HUBUD AND REACTION DRILLS

“Why do you teach other drills, why don’t you stay with Aikido?”  First I warned you at the onset that I am being selfish and I am experimenting.  Furthermore, I am not convinced the traditional methods of monkey-see monkey-do teaching are the best.  Nor am I convinced that the exercises always get to the meat of the matter.  Over the years I have watched my instructors experiment and develop and expand their understanding and I am inspired by their example (Mulligan Sensei once said, “Aikido should be generative”).  I also warned you that I try to steal from everyone – not to create a hybrid, but rather to deepen my appreciation and understanding of the art.

The art of movement.  Aikido is my “mother tongue” but one should learn to speak many languages in order to explore the richness of communication.  So I introduce new phrases to make you appreciate the richness of your own lexicon.

One element in Aikido that has troubled me deeply is the ‘one hit, one kill’ premise.  This premise leads to a dangerous ‘artifact of training.’  Let me explain.  After I returned from Japan, I started training karate to enhance my Aikido (Okamoto Sensei disagreed – some pithy comment like ‘one lifetime, one art’).  At the time I saw the arts as different yet complimentary – puzzle pieces that fit together to make a better whole.  Regardless of the ultimate relationship of the arts to each other, what I realized was a limitation Aikido fostered in me – the idea that a successful hit ‘ended’ the encounter.  It was in my first kumite – sparring bout – when I landed a well-timed side kick to my opponent that I reflexively stopped.  In my mind I knew I had ‘won.’  However the bout did not end and my opponent recovered and then proceeded to land a series of punches.  It took me a while to recognize that the fight was still on.  Training in Aikido had ‘conditioned’ me to stop after a successful technique.  A conditioned reflex – an artifact of training.

It is because of this lesson that I occasionally “mix it up” by including reactive training methods.  In the past I have shown this with a yokomen, gyaku-yokomen double attack sequence.  Most recently I have used a very rudimentary hubud lubud drill.

Despite being cribbed from the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA), hubud is familiar to Aikidoists as, yokomen countered with ashi-sabaki ikkyo with the added two beats of a trap and terminal punch (ask me in class if this doesn’t make sense to you).  So as a drill it shouldn’t feel too strange to your body.  What confuses people is the tempo of the delivery.  It is a ballistic drill with a quick tempo not terribly familiar to most Aikidoists.  That is because it is a reactive drill – meaning it is designed to improve your reactions. Reaction training should improve your coordination. The better coordinated you are with the specific movements, the faster you can perform them. First, however, you need to know what to look for before you can react. To develop your ability to react, you need to know what it is about your opponent’s movement that will cue you to the proper response.

Hubud starts as a simple oblique angle attack – a feed from the side (like yokomen or a haymaker punch).  This gives you time to recognize the threat and set up the response.  (Later it can become a straight thrust.)  Given the set stimulus, you can focus on recognizing the cues and build on successful repetitions.  Remember we are training to succeed and not fail, therefore we must always gain in proper repetitive actions.

Successful repetition is defined as increasing your ability to recognize telegraphing movements that your partners present when they are preparing or just beginning to deliver an attack. Watch for the ‘tells’ before the attack is delivered: changes of expression, movement of the eyes, shifts in balance, footwork, positioning, posture, etc. that present themselves before the actual attack.  If you can see a tell in your opponent – learn how to minimize them in yourself.  Further successful repetitions leading to ‘seeing’ the attack before it is delivered will increase your perceptual speed, allowing you to become ‘faster’ in the response.  By recognizing the signs of an imminent attack earlier, you will have more time to process what is happening and therefore more time to respond. Hubud should allow you to readily work on the threat recognition.  You know it will be yokomen(esque) so the ‘correct’ response in the drill is simple – get in an ‘intercepting’ strike (aka gyaku hanmi block).  That is beat one of a four beat drill.

Strike – (1) intercept (2) redirect (3) trap (4) strike, which starts the sequence for your partner to start their 4 beat response.  Notice because it is an even beat count that the pattern is right to right, or left to left.   But more importantly for Aikidoists, notice that it is a 1 to 4 response pattern.  You are doing four movements for every one provided by your partner.   And then the sequence repeats without a ‘conclusion.’  So it is reactive – meaning a quick stimulus-response(s) – drill combined with a constant movement.  No conditioned stopping point.  This is a different psychology of training than most of us are used to.  An “Ouroboros” loop.

