The History of Jujutsu

The origins of jujutsu can be traced back to the Muromachi period in Japan between 1333 and 1573. It was developed as a form of unarmed combat during the era of the Samurai, during which nearly every warrior was heavily armed and armored. Since this early form of what would become jujutsu was intended to used against an armed opponent wearing heavy armor, it incorporated grapples, throws, holds, and techniques that were designed to disarm an enemy. Strikes were rarely used since Samurai armor negated their usefulness.

The goal of jujutsu was and still is to use an opponent’s momentum against them to control, disarm, restrain, or kill them, depending on the situation at hand. Samurai who used jujutsu on the battlefield would attempt to kill their enemies, while today’s self-defense jujutsu schools and combat sports are based around holds and takedowns.

The term “jujutsu” was first coined in the 17th Century and can be freely translated as “the art of gaining victory by yielding or pliancy.” This term began to be used to describe nearly all forms of grappling in Japan around this time.

Jujutsu evolved over the years and changed with the times into what we know today. The current form of jujutsu that is practiced is most closely related to Edo jujutsu, since it was mostly developed during the Edo period between 1603 and 1868. Strict laws during this period discouraged the use of many weapons, so unarmed combat became more common as a form of self-defense. Since weapons and armor weren’t as widely used during the Edo period, jujutsu evolved to incorporate more strikes in addition to the holds and takedowns that had been used before. Strikes were often aimed at the eyes, the throat, the back of the neck, and other vulnerable areas.

Today, modern jujutsu is still taught as a form of self-defense and in combat sports. It is no longer intended to be used against armed or armored opponents; modern jujutsu styles are taught to be used against opponents in normal light clothing. The principles of Japanese jujutsu have also spread to other parts of the world, most notably Brazil. Brazilian jujutsu was developed by Helio Gracie based on concepts that he learned from the jujutsu master Mitsuy Maeda and involves fighting from one’s back in a guard position.

 

Why Kids Benefit From Martial Arts

Michael Chin Worcester MA Martial Arts

Children often clamor to sign up for classes in the martial arts. It can be wise to indulge that desire because studying martial arts offers a few concrete benefits that can help them both as children and later in life.

Health and Fitness

Exercise is vital for children and adolescents. It helps to prevent obesity, which is a common health problem among young people that can cause many other diseases to develop. It also helps to manage mental health by reducing stress levels, helping to prevent anxiety and depression, and even by boosting energy.

A few factors contribute to making martial arts a good way to get that exercise. Most people practice them in a class, which makes it easy to stick to a regular schedule and ensures frequent exercise. They also provide a steady level of exercise over relatively long classes, which tends to be easier on the body than working out in short bursts.

Social Bonding

Shared activities are the best ways to make new friends. Kids who take part in martial arts have plenty of opportunities to meet people with shared interests. As they spend time with the other people in the class, they will tend to build new friendships.

Strong friendships tend to boost happiness and help form good memories, but they also form a cornerstone of good health. The psychological benefits are overwhelmingly positive, with strong social bonds reducing the risk of most mental problems in all age groups. To a lesser extent, these friendships also help to maintain physical health by giving people a reason to stay active and interact with the world. That means that anything that helps people to make friends will greatly improve their lives.

Defense

Martial arts did not begin as sports. This practice developed naturally as practical tools for warriors and only became traditional sports during a period of extended peace. Many of them still see some use in military forces and law enforcement agencies all over the world.

Taking classes in the martial arts won’t turn kids into soldiers, but it will give them tools and the confidence that they need to defend themselves in an emergency. It is always best if they never need to use those skills, but it is better to be prepared for an emergency that never happens than to be unprepared for one that does.

New to Martial Arts? Here is What You Need to Know

Michael Chin- New to Martial Arts (1)

So, your curiosity about martial arts has finally gotten the better of you. You have decided to roll up your sleeves and perform some research. If you want to know what to expect out of martial arts, you have come to the right place. I’m going to list out several things that you will learn very quickly when it comes to starting your martial arts journey.

1) Do your research. Whether you want to try Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Capoeira, Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Muay Thai, Judo, Kickboxing or MMA, you will want to figure out which art is right for you. More than likely, you will begin one, and adopt another and another. You will want to visit the gyms in your area to meet their instructors and see what they have to offer. Most places offer a free trial ranging from one to two weeks. You may want to sign a long-term contract or go month-to-month. Trust me, take advantage of the free week or two and try as many types of classes as you can. This will help you narrow down where you want to focus.

