The Arts of Kaze Arashi Ryu

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Kaze Arashi Ryu is a martial tradition that encompasses the study of several arts. The principal arts are those of:

  • Aiki JuJutsu: The art of receiving and redirecting an opponent’s energy through throws, joint manipulation and other principles of body mechanics and movement.
  • Atemi Jutsu: The art of striking to vital targets and pressure points with the hands, arms, feet and other body parts.
  • Ken Jutsu: The art of fighting with blades, including all lengths of swords and knives.
  • Jo Jutsu: The art of fighting with staves, or sticks, of all lengths.

In addition to the above four ‘pillars’ of the tradition there are other, supportive arts such as.

  • Tessen Jutsu: The art of communicating and fighting with a metal fan.
  • Obi Tai Waza: The art of restraining and controlling an attacker by means of a strap and/or a rope.

These arts are categorized separately for the purpose of learning them in a curriculum but in reality they are all combined together in one totally integrated tradition.

The above mentioned arts are underpinned by five fundamental principles, those of:

  1. Toate no Jutsu: The art of physically and mentally affecting an opponent to put him in a state of unbalance. This includes methods to connect or communicate intent and positions that weaken the opponent’s body.
  2. Tai Ichi: Body as one. The art of starting from and moving through your centre to ensure you are always in balance and able to move from one position to another, with or without a weapon. Ken Tai Ichi, for example, is the state of ‘being one’ with the weapon as you move in combat.
  3. Taisabaki: Body movement and positioning; the principle of moving from one position to another depending on whether you are attacking or defending. This enables you to move from one circle to another, without interrupting the flow of energy.
  4. Ryu Ha: The principle of planning, either on an individual basis or from a group perspective; the fundamental principles on which a Ryu (martial school or tradition) is based.
  5. In Yo Ho: Commonly referred to as yin/yang, this principle involves the use of opposing forces that when combined together, maximize the effectiveness of the technique.

Aiki JuJutsu

Aiki JuJutsu is the art of throwing, locking, immobilising and controlling through primary means of empty hands. The core principle in Aiki JuJutsu is Taisabaki and an Aiki JuJutsu practitioner will coordinate himself to an attack, deflecting it or moving out of its way so that the attacker ends up with his attack dissipated in thin air. The Taisabaki follows the guidelines set down in the doctrine of Aiki In Yo Ho which limits the use of force against force. Subsequent to the Taisabaki, the practitioner may use any combination of atemi, throws, locks, immobilisations and controls to subdue an opponent which is the basis of Aiki In Yo Ho.

Aiki JuJutsu is a very deceptive art because of the fluidity of its movements. However, it is an art designed to allow a defender to move from a tendon-tearing control to an arm or neck break, to a throw or a sweep. It is an art designed to be used in multiple-attack situations (e.g. battlefields!) where the need to be constantly moving out of the way of attacks whilst still retaining stamina can be readily appreciated.

Kaze Arashi Ryu Aiki JuJutsu contains controls, throws and sweeps. However, the controls, throws and sweeps are not individual techniques but principles which are learned by way of forms. The techniques within the forms are manifestations of the principles and once the basic principle has been learned, understood and internalised it can be manifested in several different ways. Each basic form (control, throw etc.) will show four or five fundamental principles but knowledge of the principles will enable a practitioner to apply the principles in an unlimited number of circumstances and therefore appear to know an unlimited number of techniques.

As well as the basic forms, the study of Aiki JuJutsu encompasses the learning of the principles of self defence against all kinds of weapon attacks, defences against kicks and from the ground, and also escapes from locks, controls and immobilisations fond in other schools of martial arts.

Kaze Arashi means ‘Wind Storm’ and it is the energy and effect of a wind storm, such as a hurricane or typhoon, that a practitioner of the tradition strives to emulate in the practice not only of Aiki JuJutsu but of all the arts in the tradition..

Atemi Jutsu

In Kaze Arashi Ryu the concept of Atemi Jutsu, striking vital points, is found within the art of Aiki JuJutsu. The art of striking vital points is an important part of Aiki JuJutsu. A practitioner must be able to strike effectively as well as perform all the other kinds of movements mentioned above.