To improve on reactions – one simply adds levels of challenge (faster, more pressure, different angles of approach, etc.) but avoid adding fake movements of feints until a high level of proficiency has already been achieved.  We don’t want to ingrain flinches or poor responses.  I have introduced reactive drills sparingly.  It is clear that transitioning from relatively slow coordinated practice (i.e. “normal” training) to reacting smoothly within fast-paced reaction drills is a challenge. Skills will break down initially when you are under pressure. However, they will improve through practice under pressure. This is a normal part of the process. Don’t let it discourage you. Training for reaction requires a structured and progressive approach. Developing sound coordination and a good understanding of the cues and proper responses involved are prerequisites – hence a ‘simple’ Hubud drill as one tool to learn from.  By gradually adding pressure that allows you to reach just a little above your current skill level, you will make progress quickly, and you will continue to see improvement. Going too fast and too hard can lead to sloppy results and bad habits.  That must be avoided at all costs.  Remember, the goal is to use drills to bridge our skills up to the level required for application.

But this is a reaction drill – didn’t you say to react was to fail (the old action is faster than reaction example)?  Indeed – hubud is a way to train a reaction, but the training method is not the end goal – it is a means to a better end.

This morning I presented two interpretive entries on irimi – first from “elbow shield 2” and then from a scallop cut to the triceps.  Neither should be construed as “the” entry since both are (to my mind) just training tools to show how to establish a connection to uke.  They are physical metaphors.  Otherwise I would simply present the “how” to do limb destruction rather that the “why” to move.  I am not sure how better to stress it other than to repeat the idea that one must first know how to destroy before once has the choice to connect.  We are striving to develop the higher level skill set of empowered choice.

I ended class with the simple hubud drill connection to ashi sabaki’s exercise.  It is easier to show that to write about – but I am using the exercise to remind us all to ‘trade’ multiple beats for every one we are given and furthermore to use the multiple beats tactically as rhythm disruption, ‘flinch’ training and speed augmentation.  Ultimately I am hopeful that this will become ingrained so as to result in a smoother ‘flow’ (rather than a staccato) so as to ‘look’ more like a ‘one breath’ response [which I suggest semantically disguises how many actions must take place].  Sorry – not trying to be cryptic but these notes rely on the context of the classroom presentations.

And emphatically yes, I am ‘borrowing’ from other arts to enhance my understanding of Aikido.  My premise is that all arts are the study of human motion and none have primacy, therefore the quest of understanding universal lines of motion can glean evidence from every source.

guru inasanto
Guro Inosanto

This is a link to Hubud training tips from JAK and reposted below for redundancy to ensure ease of reference:

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I have made a blend of the best hubud methodologies with those skills from the Snake and Crane arts. It is a decent union, each unique aspect of each of the three arts compliment one other. There is no conflict of styles. There is only smooth, unstoppable flow. Like a river (hubud) and it’s tributaries (snake & crane) a great force is thus built. That which opposes it often gets swept away in the current and unseen undertow’s. This is mind boxing at it’s best when properly learned. Knowing and using jing energy with Hubud is also helpful and this skill originates from Kung Fu.
 
 
I guess the primary thing to address in this article about the ten biggest sins of hubud training is to first identify what hubud is for those lacking first hand knowledge of it. Hubud Lubud means “to tie up and to untie” and this is why some people have said it is similar to a wing chun exercise known as chi sao. Hubud lubud is the basis in the FMA (Filipino martial arts) for trapping, striking, locking and various weapon applications as well. It also values the aspect of adherence as does the afore mentioned chi sao drill of kung fu. Hubud unlike chi sao is a multi-range method. Chi sao is a close quarter method only. Hubud on the other hand can play in three ranges and with weapons added too. Personally I feel hubud has more to offer than does chisao. The entire chisao connection has been way too overrated simply due to it’s association with Bruce Lee’s passing fancy with it. Yes, Bruce used chisao during a certain period of his development, but later moved past it in lieu of faster, better methods of developing skill. To blend the skills of chi sao with those of hubud lubud should be the goal of most modern fighters who employ these particular arts in their personal matrix of defense. Where chisao holds center, hubud gives center, ah, the best of both worlds then. Do not see these methods as being different. Instead see them as “complimentary” to one another. Ok, let us take a look at some of the more common pitfalls that a person can encounter when learning and training in the various hubud lubud methods.
 
