So here I've decided I would like to expand on this topic a bit more.
What? You've never been hit?
One of the most important distinction is that for those of us training in Bujinkan is we rarely ever get hit. So, in a real situation we wouldn't know how to respond. If you have never been punched or kicked in your lifetime then you are in for a shock the first time you are. In a self-defense situation that would be the worst time to find out...
From beginner to skilled.
When I was training with Chris he taught us hard and fast, eventually. At first for newbies they learned to do everything slow and flowing. It was important that we respond to the speed of the attacker/uke. If uke attacked relaxed and slow then defending, we reply in kind. Same with a hard attack. If you attack me hard and fast you are going down hard and fast. The thing about this methodology is you are learning to respond and react to attacks but as many of you may know, you don't actually get hit. Its all kind of orchestrated. You know what is coming you know how your going to respond, ahead of time.
What about in real world?
Will you know what is coming? Your reaction has to be automatic and is not pre-planned because you have no clue what is coming. If for some reason you know what style your attacker trained in the perhaps you can 'guess' at what is coming. What about the street fighter though with no training? These guys survive on the streets and prey on the weak. Granted they won't expect you to defend yourself, particularly if you just stand there as we train to do. So the element of surprise is on your side. Going into a stance always gives free information to your attacker. So this is best avoided.
So back to being hit. Your in a situation and the attacker throws a surprise hook. You are stunned and in shock at what just happened. Perhaps seeing stars, the pain in your head is intense. You have to react, defend yourself now! Snap out of it, now before your beaten into the ground. You have but a few seconds to get back into the right mindset. This is your life on the line!
I know many warrior martial artists are used to hitting one another. You get it. In the Bujinkan, we don't spar, per se. We train for all eventualities the best we can. We perfect our timing, our speed. flowing motion is key. Don't stop moving. Don't be rigid. Go with the flow. When the hit comes, we know how to go with the punch or kick since that is how we train with our ukes which takes the power out of the attack. We are used to being thrown to the ground...hard.
But at some point, in training or in real life, you will get hit. Hit hard.
How you respond at that moment when you are blindsided by a punch?
Hard and Fast!!
Hard and fast training is key here. I don't like pads because the feeling isn't the same. I have had many bruises from being hit because we never trained with padding. It's up to you how you want to train. I've always believed that you should train as you fight. Do you fight with pads? If you want to get the feel for being punched in the head, probably wear a head protector. Using gloves which will soften the blow a bit and protect the hands. Just make sure they are fingerless so you can grab and apply pressure points.
Train for realism,
particularly as you become more skilled and advanced.
It's important not to ignore other martial styles. Its all fine and dandy to sit there and laugh about how another art is in-effective. Let me tell you, it's rarely about the art. A skilled individual can make any martial art very effective. All it takes is the right mindset. Think about it. All the varied martial arts in the world. They all boil down to punching, kicking, and being taken to the ground.
So often you will see a couple students going through the motions. They are attacked and the defender does the defense that is currently being taught. Once they are done they are done. Instead, practice doing that last attack to finish your opponent. If you just put them to the ground then drop your knee into the head or throat (simulated!!). Think about what happens after you do the defense you just practiced. What would you do to keep the attacker from getting up again? End with a controlling situation whether its a knock out or entrapment so the opponent can't move. Don't just finish the technique and then think you won. Alway think about your follow up.
Most important to get in a mindset. We call this Combat attitude. When you are about to square off to do a technique, flip the switch on the warrior attitude. This is hard to write about. It's the way you calmly stare/focus on your opponent. No emotion on your face. The feeling within that you can handle anything coming at you. If your giggling and laughing as your defending yourself you are not training for realism. Have fun yes, before and after. But in the instant of defending yourself. Know that this could be real.
Round the Robin
One of our favorite games. The training group stands in a circle and one is in the middle. Random attacks on the guy in the middle and could be from any direction. This is great for response training. Remember combat is not linear. It can come from any direction, most of the time from behind. We've done this training blind folded as well. Good stuff.
Have two opponents square off. The attacker needs to keep attacking the defender for one or two minutes. Keep the intensity high. Your trying to get the defender to react rapidly without tripping themselves up which often happens. This is important as you both are continuously moving, breathing hard
For this square off and take turns throwing an attack, the the uke defends. I'm talking random attacks, not pre-planned straight punches as we see so often in class. What happens when a hook is thrown. Does that take down still work? Defenders: In this situation you aren't doing a technique you were just shown in class. Instead you are learning to react to an attack and to take the defender down. Of course you can use anything that you have been taught you will be surprised to find that the technique you had perfected isn't as easy to apply on random attacks. This exercise is more about learning to go with the flow and realizing that a memorized techniques don't always work in real world as you expect it to. You have to learn to adapt, modify, etc.
You and your uke are working on a certain technique. At first do it slow. Get the feel for it. Learn it. After a few times increase the intensity. Make the attack faster. Defend at that speed. Maintain the intensity.
There seems to be a focus in the memorizing of techniques to perfection in training at many dojos. When you are learning takedowns, wrist locks, etc. Yea, those need to be learned so you can react without thinking. Real self-defense is not scripted. You aren't going to be able to sit there and think, ok so this punch is coming at my head. I can execute so and so technique like this to deflect that punch and then follow up with a take down. Really, that isn't going to happen. You are going to have to react quickly. When you have your fundamentals down, when you have distance and timing down. Then its time for Hard and Fast training.
Train as you fight. Fight as you Train!
Shihan Richard Van Donk's post was this:
It is still my humble opinion that you occasionally must train your Bujinkan knowledge against this kind of intensity... (as well as adding ground fighting - do just the stand up occasionally). First off there are people that this is ONLY how they train. If you meet them in combat you need to be prepared.
I do highly recommend padded intensity training. A person must learn what it is like to get hit and then still keep fighting even when you want to stop. This is why timed sessions and rounds are good when done with padded gear. We did it without pads and my body still pays some 40 years later. To be a warrior you must do warrior things or it is just playing warrior.
I must say that there is a time and place for this kind of training. And it should be supervised by a good sensei. Also first learn great kihon and other basics... then step up the speed and vary the kind of punches coming at you. this is a must. Only easy training will never make you strong or give you real abilities to defend yourself.
NOTE: This is how we used to fight at Karate Tournaments in the 70's and early 80s. Much of this is of the earlier days as the fighting was BEFORE the pads were created. You had to learn to strike in ways that did not draw blood as that could count against you. No blood- POINT!
And this is for ring points.. in a real situation we were trained not to stop until they did not move.
My response in the comments:
My turn :-) This has been my concern for the longest time. Many Buj dojos seem to be focusing on kata and slow movements. I also came from a Kyoskushin karate background in my early years, namely high school (84-86). Like many at the time I was entranced with ninjutsu and bought every Hayes book available when he still made sense and taught the good stuff. Didn't find my first Togakure Ryu instructor until around 92. We weren't part of the Bujinkan and what he taught me was as was taught to those gents back in the 80's. With the going away from the ninja image and the creation of Bujinkan we find a going away from the hard and fast and all the other cool ninja stuff. I get that a lot of disturbed folk were around and it made sense to not teach everyone some of that stuff. But in many ways I feel that as Soke has aged the teachings have become softer. This is great if you have been training many years and are ready to refine your technique. Explore the deeper meanings, etc. But, the new people..perhaps the first 10 years or so should still be doing it the way it was originally done. Learn to fight, the way of the ninja was to survive. Protect family, friends and one self. This is a combat art and should still be taught as so.