Skip to main content

The Good Second Position - Choosing an Inferior First Position

In his oldest work (Shanghai Municipal Police - Manual of Self-Defense 1915), W.E. Fairbairn includes the following tidbit towards the end of the book in a section that matches situations and techniques (no picture or further description is in the manual):

(2) Your opponent attempts:-
(A) To strike you with his fist...
(3) With baton, strike forearm a smart blow from below.

Those of us who practice certain forms of Jujutsu probably understand a number of reasons why the baton may be down in such a position as to allow this strike - most obviously, it is not particularly civil for police to begin many interactions with weapons in offensive positions (the photo below is from the UN Police Manual 2015, showing the sort of position we are talking about).

So one reason to have a less than ideal starting position may be context - especially when equipped with weapons one cannot simply get the weapon between themselves and a possible aggressor, let alone cocked into an aggressive position as a matter of routine.

Let us have a look at the end sequence of the Jodo kata RanAi - the sequence starts with a 'miss' of a downward strike, creating a 'poor' fist position for the 'defender' and a good first position for the 'attacker':

The upward trajectory not only deflects the incoming blow, but it also results in an excellent second position for the 'defender' and a poor second position for the 'attacker'.  The timing is also such that a window of opportunity has opened for the Jo to attack:

So in this example, the reason for a poor starting position was an unsuccessful technique that finished in a position that was not ideal in terms of offense but still left a defensive option.

Are there tactical advantages to having a less than ideal starting position?

If we couple a defensive movement that leads to a good offensive second position, there may often be a good tactical reason to employ an offensively poor first position if our aim is to counter the enemy - indeed this can also help direct the line of attack by exposing an area that appears safe to strike.

This is indeed a tactic regularly used by Aikido practitioners - we may shiver at the implementation by a lot of groups, however, the tactic itself isn't unreasonable.

One of the lessons of the RanAi sequence is perhaps to keep the second position in mind.  Overcommitment in the attack effectively disregards the second position and makes no preparation for an enemy's counterattack.

I will grant that as a tactic it requires enough time and space - so dropping your hands and sticking your chin out is still only a good idea if you have time to get out of the way...

Popular posts from this blog

Spear (Yari) in Owari Kan Ryu 尾張貫流 (Kudayari & others)

Owari Kan ryū is known for its use of the kuda-yari (tube spear). The e (shaft) is run through a kuda (metal pipe) that’s in the front hand of the practitioner.  Interestingly the school’s students start training by doing shiai (competition) and only after considerable training they learn the school's kata (forms). Most classical schools that practice shiai do so after learning kata. Thrusting using the kuda. Cross-stepping.                           Thrusting attack with kuda. Wide stance.   Shiai. Shiai using a spear with a cross piece. The original demonstration from which these stills were taken is here:

The Structure of the Tenshinshoden Katori Shinto Ryu Syllabus

It should be noted that the current head, Otake Risuke, has commented that not all of the parts of Tenshinsho-den Katori Shinto Ryu survive.  I recall his comments in various documentaries that Archery was once a component, and only some of the spear survives. Through various sources, mostly Otake's book, I have put together this brief outline of their syllabus, however I have little idea of the exact stage each is taught except that I believe the students start with Omote no Tachi.  I will use this as the basis for further posts and may add to it over time. I believe their are important implications when Otake says that one of the main reasons for training all the weapons is to train the swordsman against them. Note in this section in brackets are my own comments and should therefore not be relied upon, those from the written work of Otake are clearly marked. Tenshinsho-den Katori Shinto Ryu -Kenjutsu (Otake lists Tachi, Ryuto and Kodachi under Kenjustsu) --Tachi (Use of the singl

Kendo Shinai Weights & Measures

As a note the recommended length and weight for shinai are: - Women 38 inches 440 grams. - Men 39 inches 510 grams. The Wikipedia shinai page lists the following tables: Regulations In  kendo  competitions that follow the FIK rules, there are regulated weights and lengths for the use of  shinai .  Table A. FIK Specifications for competition use of one Shinai (Itto). Specification Gender Junior High School (12–15 yrs) Senior High School (15–18 yrs) University students and Adults (18yrs+) Maximum length Male & female 114cm 117cm 120cm Minimum weight Male 440g 480g 510g Female 400g 420g 440g Minimum diameter of sakigawa Male 25mm 26mm 26mm Female 24mm 25mm 25mm Minimum length of sakigawa Male and Female 50mm 50mm 50mm Shinai  are weighed complete with leather fittings, but without  tsuba  or  tsuba-dome . The full length is measured. Maximum diameter of the  tsuba  is 9cm. Table B. FIK Specifications for competition use of two Shinai (Nito). Specification Gender Daito (long shinai) Sh