For the study of Atemi Jutsu within Kaze Arashi Ryu the body is divided into ten segments, five on the left side of the body and five on the right. The nature of an attack is defined by the angle and direction of that attack as it approaches its target, whether the attack is with a closed fist, open hand or a weapon. Although Atemi Jutsu is known as the art of striking vital points, the points are used as a guide only because it is very difficult to hit a specific point on a moving target. Being hit anywhere hurts, but being hit on one of the body’s weak areas hurts even more. Kaze Arashi Ryu recognises the tradition of energy flowing along vertical and horizontal lines in the body known as Keiraku. Vital points are situated along these lines but a strike to anywhere along a Keiraku will cause damage to a greater or lesser degree.

In Kaze Arashi Ryu the aim of any attack or defensive movement is to take out the opponent’s “centre”. This means that attacks are not aimed at areas of the body which do not help in achieving this aim. Wherever possible a Kaze Arashi Ryu practitioner will try and “open up” an opponent and get on the inside of his guard before launching either an attacking or defensive strike, according to the circumstances. The inside of an opponent’s guard is known as the “hot” side as it is a more dangerous position to be in than the “cold” side, the outside of his guard. In a defensive situation it is obviously preferable to be on the opponent’s “cold” side and a preliminary counter strike will often be launched from here. In order to follow up with a second defensive strike, however, specific movements are carried out to ensure this is to the opponent’s centreline.

The position or stance from which an attacking strike is launched in Kaze Arashi Ryu is similar to a high horse stance. The attacker stands side-on to his target, showing as little surface area as possible. Rather than sinking into a stance, the knees are unlocked and weight is mainly on the balls of the feet. This means that the attacker has a “spring in his step” and is able to move quickly and nimbly in whatever direction. Although this position is “similar to” a high horse stance it is not really a stance at all. The principle of Aiki runs through all Kaze Arashi Ryu movements and this means that energy never stops flowing. When you are in a stance you have to get out of it to move and, of necessity, there is a time lag involved in this. For Kaze Arashi Ryu purposes a stance is simply a posture you pass through when performing a movement, not something to be adopted for a particular reason.

Hand strikes are not hammer-type blows destined to smash the target. They are short, sharp blows which aim to stun the opponent as if he had received an electric shock. One way of describing the strike is to compare it with a cannonball on the end of a strong piece of elastic. As soon as the strike connects, the arm is retracted as quickly as it is shot out.

Kicking attacks and defences follow similar angles of attack and defence. There are obviously some variations from the hand striking angles as the legs do not operate in the same way as the arms; the principle is, however, the same. All weapon attacks and defences, be they with any length of sword, staff or other weapon follow the same angles of attack and defence and are directed to the body’s weak points.

Ken Jutsu

Ken Jutsu is the art of fighting with the sword or using it when it has left its scabbard. It is not the same as Iai Jutsu (or Iai Do) where the emphasis is on the drawing of the blade.

In Kaze Arashi Ryu three lengths of blade are used. These are the Katana or Daito (long sword), Wakizashi or Shoto (short sword) and Tanto (dagger). Equal attention is given to all lengths of blade and Tanto are also used in pairs. Forms demonstrate the use of each length of weapon against not only all other lengths of sword but against all other weapons also. In addition a student learns how to disarm a swordsman and how to prevent himself from being disarmed.

Although sword cuts and blocks/parries of different martial traditions may look the same to an onlooker it is the details in how a sword is handled that differentiate one Ryu from another. In Kaze Arashi Ryu it is precisely these details on which the majority of time is spent. The extensive repertoire of forms and techniques within the Ken Jutsu curriculum are only the shell; learning a form or technique is but the first step in learning how to use the sword “for real”.

Solo practice is carried out with a blade but the majority of training is with a partner using wooden weapons for safety. When students have attained an appropriate level of proficiency they are introduced to free practice using Shinai (bamboo swords used in Kendo). Unlike in Kendo, however, additional body parts are valid target areas.

Jo Jutsu

Jo Jutsu is the name given to the curriculum of principles and techniques which involve the use of various lengths of staves and staff-like weapons.