2) Once you decide which types of classes you want to take, you will need to purchase gear. If you take jiu jitsu or judo, you will need a gi and a white belt to start. Kickboxing and Muay Thai will require gloves, shin pads and a mouth guard. There are “start-up” costs to any sport and martial arts is no exception. Ask what your professor recommends and see if you can find affordable items online. The gym may also sell them for a little over cost.

3) No matter which martial art you choose, one thing is for certain, you will quickly replace bad habits with new ones. I will be honest here, I still struggle with some of my non-training related bad habits (cookies and ice cream), but I have knocked most of them out. Once you get started, you will begin to recognize your training bad habits and begin to correct them. The journey is a constant learning process.

4) Martial arts will give you much more than a physical workout. I personally go train over my lunch hour. I go back to work with a clear head. It’s like hitting a reset button. If you are stressed, you will leave the gym feeling better. Whatever you choose will not only help your physical health, but it will teach you problem solving, stress management, and enable you to keep a clear head. Martial arts is the ultimate meditation.

5) I am saving the best for last. The number one reason I love martial arts is because when you enter the gym you decide to call home, you are not just entering a workout facility, you are joining a family. You will enter a place where your training partners care about you on and off the mats. The camaraderie is like none I have experienced before.

Go visit your local martial arts academies. Visit several. Pay attention to how the members treat each other. You will know when you have found the right place for you.

Martial Arts and Mental Health: Therapeutic Benefits

Michael Chin- Martial arts & Mental health

If you want to improve your mental health, and you’re not getting as much out of that therapy session or yoga class as you wanted, there’s another option: martial arts. Martial arts has been shown to improve mental health as both a spiritual and physical exercise.

First of all, martial arts are a physical activity. Participants train to improve their strength, balance, flexibility, and agility. It’s a full-body workout that can really get your heart going. And like any other physical activity, martial arts provides both physical and mental health benefits, reducing stress, releasing endorphins, and developing healthy habits and coping mechanisms. Additionally, martial arts improve physical self-confidence. By knowing that they are in good health and physically powerful, participants may feel better prepared to cope with all sorts of stressors.

But martial arts has other, more specific, benefits, separate from those of regular physical activity. The depiction of martial arts in the Western world has often featured a lot of flashy hand-to-hand combat and impressive demonstrations of physical power, such as breaking wood or bricks with bare hands, feet, or foreheads. However, martial arts has its roots as a spiritual movement, with many of its concepts drawn from Taoism or Zen Buddhism. The spiritual emphasis of martial arts can be best seen in so-called “soft” martial arts, such as tai-chi, which focuses on the direction of energy inwards, rather than outwards, resulting in a pattern of graceful dance-like movements, rather than fighting. However, even “hard” martial arts often involve “soft” aspects, such as meditation, and some forms of martial arts, such as Shaolin Kung Fu and Goju Ryu, are neither hard nor soft, but rather a combination of the two.

Thus, counter to what pop culture might suggest, martial arts –even those that emphasize combat– have been shown to reduce aggressiveness in participants. Mastering the complicated body movements required in the various forms of martial arts requires a great deal of self-awareness, and that attention to detail translates to improved self-regulation and reduced impulsiveness. Additionally, martial arts forms come with various ethical codes or ideals. While the contents of these codes varies between forms, some common values include respect, sincerity, and integrity. A successful martial arts program will help participants how to live up to these ideals.

These advantages have made some mental health experts consider martial arts a form of somatopsychic therapy. This is therapy that takes advantage of the body’s effect on the mind in order to improve the mind by improving the way a patient uses the body.

 

The Importance of Self-Defense

kung-fu-2198043_1280People take up their studies of the martial arts for various reasons and the benefits are many. Some may wish to make new friends. Others may want to boost their confidence. Others still may want to manage their stress. These are all valid reasons for taking a martial arts class, but one of the most obvious advantages one can derive from the martial arts is self-defense. In fact, self-defense is often used interchangeably with martial arts. One of the definitions of “martial” is “characteristic of or befitting a warrior.” A true warrior never lets down their guard and knows how to defend himself in an attack, and this is the core value of the martial arts.

You never know when you may be in a situation where your self-defense skills will be put to the test. Many statistics cite reasons it’s important for women to learn self-defense, such as the fact that a 21-year-old woman has a 1 in 4 chance of experiencing a violent crime in their lifetime or that in 2010, women aged 12 or over were the victims of 270,00 rape or sexual assault cases in the United States. But really everyone, man or woman, should possess a set of basic self-defense skills. Anyone could find themselves in a dangerous situation at some point in their lives so everyone should be able to physically defend themselves if needed.

