The requirements

How the requirements are organized

(Warning – this page is still under construction, but I decided I'd put off doing it for so long I just had to post something. Eventually there will be a lot of links here...)

There are 5 major colors under black that we use: white, yellow, blue (orange in some schools), green, brown. Normally one goes from one to the other by getting tips. These are pretty much up to the instructor, and you can also read up on the history of belt rankings. The times refer to the minimal amount of time you must be in the previous grade before you should be permitted to test for the next rank. This may be waived at the instructor's discretion. Testing fees are simply the cost of the belt. For tips, you are charged with finding your own duct tape. I do not charge you for anything else. Of course, I also insist that you actually pass the test, since I'm not in it for the money....

I am by vocation a teacher (in Mathematics) and am universally accorded the status of being extremely effective. My system there is to realize that intensively concentrating on a topic for a period of time causes people to operate with the concept at a much higher level than having the same amount of exposure over a much more extended period. (This has to do with intuition and learning.) I have attempted to apply this here. So far the results have been quite encouraging and I have received many a compliment on how well my students have been prepared. This is the best proof of concept.

One major goal of  breaking things down the way I do is so that when something is not working in training there is a conceptual framekwork for debugging it. For example, if you cannot ennunciate how your feet are moving in a complex henka chances are very good you will get stumped when it fails and never be able to figure out how to get it to work right. That would be a Bad Thing because you then cannot develop the independence needed to function on your own. My goal as an instructor is to make you independent of me and this is a very different goal than most martial artists have. By not giving you a methodolgy for analysis, but merely having a collection of techniques, students are rendered always second class citizens in their own systems, requiring intervention from some higher belt who has puzzled out a crude analysis on their own to save the day. This doubtless lets the master feel like, well, a master, but is a disaster wating to happen to the student in a live fire situation.  ("Y'all can't punch me like that until I ask me teacher what to do...") Now, I should also make a note about turning lemons to lemonade. As many of you know, I ended up getting handicapped, got a new experimental hip and had to extensively rehabilitate myself. This meant that at one point, well after I had gotten a black belt, I had to literally start from the beginning and reteach myself everything. The second time aroung, however, I got to do it from the perspective of being a very experienced instructor. A problem with very experienced people teaching neophytes is that they often do not remember how it feels to be learning something anew. Since I really started over, it wanted to write this down once and for all, preferring to see it as a golden opportunity to revamp and vastly improve my teaching, rather than simple drudgery. In large measure, I have incorporated the way I rehabilitated myself as the basis for my system of analysis. As a philosophical point, suffering can really only be given meaning if you use it to help those around you, otherwise you are just miserable. This is not to say that the system didn't already have a way to analyze techniques in place, far from it -- I cannot claim originality -- merely that the specific form here is due to me and had to proceed in baby steps.

A standard set of testing requirements at most HDR schools is to require that a student be able to come up with a certain number of henka for each belt level (1, 3, 5, 7 and finally 10 for black) for each principle. This is fine and you should be able to pass such a test. I require a bit more and have it organized differently. Let me explain why. I find that the sheer vastness of such freedom is lost on many lower ranks. They flit from application to application and never really bother to learn any to more than a passing technical ability. When test time looms they finally select a few at the last minute. This persists until close to black belt level and it is only in the latter stages of study that a real attempt is made for technical excellence on all levels. This is not what instructors want, but it what I have observed countless times.

My solution is two-pronged. First, I lay out a standard list of henka which I insist students learn to technical proficiency. Once learned, students are more than welcomed to amend or replace any of it as they see fit but they must articulate why they are doing what they do. Secondly, in line with the above reasoning on developing intuition about principles, I have intensive requirements for specific principles. For some time prior to testing, a given principle is to be applied to everything in sight and specific flow drills are done to burn this into the student's central nervous system. Again, this does not mean you you won't know other kata, just that I have a method for internalizing specific principles.

Incidentally we use principle but there are several ways to classify the techniques in jujutsu and one other common way is by broad category. Read about it here.

The combinations for throwing are suggestions. The idea is merely to get people to try and perceive common patterns of body movement when throwing. In practice it may well occur that the opponent zigs when you zag, as they say. The combinations are to get you to follow someone and capitalize on their movement. It is easiest to throw someone in motion and static throwing is, after all, just a learning tool to help get the form down. Ideally, the initial throw in a combination can be fairly gentle, setting up the second to be effortless. This is much preferred over simply trying to repeatedly blast uke off his feet. Especially for a much smaller person, these provide a good way of setting up a larger person for a throw. Therefore you can think of these as either being a setup and a throw or a way to followup after a failed throw.

