A Few Thoughts


W.S. Bumgarner

Recently several of us from the Atlanta GiYu Dojo traveled to Ohio to attend the first annual GiYu Dojo seminar. Several topics were covered over the four days including tatami cutting, Jinen Ryu Bikenjutsu and ground fighting and nage waza from the GiYu Dojo Suwari Gata created by Sensei Sandhu.  
After this weekend of intensive training a few thoughts are prominent in my mind.

  A good amount of time at the seminar was spent studying the techniques from the GiYu Dojo Suwari Gata.  I have seen and trained on a few “seated” techniques from other Kobudo schools, but have never been taught the fundamentals of these movements.  I discovered quickly that knowing a few kata are no substitute for having a solid foundation in the basic movements.  Sensei Sandhu demonstrated on guard postures, methods for getting the opponent to the ground and ways to move and protect yourself while on the ground.  All of these movements were done with the emphasis on using good taijutsu and little strength exactly 
like the standing techniques of the Kobudo schools I am more familiar.

For many martial artists, including those involved in Kobudo schools, the idea of fighting on the ground is somewhat of a mystery.  Faced with the 
uncertainty of what they would need to do to survive a fighter that has taken them to the ground many martial artists choose to do one of two things:  
They either fool themselves into thinking this particular situation would never occur or they convince themselves that they are uniquely gifted in their 
ability to thwart any opponents attempts at this type of attack.  Either excuse is incredibly naïve and potentially dangerous.

 I think anyone who is serious about their training has to continually evaluate themselves.  Otherwise, you have given up on your art and if you have 
given up you might as well stop training.  Being comfortable where you are at is like treading water- you won’t drown but you’re not going to get anywhere 
either.  Personally, I have decided not to tread water.  We were only able to scratch the surface of the GiYu Suwari Gata but I could see immediately that great thought, practice, and research was done to create something very unique.  Watching Sensei Sandhu demonstrate these techniques in randori training was 
like watching a cat play with a mouse.  It was humbling but invigorating.  I have a long way to go before I can even hope to “tread water” in the 
GiYu Suwari Gata.

For those interested, testing was held on Sunday afternoon.  If you have never witnessed, or better yet, personally experienced the GiYu Dojo 
testing process let me encourage you to do so.  Not only will you be expected to display a high level of skill on your test requirements but you will be pushed
farther than you have ever been pushed.  Your honest reaction to the GiYu Dojo promotion test will reveal more about your character and heart than years of 
training.  But, be warned!  What you learn about yourself may not be what you expect.  Most martial artists train and perfect their art under very safe conditions 
and rules.  Fortunately for most of us we don’t live in a time or place when martial arts are a necessity to survive daily life.  Consequently, the essence of these 
“arts” may be getting lost.  The purpose for their creation could be transformed from one of self protection to one of sport.  It is easy to fall into that trap.  
We get comfortable with our training environment and training partners and lose that edge that will help us prevail in a life threatening situation.  
Those at the GiYu Dojo have not lost that edge and the testing procedure seems to be an essential tool in helping students keep that edge. 

The students at the GiYu Dojo worked extremely hard to make sure the seminar was a success.  Through their extensive preparation we felt very 
comfortable and welcomed to their dojo.  They were very helpful with the material being taught as well.  Their willingness to share their time and insights was 
very much appreciated.  We have a very small, but dedicated training group in Atlanta.  The nature of this art doesn’t lend itself to a large number of students, 
nor a great deal of commercial success. Instead it appeals to individuals willing to step outside of their comfort zone and realize the need for constant 
self-improvement. That is a hard idea for some in this time of instant gratification and flashy media coverage.   For those of us passionate about this art, 
it is easy to begin to believe that we are completely alone in our quest .  That is why it was so enjoyable to train and socialize with the students from the 
GiYu Dojo.  Despite our varied backgrounds and interests our shared interest in this art is able to bring all of us together. 
There is also a mutual understanding that you can’t continually improve without the help of others.  I can only get better by you getting better and then 
pushing me out of my comfort zone.  We are preventing each other from “treading water.”  This is a refreshing attitude.  I have seen many martial artists 
who reach a level of complacency once a certain rank has been achieved.  I can sense that with most of the GiYu dojo students there is no ceiling to their 
desire to improve.  Their desire is palpable and reassuring.  For that, their hospitality and countless other things I can only say “Thank you.”

Finally, a few things should be said about the primary reason for all of us to come together and that is Sensei Sandhu.  The least you can say of any 
teacher is that they are knowledgeable of the subject they are teaching.  But with the martial arts it is not enough to just be knowledgeable.  Any moron can 
buy a DVD and impress their friends.  A DVD may be full of information but it does not impart skill and with the martial arts that is the only true measure of proficiency.  Not only does Sensei have that knowledge but, more importantly, he has the skill.  DVDs can’t help you cut through tatami effortlessly or 
subdue an attacker.  Only years of dedication and hard work can make these things possible.  Sensei wants desperately for his students to have that same dedication.  Sensei shares everything he has, including his time, knowledge, training regimen- in hopes that you will join him in continuing to improve. 
Some individuals may interpret this openness as arrogance so as to not make their own efforts seem inadequate.  This seems foolish to me. 
Why would you not try to learn from those who have shown an exceptional level of ability?  The best thing I can say about Sensei Sandhu is that he is able to 
show you what great things are possible and that makes me want to train even harder.