The obvious reason self-defense is important is to ward off an attacker and be prepared for dangerous and unforeseen circumstances. Let me break it down and explain just how and why self-defense skills would come in handy in the event of an attack.

It teaches you to plan your next move in advance

Anyone who’s had something stolen from them or been physically attacked in the streets will take measures to ensure it doesn’t happen again- not that these kinds of things can be actively avoided, but one will be more on their guard. Don’t let it come to that. Self-defense classes will teach you how to always be one step ahead of an attacker and to be more aware of your surroundings. No one plans to be attacked, but you can prepare for it in the event that you find yourself in a dangerous situation. Master Olson, a 6th degree black belt and owner of a karate studio, teaches his students to think as the attacker would, about where you could be attacked (where you’re most vulnerable) and where an attacker could be hiding.

It helps you to develop a warrior spirit

As I shared above, the meaning of the word “martial” relates to the qualities of a warrior. Learning self-defense skills will teach you to think and fight like a warrior. In addition to being fierce and strong, a warrior is a survivor. A warrior will not surrender to the attacker. In certain situations, it makes more sense to run for help or surrender your belongings over to your attacker. However, if you are attacked, you should be able to defend yourself on the spot to avoid being taken away or injured by your attacker.

It teaches you to be more aware

Learning self-defense will give you a greater sense of self-awareness, as well as awareness of your surroundings. You will develop quicker reflexes and be able to make fast and intelligent moves against an opponent. Being prepared in a fight just may save your life.

Systema Triple Threat Event!

17499978_10154859130600873_433851097_o

Five Books That Will Give You a Deeper Understanding of Martial Arts

pexels-photo

The martial arts are unlike many other sports in that honing your mind is just as important, if not even more important, than training your body. You’ll never master the movements of martial arts if you don’t commit to understanding the art as a whole and realize the vital role your mind plays. If you want to truly master the martial arts and make progress by moving up belt levels, then training doesn’t stop when class ends. When you have some down time, be sure to pick up one of these books to further your studies. You won’t regret it!

1. The Anatomy of Martial Arts: An Illustrated Guide to the Muscles Used for Each Strike, Kick, and Throw by Dr. Norman Link and Lily Chou

This is a great book for beginners to the martial arts that want a better understanding of the muscles used in key movements. The martial arts involve so many precise movements that one can assume they deliver great health benefits, but this book actually illustrates with colorful drawings and photos the specific muscles that are being exercised. By knowing which muscles go into the key movements, you can tailor your training to focus on those muscles for maximum strength and accuracy.

2. The Unfettered Mind: Takuan Soho

Written by zen master Takuan Soho in seventeenth century Japan, this classic samurai guide is definitely the oldest on the list-probably one of the oldest continuously-circulated martial arts texts in existence, actually. Despite its age, this is a timeless read that is not the least bit archaic. Soho wrote the book as a swordsmanship guide for the samurai Yagyu Munenori and its lessons are just as applicable to the modern martial arts students. The Unfettered Mind teaches the valuable lesson of how to connect the body with the mind, and the lessons it teaches were so valuable that his work inspired other classic martial arts works such as Miyamoto Mushashi’s Book of Five Rings and Yagyu Munenori’s Life-Giving Sword.

3. Zen in the Martial Arts: Joe Hyams

This 1979 memoir from martial artist and Hollywood columnist Joe Hyams, who trained under legends like Bruce Lee and Ed Parker, is “about life and philosophy, and how to turn a negative into a positive, how to defuse a situation by the way you handle it” and less about martial arts. It’s about how practicing the martial arts gave Hyams a greater appreciation for and deeper understanding of life. By reading this book you too will learn the value of martial arts- how it is so much more than just a sport and rather a way of life.

4. Research of Martial Arts: Jonathan Bluestein

This book professes to be a study of the true essence of martial arts. One can practice the movements of martial arts and its origins without ever arriving at the true meaning of the subject. The goal of this book, published in 2014, was to surpass all other martial arts literary offerings in the market and offer readers a unique experience. The aim, according to Goodreads, is to “present the reader a coherent, clear-cut, and in-depth view of some of the most perplexing and controversial subjects in the world of martial arts, as well as providing a healthy dose of philosophical outlook on these subjects (from various individuals).” Based on the book’s 5-star rating and rave reviews, I think it’s safe to say it delivers on that promise.

