20 Nov 2009

Simon Yeo seminar

Photo: Simon armbars Seymour, the ninjutsu way..ouch!

Last night I attended a ninjutsu seminar given by 12th dan Simon Yeo. Readers may recall that I interviewed Simon about his views on traditional martial arts and BJJ. You can read the interview at On The Mat here. So when the offer of training with Simon cropped up, I felt it was the honourable thing to at least see and learn a few tricks from the ninjutsu master.

The seminar that Simon taught was geared specifically to create an awareness and understanding of the principles behind the standard techniques common to ju-jitsu schools. Rather than get us to drill various set-ups, the techniques he showed illustrated his theories of balance, or rather, how to unbalance the opponent, and posture. In a nutshell - how to use techniques smartly, with as minimum force as possible.

A lot of the early part of the seminar reminded me of my Russian systema training. Especially the distancing from the opponent and the sleight of body movement in order to lull uke into making a false move.

I was waiting for Simon to start teaching us the stereotyped ninja stuff and he did at one point brush on the subject of striking your opponent where he cannot see you. But this was not about invisibility, it was more about altering your body angle and hitting them as they fall.

At the mid-point of the session, Simon asked to see a couple of the standard Jikishin Ju-Jitsu techniques. Grant and Anthony whipped out a outer winding throw which looked pretty good to me, but Simon suggested adding a little push and waiting for pushing back reaction before chucking them to the floor. This was a revelation. Instead of ploughing through a fairly bog standard ju-jitsu throw without thought, once your realise the deeper aspect of the mechanics, it really worked much better. Simon also showed us some neat wrist locks and eye gouges - much more what I expected from a ninjutsu point of view.

Overall it was a refreshing approach. Lots of food for thought in terms of concepts - stuff that we all kind of know, but never really evaluate to any depth. Simon clearly has a wealth of martial arts knowledge and was very good at demonstrating and explaining. He used very little jargon - at one point calling a technique the 'shotput' since the arm action was very much like throwing the shotput.

One thing I noticed was that every technique Simon did he also stood on his opponent's leading foot. I asked him about this and he said it was to add an extra level of control on his opponent as well as potentially twisting the foot for a lock. Another novel defensive posture was where you are facing uke and take a step backwards but keeping your shoulders square so he doesn't notice your foot position. Then, when uke punches, you have the angle in which to avoid the punch. It was a very different approach to the standard 'fighting' stance I have learned. I kind of liked it because it was very subtle.

I asked him about how tonight's principles could apply to BJJ and he said it was just as applicable to fighting on the ground. So I might see how I can apply ninjutsu style misdirection and sensitivity during sparring!

Overall I enjoyed the seminar very much. Although I have pretty much chosen to spend all my time training in BJJ, I still like to keep tabs with my trad JJ buddies and seminars like this help remind me of what I enjoyed about the old skool. Good luck to Simon in his future teachings and seminars, he works hard to present ninjutsu as a viable and relevant martial art, steeped in history and tradition but still fit for modern times.

Photo: Kev and Dave kill each other, in a nice way of course!

About the Author


Author & Artist

Meerkatsu is the artist name for BJJ black belt Seymour Yang.



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