Te the Warrior
Okinawan Te is a highly incisive weapons art, and a superb empty-hand self-defence system. It is one of the few arts that were truly designed, at their core, with multiple, weapon-wielding, opponents in mind. Te encompasses the highest principles of the Zen based martial arts from mainland Japan and those of the ‘internal’ Chinese systems. It is also one of the few martial arts that remain uninfluenced by commercialism or sporting requirements.
There is nothing overtly aggressive or brutal about Te training – it was designed for aristocrats and is sophisticated, elegant and subtle, yet highly effective.
Te teaches a set of principles rather than a massive collection of techniques. Once the principles are embodied, ‘techniques’ simply manifest when appropriate (obviously this depends on the level of the trainee and their ability to recognise such within a flow of movement). It’s not unusual in practice to ‘find’ techniques, only to be taught them later on. This is the nature and advantage of working intuitively with ‘formless-form’ (Anji no mei no kata), as opposed to with ‘form’ (kata based training). Form can lead to one becoming bogged-down in set responses, thereby inducing ‘stopping mind’ when things don’t go as planned – just when one needs, in a real situation, to respond freely.
For people coming to Okinawan Te from other martial arts, all of one’s hard-won experience is not lost but rather is re-framed and enhanced, and normally in a more health promoting manner.
Following Te principles means that any form of weapon or empty-hand attack can be met with the same few entry techniques – always revolving (literally and metaphorically), around the fleet footwork. It also means that ones’ own weapon and empty-hand techniques similarly all work with the same movement-paradigms. This would be very useful in a situation where one is weaponless and has to use whatever is available – quite possibly weapons ‘liberated’ from ones’ attackers themselves!
The following videos show the same principle of movement used in different scenarios.
Defending with a curved sword or stick;
In a multiple-attacker scenario the defender should finish things decisively and move on to the next possible threat, as fixating on one opponent, and ‘fighting’ them, leaves one vulnerable to attack from others. However, there are always exceptions; for instance, using a restrained but still-standing aggressor as a shield, or to throw at other attackers, can be very useful.
Defending with dual short-swords, knives or truncheons;
Here the same ‘irime’ (entry’ footwork and hand movements), as previously is used, and the flow of movement is maintained.
The aim of Te (and any real martial art), is never to get embroiled in ‘fighting’, but to either control or finish a situation as concisely as possible. Te blade-work can be very concise.
Here, the same movements are used again to distract and subdue the attacker, but a forward take-down is used and a wrist-restraint applied. This should only be done if one has the luxury of only a single potential assailant. Note how the defenders posture and head are held erect, so as to enable the surrounds to be monitored, and the end-stance is semi-kneeling, allowing for a quick rise to standing if need be.