Taido is a unique Japanese martial art that features advanced footwork and 3-dimensional movement of the body axis. It was created in 1965 by Seiken Shukumine (1925–2001), an Okinawan Karate master, to foster peace between nations, enhance social interaction and improve personal health. The word Taido means “way of the body”. This is apparent by the style’s extensive use of dynamic body movement such as arial movements, ground techniques and gymnastics. Unlike most karate styles, Taido does not clash with the opponent’s attack. Instead it changes the body axis to avoid the strike while countering simultaneously. Fast, effective footwork is essential to circle the opponent, maintain proper distance and change angles of attack. In training Taido, the primary purpose is NOT to destroy the opponent, rather to use martial arts to excel the mind and body’s ability to move freely and be creative. It correlates well with modern day “Tricking” and “Parkour”, but with traditional martial arts training and discipline.
Due to its Okinawan roots, Taido theory is steeped in traditional Japanese philosophy of proper edict, self-control and training mindset. Taido students will ‘graduate’ with valuable self-defense tactics, advanced movement coordination and a healthy mind and body.
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Five Types of Body Movements
Taido classifies attack and defense techniques into five categories of body movement:
- Sen – Vertical spinning movement
- Un – Ascending and descending wave-like movement
- Hen – Falling movement characterized by changing the body’s axis
- Nen – Horizontal spinning movement
- Ten – Rolling and tumbling movement
These movements are combined with punches, kicks, and other techniques. The last category, Ten, includes acrobatic movements, for instance back-flips, which makes Taido spectacular to watch.
Taido has a special kind of foot-work, which is called unsoku, as well as non-stepping (acrobatic) locomotion, called unshin.
Five Principles of Taido
- Keep your mind as clear and calm as the polished surface of a mirror. This way you will see to the heart of things. Having the right state of mind will help you avoid confusion.
- Be composed. Body and mind should be as one. Bear yourself correctly and you need never fear insult.
- Invigorate your spirit from the source of energy deep in your abdomen. With the right spirit you will never fear combat.
- In every action, follow the correct precepts you have been taught. By doing so you cannot act wrongly.
- Be adaptable in your techniques and maintain freedom of physical movement. The right technique will prevent you from being dominated.
Almost every martial art has forms, and in Taido they are called Hokei. Hokei develop proper technique and stance, improve strength and speed; and enhance body and breath control. There are 10 basic Hokei in Taido that represent the -tai (active) and -in (passive) aspects of the Five Types of Body Movement. In addition to good technique and body posture, a good form will contain changes in rhythm and offensive and defensive features, such as focusing one’s eyes on the imagined enemy, changing speed and production of power.
The result of the match will be determined by three judges, all of whom announce via a raised flag.
Taido is a semi-contact sport. Jissen is a sparring match that demonstrates the application of Taido techniques in an unchoreographed and spontaneous event. Competitors must score with a punch or kick using proper footwork combined with one of the 5 Body Movements and return to kamae (basic stance). All strikes must hit between the hip and shoulder. Hits must not injure the other person, but simply indicate the weak point in the opponent’s defense.
A Taido Jissen match is won by the competitor that is the first to score a full point (ippon) or has the most points when the time ends. In the case of a draw, the competitor that has the least number of warnings will win. If the score and warnings are equal, competitors will go into overtime.
A kick or a punch is worthy of ippon, when it meets 5 criteria: proper footwork preceding the technique, effectively reacting to the opponent, changing one’s body axis, striking the opponent ’s torso and immediately returning to kamae (basic stance). Failing in one or more of these criteria, can, however, merit a half point (wazari) or a quarter point (yuko).
Warnings are given for improper footwork, poor kamae, stepping out of bounds, striking the head/groin, or physical damage to the opponent.
Typical of a taido match is the constant movement, used for maintaining good distance to the opponent and gaining a feasible offensive position. Turning and twisting moves, acrobatics and shifts in body axes are an integral part of a taido match.
