competence – the correction is internalized and no thought required to produce the correct result.

Unconscious competence implies ‘mastery’ of a skill set (we place the term mastery in quotes since someone at this level generally understands that there is a daily routine or process that must be repeated in order to maintain the viability of a skill set – it is a journey and not a destination in both a physical and philosophical sense); one has repeated the skill until it cannot be performed incorrectly. If this process were singularly applied to each task in one’s life where mastery is desired, the sheer magnitude of a linear learning and internalizing process would prohibit the ability to either have any sort of life outside skill mastery or master more than a single set of skills.

Re-enter the concept of “ju”. "Ju" is reflected in the training structure itself for quality training programs. "Ju" allows for the efficient and simultaneous development of the attributes sought to be mastered. At the Midwest Academy, the attributes sought to be developed are analogized by the traditional Japanese motif of "sho-chiku-bae" or "pine-bamboo-plum". The motif represents the following attributes respectively (Mitose, 1953, p. I):

· Pine (sho or matsuba) – strength
· Bamboo (chiku or take) – flexibility
· Plum (baika) – endurance

The "why's" of the motif are detailed in the Academy's student guide; a brief summary, however, is that within the analogy, each of the symbols (pine, bamboo, and plum) even singularly actually represents all three tributes (therefore some Seizan Ryu schools use a single symbol to illustrate the entire motif as well); each one may have a more predominant trait, but upon closer examination, it is realized that each is a holistic compilation of all three attributes.

The strength-flexibility-endurance analogy, like much in the martial arts, is intended for multi-layered development. In other words, it is not just the physical development of flexibility, for example, but mental adaptability as well. It is not only muscular strength, but strength of character that is developed. Endurance is not measured only by caloric burn at a given heart rate, but also by perseverance in the face of adversity. High quality martial arts programs functionally integrate the multi-layered development of strength, flexibility, and endurance. The integrated approach to training reflects the principle of efficiency that is connoted by "ju". Why is that important?

Paul Howe, US Army Special Operations/Delta veteran, comments on the integration of training, "As I have gotten older and find myself spending a great deal of training time on the road, I have relearned the value of a daily training routine. Your mental state of mind whether stressed, relaxed, focused or sharp is up to you and probably the most important factor in developing and sustaining a routine…few combat systems complement each other. You can spend years leaning one stance in martial arts, then learn a new one for pistol, rifle, etc. Try and find one stance that will work for rifle, pistol, knife, hand combat, etc. This way, your platform will be the same for all systems and you will learn and establish it rapidly…you might have minor weight transfers, but as I said they will be minor. Core balance is core balance. In the end, if you can find one system that compliments each other, you will progress faster in leaning your tactical skills" (Howe, 2009, pp. 26-28). Howe’s comments can also be extrapolated to include the content of multi-layered development. Good mindset developed in training is not useful if it countered by poor mindset elsewhere. Emotional and mental development must be included within the training structure of the program, the culture of the venue, and atmosphere fostered by the interaction of the training group.

As Paul Howe describes, integrated training allows superior results to be achieved more expeditiously than a linear training model. The Seizan Ryu students at the Academy begin an integrated training format from their initial training experiences. Because physical health/holistic fitness is a key attribute that any high level warrior discipline seeks to develop within its practitioners, the initial introduction to integrated training begins at a physical level. Various drills, solo and partner exercises develop the practitioner's physical strength, suppleness, and endurance simultaneously. As the physical exercises become more challenging, the student’s opportunity to develop emotionally and mentally begins to emerges as well. A high quality training culture with teachers skilled in student development can collaboratively capture this opportunity for high quality student development. Done correctly, this results in their physical confidence increasing and, in tandem, their social confidence and basic leadership qualities also begin to emerge; as the practitioner's set of tactical solutions expands, so tends their mental flexibility to do the same; it is not uncommon for students of warrior disciples to begin to see solutions in all areas of life – solutions that others overlook or often cannot conceptualize. Consider, for example, the amount of literature on leadership and personal development that has been authored by America’s military veterans within the last quarter century – their ability to seek overlooked tactical solutions has extrapolated into areas pertaining to business, politics, personal development, management, etc. Perpetual optimism and “can-do” attitudes become natural responses to life's challenges. The process of repetitive training to hone a skill set over time not only builds physical endurance, but also an internal sense of patience and perseverance that translates into an emotional tenacity. These are all objectives of the Academy’s training programs and our approach using integrated training allows for “ju” or efficiency to be the Academy’s training standard.

I hope this brief message allows one to see that “ju” is not only a quality of technical skill, but a concept that our training structure is founded upon and a quality we sincerely hope allows our students to be efficient both inside and outside the dojo.


Howe, P. 2009. The tactical trainer: a few thoughts on training and training management from a former special operations soldier. Authorhouse. Bloomington, IN.

Mitose, J. 1953. What is self defense? kenpo-jiu-jitsu. 4th Ed. Kosho-shorei publishing. Sacramento, CA.

Siddle, B. 1995. Sharpening the warrior’s edge: the psychology & science of training. 5th Ed. PPCT Research Publications. Millstadt, Il.