THE VALUE OF EVEN TEMPER IN ATHLETICS—SOME OF THE FEATS THAT REQUIRE GOOD NATURE
In the writer’s opinion it becomes necessary to make at this point some suggestions relative to a very important part of the training in jiu-jitsu. Good nature is as essential to health and to truly successful athletic work as it is to any other phases of well-being in life.
When native students enter a jiu-jitsu school in Japan it is hardly necessary for the teacher to inquire as to the good temper of his applicants. The Japanese are noted for possessing the sweetest dispositions to be found anywhere in the world. Politeness and good nature seem inborn with the Japanese baby. As time goes on, and the child reaches adult age, kindly disposition appears to have increased in geometrical ratio. When a Caucasian applies for physical training under a Japanese teacher he is required to furnish satisfactory proof as to the evenness of his disposition. Even after he has been admitted to the school, if the white man shows too great a tendency to sudden anger he is politely requested to seek instruction elsewhere.
Jiu-jitsu is not a science to be entrusted to the keeping of the ugly. There are too many tricks that are dangerous to limb or life. Many of the feats, if carried to extremes, will result in broken bones. There are no less than six blows known to native practisers of the art that will cause death. Although the author has been taught these fatal blows, for obvious reasons he will not explain them. When the reader passes on to descriptions of arm grips, leg tackles, throttlings, and holds in which a grip at the small of the back is employed, he should remember, when practising, to be at all times careful not to use these tactics with more force than is necessary for strengthening the muscles of both antagonists and for acquiring the victory.
When first starting in with the work it is always well for the opponents to arrange in advance who is to secure the victory. Then the one who is on the defensive employs only sufficient strength to prevent too easy a conquest. In this way the resistant principle of training the muscles is carried out to the best advantage. Of course it is well for the two contestants to be of as nearly the same height and weight as possible, but when the resistant theory is thoroughly employed the consideration of size is not of absolute importance.
Once in a while the Japanese beginners are told to pass from purely resistant work to actual tests of strength. This brings pleasant relief from monotony, and enables the opponents to determine who is really the stronger. It does more, for it shows each man his weak points. While the instructor may help much in the remedying of these weak points, still more depends upon the student himself. If his arm is weakest at the wrist he must increase the amount of exercise given to that part. If the upper arm proves the most defective portion the exercises already described will have to be used with greater frequency than before. If there is the slightest trouble with the action of the heart or the breathing, then all of the exercises must be taken with much more moderation until the symptoms disappear. Even the worst of heart and lung troubles will either vanish, or will be greatly mitigated, if jiu-jitsu is persistently followed and with the moderation and lightness of strain that must be determined by the student’s own intelligence, his physician, or his physical trainer.
Good nature enters into this work as a factor of prime importance. Without it there cannot be the highest development of good health. Anger is a poisonous irritant of the heart. It upsets the nerves. An examination of the Japanese vital statistics will show that heart disease and nervous prostration are almost unknown as causes of death. Moderation in exercise, with all the other forms of right living indicated by the Japanese system, will make a reasonably strong man of one who has become something of a physical and nervous wreck.
But absolute good nature is the only tonic of value that can be found at Nature’s drug-store. Twenty-five hundred years of training in jiu-jitsu, with the constant application of its cardinal principles of good nature, has made the Japanese people the calmest, coolest, happiest, bravest, and strongest people in the world.
One who has seen and has compared the Tagalogs of the Philippine Islands with the purely-bred Japanese realises at once that both peoples came from the same parent stock. Yet there is all the difference in the world between them. The Filipino does not exercise, does not obey any of the rules of hygiene, and is nervous and irritable. The average Filipino is treacherous, and, while he will fight when there seems a good chance of victory, he is easily discouraged. The Japanese, born of the same racial mother of antiquity, has developed, through the part of jiu-jitsu training that is devoted to the cultivation of good nature, a calmness that makes him all but a phenomenal man.
In the semi-historical legends of ancient Japan it is told that a daimio, or prince, was sorely oppressed in battle. With some two thousand surviving followers—every man of them a member of the staunch, brave old samurai—the daimio found his decimated command forced back to the edge of a steep cliff. The boulder-strewn gully lay several hundred feet below. The victorious enemy, expecting certain surrender, sent forward emissaries to arrange for the capitulation. The daimio gave the quiet answer that surrender was out of the question. With his thin little force backed against the edge of the cliff this fine old prince waited until he saw the enemy moving forward with a strength of numbers that he knew could not be resisted. Then he stepped through the broken ranks, looked down into the gully below, and shouted:
Down along the ranks the order was repeated. A few moments later the daimio leaped over the cliff and went to instant death. Before his body had struck the rocks below hundreds more of his men were in the air. Within a few seconds the last man of the command was on his way to death. Not one had stopped to question the order. It was a command—and that was all there was to be said. Such instant obedience sprang from the calmness that was induced by the good nature instilled into samurai students by jiu-jitsu instructors. The bravery that is, in most men, inseparable from the conscious possession of strength aided in this heroic suicide that saved an army from disgrace. The whitening bones of the men who followed their prince were allowed to remain undisturbed until they had crumbled and mingled with the earth. It was a gruesome but splendid monument to the calm bravery of a race that has made good nature an art to be preserved through all the centuries to the present day.