5. 25 Principles of Martial Arts: Kambiz Mostofizadeh

The 25 main principles outlined in this book will teach you how to succeed not only in the martial arts, but in life. Some of the key principles crucial to the martial arts, such as The Principle of Apprenticeship and The Principle of Shifting Power, translate just as easily to business and relationships. If you commit yourself to studying and applying these principles, you will undoubtedly become a better martial artist, and if you expand your mind and weave these principles into the rest of your life, you could become a better person as well.

MMA vs Systema vs. Karate: Which Is Best?

sport-310088_1280When you search “what’s the difference between MMA and karate?” online, there are no shortage of applicable answers. Googling “what’s the difference between MMA and systema” or “What’s the difference between karate and systema?” yields far fewer relevant results, but that doesn’t mean Systema is any less legitimate a martial art.

The Russian martial art of systema is relatively new to North America (with the first studio outside of Russia opening in Canada in 1993). In the last two decades, numerous studios have been popping up stateside. If you’re thinking about beginning a martial arts practice (or if considering changing up your current regimen), navigating the different options (karate, MMA, kung fu, systema, etc.) can seem daunting. Knowing that systema isn’t as well-known as other martial arts, I’ve shared a couple videos here that demonstrate what systema looks like in action when set against other practices.

Systema vs Karate

The above video doesn’t demonstrate the best sparring match; it’s more of a demonstrate of possible ways to combat karate moves with systema techniques (not to mention that the narrator and demonstrator is speaking in Russian). Still you’ll still get a general idea of the visual differences between the two practices.

Systema vs. MMA

MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) is perhaps best known as the premier sport off the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), a group that organizes and promotes most of the sport’s popular showdowns. The definition of MMA is pretty self-explanatory based on its name: It’s a mix of different martial arts. Some industry insiders argue the legitimacy of MMA as a martial art, but a 2010 Bleacher Report article says the sport is here to stay.

The more traditional martial arts often focus on defending yourself against attacks, and your mastery is demonstrated by moving up in a belt system wherein you work on form and memorize certain movements. Where these traditional practices are based in self-defense, MMA is a more aggressive with championship ranking that are reminiscent of boxing divisions (featherweight, lightweight, welterweight, etc.).

So What’s Right For You?

If you’re curious about the various martial arts, do take the time to learn more about systema. There’s no right way to choose  the best martial art for you.  It’s all about your comfort level and interest. Only you can determine the perfect fit.

Martin Wheeler knife and gun work in Boston, St Patrick’s Weekend

Fight Like a Russian Spy with Systema

Michael Chin Worcester Systema Russian SpyMartial arts are generally known as a tradition of combat practices specific to self-defense, physical and mental strength, fitness, entertainment, and spiritual development. Most of the martial arts we are familiar with in today’s society have a long and storied history. These practices are often associated with eastern Asia and various locations throughout Europe. Judo, Jujitsu, Karate, Gatka, Aikido, and Muay Thai are merely a small example of a long list of traditional arts.

Occasionally a new type of martial art or new interpretation comes along and attempts to combine a number of existing styles. The Russians have developed a new method known as Systema. Founded among the Russian military elites, Systema has become a widely respected and practiced martial art.

Systema is an intuitive, zen fighting style that emphasizes spontaneity and relaxation. This martial art does not come with rules, repetitive movements, or any particular classification of skill like blue or black belts. Systema has even become a favorite of the United States Military, as Navy Seals and Green Berets alike have begun to adopt the methods offered by this martial art.

In this article ozy.com article, participants meet with Martin Wheeler, a well-known practitioner of the art. Wheeler describes Systema by four main pillars – breathing, relaxation, movement, and structure. One of the most intriguing points he makes about Systema is in his difficulty in giving it an exact definition. According to Wheeler, his concept of the art is constantly changing. At the root of this style is a fluidity that comes from mental awareness and relaxation in the moment.

The art resembles a type of dance when in motion. Wheeler demonstrates his ability to effortlessly exist in the moment, control his breathing, and react without panic. According to Vladimir Vasiliev, one of the founders of modern Systema, you are eliminating fear in the body.

One potential and obvious application of Systema would be with the police. Many police officers and the citizens they serve and protect would prefer a less lethal approach. As noted by Nate Morrison, a special ops veteran and police instructor, this type of training would be a great public relations asset. Systema’s founders, however, are a bit hesitant to put themselves out there and advertise the art. Many believe it is a discipline that could thrive in today’s society.

Be sure to check out the video here.