Today many practitioners are more interested in collecting Waza than understanding their purpose. Not so many try to find out the aim of a Waza.
Maybe they get Sensei wrong. “Play!” doesn’t mean to remain all your life at kid level. You have to grow up! And the first step is to understand what a Waza really is.
A Waza is a “series of simple movement” designed to give good basics to practitioners. During feudal Japan, wars were permanent. Each technique was created on the battlefield, with a Yoroi on. When they worked, they could be transmitted. When they didn’t, well, the Samurai would die, and so wouldn’t share it. That is how our Ryūha came into existence. Only what was working was kept. No second chance. Call it natural selection if you will.
But to teach these techniques to the young Samurai (aged 6 to 14), you have to make them simple. They have to be simple because kids can’t memorize anything too complicated. And also, they had to teach the necessary habits that will make sense, when fighting with a Yoroi. So they changed the way to do them and kept only the essence. That is why, sometimes, they don’t make sense until you put the armor.
But knowing the Waza is not an end. It is only the beginning. Don’t take my words for it, listen to Hatsumi Sensei. He said, “learning a technique is not an end in itself; it merely indicates where you need to start.” And this is why collecting techniques is going nowhere. Don’t get me wrong. You need to learn the Waza to be able to adapt them unknowingly in the “fog of war.” (1)
In battle, your senses are more powerful, and your body reacts without thinking. It is once you have acquired your basics that you can adjust a Waza to the situation. There is no planning. You respond to your best, that’s all.
In a fight, your heart is beating fast, adrenaline rushes through your system, and your throat is dry. You focus more and create a “tunnel effect,” and you get the feeling that everything happens in slow motion. If you want to know more about this, read “the gift of fear,” by Gavin de Becker, it will teach you many things. (2)
A technique, as Sensei explains, is not an end, it is a start. When you reproduce a Waza from a book, you are copying a “dead” result. And that is not the way to achieve the expected result. I have explained this a few times already here. A Waza is what would happen if every basic movement was correct. But many teachers only copy the text, and consider it as some sort of checklist! The form is not the spirit. This is wrong in many aspects. If you dissect the technique to make it look like the result, you get nowhere. It is like dissecting a frog, hoping that it would resuscitate when putting it back together!
We train Waza to teach our body and our mind the possibilities of action, not to replicate them in a fight. It is only after that you destroy the form. And bring the essence out. Then use these essences extracted from the Waza to make your own survival tools.
“Waza is not an end; it is merely a start.”
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