During the second wave of the COVID-19 epidemic, I spent some time in January transferring video footage of jujutsu training from old VHS tapes that had been sitting in a cupboard since 2000. I included a link to one of these videos demonstrating some defences against knife attacks in my earlier post on my martial arts career.
The tapes date back to the 1990s when I was training with the Kokusai Jujutsu Ryu at the Australian National University and the KJR main dojo in Queanbeyan. These were transferred from the original VHS tapes, and so quality is not great. In the following short video, I am demonstrating jujutsu defences against attacks with baton (short stick) in 1995.
The following video was taken during a training session at the ANU Jujutsu Club, Canberra, in 1998. Zoltan Bacskai is attacking with a sword, a Japanese katana. This sword has a sharp blade and its important to control the blade during the defence and throw, not only to avoid injury, but also to avoid cutting the mats. During a national championship a few years earlier, I was too slow avoiding a sword strike and had my throat cut. The cut was not serious, a few centimetres in length and about a mllimetre deep, but it bled freely and certainly impressed the audience.
As a student at the University of Sydney in the early 1970s, I became interested in Zen Buddhism through the writings of Alan Watts and others, but the concept of actual “practice” was completely foreign to me. Then I picked up a second-hand copy of Zen Combat by Jay Gluck (Ballantine 1962) and was absolutely fascinated by its survey of Japanese martial arts and the role of Zen in them. Bruce Lee also sparked a huge surge of Western interest in the Asian martial arts with his 1973 film Enter the Dragon. The idea of practicing a martial art was something I could relate to, and in 1974 I enrolled in a lunch-time karate class at the University during my 4th year Physics Honors Year. I was so enthusiastic about karate that I remember being puzzled why others were not joining once they knew about the availability of classes. Over the next two or three years I trained in several karate styles including Goju Ryu, Dioshin Lyanbukan and Kei Shin Kan.
In an earlier post, I described my experience with transformational breathwork and the Wim Hof method. I’ve continued to practice these, and to do some online sessions with the breathwork instructor from the retreat I attended late last year. In looking around for more information on breathwork, I came across a book by David Lee called “Life force: Sensed Energy in Breathwork, Psychedelia and Chaos Magic” (Norwich: The Universe Machine, 2018).
Lee gives an overview of and simple instructions for ten types of breathwork, as well as discussing their various purposes and effects, and the relationships between them. This is interesting enough, but his approach to understanding breathwork completely changed my experience of it. He describes the book as an exploration of “sensed energy” and schemes of belief that work best for experiencing, cultivating and manipulating these subtle sensations. In particular, he frames breathwork in terms of the arousal and relaxation of sensed energy.
Transformational breathing produces within minutes a tingling within the hands and feet and a sense of energy surging around the body. Lee advises to simply witness this energy as it circulates and coalesces into definite sensations and emotions. Layers of unresolved emotion may surface and the high level of sensed energy helps them to resolve. So breathwork may untangle pain and discomfort from the past. Lee describes how to modulate the intensity of the breathwork to hover in the space between suppression of this unresolved material and its too intense activation, allowing a process of resolution to occur, rather than repression or re-traumatizing. I certainly experience intense emotions at times during breathwork, and the periods of “tantrum” and application of pressure to particular points on the body enable you to intensify and experience or release these intense emotions.
I came across a video recently posted on youtube of my former jujutsu teacher, John Bear Shihan demonstrating futari kata in 1989. Was surprised to see that I was the main receiver, joined partway through the video by Neil Phillips.
At that time, I was a shodan (1st Dan black belt) and Neil was probably 3rd kyu brown belt. This kata was a training exercise for 5th kyu purple belt level.