The other day in class we we’re studying a gata in Shinden Fudo Ryu Dakentaijutsu, in the Shizen Shigoku no Kata. The students were able to follow through the mechanics and form of the kata well, but had a comment: “It feels very odd how it’s done”. The answer was in the name of the technique.

The Technique of Fudo

In the kata Fudo¹, you take an opponent in take ori², stepping away along their center line. What seemed odd to the students was rather than take the opponent in the direction they’re leaning, you reverse it by kneeling back on your right and taking the opponent onto their back. Indeed it seems odd that the kata had you reverse an entire technique when it would be much easier to simply drop them forward.

While learning the form is important, the technique itself has to make sense. Otherwise, it’s just choreography without useful application. So what is the purpose of the technique, and how would it make sense?

Adding Context

I began to think of the name of the Kata – which means “Immovable”. The first assumption would be that the technique is teaching you how to be immovable. Yet you are moving quite a bit. But what if it refers to an opponent becoming immovable?

I acted as the uke and instructed the student to perform the technique on me. At the moment where they stepped back, I resisted the take ori becoming “immovable”. They then finished the technique where they kneel back and I flew into the mat with a loud smack. It confirmed the point of the technique; if the opponent becomes “immovable” reverse the direction of the throw. Hence the name.

The Secret of the Name

The name of a technique can be quite revealing – either explaining the core purpose and concept, the intended end result, or the manner of execution. The name can hold a secret key to unlocking the technique itself, and is a reminder of what the point of the technique is. I was told that historically you first learned then technique and then later the name due to it’s value to understanding the technique. Many teachers in Japan continue to teach this way – first demonstrating then revealing the name afterwards.

The Importance of Resistance

It also illustrates the importance of resistance in techniques; if the opponent remained compliant through the entire technique, it would have continued to feel odd. It’s only within context of a resisting opponent that the Gokui³ of the technique emerges. And in the example of the above kata, the name itself refers to that moment of resistance.

Conclusion

This is why learning the proper name of a technique is important; the name itself has a purpose and a value to understanding the technique. It’s also why appropriate resistance is important as well; many of the technique rely on a resisting opponent to function.

Please keep these things in mind next time your studying a technique – it may be the missing piece that brings everything together.


References:

  1. Fudo (鶉刈) “Immovable” https://todaidojo.com/ninjutsu-techniques/densho/shizen-shigoku-no-kata/fudo/
  2. Take Ori (竹折) “Bamboo Break” https://todaidojo.com/ninjutsu-techniques/student-manual/hachikyu-student-manual/take-ori/
  3. Gokui (極意) “Meaningfulness” – can be thought of as the essence or essential point of something

One thought on “A Gata by Any Other Name

  1. Stephen Trudeau says:

    Brilliant! This is exactly the explanation I was looking for. Thank you for you thoughtfulness. There are many senseis (sp) that would simply say “that’s just how it is done.” Taking the movement into thoughtful consideration is a profound blessing. It shows how much you care. Domo Arigato Gozaimasu.

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