Monday, December 21, 2009

Guest Instructor: Robert Mustard Sensei

Last Thursday, my good friend, Robert Mustard Sensei came and taught as a guest instructor at my dojo. Holding a 7th degree black belt in Yoshinkan Aikido, Robert Mustard Sensei runs Aikido Yoshinkai Burnaby. He has been training in Aikido since 1977 and has been training in the martial arts since he was a child.

It was a full dojo the day Mustard Sensei came to our mats, but the class was fun and entertaining, and it gave us all something to think about too. I am happy to say that even though Mustard Sensei's style is very different from our own (despite their common roots) the students in attendance all kept their minds open to the experience.

Mustard Sensei teaches joint locks and manipulation as ways of controlling a person, but not through pain compliance like what we teach. It is all about breaking balance and preventing movement as opposed to getting your attacker to do what you want through the use of pain. That is not to say that pain cannot be applied should the need arise, pain, after all, is easier to use and apply. That being said, the methods that Mustard Sensei uses can be applied in a more humane way.

Here is a short clip of Mustard Sensei teaching that day:

Mustard Sensei has asked me to come teach a women's self-defense class at his dojo, which I am happy to do. Chris and I are also planning to do some extra training with him in the new year. I am interested to find ways that Aikido principles can be applied in my own Jiu-jitsu training.

Thanks again go out to Robert Mustard Sensei and his uke Christian. :)


Anonymous said...

What do you know, an aikido technique that actually might have a real application. If he were to pull you to him for the strike it’s probably going to be hard to pull off though, especially without a strike to soften him up. This is very similar if not identical to the technique in FMA that is known as the armdrag: by applying bodyweight and a turn you throw the opponent down.

Out of curiosity: exactly how do you apply a jointlock without causing pain? I thought that was the whole point to it. Also, an integral part of nearly any jointlock is breaking his balance so it’s not very clear as to how the two styles differ. I doubt dropping someone on his head or back (which will be the result of most aikido techniques when the opponent doesn’t know how to fall properly) will be more humane than hurting him a little without permanent damage. In the end both locks and throws accomplish the goal of controlling the uke and in the video the sensei did use a lock to turn him over and control him so your explanation if not entirely correct. Aikido does use pain compliance through various wristlocks, armlocks and pins. I think the main difference between aikido and jujutsu comes down to application (circular vs linear) and goal (self-development vs self-defense). In the end Ueshiba’s own system was basically a watered-down and heavily modified form of aiki-jutsu (without the strikes and killing-techniques) designed to fit his worldview and religious ideals. Ueshiba wanted harmony and peace, daito-ryu was an art designed for war and the quick annihilation of the enemy.

Lori O'Connell said...

To use a joint lock without pain compliance, basically you lock out the joints then use the locked state to manipulate the uke's balance. It is much more technical and difficult than to simply cause pain, but by applying these principles you can greatly increase the effectiveness of takedowns through the use of joint manipulation.

Btw, I didn't say Aikido doesn't use pain compliance, I said specifically what Mustard Sensei teaches uses joint manipulation without pain compliance. There are different styles of Aikido just like there are different styles of Jiu-jitsu and not all are taught exactly the same. There are even differences within each style.

What Robert Mustard teaches is scalable, meaning you can increase the intensity of the balance breaking to cause a more intense throw, or you can can decrease it to simply force a person to the ground by breaking his balance. He also showed how to add the pain compliance if you so choose, but they generally train without it.

And while Ueshiba emphasized peace and harmony, some styles of Aikido still teach a variety of devastating atemi, which is a throw-back to the warrior roots of the style.

If anything, I think that steering away from pain compliance if more for practical training reasons than anything else. People are a lot more likely to suffer joint damage, either through an acute injury or through repetitive stress when doing regular pain compliance joint lock training.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn’t locking out the joints automatically generate pain? Perhaps what you’re referring to is the difference between techniques that rely primarily on either kuzushi or pain compliance while not excluding pain in either category, is this correct? I know there’s a throw in aikido called ude-kime-nage where an armbar is used to catapult the opponent into a front roll: the primary goal is indeed forcing him forward as opposed to an opponent going down to relieve pain from a bent arm wristlock for example but in hitting the arm in order to throw will cause pain unless you see the technique coming and anticipate by rolling before he could apply it.

I remember Yoshinkan being one of the harder styles of aikido, differing from the softer versions by the use of locks that go against the joint thus automatically being more painful and destructive. I could be wrong but I do think atemi is still used to set up throws or locks as opposed to tools of destruction in their own right although they could certainly be used as such. Safety in training depends mainly on common sense and adequate pressure (meaning no more than is necessary but enough to show the technique would be effective), there is no need to avoid pain compliance which in my view is easier to learn and apply and safer than unbalancing the opponent which relies both on high skill on the defender’s part and overreaching by the attacker.

Lori O'Connell said...

It is definitely possible to have your joints locked up without taking it to the point of pain. Robert Mustard Sensei did it on me himself. Once the joints are locked up, Mustard Sensei uses kuzushi to take me down, and yet it never goes to the point of pain. It is really quite amazing.

You are correct in your statement that kuzushi may or may not include pain compliance. It also goes the other way around. You can use pain compliance without kuzushi. Personally I think a combination of the two is most effective in actual self-defense situations, if you're going to use locks at all. And you're right, there is definitely a fine line between the two.

As I mentioned previously, Mustard Sensei says that there are many differences within the style of Yoshinkan from dojo to dojo, so it's not 100% consistent.

As for atemi, Mustard Sensei demonstrated them both as set-up strikes and as finishing strikes, once you've taken the person to the ground.

I fully agree that pain compliance in application of joint locks is easier to learn, in fact, so does Mustard Sensei. But then he teaches his martial art with different purposes. He doesn't claim to be teaching it as the most effective, easiest self-defense form to learn. It's a more artful style, which is only effective after many years of practice, and not always even then.

Anonymous said...

Interesting, I must check that out for myself someday. While this seems to be overcomplicated for real fighting there is more to the martial arts (if not people would only practice a few basic punches and lowline kicking since this would be enough to resolve almost any fight) and there are many levels of skill and technical categories. The same probably holds true for pressure point fighting: normally you’d aim strikes at broad surfaces to increase the likelihood of actually hitting the opponent without the need for much finess and fine motor skills (the jaw is a pretty big target, as is the neck) but some people practice hits to certain nerve-clusters and tendons all over the body claiming great effect. I presume it’s possible to put an opponent down with a pin-point strike (mostly with fingertips since this is very precise) but again it would require a very high level of skill to be able to do that in an actual fight with two moving bodies, constantly changing tactical conditions and an actual thinking, resisting opponent. What do you think?

I looked up this sensei, he seems to be very respected and one of the top exponents of Yoshinkan. Even judging from the video (which wasn't very long) it's clear he's good since he moves with grace, speed and confidence indicating a highly trained individual. I do recognise skill when I see it, regardless of style.

Lori O'Connell said...

As per your statement about pressure points, absolutely! In our style we train in pressure points and there is a huge difference between what a beginner can do with them and what someone who has been training for decades can do. In fact, I was actually planning to do my next blog on this concept, so keep an eye out for it.

As for Mustard Sensei, yes, he is highly respected in Aikido circles. He is a very big guy and in his mid-50s and he still moves with amazing grace. I am very grateful to have him as a friend and to have access to his insights.