Thursday, June 21, 2012

Green Belt Testing for Hakko Denshin Ryu

It’s been a couple weeks since my last post; some side-projects have been taking up my writing time. I will go into more detail on these other projects in a later post. Nevertheless, training continues. I have been taking on teaching responsibilities for some adult and children’s aikido classes as well as continuing Hakko-Denshin Ryu and Brazilian Jujitsu. This past Monday, I took my green-belt test in Hakko-Denshin Ryu. This would be the equivalent of a 2nd-kyu, two steps from shodan.

Hakko-Denshin Ryu Aiki-Jyujitsu has very few techniques when compared to an art such as Aikido. The ways to apply these techniques are limitless, however, and the structure for testing in Aiki-Jyujitsu emphasizes a student’s understanding of the transition and application of the “waza” or basic techniques. The testing structure for Hakko-Denshin Ryu is very well thought out. The yellow belt test consists in simply demonstrating the 21 shodan waza. The green belt test, which I recently passed, takes this one step further. In addition to demonstrating the 21 basic techniques, one must also show “Henka” or variations. The henka consist in a more “real-world” demonstration of the basic waza. An attack is chosen and, by the application of various techniques, one must control their attacker and finish by pinning, throwing or otherwise demonstrating the desired principle.
In this post, I am going to go through the green belt test by showing both “waza” (technique) and the henka (variation) that demonstrates how the waza might be applied. The green belt test is especially difficult because the person testing must show five-seven henka for each basic, shodan principle… considering that there are seven principles, these ad up to 35-49 required henka. The person testing calls out an attack, telling his Uke how to grab or strike. In this manner, the person testing has some control over the set-up and execution of the techniques. In more advanced testing, this small control is removed and an attacker can decide to attack in any way. I would like to give a special thanks to my Uke—Mike—who was testing for his yellow belt at the same time. He put up with a lot of abuse and some painful pins. He is a good sport and never complains.

Principles, Waza and Henka

1-- Hakkodori (escape)
The first principle is escape, finding any way to get free of an attacker.
Waza: HakkoZema
Henka: Various ways to escape
Things to note: regarding the waza, important things to keep in mind with hakko-zema is to keep elbows low and in-line with hips. Driving through your legs, elbows and hands makes this a much stronger push than just trying to use the shoulders. The henka shows several basic escapes, the goal being to simply free one’s self from a choke or grab.

2-- Atemi (strikes)
Seated Waza: Atemi
Standing Waza: Tachi Ate
I have only posted the two waza variations here. A henka for atemi, striking, can be any variation that finishes with a strike to the head, neck or body. Important to note here: with the standing strike, we have our feet firmly planted and twist at the hips to free one hand. The strike then goes across the side of the neck, rolling across the thick nerve bundle (tankei) which runs down from the ear.

3-- Te Kagame (hand mirror)
Waza: Te-Kagame
Henka: Variation from a roundhouse (tataku) strike
Te kagame (hand mirror) has its name from the initial hand position seen in the waza. You bring your own hand up, palm to your face, as though you were looking in an imaginary mirror. Te-kagame techniques are any in which you hold your opponent’s hand with three fingers on the meat of their thumb. In the henka, I step into a roundhouse strike and then trap uke’s arm to my chest. The pin is simply squeezing uke’s hand toward my chest while twisting the hand, thus grinding the bones of the hand and wrist together painfully.

4-- Osae Dori (straight-arm pinning art)
Waza: Uchikomi Dori
Henka: Variations on a straight-arm pin
Osae dori is a basic, straight-arm pin in which you press uke’s hand toward the elbow. In the waza, you can see a very direct circular twisting of the attacking arm to the floor. The final, standing pin involves rolling the foot over uke’s hand between the thumb and fingers, twisting the hand to the floor. The strange pose is not my attempt to look cool, but rather a precaution for keeping the balance. The henka shows a couple ways to reach a straight arm pin.

5-- Nage (throwing)
Waza: Hiki-Nage
Henka: Variations on Nage
This waza shows hiki-nage, a pulling throw. The idea is to use the rotating of the hips and pulling of the front arm to unbalance Uke. Again, waza is a demonstration of an idea: in this case, how to take balance. The henka shows two variations on throwing an opponent.

6-- Niho Nage (two direction throw)
Waza: Hamani Handachi: Yoko Katate Osae Dori
Henka: Variations on Niho-Nage
Do not let the name confuse you: this waza (Yoko Katate Osae Dori) is in fact a niho-nage pin. Strictly speaking “Osae Dori” simply means pinning art; although earlier I refer to it as a straight-arm pin for clarity. Niho-nage is any pin or throw which twists uke’s hand to the shoulder or bends his fingers backward toward the elbow. The henka shows both variations. In the first, uke’s hand is twisted to the shoulder and I pull his hand away from the neck, putting pressure on the elbow. In later variations, I bend the fingers.

7-- Otoshi (drop)
Waza: Ushiro Zeme Otoshi
Henka: Body Fulcrum Otoshi
Henka: Two More Variations
The difference between otoshi and nage—both forms of throwing—is the use of a fulcrum. Otoshi is any throw that uses a fulcrum to take uke’s balance. For the waza, it is necessary to drops one’s hips below an attackers center of gravity. You “load” Uke onto your hips. In the first henka, as Uke comes in to choke, I secure his arms and drop to the floor, creating a fulcrum from my body. In the second video, it dawned on me that the Judo “ogoshi” (major hip throw) also qualifies.

Though I passed my green belt test, I discovered that I need some work on the henka. It’s tough to “think on your feet” and learning the smooth transitions from one pin to another is something that can only be learned through repeated practice. What is encredible about Hakko Denshin Ryu, however, is the fact that you *can* easily transition from any technique to any other. As I have often stated before, this blog is not necessarily intended to teach—though if something can be learned, that is great—but I hope this gives an idea of the way in which waza (a basic demonstration of technique) can be applied to more realistic applications.

AS we often say, “there is no oops in Hakko Denshin Ryu” there is never a wrong move… just keep ahold and make Uke suffer! (thanks Uke!)

1 comment:

  1. You did great Nick, great post on your blog, hopefully we can garner more interest in this rare and seldom practiced art...