San Budo Sogo Bugei 三武道総合武芸 is a modern interpretation of traditional Japanese and Okinawan warrior arts, with an emphasis on practical self defense and survival training. Primarily derived from Aiki Jujutsu, Goju Ryu and Kajukenbo/Kempo, the art of San Budo Sogo Bugei offers a complete self defense curriculum designed to address the realities of the modern world built upon centuries of proven training and fighting methods.
While San Budo Sogo Bugei (herein referred to as "San Budo") is derived from numerous arts, it is not merely a mix of these systems. San Budo is an expression of my personal philosophies, beliefs and training methods. After all, that's what any style is at its core. There's only so many ways to cause physical damage to another human being, so what separates styles from each other are the principles behind them.
In this article, we're going to explore the curriculum of San Budo, what makes it unique and the source of its legitimacy as an independent style of martial arts.
Above to the right you'll see the logo for the International San Budo Federation, the governing body of the art. You may ask why we have an "international" federation for an art that currently consists of my single dojo. I guess I'm just optimistic about the future. Anyway, the logo itself is highly symbolic. The red outer circle symbolizes the rising sun, a national icon of Japan that represents rebirth and life. By contrast, the black center symbolizes death. Life and death together make up the essence of Budo. The two Samurai depicted represent our lineage to the warriors of feudal Japan, yet they are empty handed, showing we as budoka become the weapon. Our system kamon is encased in the logo of Daito Ryu Kodokai, which has been colored red, white and blue to represent American Yoshinkan Aiki Jujutsu. The Kodokai was a main component of American Yoshinkan, which in turn has greatly influenced San Budo Sogo Bugei. The club represents Kajukenbo, while the fist represents Goju Ryu. Together, these two arts are the main foundation of our Atemi system. The kanji down the center of the logo states “Sogo Bugei,” emphasizing that our art is the complete study of all aspects of combatives.
The study of San Budo Sogo Bugei involves the study of several individual disciplines, providing a well-rounded training experience. Let me clarify that the student does not earn rank in each discipline, but rather a single grade in the complete art of San Budo. These disciplines are:
- Atemi Jutsu - Striking and pressure points
- Aiki Jujutsu - Joint manipulation, takedowns, throws and internal power
- Bukijutsu - Weaponry (classical and modern)
Our Atemi Jutsu is largely derived from Goju Ryu Karate and Kajukenbo/Kempo, with some minor influences from my training in Ryukyu Te and Jidokwan Taekwondo as well. Students learn a total of 22 empty-hand kata in the system, including all 12 standard Goju Ryu kata and several unique to our system. Kata is used as a vehicle for perfecting various principles of techniques, including the ability to perform such at full speed and power without the risk of injuring an uke, and always taught with corresponding bunkai oyo (analysis and application).
While not strictly striking-based, included under the Atemi Jutsu discipline is our goshinjutsu (self defense). Students learn two-person kata for a wide array of attacks, both unarmed and armed, as part of their rank requirements. However, training against live, unchoreographed attacks is a regular part of our training. I am a firm believer in pressure testing and being able to apply your techniques under duress against not just a resisting opponent, but an opponent who is actively working to inflict their own agenda on you. As a self defense system, we study the body's natural stress responses (freeze, fight, flight, posture, submit) as well as the biochemical and psychological responses that happen during an attack. We use this information to simulate as accurately, as safely as possible, the conditions of being attacked using a wide variety of drills targeting a specific area of response. And of course we fight. A lot.
As the primary objective of San Budo is realistic and practical self defense training, students focus on Jujutsu at the kyu level while being occasionally exposed to the higher levels of aiki so they may start building a foundation while practicing skills and techniques that are immediately applicable. While I personally believe that aiki increases the effectiveness and power of everything you do by making it structurally sound (among other things), it does take years to develop the proper internal biomechanics necessary to express it. If the goal of the art is self defense, it does no good to tell the prospective student "I understand you're afraid to walk to your car at night now, but in 10 years you're going to be a bad ass." It just doesn't work like that.
As our art is a combative one, and the origin of Aiki Jujutsu largely stems from weapon retention, students learn to apply their Jujutsu techniques as tanto jutsu (knife fighting) as well. Kenjutsu and Iaijutsu are taught as an extension to Aiki Jujutsu, as aiki is derived from the sword. Beginning at shodan, students first learn the 12 seitei gata of the Zen Nihon Kendo Renmei before expanding into style-specific iai kata, paired kata and kumitachi.
As you can see, the official curriculum alone is vast. While not explicitly included in the curriculum, ground fighting is highly encouraged and I offer part-time Judo and grappling classes at the dojo as well to supplement their training in this area.
What makes San Budo greater than the sum of all its parts are the training methods employed in our school, which includes a wide range of tools from classical body conditioning to training with real knives and airsoft guns, and the adaptation of feudal Japanese philosophies and skillsets to modern survival. If I had to sum up a stylistic characterization, San Budo integrates a Goju Ryu root and crispness with Kempo fluidity and speed, powered by the aiki body, culminating in devastating locking or throwing to finally subdue or incapacitate our assailant. When other practitioners watch our art, they recognize certain elements from various parts of our foundation systems but something seems "different." It is in this indescribable yet highly noticeable quality that we find our uniqueness.
When I first began teaching on my own, I was 15 years old and held Dan ranking in three arts. What I was teaching was largely a mix of these and nothing unique. I will concede that back then, I was not truly the creator of anything although I claimed to be. In 2012, I traveled to Ohio to meet Hatfield sensei for the first time and take a physical exam in front of a board for the right to call myself a founder. After what can only be described as the most grueling experience of my life, I walked away with a temporary certificate and the instruction to continue my education to actually develop something. Over the next several years, the art I taught evolved alongside my personal experiences and began to take on an identity of itself.
Only then did I receive my full foundership certification from Hatfield sensei, a distinction that I should detail. While many organizations offer "style recognition." What made the certification from Hatfield sensei different are his personal credentials as the inheritor of an existing martial arts system, a requirement in traditional Japanese martial arts for those recognizing a new style. Therefore, San Budo Sogo Bugei has been officially recognized according to Japanese tradition.
So ladies and gentleman, this is the short version of what San Budo Sogo Bugei is. Today at least. In truth, the system has evolved to the point of being unrecognizable from its original form and I am sure it will continue to evolve until the day I die (and hopefully beyond). San Budo is not intended to be a stagnant artifact, like many traditional systems have become, but rather a living system that grows and adapts both to and with the practitioner. The physical material described above is merely the vehicle used to take the practitioner on a journey of self discovery and empowerment while teaching them viable skills should they need to defend their lives. Isn't that the goal of every martial art? It certainly should be...
To visit the hombu dojo of San Budo Sogo Bugei, please click here.