Tensoku Ryu students who are striving to achieve the Yellow Belt ranking have a great deal to learn. The following pages discuss various aspects of the skills and knowledge students must demonstrate for their first ranking examination. If you wish to achieve your Yellow Belt then you should become intimately familiar with all of the material referenced below.
Your instructor will facilitate your learning and provide you with additional insights and suggestions that will help you progress quickly. There is a lot of material to learn, but it is divided into manageable sections (stripes) that you focus on so that you do not need to learn everything at once. We provide a logical progression though this material so that you are incrementally learning only a manageable amount of new information at a time.
The following material must be mastered before you can achieve the Yellow Belt (Hachikyu) ranking. Most skills must be demonstrated both “in the air” and “against an opponent.” A skill executed “in the air” is done without an opponent so that knowledge, speed, timing, positioning and other aspects of the skill can be evaluated without visual interference. Skills done “against an opponent” are done on another student or instructor to demonstrate knowledge of strike placement, movement, balance, positioning, and other practical aspects of martial arts movements.
During ranking examinations, skills should be done for maximum intensity, speed, control, and effectiveness. We are most interested in ensuring that you not only know how the skill is done, but that you can make it work effectively should you unfortunately ever have need to defend yourself.
The Yellow Belt skills focus on single strikes, kicks, blocks, and a variety of essential stances or postures. There are, on average, about twenty-five of each of these skills that need to be learned, practiced, and mastered.
You will notice that much of the material presented in the curriculum refers to concepts and terminology in Japanese. This is to show deference to the origins of these concepts and to provide universally accepted terminology for these concepts. Most martial arts schools and styles with Japanese origins use these same terms for movements and concepts (though there can be some slight variability from one martial arts system to another). While Japanese terms may seem strange at first, you will quickly become accustomed to them simply through repetition. When communicating a concept, please try to use the Japanese term first, and if this fails, then fall back on your native language to convey your thought or question.
Where appropriate we will also introduce Chinese or Korean terminology to explain concepts that have evolved from martial arts styles originating in those countries. This is not a significant focus in this first belt where the vast majority of the movements and concepts have Japanese origins. Other languages come into play for more advanced students.
As a final word on language we will discuss the use of words and phrases used in the Dojo. You should consider the Dojo to be a place of formality and propriety. Using street language (for example, common four letter words) should be absolutely avoided. This violates the spirit and intent of the training and is generally inappropriate in an environment where small children may be present. There is also a set of four letter contractions that we especially do not like to hear. These include the heinous words: “can’t”, “won’t”, and “don’t.”
Throughout this manual and during your martial arts training you will be exposed to techniques, methods, strategies, concepts, and practices that could lead to potential injury or death for yourself or an opponent. Should you ever be threatened with severe injury from an attacker these concepts may well protect you, but there can be no guarantees that any particular concept, practice, technique, or Kata will offer you a successful defense. There are too many variables to ensure that a particular approach to defense against an attack will be successful. Rely more on avoiding conflict than upon using combative skills to protect you in an attack.
Using a martial art skill, technique, movement, concept, Kata, or any martial arts practices against an opponent should be avoided whenever possible. Tensoku Ryu does not promote, condone, or encourage the use of violence against anyone, including an attacker. While it may be emotionally gratifying to injure another, it is not legally justified except in those rare situations where you (or another person) are under threat of impending injury or death. Use of martial arts skills on another will subject you to legal scrutiny and certain legal prosecution if your actions are determined to be inappropriate.
Studying the martial arts can cause significant exertion and impact related injuries. Please check with your doctor prior to practicing any martial arts skills to ensure you will not be at risk by practicing.
A Few Words
Most students who begin studying the martial arts can only envision their own motions and actions. They are unable, initially, to perceive how their opponent may be moving on his or her own or in reaction to the student’s actions. Students often do not consider that their attacker may hit, kick, or block during a technique. You are cautioned to always consider the “thinking opponent” who is always searching for a way to gain superiority in a combative situation. Always remember that in any conflict, there are two thinking brains attempting to devise a winning strategy.
You should practice your skills and movements on an Uke (a partner). This may be your instructor or other students. Practicing with many different Uke will give you experience dealing with people of different sizes and will expose you to varying thought processes. Working (very carefully and respectfully) with people outside the school will also provide valuable insights since these people will often react in a “non-martial arts way” to your movements. This may be more indicative of how an actual attacker might behave. You should never practice your skills on someone who has not knowingly agreed to assist you.
Your stances, stance transitions, blocks, strikes, and kicks are essential to effective execution of any self-defense strategy you might employ. Whenever a movement sequence calls for a stance, strike or other basic material, do these elements as cleanly and as precisely as you can within the movement. This will always make your movements more effective.
Yellow Belt Curriculum