The three main sizes of Jo (staff/stick) used in Kaze Arashi Ryu are the Dai Jo (five to six feet long and also referred to as a Bo), the Chu Jo (around four feet long) and the Sho Jo (about two feet long). The exact length of each staff will depend on the size of each individual exponent of the art. The Sho Jo, being short and very manageable, are also used in pairs.

Also included in the Jo Jutsu curriculum are Jo-like weapons such as the Yari (spear) and Naginata (halberd) which allow Jo Jutsuka (students of the art of the staff) to familiarise themselves with sticks of any length, either bladed or unbladed.

Manipulating the Jo is not simply a matter of swinging a stick. With each strike or parry both hand and body positioning must be changed to allow for the most effective use of the Jo. All changes of body positioning (Taisabaki) emanate from the hips which are the centre, and therefore the controlling part, of the body.

In Kaze Arashi Ryu the Taisabaki follows the same pattern for all the arts and a student who has learned the Taisabaki for one of the weaponless arts of the tradition would have no trouble adapting to the Taisabaki necessary for Ken Jutsu or Jo Jutsu. The Taisabaki form is practised both alone and facing a partner, the partner being either unarmed or brandishing any form of weapon. Irrespective of the weapon which the opponent may be holding the Taisabaki follows the same pattern with obvious changes of detail depending on the opponent’s weapon.

Beginning students learn to parry and strike with the Jo. Each new Taisabaki form builds on the one previously learned until students are practising forms which combine parries, strikes, guard positions, double and reverse strikes. Each form is learned with the three lengths of Jo with minor variations because of the size.

As well as parrying and striking, Kaze Arashi Ryu Jo Jutsu practitioners also use the staff for throwing techniques (Nage Waza), choking (Shime Waza), sweeping an opponent (Otoshi) and locking the arms and legs (Garame). If one considers the Jo to be an extension of the arm it will be realised that a lot of techniques which are normally reserved to the empty hand arts can be adapted very effectively to the Jo.

Several versions of each principle are studied, depending on the angle of attack of the opponent’s weapon. The forms are learned initially against empty hand attacks and similar sizes of staff but eventually the weapons are used against all other kinds of weapon as this was the reality of the battlefield and the atmosphere in which the art developed. Although the classical forms form the basis of the tradition, Kaze Arashi Ryu is an art which has always adapted to the times. Once a certain degree of proficiency has been attained with the staff it is used against any form of modern weapon also. This applies to the empty hand arts of the tradition (Aiki JuJutsu and Atemi Jutsu) as well.

What you will not see in Kaze Arashi Ryu is twirling the staff above your head, behind your back, between your legs or anywhere else. Movement is minimal but for a maximum effect. No movement or energy is wasted as you could ill-afford to do this on a battlefield. If you had to fight for an extended period of time on a battlefield, the last thing you needed was to expend your energy on fruitless movements. Every movement has its meaning, down to what you do with the staff in your initial bow to start your form or commence combat.

Tessen Jutsu

Like many arts which have been associated with Japan over the years, Tessen Jutsu owes its origins to influence from China. It is believed that the Chinese were the inventors of the fan and that its use spread to Korea before eventually reaching Japan. Once in Japan the fan became an integral part of both men’s and women’s dress from the eighth century onwards and with the new fashion came innovative designs which, in true Japanese style, led the Japanese to claim the fan as their own invention.

Various types of fan were popular in earlier times, depending on the situation in which a person was likely to find him or herself. Fans ranged from the Uchiwa (rigid fan) to the Ogi (folding fan), culminating in the development of the Tessen, the metal fighting fan of the Samurai. Legend has it that the idea for the folding fan came about when a Japanese peasant went to pick up a dead bat in his house. He noticed how neatly the wings folded into the sides of the creature’s body and from this observation he invented the folding fan. Whether or not there is any truth to this legend is unknown but it is true that early folding fans in Japan were known as Komori, the Japanese word for “bat”.

The Tessen was a metal fan which could be used on a battlefield. It could be of any design but was usually a folding fan with metal end sections and inner staves, which could be removed and thrown or used to slice across an enemy’s face if need be. If blades were removed for throwing, care had to be taken to remove alternate ones so that the fan remained balanced; before throwing one blade a Samurai had to decide if it was necessary or wise to get rid of half of them.

