Are You Square?

RJJ LogoOne of the things you will hear over and over is ‘square corners‘. What do we mean when we say square corners? Well what this means is you work the sequence each step at a time. You learn each part of the whole until you have the parts down.

The next phrase you will hear is ‘rounding off the corners‘. This is where we begin to refine things, instead of pausing between each step, you begin to blend them together. You should begin to learn to do the steps quickly and smoothly. This is where most of us begin to have problems.

The problem, of course, is we want to rush. We want to go from square corners to being able to do the sequence quickly. As I have mentioned in the past, speed will come. I would caution you to reign in your need to go fast and instead learn to perform the sequences smoothly. There is a term for this, it is called blending.

As you move up the ranks, blending becomes a bigger part of the picture. You will begin to learn how not to stop the attack, but rather guide in the way you want to go. This becomes a very hard thing to learn if you have not learned how to do your basic techniques.


For example, you learn an inner parry block, a great block. Later you will learn a technique called ‘spinning elbow strike‘. If you try to do this technique too fast you end up blasting that arm as taught when you learned the inner parry block. However, to make the spinning elbow strike work, you need to be able to learn how to redirect it a little while moving your body around the strike. The better you can do this, the more it will help at higher levels.

Let’s look at another technique, ‘Inner wrist lock take down‘. This basic setup is used over and over. When you first learn it you step back with an upper cross block, stopping the attack before turning and taking the uke down. However, at higher levels (black belt levels) you will notice some of the instructors barely block, but instead redirect or guide the attack to their waist and then to the ground.

They blend with the attack redirecting the energy to the ground. The harder you attack them the harder you bounce when you hit the ground. They can do this because over the years they have refined their techniques to the point that they can blend with their attacker.

In Aikido, they call this ‘Ai‘. When the uke attacks, they blend with the attack and redirect it away safely. We have techniques that we do the same thing, such as: Spinning elbow strike, Winding throw, Circular Side Hip Throw from Round Punch Attack, and Side step head lock throw from knife thrust.

Looking over the current curriculum, these techniques have moved towards the top of rank structure. That is a really good thing, as it allows you to build your fundamentals. It also allows you time to get comfortable with your falls and beginning to learn how to blend.


Blending is not easy for most of us. It takes time to learn and it is good that the restructuring of the curriculum gives you that time. However, it is something you need to work at. I consider this to be a basic fundamental. In the Japanese arts there is a term… Kihon Waza which roughly translates to basic or core techniques. Any of you have attended a class run by Dr. Woodson probably have heard him talk about working on the basics is one of the most important things you can do.

I read in a book about Samurai how they trained a concept called perfectibility. They believed that no one could be perfect, yet you could practice to become closer to perfection. This creates a never ending quest to self improvement. They would work on the basic techniques, striving to refine them as much as they could.

This ties in with what Dr. Woodson has spoken about. Once you feel you have achieved ‘perfection’ you stop growing. You need to continually train, trying to refine your basics to allow you to perform the advanced techniques easier. So, I ask you, are you square, or have you worked on refining your techniques and continue to strive to improve?

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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.