Too slow? Watch more carefully

I had a conversation with a person who commented that our taijutsu looked “too slow” to him. He felt that for a real fight, we should be practicing with what he called “realistic speed”.

I understand how he could feel that way. Once upon a time a long time ago, I too studied a less mature form of martial art, a less sophisticated form of martial art, in which beating people to the punch or throw was the only way to win.

I did not say it that way to him, though, because it would only have resulted in an argument based on emotional hopes and beliefs. Instead, I invited him to look at a video clip of our art in action.

He wasn’t impressed. “See? There you go. You guys are moving slowly. Your art works as long as you guys agree to move slow.”

I knew he would say that. I was ready for his misperception. “OK. Now watch the clip again and this time, only watch the attackers. Check out how quickly and explosively they move.”

He watched and this time he remained silent. I could tell he was confused and did not know what to think.

I helped him out. “There is absolute speed. And there is relative speed. In the same way, there is power and there is relative power. If your timing is right, you can fit into furious action with minimal motion. Of course, if you are not aware of timing, or you are not experienced enough to use timing to your advantage, you will not be able to pull it off.”

It is all about mastery. The master painter may indeed need less paint and fewer strokes to tell more of a story. The master mechanic uses only minimal elbow grease action to get the most from tuning up a racing engine. Little children use high volume to express the importance they feel their words carry, while a master story teller may instead use a hushed voice to really capture an audience.

Of course, you have to be ready to hear such logic. If you are still a splash and slap painter, a bang-around mechanic, or an exuberant little kid, none of this makes sense.

Check out the video clip of spontaneous totally unrehearsed sword clashes and only watch the attackers’ speed and explosiveness. Do not even consider my speed. Then reflect on the results of each clash.

Can you see it? Can you get it? Are you ready to get it?

20 comments to “Too slow? Watch more carefully”

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  1. Terry Garrett says: -#1

    Awesome!!! I was sharing this post with a friend and we started talking about, it’s not how fast you are but that you know where you are going and you know what to do when you get there. I have learned so much by staying tuned in and reading the postings of this blog. Thank you so much Anshu for your time and attention to our needs.

  2. As one of the attackers I can guarantee that I was not moving slow. It was my intent and I tried to knock An-shu’s head clear off…next thing that went through my mind (after getting up off the floor) was “where did he go?”

  3. I kept this blog post in my mind as I watched our graduation last night. It’s amazing what can be accomplished if you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs. (Thanks RK for the quote).

  4. mike freeman says: -#1

    still amazing! no wasted energy whatsoever!

  5. Great video. The fist of flurries people expect from Hollywood is such a farce. Ninja, is the art of WINNING! :^) My favorite part of this video: The love is evident in the room. Deepest bows, An-shu.

  6. Courtland Elliott says: -#1

    Watched this Video Clip (again!) while listening to “Somebody to Love” from the Glee Soundtrack – it made me feel as full in my heart as when I was there myself in Festivals past! Thanks for “maintaining”, which really means “Altius, Fortius” to good thinking folks…8-)

  7. The atmosphere in that room is so warm it’s … disarming. And inspiring 🙂

  8. Reading this post adjusts the lens on perspective.
    Thank you, sir.

  9. Not slow at all. This is amazing

  10. Mr Hayes hits on a question I am asked often, Speed or Power ?
    In this Blog he answers the question with grace and truth. All are relative to the eliment and/or intent of the attacker and/or situation.
    Coming from a Kenpo background where speed can sometimes be “King”, you can find yourself ahead of the oppnt. and lost in the conversation of the attack. Quiet the spirit and speed up the Idea. Learn to power the outcome and train to answer the question before it is asked, within yourself.
    My respect to you all.

  11. No offense to anyone here but this clip is what is wrong with contemporary “traditional” martial arts. Yes it’s true that the attackers were moving “fast” but they STOPPED moving as soon as contact was made. In essence they allowed themselves to just fall over at the teacher’s whim. This kind of training teaches bad habits because you are assuming that after a single attack you will be able to just pounce on the opponent. Now put the acting by the attackers after getting “hit” by the nerf swords.

    Jigoro Kano advocated randori, or resistance training, because that’s the only way to build real reactions and train skill sets. Therefore, at the end of every judo class, students engaged in resistance training. If this school has that than I am wrong about your school. But the clip, in my opinion, does not show any skill at all. Anyone can do anything to someone who isn’t resisting.

    [ Editor note: Anyone reading here want to write and comment on the obvious flaw in Tim’s logic? Anyone see the mistake in observation he has been programmed to make here? ]

  12. Tim’s criticisms are well taken, and in general it is good to be mindful of realism in martial arts. His comment brings to mind several responses:

    First, resistance training is best suited to developing solutions which rely on brute power. Not every situation calls for that. Football players also engage in resistance training. But that’s the difference between a sport with referees, pads, and mats on the one hand, and self-defense on the other hand.

    “Anyone can do anything to someone who isn’t resisting.”
    Then why can’t the attackers do anything to Mr. Hayes if he isn’t resisting?

    Second, I would say it’s telling that his partners only slow down AFTER Mr. Hayes executes his move. There’s one point where Mr. Hayes maneuvers below the attacker’s slash, and then the attacker slows down after missing. At first I thought this looked staged. Then I noticed how off-balance and vulnerable the attacker was. Then I realized the uke was saving himself.

