Train Large And Slow

Many practitioners are wondering why we train slowly in the Bujinkan. They criticise it, saying that real Martial Arts (understand Sports martial arts here) are better because they have fights. They love the fact that there is always a winner and a loser. “It makes it easier to know who is good and who is not”, they say.

They are right! Sport is a fantastic pedagogical tool, it is a perfect system to develop your body, your reflexes and you should do sports until the end, that is until you are too old to compete.

And at what age is that? I would say around thirty. That’s nice but what do you do for the rest of your life? You quit? No. You train real martial arts.

This age problem didn’t exist in the past. First, you would hardly live past fifty. Actual combat was making sure of that.

Second, in Feudal Japan, there was no sport (it was the same in Europe). Sport as we know it is a modern thing created after WWII. Before, only the nobility could do it. Why? Because the nobles were wealthy and didn’t have to work six or seven days a week to eat. Getting bored, they developed the concept of sport. The Marquess of Queensbury defined some rules that are still valid today, the Baron of Coubertin reinstated the Olympics. But that was only at the end of the 19th century. Before that, sport is non-existent.

In sport martial arts, the champions of today lose the world title one year and get it back in the next year. That was not the case in actual battle; you always died when you lost the encounter.

What we train in the Bujinkan is based on History. It is the result of actual battlefield combat. The winners being able to transmit what worked, the nine fighting systems taught in the Bujinkan are regrouping only techniques tested in actual combat. To learn these techniques, you need to do it in a particular way. You have to repeat them slowly.

When training in Japan with Nagato sensei, you can often hear him say: “train slowly, only stupid people train fast.”

Training slowly allows the body and the brain to create specific connections that upgrade our standard “human survival kit” with which we are born. To develop these new abilities, it is also important to use large movements. Doing large movements helps to learn correctness.

Because of the adrenalin rushing in our body, because of the impossibility to think or plan anything while caught in the middle of the battle, only your reflexes can save you. If you developed new reflexes by training large and slow, there is a chance that you can react adequately, and surpass your attacker.

Maybe it’s time to change the training habits.

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Author: kumablog

I share here on a regular basis my thoughts about the Bujinkan martial arts, training in Japan and all over the world, and

8 thoughts on “Train Large And Slow”

  1. made this comment on Arnauds Facbook share of this Blog. He has asked me to share this with you as he also feels my points are import..
    “Understanding Proprioception in learning and aquiring physical skill is important but there are few things missing and misrepresented in what you say. Firstly sport/competition/rivalry has always existed in the west and has been used in communities all over europe to simulate war thus reducing deaths etc… although I do admit most sports 3, 4 and 500 yrs ago were much more brutal than today… even so they were designed to simulate war as previously stated and thus were part of warfare training so that the warriors could stay fit and strong and test their skills. Also skill tests as entry requirements for warrior bands are listed through out history and were in the form of competition as they are today also requirements for military service….
    Now, on the topic of training and practice slowly, i agree, in the beginning phase but even you Arnaud, know as a former Judo competeitor that slow practice in Judo wont get you very far in terms of being able to actually do nage waza or ne waza in competition or self defense… (which judo can be used for) I disagree and the “real world of Self protection” agrees with me that slow practice is the only way to train… our endocrine systems have us hard wired for certain survival circumstances and gross motor movements are what we use in fight or flight scenarios. However one aspect is missing and is never adressed in the Bujinkan to the detriment of the students who believe being an uber dan means they can defend themselves and that is that when the endorcine systems kicks in and one has never experienced it before they will most likely freeze!!! And that results in them getting their asses handed to them on plate. I would posit that Soke and all the senior shihan and yourself have experienced this and know how to deal with it. As such you dont need to train this way very often and as such you may not expose your new and young students to adrenalised stress training scenarios which can help them deal with the real issues. Sport is an avenue of doing this all be it very different to actual combat but it helps to learn to deal with the stresses of combat. Training slowly is great for learning movement but it is also a trap of comfort in that not many step up the level or speed of their application in the waza and that gives them the false impression that they can fight when infact they can not or can barely do so. Most seniors in the Bujinkan have that experience from competition some from security or military service etc…. but that is a low percentage today.
    My goal as a student and now a teacher is to teach proper waza slowly but also to stress test what we do in Bujinkan and to give my students a PROPER foundation in self protection skills (that comes first for me). We can all say that Buj is great for self protection, and it is but not many have the experience to teach for that specific purpose and show it in application for that purpose. As it is now and the way it is taught it is not fit for purpose = protecting the self and others and fighting.
    On the idea of battle field tested i think it is important to note that japanese battle fields and honour systems meant that a lot of fighting was by challenge (at least in the beginning of the battle) and that type of battle field is not what we have today. While historically interesting and relivent for that time it is not relievent for the modern day. Soft training and bad grading practices has produced sloppy know it alls who live off of the idea they are warriors when in reality many wouldnt know what to do in a real self protection situation and would freeze. Oh they talk the talk and write wonderful prose about various Budo concepts and repeat what Soke is saying etc… but few can put into practice in reality what they learn in the dojo and that is sad because we have a wonderful system that works but it doesnt work as it is taught in the dojo. Few people teach the skills required to tranlate that learning into functional protection methods.
    So, while some of what you say is true, especially learning new skills it is not true for devloping those skills and becoming proficient… otherwise if that was the case all military units in the world and even sports fighters would not only train in big slow motions (which they do in the beginning) but they would also fight in slow motion and well all know that is not the case
    Edit… I also neglected to mention resistance in training which I have never seen anyone do in the Bujinkan … we study kata and movement and uke gets thrown around which again, in the beginning is fine but are they not training to just fall over when hit?
    Because that is what I see and to be honest I have personally experienced this to my own detriment (Programming was corrupted if you will). At some stage the uke has to be able to resist otherwise tori is learning a false reality as is Uke


  2. Beautifully articulated! Thank you Dai Shihan Arnaud. Ninpo is about perseverance. Retiring at 30 is not persevering 😉


  3. I’m sorry, I’m going to share this very wise comment in the language of whoever made it, a teacher and friend, great professional. (arnaud si te gusta el comentario puedo traducirlo al ingles 😉

    Buen plasmado, así se aplica para todos los artes de combate, clásicos o modernos, con armas arcaicas de corte o de fuego modernas.

    Generar dichos reflejos requiere hacerlo perfectamente miles de veces. Debe buscarse la fluidez y suavidad en cada mínimo movimiento, con eso conseguimos que la velocidad aparezca sola, sin buscarla ni provocarla.

    Eso es lo que implica el concepto “lo lento es suave, lo suave es rápido . Con suavidad y fluidez no habrá errores, sin errores ganaremos capacidad y confianza además de no perder tiempo en detección y corrección. Con ello el resultado es que todo resultará rápido y eficaz. Sin buscarlo.

    Cecilio Andrade


  4. good article it reminds me of Sensei book in Japanese:”Ninja Submission” the chapter name of the book go with the theme of this article…. listing them as follows.
    Ninpo mastering the instinct to survive
    Practical Ninpo covers the whole body with pain
    Waza for survival not sports
    Get the sense of the whole body like wild animals-be natural
    If you do away with kata you can have true living budo
    Become one with nature through budo instinct
    Thank you for this blog and all you have done for the Bujinkan
    All my best
    Joseph Adriance


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