There are no weight classes in taido, because a taidoka must be able to fight against all and any kinds of opponents
Dantai Hokei (Group Form)
Not many may consider Taido a team sport, although training together is a key part of the art’s appeal. Dantai hokei is a Taido form performed by a group of competitors that must synchronize their movements in perfect harmony. at the same time, as synchronized as possible. The movement set must remain within the limits of the court.
Grading in Dantai Hokei involves, amongst other things, the maintaining of the formation, proper technique and synchronization. Judges give one score for the group on a ten point scale. The team with the highest score wins. In a tie situation, the head judge’s points will determine the winner.
Tenkai (5 vs 1)
Tenkai is a prearranged and choreographed fight sequence in which five persons (wakiyaku) attack a single central “hero” (shuyaku). Shuyaku has between 25 and 30 sec to “defeat” all five wakiyaku. In Tenkai, creativity and three-dimensional movement are best brought to the stage. The timing of the techniques is crucial for the entire fight, and thus merit careful design and lots of practice. Tenkai thus gives one the opportunity to utilize moves rarely seen in a normal match.
The criteria for points in Tenkai include footwork, use of distance and space, the difficulty of the techniques and the realism and feasibility of the attacks. Each wakiyaku (attacker) represents one of the Five Types of Body Movement. Altogether six judges evaluate the Tenkai, one for each contestant. The head judge will observe the central person and the performance as a whole. Should the total time either exceed or fall short of the parameters, points will be deducted.
Shukumine created these team events to supplement the individual events in order to emphasize camaraderie and friendship amongst competitors.
Benefits of Martial Arts Training
There are many aspects to martial art training that make it a better source of fitness than other exercise routines. Notwithstanding the benefits to mental and emotional health, martial arts enhance one’s physical health and performance through advanced training regimes that are naturally built into the stylistic movements. Current research and modern fitness experts say that the best way to lose weight and stay fit is through three key strategies: proper strength training, high-intensity interval training and circuit training. All of these tactics have been used in traditional martial art training for over 700 years! In addition, a portion of class-time is allocated to specialized muscle development, cardiovascular training and flexibility training to complement your martial art practice.
Taido techniques and routines naturally incorporate interval training, cardiovascular training and circuit training. In addition, the stylistic movements allow for multiple muscle groups to develop in unison and coordination. “Bunkai Routines” use specially designed drills to strengthen the appropriate muscle groups to execute techniques and develop movement coordination for advanced routines.
The end of class is often used to calm down and focus on flexibility while the muscles are warm. Flexibility training is an essential component to proper strength training and movement coordination. Stretching strengthens the tendons and ligaments while stimulating blood flow and muscle repair. A flexible body not only allows space for muscles, tendons and ligaments to grow, but will also reduce the likelihood of injury when falling or playing other sports. Kaikudo utilizes yoga-like stretches to enhance technique performance and reduce the risk of injury during practice. Other benefits from stretching include increased immune function, feelings of euphoria and youthfulness, diminished muscle atrophy and confidence in movement control.
Mind-body awareness has tremendous benefits on the mat and outside the dojo. Not only will students begin to listen to their bodies and stop injuries before they occur, but they will also enjoy the fruits of increased energy, good health and psychological wellbeing. In modern times, our environment has become infinitely complex, which leads to a constant state of mental and emotional stress, whether at school, work or even home. This mental stress ignites a chain reaction in our bodies called “fight or flight.” With so many mental stresses during a regular day our body is constantly preparing itself for “attack”. Essentially, our internal chemistry cannot tell the difference between a physical, mental or emotional attack on our system. This creates an unhealthy disposition in the body that depletes our energy reserves along with the body’s ability to preserve itself. Exercise, diet and mind-body practices, such as meditation and tai chi, have all been supported by research to decrease inflammation and stress, reduce the risk for chronic disease and improve mental health problems such as depression, fatigue, memory and concentration. Martial arts utilize mind-body practices to calm the mind and preserve a healthy body for the rest of our lives.