In Consideration of the “S” word:
In the esoteric principles of Jujitsu, Master Okazaki refers to the proper use of strength regarding Jujitsu technique, and application thereof:
“Anyone who practices Judo should neither be afraid of the strong nor despise the weak: nor should he act contrary to the strength of his enemy because of the art he has acquired. For example, when a boat is set afloat on water, one man’s strength is sufficient to move the boat back and forth. This is only possible because the boat floats; for if, on the other hand, the boat is placed on dry land, the same man’s strength is scarcely sufficient to move it. It is necessary, therefore, that the weak should learn this fact with regard to the strong.” (Taken from the American Jujitsu Institute’s website, for further reading please go to: American Jujitsu Institute)
Clearly, Professor Okazaki was referring to the futility of counting on being stronger than any adversary, and the possible superiority of cultivating an opponent’s strength for use against them whether physically stronger, or weaker than one’s self. Again, it is clear that this principle is paramount to Jujitsu arts and sciences. However, many practitioners have taken this to mean that one must not use strength in the execution of Jujitsu techniques and this is a fallacy. How can I make such an arrogant boast you ask. Circumstances ensued in my life that caused the loss of use to one my arms, by loss of use I mean that this arm literally hung by my side and would not respond to any messages from the brain regarding movement. Consequently the strength of this arm during recovery was greatly diminished, and in fact remains diminished. Following the logic of those who believe one should not apply strength to Jujitsu techniques; this should have been no problem because my ability to flow through a technique effortlessly should have overcome my lack of strength. Perhaps that illustration was overly dramatic, and a bit judgmental. However, even as my arm recovered and gained some strength many techniques were not available to me because of lack of strength. This problem gave birth to the idea of the fallacy of not needing strength, or that use of strength equates to a lack of technique in Jujitsu. This situation caused me to reassess Professor Okazaki’s meaning regarding the above paragraph.
First and foremost, Professor Okazaki does not claim that one need not use strength, but rather to use it in a manner that is not contrary to one’s opponent. The implication is that blending one’s strength with one’s opponent’s gives the combined strength and kinetic energy of both people to one’s technique. Therefore, if one attacks with a force of say 200 pounds, the rate and velocity of attack is increased by the amount of strength added to the opponent’s force, creating a greater force in the intended direction of the attack, and, therefore, amplifying the results of the successful technique by that amount. If one’s strength is such that he or she can double the rate of incoming force, the opponent is now faced with 400 pounds of torque. This is so regardless of the response, e.g. a throw, joint lock, or strike. Further, if the average person weighs 175 pounds this force exceeds their body mass by more than two times. Imagine the difference between ‘finessing’ someone to the ground and using intelligently applied strength to bring someone to the ground. If we think in terms of martial efficacy, then we must realize the value of these differences of force. It is more effective to throw someone to the ground with a force of 400 hundred pounds, than 200 hundred pounds is it not?
If one adheres to the no strength method or ideology, one, under the best circumstances will provide 200 pounds of force to the technique- following the above example. However, more often than not by ‘finessing’ someone to the ground the force can deplete. In addition to this, if one is insistent upon refraining from use of strength, one is more likely to be counter-attacked. This is so because the human mind thinks exceedingly fast when under extreme pressure, and will react with an opposing force to remain standing, for example. The argument for not using strength is that one then should adapt to the counter by flowing in that direction to overcome the opponent. However, this is only a half truth in that there is nothing stopping the opponent from gaining advantage by understanding that one is simply moving with them, and in turn overpower the ‘finesse’ warrior. That is not to say that one should shun adaptability, but rather negate the need for it by applying one’s own strength in harmony with one’s attacker.
Another rather significant problem with idea of not using strength for Jujitsu techniques revolves around the abilities of others. A traditionally trained or an adept street fighter will never compromise his or her balance for the sake of an attack. In other words, they will attempt to remain balanced during an attack. To put it bluntly, they are not going to lean over for you while you enter for a throw. Therefore, without adding to their initial momentum, one will likely have only succeeded in turning ones back to the opponent, that is if one is attempting a throwing art. The purpose of this work is not to examine the strategies and principles of successful Jujitsu technique, but for the sake of understanding the point, I will elaborate slightly here. To get an opponent to commit to an attack, one must make the opponent believe the attack will be successful. This creates the triune commitment of body, mind, and spirit toward the attack. Then one blends with the strength or force of the opponent as one extends, or redirects the force to suit one’s purposes. That said, even the redirection of the attack calls for the expending of strength energy. Therefore, if one simply flows and does not add to the momentum, one might successfully complete a technique, given that everything else has aligned perfectly, and you have successfully convinced your opponent that he or she will succeed in the attempt to do you harm. However, one must also recall how quickly a good martial artist whether traditionally or street trained can react to changing circumstances.
Given the intellectual complexities of human conflict, is it not then wise to use everything possible to ensure victory over one’s opponent? Additionally and from a practical point of view is it not also wise to desire maximum efficacy with each technique? Therefore, and regardless of how romantic the notion of defeating an opponent without using strength happens to be, it is not necessarily the best choice in conflict situations. Not only is not the best choice, but as I have found out through personal experience it is not entirely possible. One must carefully examine the arts that comprise the basic technique of Danzan Ryu Jujitsu, and one must understand the mechanics of these arts. As such, the argument for adding strength does not negate the need to understand proper technique by ‘muscling through’ an art, but rather that once a technique’s principles are understood, one can enhance the efficacy with the proper application of one’s own strength.