The counter techniques should not be taken to literally. That is to say, the initial technique is assumed to be sloppy, giving tori a chance to counter it. In practice, people with training will make mistakes under pressure, while those with no training will not be trying a technique per se but are liable to be doing something similar enough to allow the counter – there are, after all, only so many ways to move. These give tori a feeling for how to escape munged throws and immediately capitalize on the obvious opening. The best defense against a good throw is, of course, landing correctly while attempting to actively resist a well executed throw is apt to be a sadly memorable event.

Finally, the self-defense refers to specific ways of applying the principles to legally protect yourself. This list is pretty dry and does not have such items as awareness/assertiveness training, de-escalation techniques, legal discussions and such which are actually the heart of comprehensive self-defense. I maintain strongly that the physical part of self-defense is least likely to keep you safe and having to engage an opponent falls under the heading of trying to keep disaster from being catastrophe rather heroically saving the day. We will train these other elements of self-defense, but these are not appropriate for a simple reference list. Extraction is the only legally justifiable course of action in all cases since under law you have a retreat requirement to flee any such situation if it is possible to do so safely. Think in these terms: you should count on having to explain to the judge and jury why you could not have avoided the situation. All that fancy movie stuff is for the movies. Since our emphasis is on the practical – so the assumption is you might have to use it rather than it being a simply interesting technique – most all the basic curriculum is getting away. Only in 'exceptional circumstances' does one actually engage an opponent with the intent of injury. Anything else legally counts as assault and possibly attempted murder. Later parts of the syllablus are concerned with professional uses of force, such as restraining techniques a law enforcement officer might use. These are done partly because it is very informative to understand how traditional techniques have been altered to comply with state or local law and partly so you can truly appreciate the uses of a martial art in a civilian society. Most martial arts are at best historical oddities and just not used for anything in a daily setting.

We are sorely at odds with most martial arts systems in that ultimately the goal is not just being able to do the techniques, but being able to perceive when a technique must be applied, that is to say, objective use of force standards are at least as important as the actual techniques at a given level. Said differently the right technique at the wrong time will put you in jail. A much fuller discussion of this is found on Marc MacYoung's website and I strongly suggest you read there.

White (jukyu)

None. This is the color belt a beginner wears, so everybody is a white belt initially.

Yellow tip (ku kyu, 3 months)

Principles:escaping, distance, structure ("unbendable arm")
Kata:hakko dori (escape through the opening), hakko zeme (the push, saw)
Throws: Manipulations: intercepting, dropping
Ukemi: back roll, side fall, pulls from a kneeling position to a side tap.
Taisabaki: zenkutsu dachi (front stance), kokutsu dachi (back stance). Pushing drills for stances to hips, then ribs then shoulders and finally bent arms to practice hakko zeme. Evading (movement to 3 or 9 o'clock).
Atemi:    Combinations: Flow drills:Basic outside parrying sets, switch in basic sets, moving escaping from arm grabs
Pins:overhead ude gatame (arm pin)

Yellow (hachi kyu , 3 months)

Kata:kao ate (face strike kneeling), tachi ate (strike to neck while standing), hiza gatame (pinning attacker's arm to knee with a thumb break).
Throws:    Combinations:    Counters: Manipulations:rolling, smothering
Ukemi:forward roll, front/back roll flow drill.
Taisabaki:kosa dachi (twisted stance), kiba dachi (horse stance). Push drills, turning, pivot drills. Sweeping the lead foot moving forward or backwards.
Atemi: te katana, foot pins with strikes
   Combinations: Flow drills: Hip throw, adding foot touch to basic atemi drill, high line and low line in atemi drill, varying rhythm
Pins:Turn over from back to front using the arm to the face then pin the arm to the floor at the side of the body (as in the ending of the shodan osae dori kata).

Blue tip (shichi kyu , 3 months)

Principles:aiki nage
Kata:aiki nage, hiki nage
Throws:    Combinations:    Counter throws: Manipulations:leading, jamming
Ukemi:forward roll to tap, front tap
Taisabaki:sweeping while moving (forward and backwards, plus zig-zag motion), off-lining, twisting
Atemi:mikazuki geri, tsuki    
Flow drills: Elbow atemi drills. Aiki nage off-balancing drill, foot sweep flow drills (with and without throw).
Pins:basic nidan osae dori pin.