Here is one of the tricks that the Japanese employ both for strengthening of the muscles and for purposes of attack. The assailant throws his arm around the waist of the intended victim, clasping his hands in such manner that the entwined fingers press against the spine at the very small of the back. At the same time the assailant presses his chin against the left breast at a point about an inch and a half below the top of the shoulder and the same distance from the inside of the arm. The chin is dug firmly into the breast, while the clasped hands are pulled toward the assailant in such a manner that the man on the defensive finds his head going over to the ground, while it seems as if his back must break. This trick may be employed with very disastrous results, even up to the breaking of the back of the man attacked. The exercise is beneficial in strength ening many of the muscles of the arms and trunk, but it must be practised with all the good nature that the Japanese have so thoroughly developed. It is advisable for assailant and victim to change places after each assault.
Three of these assaults by each should be made the utmost limit during the first two months that the trick is rehearsed. After that the students may increase the number of bouts in accordance with the warnings of palpitation, panting, and undue fatigue of muscles. When the Japanese athlete on the defensive is prepared to admit defeat he slaps one hand against thigh or leg. If upon his back he slaps the floor or ground. This signal of surrender causes the assailant to break whatever hold he has secured. Both men leap to their feet, smiling, and take deep breaths until ready for the next feat.
When the tackle above described has been practised until it is thoroughly understood, it would seem that, once the grip is secured, it is irresistible. Yet there is an easy form of counter-movement. The one who is attacked has only to seize his assailant by the throat and press back the latter’s head. One method of seizing the throat is to cross thumbs just over the “Adam’s apple,” pressing against it, while the finger-ends of either hand rest over the ears. This tackle taken, a quick shove forward of the assailant’s head will break the hold. Or the thumbs may be dug forcibly into the jaw-bone on either side, the position of the fingers to be the same as in the first throw-off.
Care must be taken at all times to avoid breaking bones, or laming the muscles to such an extent that the pain lasts for a considerable length of time after the hostile contact has ceased. The Japanese take every trick with the greatest caution at the outset and increase pressures so gradually that any advanced student is all but invulnerable to pain unless really vicious attack is made.
When the student has been engaged for some weeks in toughening the lower edge of his hand along the lines described in Chapter I., he is now ready for experiment in a branch of jiu-jitsu which, when employed with the dexterity that comes of practice, will put him in possession of several defensive tricks of the utmost value. First of all he should select a point on the upper, or thumb, edge of the left wrist. This point is about two inches back of the base of the hand. The lower edge of the right hand is struck, at an angle of forty-five degrees, against the left wrist at the point mentioned. The blow must be a sharp one, and a springy one. The instant that the right hand has struck the left wrist the right hand should be withdrawn with a lightning-like rebound.
When the blow is struck without quick recoil it is not nearly as effective. The same work may be employed at every point of the arm. It is especially effective against the inside of the elbow. Some of the modern schools of jiu-jitsu teach the use of this blow with the hand at right angles to the arm attacked. This is very useful when the inside of the elbow is assailed, but at all other points impact at an angle of forty-five degrees is to be preferred.
At the side, just below the lower rib, the edge-of-the-hand blow may be delivered with telling effect. At whichever angle it is struck the results are about the same. In actual combat the blow should not be used unless it becomes absolutely necessary in defence. It drives all the breath out of the victim, and, when delivered with sufficient force, will leave the uninitiated enemy with muscles that will be very sore for some days to come.
For the man who seeks strength alone this blow against the side is useful in hardening the muscles there. A Japanese master of jiu-jitsu will withstand a very heavy blow at this point, whether delivered with hand or stick, without so much as wincing. The Japanese student is so gradually trained that, once the possible pain of the blow has been shown him, he feels no more, for in time the side at that point above indicated becomes all but pain-proof. The same blow is employed against the middle ribs—but at first with great caution! On the left side, especially, care is taken not to cause damage to the heart. This organ gives its own best signals of impending danger. On the right side there is not as much danger; but here, too, the work must be very gentle until the muscles show capacity for endurance.
It is advisable that at times two contestants should engage in this edge-of-the-hand work, but either one may practise this work upon his own body. In Japanese schools the young men are given, when they reach this stage of instruction, about ten minutes daily at this task. In most instances the spirit of emulation prompts the novitiate to practise at home with very gradually increasing severity. There is no time-limit given this branch of instruction. Each student keeps at the work until he is satisfied that all parts of the body vulnerable to assaults with the edge of the hand have been made as invulnerable as it is in his power to make them. All of these edge-of-the-hand attacks, when undertaken by two contestants, require the utmost exercise of—Good nature!
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