On the battlefield the Tessen was carried at the waist, fastened to cords that joined the sides of the body armour or suspended from a ring on the upper part of the breastplate. It was usually used when a Samurai lost his long sword and had to resort to other weapons such as the Shoto (short sword). The Tessen could be used to distract an enemy’s attention while the short sword was drawn – hiding the draw of the short sword by opening the fan out in front of the enemy’s face, or as a weapon in its own right. It could be used as a short stick to deflect, block and strike or, as mentioned previously, it could be raked across an opponent’s face – especially the eyes – with disastrous consequences. This was a common technique with the bladed Tessen since once an opponent was blinded, even temporarily, he could easily be finished off.

As well as its battlefield use the Tessen had another function that of enabling Samurai to communicate with each other at social gatherings by means of Tessen “dances”. High ranking Samurai used the Tessen as a means of relating their exploits on the battlefields by putting together a series of movements which could be understood by other Samurai of similar rank. The movements were a sort of code which, because it demanded a certain intellectual capacity to understand, was known only to Samurai of a certain status.

The dances were recorded in the written word by scribes who would sit and make notes on the tale being enacted as the Samurai performed it. The notes were then written up into a story so that the story would be preserved in the history of the clan. Exactly the same thing occurred with the sword dances of the Samurai (Kenbu) which are perhaps better known than the fan dances.

Within the curriculum of Kaze Arashi Ryu the study of the Tessen is incorporated into the study of the tradition’s weaponry, which includes the majority of weapons studied by the Samurai. Together with the combat functions of the Tessen, the traditional fan dances unique to Kaze Arashi Ryu are taught, once a student is sufficiently advanced to appreciate them. There are over twenty such dances in Kaze Arashi Ryu, each narrating a different story as told by the Shihan of the tradition at that period of time.

Obi Tai Waza

Obi Tai Waza is the art of tying up an opponent in order to control him. In Kaze Arashi Ryu the first phase of this control is usually carried out with a strap and once the opponent is under initial control a rope is used to complete the process.
The strap used in Kaze Arashi Ryu is around twelve feet long and can be used either as a single length or folded over. The longer the strap, the more elaborate the ties and the more control you can gain over the opponent. It wraps around the body, trapping weapons and, on the battlefield, snapping joints as it wraps. It was used by Samurai and others to immobilise, kidnap, carry and torture as well as to kill silently. This was achieved, for example, by wrapping the strap around the opponent’s mouth and tugging sharply. Wrapped around the mouth and nose the strap would prevent the opponent from breathing, bringing about unconsciousness in a person.

In dojo practice we must obviously be careful and train with safety in mind, but the concept of being nice on a battlefield was alien to Samurai. To them, a control on a joint was on a damaged joint; the concept of control that we practise today is a different concept altogether.

To be effective with a strap requires a lot of practice and no one can expect to achieve proficiency after just a short amount of time. The strap is a weapon like any other and slides through the practitioner’s hands like a staff. It is often used against other weapons such as swords of various lengths, the idea being to trap the opponent’s weapon close to his body so that he cannot use it. As in any defence in Kaze Arashi Ryu, however, it is not the weapon you are countering, it is the opponent’s energy coming in a certain direction; what is on the end of that energy is largely irrelevant.

As the strap is long, Samurai needed to know whereabouts along the length of the strap they were holding without having to look down at it and divert their concentration from the task at hand. To aid in this the strap had small pieces of metal inserted at certain points along its length. These pieces of metal also helped in the controlling process as they would rip into the opponent’s flesh. Again, as with the use of any weapon, the movement of the hips is crucial. The hands and arms do the actual wrapping but the hips are used to tighten the strap and complete the technique.

In Kaze Arashi Ryu the use of the strap is practised in a controlled manner, trying to emulate as near as possible the use to which it was put by Samurai and others, such as the Yamabushi, or warrior priests. Because of the danger, however, its use is not taught until a certain proficiency in the tradition is attained and a student is competent not only in performing techniques but in receiving them as well.