Blue (rokku kyu , 3 months)

Principles:te kagami
Kata:te kagami (standing and kneeling)
Throws: Combinations: Counter throws: ko uchi gari but the attacker does not have your balance broken, Counter with a propping throw to his non-sweeping leg.
Manipulations:turning over, lifting, leading
Ukemi:roll over kneeling partner, roll over standing partner who is doing te kagami
Taisabaki: leading
Atemi:hiza geri or knee strikes, uchi mikazuki geri, outside crescent kick
Flow drills:flow drills using elbow and knee strikes. Integrating foot pins into striking. turning-over flow drills, te kagami flow drill (positioning and "endless nage")
Pins: te kagami pin, opponent standing and prone. After a te kagami,  pull up and use it to turn the attacker onto his stomach.

Green tip (go kyu , 3 months)k

Principles: otoshi
Kata: ushiro zeme otoshi
Throws: Combinations: Counter throws: Manipulations:filling
Ukemi:aerial practice: with partner holding a jo, (otoshi drill) grab partner's lapel, pick up feet and do a side tap. Partner must practice drop so as not to get pulled over face first, you get to practice landing from chest level with a controlled fall (exercise for side fall = yoko sutemi).
Atemi: getting into shodan wrist bend from a punch (or grab)
Flow drills:filling drills, passing the arm drills, 8 direction hip throws, shove drill and land with otoshi.
Pins:shodan wrist bend

Green (yon kyu , 3 months)

Kata:ushiro zeme otoshi
Throws:    Counter throws: Manipulations:crossing the body
Ukemi:do a side tap over a kneeling partner (grab underneath) and from an o goshi
Atemi: inside set. Defenses from behind. Blocking double punches.
Flow drills:passing the arm, walking circle. 8 direction hip throws with body crossing
Pins:Floor sequence (5 pins).  Pinning the legs of a downed attacker by kneeling on them (basic plus variation).
Self-defense:Against a tackle (sumi gaeshi), against a "rhino". Hip throws keeping away from the defender's free arm, immoblizing it. Stack the mats: Hip throw where uke grabs and tries hard to pull you over. You drop staying under his center of gravity and do a full sutemi, slamming him. Uke should remember that at some point he must let go with one hand to tap!

Brown tip (san kyu , 6 months)

Principles:using the arm as a stick to control
Kata: mune osae dori, ude osae dori (kneeling and standing)
Throws:    Combinations:    Counters: Manipulations:pinning
Ukemi:handshake/belt rollouts, combinations, rollouts as escapes from an armbar.
Taisabaki: sticking
Atemi: ankle bites, armbreak sequence (Off haymakers except the last which is off a straight punch):    Combinations: Flow drills: drills leading to an arm bar, dropping punch, pulls and pushes into throws, side of body arm break flow drill
Pins: Self-defense: Escapes from floor fighting situations. Dropping to one knee while being counter grabbed as part of a throw. Escapes from juji gatame, using hasami otoshi against a bad armbar.

Brown (ni kyu , 6 months)

Principles:shodan osae dori - using a limb as a stick to throw
Kata:uchi komi dori, (standing and kneeling), kubi jime dori
Manipulations:disconnecting uke from his center
Ukemi:aerials, directional rolling combinations
Taisabaki:walking circle doing uchi komi dori opening. crowding
Atemi: Hook punches, blocking hook punches with elbows. Backfist.
Combinations: Flow drills: drills involving trapping the arm or leg to throw and clearing the arm. Ankle bites (ko soto/uchi ashi kubi jime). The throwing drill for shodan osae dori.
Pins: pin in uchi komi dori, leg and armbar pin (off morote gari).  Turn an attacker who is on his back over by using an armbar against your leg while you execute a kaiten.
Self-defense: Basic knife defenses.

Black tip (i kyu , 6 months)

Principles:niho/shiho nage.
Kata:yoko katate osae dori, kiza morote yoko katate osae dori
Throws:    Combinations:    Counter throws: Manipulations:hooking, wrapping
Ukemi:Rolling along the circle with combinations.
Taisabaki:lifting, turning, retreating
Uppercuts/horizontal elbows, hammerfist (in place of metsubushi
Combinations: Flow drills: Drills involving hooking the elbow, wrist, head and neck. Endless niho nage.  Five strikes drill. In basic flow drill, replace slaps with elbow shots to attacker's hands and arms, hooking with other hand.
Pins:straight-armed niho nage pin, with and without foot, smear face elbow pin (hiji gatame)

Black (shodan 6 months)

10 henka for each principle.
The test is to show that you have figured out how to adapt the principles to your specific body type, character and situation.