A new perspective on martial arts.
Reikijutsukai, as an association, is very small at the moment. Reikijutsu as a martial art is the result of knowledge, training, and research by Andy Wright 5th Dan (KBKA, WKO, TKA). It came into being in 2002 or thereabouts, and in direct response to my desire to have something more and to incorporate my holistic therapist knowledge.
As a practitioner of reiki, reflexology, and shiatsu, plus many others that I learned but did not qualify in, I saw the benefits of holistic therapies and the martial arts. Certainly, as a Shotokan exponent for 19 years, I could see the influences within the style; for example, the zazen meditation, the tai-chi elements, the circular movements involving breath control, and the use of internal energies.
A very big advocate of cross-training – I have been around the world in order to train in a variety of styles, sometimes with leading masters (I won’t mention them here for fear of omitting one and causing offense!). I have also trained with traditionalist Shotokan exponents and, for the most part, have been disillusioned by the feeling that something is missing (or more correctly, not taught).
The problem was that for many years, I could hear the voices of people whom I knew and were my peers, saying disparaging things about my potentially egotistical approach (in their opinion) to the martial arts. Then came the point when I realized that I did not need to justify anything because every instructor is guilty of making up their own style at some point, even the hard and fast traditionalists who make small changes to kata here and there.
I, therefore, set out to redefine the system I trained in, based upon that which already exists (and surprisingly for those traditionalists), is already there within their system as well.
Much like Bruce Lee took elements from systems he knew and created the now infamous jeet Kune do, I have done the same. I certainly did not do this to boost my ego and give me credence to proclaim mastership of my own system in order to bypass existing hierarchical structures of rank promotion but to sincerely create a better way. I could have just kept the name Shotokan and carried on ad-infinitum. Shotokan in this day and age has such a diverse range of syllabus and techniques, it is very difficult to know what is original and what is modern.
In the same way that Bruce invented his style, I have just brought together the pieces that makeup Reikijutsu. May I add there have been many other style creators before and after Bruce Lee?
In fact, the traditionalist Shotokan people of today are actually doing a made-up style Gichin Funakoshi was accredited with the invention of the style, and indeed it was an amalgamation of stuff he knew and had trained in. His invention was aimed to be a new style and to be taught in Japanese educational establishments, as a martial art where one did not exist before.
Even the great masters who trained with Funakoshi are guilty of style invention; Egami (Shotokan), Ohtsuka (Wado), Nakayama (Shotokan), Oyama (Kyokushinkai), etc.
Anyway, Reikijutsu comprises Shotokan basic techniques with the emphasis placed on repetition in a fluid form. Within this category are the usual kick, block, and punch brigade of techniques that 19 years of training have ingrained into my head!
Supplemented to the basics is kata. This was a huge area of contention for me because I have always felt that having to perform or know 26 kata from 3rd Dan, was a complete nightmare and to be perfectly honest, just an exercise for memorizing moves at each grade. In a word, the whole process seemed pointless to me.
There are people, quite happy to learn and practice 26 kata. My question would be doing these people know their kata or is it just the sequence of moves they know?
For that reason, I decided to concentrate the learning process on the five Heian kata and three brown belt kata (bassai, kanku, jion). The five Heian were the underlying fundamental kata for reikijutsu, and because there is only five kata the student would have time to learn them inside out. Having three senior grade kata also helped simplify the syllabus up to the black belt and beyond by allowing time to learn them properly too.
Funakoshi was a great advocate of kata practice, and even said he would need a lifetime to study just one kata. In my opinion, this was not meant to be factual but only to say that kata needs to be studied for a long time (longer than currently done by most people) in order to master it fully.
Lower-grade kata is practiced forwards, mirrors, and backward. Incidentally, my friend John Cox 6th Dan (Wado Ryu) introduced me to this way of learning, way back in 1997. The theory is that you perform each move forwards but in reverse order; unlike true backward, a.k.a. a video recording.
Doing kata in three directions certainly concentrates the mind. Add into this that we occasionally do the kata blindfolded or substitute kicks for punches, it is becoming apparent that our original five kata have suddenly become fifteen plus. But rather than having a diverse range of unconnected kata, every variation is related to the previous by being fundamentally the same kata just in a different direction!
Reikijutsu has 10 kyu levels but only 3 belt colors (excluding black). Why? Ego. For many years I have had to teach and grade students, whose primary goal was to obtain yet another colored belt. No amount of lecturing with regard to belts holding trousers up seemed to change student’s attitudes to grading examinations and belt promotion.
I got so sick of them I’m a higher belt than you comments one time I decided that I would try an experiment. For 3 months everyone except Dan Grades wore a white belt. Let me say the experiment worked quite well, and everyone soon got the point I was trying to make.
Too much emphasis is placed upon rewards and not enough upon correct learning. This may be because the martial arts are subjected to financial greed, and the easiest way to make some cash is to ensure a student has to grade and buy new belts. Also society today seems to place quite a lot of emphasis upon instant gratification, in such a fast-paced world.