    As for the nerf swords, they seem to serve a dual purpose. They facilitate safe training without requiring the attackers to pull their punches. They also discourage brash YouTube copycats. In this spirit, making the ukes respond like they were hit (or more accurately, slashed) with a nerf sword instead of a real sword would utterly defeat the demonstration’s purpose. Judoka acknowledge when they are thrown by professionally getting up and bowing instead of trying to beat up their training partner. Same principle here. Put another way: his use of nerf swords is analogous to judo’s use of nerf floors.

    If Mr. Hayes insisted every training situation involve real attackers with real weapons, few would survive the first day and it would only undermine ninjutsu’s reputation as an art with everyday application.

  13. Andrew Patterson says: -#1

    Hayes-shidoshi, after watching you for years, since your Shadows of Iga Society days, I hope that one day I can be as slow as you. Your movements, grace, and devistating executions have evolved to such a calm level. ONe day, sir, one day.

  14. What’s with the editor’s note at the end of my comment? As soon as someone who isn’t in the choir says something the editor tries to turn his comment around.

    You are wrong about the use of nerf swords being the same as using mats in judo. In judo randori they are resisting each other and though brute strength might get used it is not ideal. Ideally people remain soft and use the opponents power against him. Leverage is applied at the other person’s weak point. Resistance does not mean two football players running into each other. Resistance means not falling over or moving away when my opponent had not physically made me. My logic is fine. The clip has nothing martial about it. It is reminiscent of the bujunkan tai kai’s where people throw one punch and then let the other guy knock them down. There is some benefit to this training like praticing technique and learning new skills. But if there was actual resistance the Clip would have looked much different.

  15. “Leverage is applied at the other person’s weak point.”
    Okay, then let’s take a much more obvious example from the clip. At one point, Mr. Hayes holds his training weapon against his training partner’s wrists, pinning them against his partner’s chest.

    ….what more do you want/need to see? Should his partner ignore that his wrists are cut off and that he’s bleeding to death? Brush it off like nothing happened?

    “Resistance means not falling over or moving away when my opponent had not physically made me.”
    Should Mr. Hayes bludgeon his partner to death with the padded sword?

    Do you insist that judo training rise to the same high standard you are imposing on the YouTube clip?

    “You are wrong about the use of nerf swords being the same as using mats in judo” (If you took exception to my referring to your mats as nerf floors, I’m sorry, I meant no disrespect).

    I’m wrong about them being the same? Because I did not say they were the same, I said they were analogous. The difference being that we train a variety of moves with padded weapons for potentially raw unsupervised situations. On the other hand, judo limits its training to throws, sweeps and grappling on supervised, matted floors to compete on supervised, matted floors.

    They are analogous in that they both facilitate responsible training environments.

    I hope I’m being more clear. If not I’ll leave it to others to answer the editor’s invitation to respond to you.

  16. Here’s where the “no resistance” criticism falls false.

    Those are not “nerf swords”.

    They are imitation killing devices, simulated 28-inch razor sharp cleavers. Every one of the clashes shows An-shu stabbing or cutting with the imitation edge of that killing device with perfect timing as an attacker spontaneously charges him. Every one of his training partners stopped only when they ran into what in a battle would have been that sharp cleaving edge inflicting mortal wounds.

    If they had kept going, ignoring the reality of what happened in the fight and pretending that they were not cut (“you missed me!”) and continuing with a bop-for-bop pingpong match, then Tim would be right.

    But such is not the case, and in his zeal to criticize Mr. Hayes and nin-po training, Tim’s comments are just plain off-base.

  17. Im not a ninjutsu student (yet) 🙂 but as a long time martial artist having been involved in many many public demos, I felt compelled to comment here in defense of Anshu Hayes. I think the main point that the judo gentleman is missing is that it is, first and foremost, a public demonstration.
    I found some of the intercepting techniques (i.e. vs over hand slash where anshu simply intercepted with a point of the sword into the ukes face) were lightning quick, then had maybe slowed a technique to show it to the public–pretty standard for a demonstration in my humble opinion.
    Whats to say that at 20 minutes at the end of a class that they dont do some “scenario street training” or some dynamic drills with a partner resisting or some controlled sparring with the FIST suit gear? I feel it would be the same as if i tried to judge someones free-sparring ability if I had only watched them do a kata video, or something of the sort. Again, just my humble opinion

  18. yes tim, your logic is fine. martial arts, however, is not logical. you are idenifiying with your ego, therefore, anything that doesnt fit the criteria of your beliefs and perspectives is labelled wrong and ineffective. accept what is and remain open to all posibillities

  19. I just want to say that I was very fascinated by the clip…but with what was happening before the clash. For me, the point was the initial set up and the command of space and intent that Mr. Hayes carried at the onset….it appeared that the ukes had lost before they even swung. At this point, speed is irrelevant especially with control of the moment and an understanding of the attackers intent…which I think is the point of the exercise. In each case here, what happened after the sword cut could not be resistance training per se, the the attacker falling into the sword or over their balance.

    In this sense of real sword clash training, I don’t see any practical benefit of randori other than having some fun swinging boppers around :). Of course, the same could be done with bokken or even live blades, but we respect our training partners and would like to return home in one piece and alive and the focus on the live weapons takes away from the point of the exercise.

    At the end of the day, Judo is a sport and has been developed as such to instill physical training and mental discipline without the brutal violence of military technique. Remove the mats, the respect, the no-nails, no-biting, etc etc and you end up with a visceral clash…the key here is to be able to detach your mind and be able to move through space and time with a “calmness of spirit” As these elements are mastered, the “resistance” can be introduced without clouding the purpose.

    Thanks again..



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