1. Releasing the trap:
To trap or tie up the opponents limbs is a large part of getting to the root of hubud. But what I most often encounter is anything but a trap. Why? Because most people simply release it. You see, hubud is a four count exercise. There is the initial deflection (startle response), followed then by the “carry” done with the back of the hand, next comes the slap or lift to trap (immobilize) the arm and last is the finishing blow. One, two, three, four movements and the hubud cycle is complete. The third movement (the slap or lift) must be kept in place. To simply slap the opponents arm and then release it is to defeat the purpose of the entire drill! I have asked many people if they “know hubud”. Most say yes they do, but find little value to hubud because it is a waste of time and has no real applications. Every one of them released the trap instead of making the opponent release it. Without that critical understanding and the proper energy (pressure) the drill makes no sense. It swiftly becomes a slippity-slap pile of crap. But it’s not the Hubud system that is at fault. It is a classic case of user error once again. Doh!
 
2. Knowing only one way and only on one side:
Here is another pitfall that seems to plague the practice of hubud. It is a pitfall that common sense could fix but most do not catch the slip. Too many people can only do hubud on one side, usually the weapon bearing side. You see it is the weapon applications of hubud that encourages the lop-sided effect. It’s an understandable mistake that should be corrected. Hubud is most often learned in a seminar setting. The use of a knife or stick makes for a faster way of learning hubud, so it’s a one sided application. Many never go beyond that surface level introduction to the hubud family of drills.
 
3. Having no ability to seamlessly switch sides (going from right to left without stopping)
So let us assume that you now have both right and left sided hubud under control. Now you must have a connecting piece. Like the master link in a motorcycle chain the hubud switch element is what brings it all together. There are many ways to “switch” sides, each switch is unique and teaches us another trap, a disengagement, a counter to a counter or a means of creating opening for a strike. Without the magical “switch” the hubud matrix cannot be fully realized. In fact the ability to effectively switch is a gigantic, critical piece of the overall skill set. Yet all too often I encounter those who say that they “know hubud’ yet lack any ability to link the sides and concepts from a switch.
 
4. Thinking that hubud is just another drill rather than seeing it as an entire sub-system unto itself:
Seminar hubud is the most commonly seen version of hubud that people are aware of. What is called seminar hubud is the medio range application. There is the long range version too. It’s called panatuken style. The closest range is the siko version of hubud. The elbow is used exclusively in this range. Hubud has three ways to engage as well. The startle response parry is simply the easiest to teach, hence the most commonly found. There are one handed versions of hubud, there are exterior and interior lines of hubud. Each is different, but still the same. Sounds wild doesn’t it? Well it is and it’s a blast to grasp the entire system versus random pieces of the system. That is why you should come train and study with us – hubud is that good and you deserve to see the true picture for what it is. Did you know that hubud can be done with the legs as well as the upper body? Hubud with the legs is very similar to the kake nempal drills of silat.
 
5. Use of hubud one dimensionally, a limited purpose:
When I do encounter someone who can do hubud fairly well I find that they still lack insight into the depths of this wonderful exercise. For example if they practice hubud with the single stick then that is it. They never do it with the knife or the empty hand, just the stick because that is how they were first taught the drill, so there it stays. One dimensional training with hubud is a big problem. When one cannot define the multi-level character of hubud in a real time scenario then I say “You don’t know hubud”! You know one way, on one side, at one range. Very limited stuff – again the drill may not have much to offer at that limited point. But this is user error at work again. It is not a flaw within the hubud lubud family of motion.
 
6. Not understanding how to untie yourself once you are tied up:
To tie up your opponents limbs and take them out of action is the purpose of hubud. This then allows you slip in a blow or two and escape unharmed. But what if it is you that gets tied up? This is why you must focus upon the escape element. The trap and the escape from the trap share a 50/50 role in the hubud training. There is a science behind the “untie” (or escape)phase part of the hubud drill. It involves torque, body mechanics and sensitivity. Listen my friends, once you learn the science (the applied physics) behind this untie-escape element you really begin to appreciate the higher levels of martial art teachings. Many things begin to make sense that you were taught years earlier. Your quest for knowledge will have came full circle. It will then be time to recapitulate and to contemplate all of the many magnificent things that you know, but didn’t know you knew. IE: “remember to forget, because if you try to remember, you’ll forget”. I most heartily concur!
 