You make a student want to promote by instilling a false sense of worth, the one whereby importance is placed upon grading regularly.
However, I am also a qualified further education tutor, so I am fully aware that the learning processes need incentives and rewards, hence the decision to keep the 10 kyu grades. Likewise, Funakoshi (a school teacher by profession), also saw the benefits of encouragement hence his borrowing of a structured grade system from Judo.
Nowadays within Reikijutsu, lower grade examinations are done in the class (for free) based upon previous training and attendance and include a physical check of ability. (KMA3, a dojo management package has been quite useful for keeping records and printing reports for grading attendance qualification). The need for long-drawn-out grading days seemed irrelevant and only boosted the theory that all they were useful for was generating money. Certainly, I can name a number of instructors who have pre-pre-grading examinations, and charge for each one plus there are the additional sales of sundry items such as belts that raise cash.
Martial arts have become very commercial and have been spoilt by a select few making a mockery of the values I have treasured. There’s nothing wrong with someone being a paid instructor, it’s just that when they become so commercial (greedy), the student suffers and martial arts reputation is tarnished.
I know of one 1st Dan who is now promoting all grades including black, and the reason (in my humble opinion) is to make money. What is so disappointing for me is that he is an ex-student. I can recall my own experiences of being a 1st and 2nd Dan and the fact that I felt overwhelmed at the responsibility of ever doing a grading exam. So, I fail to understand how a guy with 3 ½ to 4 years of training can ever make that step in terms of responsibility, except for the ulterior motive of greed.
For that reason, Reikijutsu has WHITE, GREEN, and BROWN belts situated at the 10th, 6th, and 3rd kyu stages. Intermediate levels do not have any form of tag or color, which means the student cannot use the excuse I’m a higher belt than you therefore I am better, which is what predominantly happened before.
If you reduce the chances of promoting ego, there’s more chance of promoting humility and respect. A student may learn real karate, rather than concentrating on a next belt syllabus!
So, what else does Reikijutsu offer? It offers a plethora of Japanese based elements such as throwing techniques (Nage Waza), groundwork (Tatami Waza), locking techniques (Katsetsu Waza), pressure points (Atemi Waza), self-defense (Goshin Waza), application of kata (Oyo Waza), plus Chi Kung and Zazen (seated meditation).
Plus Reikijutsu uses sensory training methods similar to those found within wing tsun and tai chi chuan. Sensory work runs through the whole syllabus and is hugely important in building up the zanchin.
You may be able to see the various systems that these elements come from, but in reality, all of these are within the base style already. The problem has been that no one has really bothered to point them out sufficiently enough for people (such as myself) to notice them.
Let me just take two of the elements and explain what I mean: 1) Nage Waza (throwing) and 2) Zazen (seated meditation)
Nage Waza (principally from Judo) was a system that Funakoshi was fully aware of and probably trained in. His acquaintance Jigoro Kano (founder of Judo) became his student of karate and I have little doubt that Funakoshi did not miss the opportunity to borrow ideas and theories from Judo to be incorporated into his style. Certainly, within most kata, there are throwing techniques, including even the first Heian kata that a beginner would learn.
Zazen or seated meditation is often performed in kneeling posture and constitutes a period of time when a student reflects on training. Customarily this was done at the beginning or end of a class during mokuso.
How many traditional Shotokan exponents do this routine every session but have no idea what it is or why they do it? In 19 years I have never come across anyone who knows how to do it correctly or even that it is called zazen!
As a martial artist, I do not profess to know everything, one reason why I remain at 5th Dan despite being a Kancho(system head). I do not condone other people who start up a style and move from 2nd Dan to 9th Dan overnight. They may well be Kancho but the increase does not just promote their grade to dizzy heights, it promotes their egos as well.
Unlike some others I could mention, my grade history is traceable with bone-fide examiners performing all of my assessments. I have done the time required and have been awarded the grade.
Others seek the grade from friends uncles living abroad, without putting in the time or effort and this makes a mockery of the grade and the art. It is especially frustrating when the very same people then go on to be teachers (in the very loose sense of the word) and are assuming they know it all.
I am a firm believer in a black belt grade representing your time of service; people with 6th, 7th, or 8th Dans will, in theory, have trained longer than my 19 years unfortunately this is not always the case. I think that it is unimportant what grade you hold; it is more important to note the things you do for the martial arts. These should be the measure by which you are graded.
That is why I have always been a supporter of no-politics and open-ness with training and have been instrumental in spreading the word via organizations such as IAOMAS (www.iaomas.org) and others in my past such as IKA and WMAA. (you may recall the articles in TRAD / COMBAT magazine). My latest open-minded contact is Shihan Peter Evans 6th Dan.
If after reading this article you would like to investigate reikijutsu more, please email me or visit www.reikijutsukai.org.uk where details are awaiting your visit. I am also happy to visit your dojo for seminars at a reasonable cost to you.
Written By Andy Wright, 5th Dan, 07811 910214