View Single Post
Old 02-06-2012, 07:29 PM   #1
David Orange
Dojo: Aozora Dojo
Location: Birmingham, AL
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 1,511
The Principle of Sutemi

Hugh Beyer wrote: View Post
David: Thanks much for the link, I enjoyed the videos--but they raise a question I wanted to ask earlier: why are you so in love with sutemi waza? In some recent post you said it should be some large part of your training -- 50% or something like that -- a lot anyway. Why? I regard sutemi waza as essentially a Hail Mary pass--good to have in your back pocket for when you're desperate, but surely not something you really want to use? What's up with that?
Hugh, I opened a new thread on this because the other one had already headed in a direction I didn't really want to go with it.

The thing is, I'm not really "in love" with sutemi waza, but I do consider them very important. And I don't say that sutemi should be any particular percentage of training, but under Minoru Mochizuki, it was a huge part. And as for "using" sutemi waza, I think there's a place for it, as I will explain below.

But the reason I am so interested in sutemi waza is that Minoru Mochizuki considered it an important part of budo and an expression of pure Japanese culture.

Now, if you think about Mochizuki Sensei, he was a protege of Jigoro Kano, who sent him to train with Morihei Ueshiba specifically for the purpose of bringing Ueshiba's budo back to the Kodokan and teaching it to keep judo from devolving into a wrestling style with little connection to its bujutsu roots. Mochizuki was about 24 years old at that time, but he had already been uchi deshi to Kyuzo Mifune in judo and had trained extensively with Toku Sampo, Mifune's contemporary in time and, apparently in ability as well. And it seems to have been during this period that Mochizuki trained with the last headmaster of gyokushin ryu jujutsu. I am impressed that Kano admired not only the young man's fighting spirit and dedication to technical training, but also his intellectual ability to receive very important concepts and develop them. He understood Kano's desire to retain the bujutsu roots of judo and, thus, the Japanese culture. So he trained in judo, kendo and jujutsu with mental vigor as well as physical. Around the time Kano sent Mochizuki to train with Ueshiba, he also enrolled him with senior instructors from the katori shinto ryu, where he learned classical sword and kobudo. And Kano also had him train in karate with Gichin Funakoshi. He was uchi deshi to Morihei Ueshiba for several months or a year in 1930 or 1931; he got seriously ill and almost died. He returned to Shizuoka and Morihei Ueshiba presented him a teaching scroll in daito ryu in 1932. He spent the 1930s training in judo, aikido, kenjutsu, jujutsu, kobudo, karate and other arts.

In the 1940s, with this kind of background, he served as deputy governor over some good chunk of Mongolia. So he was not a light-weight thinker.

After the war, in the 1950s, he introduced aikido to France (the first person to teach aikido outside Japan) and he received the French Medal of Culture for his activities there.

In the 1960s, the Japanese Prime Minister (I think it was) presented him some kind of recognition for his work negotiating with the university students who occupied Tokyo University. So he showed elite intellectual and cultural abilities at high levels outside martial arts per se. He considered himself a "social educator" and said that all budoka must play that role. Budo can only have meaning when it is applied in society.

So when he created his system of sutemi waza in his Shizuoka style of yoseikan budo, we have to look at his motivations and consider it very meaningful that, with the teachers and experiences he had, he devoted over thirty years mainly to creation of this broad set of sutemi waza. This goes back to the 1950s, actually, when he was teaching aikido, judo, karate and sword in France and he accepted challenges from every kind of fighter they had in Europe in those days. He was particularly impressed by the professional wrestlers' use of sutemi waza (called suplex throws, I believe, in the wrestling vernacular). Observing these techniques, he realized that they exemplified Kano's principle of "maximum efficient use of effort (or energy)." A well done sutemi, in fact, uses almost no effort except letting one's weight drop to the ground. He had trained extensively with Mifune, of course, and Mifune was an advanced master of judo sutemi waza:

And as he considered sutemi waza in France in the 1950s, he had a sudden, terrible realization that he had had the opportunity to advance in gyokushin ryu jujutsu directly under the 34th or 38th Headmaster--some long tradition--but he had skipped out on it. He was used to competition judo and, being about 20 years old at that time, he had found the kata-only training insufferably boring. He started the training with some other friends but they found it too boring right away and Minoru was the only one of them who really stuck with it for very long. He got about nidan from the headmaster of gyokushin ryu but then told him he had to stop. The old man said, "After this level, the system contains many sutemi waza." But Mochizuki didn't continue and never saw any of the sutemi waza of gyokushin ryu. So in France, decades later, he was overcome by remorse that he had let a precious and unique part of Japanese budo and Japanese culture disappear: after his teacher's death, there were no inheritors of the system. And as the last person to gain rank in the system, he felt that it was his duty to "recreate' the higher level techniques of gyokushin ryu and teach "yoseikan gyokushin ryu" in honor of his old teacher and in an effort to preserve this piece of Japanese historical culture.

I'm not sure exactly when he began that effort, but the roots were definitely in his experiences in France, in the 1950s. I know that he really began focusing on sutemi waza by the early 1970s and he employed Washizu, Tezuka and Kenmotsu in developing his methods. He would think of something and then call those guys out to try it out. And watching them, he would modify his ideas and, over some months or years, he would define each technique. So the techniques Mochizuki Sensei taught were more or less his own creation, though he once told me that he had never actually created a new technique. He said that every time he thought he had done so, his research showed that it had been documented elsewhere long ago. Anyway, they were not the original sutemi waza of the gyokushin ryu, but every technique he created was tested over several decades and Washizu, Kenmotsu and Tezuka were at the dojo, night after night, testing these things on the very experienced international martial artists who came to visit and train.

So, to sum up, Minoru Mochizuki was renowned among martial artists as a frightening and highly capable man. He fought anyone who challenged him in France. He had trained with Mifune, Toku, Kano and many other greats of judo as well as Morihei Ueshiba, Gichin Funakoshi and a number of masters of katori shinto ryu. He was cited by the prime ministers of France and Japan and he spent his full life developing the most profound budo he could present to the world. And he left his mark on the budo world in sutemi waza, more than anything else. With all his technical, cultural, intellectual and historical knowledge and ability, he made sutemi waza his signature technique and, as such, his ultimate statement to the world.

So my challenge is to penetrate the meaning of that statement and to try to understand why he felt it was so important. As I've said before, he once pointed out the dictionary definition of "sutemi" as "to run the risk of one's life." In that sense, it's rather similar to kamikaze. It's to act with full commitment without a thought of one's own life. Of course, that comes in a bit of an idealized conception--some hopeless situation in which one sacrifices himself for the benefit of the group. Maybe he drags down the undefeatable fighter so that his compatriots can rush out and finish him off. But it means full commitment.

So I will open this thread with that statement and add a little more in the next post.

Thanks for reading and thinking about this.


"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

"Eternity forever!"
  Reply With Quote