7. Not integrating hubud with other existing abilities:
Hubud can be a stand alone method or it can be a very slick trick to add onto an existing art such as karate, grappling, boxing or even football. Many professional NFL teams have been taught the secrets of hubud as part of their arsenal of the defensive line. Hubud’s universal nature allows it to fit in nicely with just about any discipline you want to apply it to. To use the abilities you garner from hubud practice to enhance your other abilities is genius. Plus, it makes the hubud knowledge come alive and provides some really fertile ground for future growth.
 
8. To not understand and apply “quadrant play” to hubud training:
Each and every time that limbs or weapons cross that briefly forms a “quadrant”. Meaning there are four gates that appear, four quadrants. By exploring each quadrant on your own (you do not need an instructor for this) you find out what is available to you. It may be a strike or a lock or even a throw. But it is an important aspect because hubud crosses and uncrosses with each of the four moves. Just slow it down some, take time to see the quadrants at each of the four points and then have fun, explore and learn!
 
9. To miss the energy connection. To have the moves, but lack the all critical “feeling”:
Over the years I met men who learned hubud from a DVD or book. They have the technical lines down well. Meaning the physical movements of hubud could possibly be learned by just watching someone do the exercise. But the pressure, the force or energy in properly done hubud is a rather distinctive thing. Too many people just know the moves of hubud lubud, the energy aspect of hubud is often overlooked and misunderstood. It takes getting together with someone who does know the correct energies to fully learn the how, why and when of these energies. Yeah I know, it all sounds sort of iffy eh? Well don’t let that stop you from learning this valuable material. The reason I exist is to guide you through this phase and lock in the vital knowledge you seek and deserve. Give it a chance, step up, hubud nor myself will disappoint you I promise. Come share the moment with us in an upcoming event. I’ll make sure you understand the hidden energy of hubud lubud myself. The energy is such a big part of hubud and it needs to be brought forth.
 
10. To miss the double tap connection: Pitter patter or paralysis?
Many disparage hubud as a mere pitter patter slapping game. It is a misunderstood four count sequence of actions and it is done in a fast slapping manner hence the “pitter patter” term. The double tap is at the middle of the set. Bam, bam! Fast and stinging! Now see that there are blocks that use muscle and bone to stop any opposing muscle and bone based attacks. In the case of hubud the double taps block the signal from their brain to their limbs. This in turns causes a blank-out. A form a momentary paralysis of both body and mind. This effects performance, intent and more – thus allowing you plenty of time to strike or escape. The hubud application truly does go beyond the physical realm. It is a high art, science walks shoulder to shoulder with skill. Hubud can cause effects in our opponents that are profound, once we touch them everything changes for them. So to those who still think that hubud is a pitter patter drill with no real purpose, please reconsider. Perhaps you misunderstood the material or never gave it a chance. For 2016 I will be doing a special Hubud Only seminar. And a DVD as well. This is in order to more fully explain the hubud family sub-system and to shed some positive light on an incredible skill set.
 
 
Conclusion: Timing, combat applications, rhythm and footwork all improve once you understand how to employ hubud as a ballistic overtraining device. Hubud in it’s myriad of forms is an ideal “fight simulator” allowing you to really hone in on specific training goals. I will be showing how this works to those who can train hubud with me in person. Your static and ballistic skills will be greatly enhanced through this advanced training mentality which hubud supplies. The swift, sure methods of hubud bring forth the latent speed and deception you already possess. Hubud training is the key to bringing it all together in a cohesive manner. Once you reach this level, you may then discard the hubud framework proper and just flow into total spontaneity. Hubud leads you to the thresh hold of combat creativity and spontaneous ability. Hubud is a vehicle that can be used to go anywhere in your training regimen and make it better. Develop yourself and help others develop their skills by understanding how hubud fits into the teaching, growth, enlightenment triad of power. Grasp this stuff and you’ll be a good fighter and a great Guro as well!

 

1. Releasing the Trap (Tie-up)
2. Knowing but one way, on one side only
3. Having no connecting right-left switch to link sides (and skills)
4. Perceiving Hubud to be just a “drill” rather than a minor sub-system unto itself.
5. Using Hubud one dimensionally, for limited purposes.
6. Not Understanding “how” to un-tie yourself and Why it is done
7. Not integrating Hubud with other existing abilities
8. To not practice “quadrant play” and discover Hubud’s secrets from it
9. To miss the energy connection. To have the moves, but lack the all critical “feeling”
10. To miss the double tap connection: Pitter patter or paralysis?
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