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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