Everything is a Hammer

RJJ LogoHave you heard the phrase “To a beginner everything is a hammer, to a craftsman every tool has it use, to a master everything can be a hammer‘? I have observed in class during ‘circle drills’ a beginning student will almost always do one or two techniques, usually an inner parry block and a straight punch. They are timid and often lack confidence. They are unfamiliar with their tools and often have to be coached on what to do. It is natural as everything is new and strange to them.

As students begin to advance they will tend to do the things they as they were taught. So a club hand must be blocked with an upward cross block. A straight punch must be blocked with an inner parry block. This is the stage at which fundamentals tend to be reinforced. Students will tend not to experiment because they don’t want to look wrong or fail.

Eventually, hopefully, the student will move past that stage. They will begin to experiment with things. They will find out what works for them. They may use a windmill block or move to just avoid the club hand altogether. They might use a deflection block for that straight punch or maybe a front kick to stop the puncher before they can fully strike. They will try different things, learning through success and failure.

You have to fail to learn what really works for you. Not all things work all the time. Not all things work in all situations. You need to play with things to see how things really work. To learn what makes them tick. To me that is the where the art comes in.

I started off with a tool metaphor. Let’s extend that a bit for our summary. I feel, as you progress, you will build a personal toolbox… techniques that you can perform with out thinking. Techniques that you can easily and readily apply to a wide variety of situations. You may have a few specialty techniques but for the most part you will have things you can use in a wide variety of situations.

So to correspond back to the whole tool metaphor… you can do a lot of repairs with a pair of pliers, a crescent wrench, a solid screw driver, and a hammer. You don’t have to have the biggest toolbox, you just have to know your tools inside and out. You have be able to know when you should use a screw driver and when you should use the hammer… but you should also know that a screw driver can be a hammer. In closing, I would like to know what is your toolbox? What are your go to techniques?

Leave a Reply

About the Author

My name is Clayton Søby and I am a Nidan from Rushmore Jukite Ju-Jitsu. I started studying Jukite Ju-Jitsu in August 2001. I still train when I can. In the meantime, I keep busy writing a monthly column for the website and studying Aikido here in Maryland. I hope to see you in class whenever I can make it back to visit.