Saturday, August 28, 2010

Left-handed training

Traditionally, jiu-jitsu is performed right-handed: "there are no left-handed swordsmen in Japan".  The jiu-jitsu syllabus is large enough that for self-defence purposes ambidextrosity is not required for many techniques: need the left-handed version of a technique?  Use something else instead.

On the other hand(!) judo techniques are often practiced on the non-preferred side -- hidari in Japanese -- thereby developing the body evenly on both sides.

For me, one of the best reasons to practice left-handed is to increase one's focus on what you're doing.  A reasonably well-grooved technique suddenly becomes challenging again.  I find myself changing from side-to-side, engaging in self-observation and self-teaching as I work to transfer the technique to the other side.  And the best thing ... the original migi side inevitably benefits too.

Other reasons to practice left-handed:
  • Injury: sometimes its unsafe to work on the regular side
  • Rehab: I have been working on one of my Chinese boxing weapon sets left-handed to try to stretch and strengthen a shoulder that appears to have sustained a (mild) injury
  • Teaching ploy: One of my students, who had previously been programmed to do a very different (Olympic judo) version of a throw, is learning our version in hidari first, as a stepping stone
In sum, I recommend occasionally training on the non-preferred side, as opposed to: never (traditional), 50-50, or mainly non-preferred (a competition-oriented strategy).


Sue C said...

It's interesting that some martial arts train both handed all the time and others hardly ever! In our jujitsu club left handed throws are only introduced in training for second dan! However in karate we do pretty well everything right and left handed straight from the start. Symmetry is considered important but to be honest, I'm not entirely sure whether this is for aesthetic or pragmatic reasons!

Sue C said...

Actually Dan you've just inspired me to write a post about ambidextrous training - thank you!

Wang said...

In many chinese martial arts, the forms start with a set on the left, followed by a set on the right to make sure that you dont forget to train the left.
I think that both the left and right hand have different qualities. For example i find that my left is better at things that involve pushing, and checking while my right side functions much better in more complex movements. So what i try to do is train different movements each side that way its more natural. Try it out and i think you'll be suprised how much more efficient you can become.

beo_shaffer said...

In my experience with Korean martial arts the forms and most of the drills meant to practice a specific strike or deflection tend to be done about 50-50. However with the applications/defense scenarios it is more like 70-30.
The basic thought process in my mind is:
idealy we should be ambidextrous
in practices on hand(and leg) is probably going to be better than the other
thus we should try to give the lynchpin job to that side
in practice we can't always do that and even when we can we usually still do something with the other side
Also if it matters and there is no reason to belive otherwise we assume a right handed oponent.

Journeyman said...

Hi Dan,

I found your post through SueC. Interesting. I study Japanese Jiu Jitsu. I've always been taught to train both sides in my training. Lately, I've been moving towards studying more right than left handed technique simply because I'm more likely to face a right handed attack.

I have not had a chance to fully peruse your blog yet, but does your style of Jiu Jitsu lean more towards Aikido? I only ask this due to the 'no left-handed swordsmen in Japan' comment, which I thought was great.

Nice to find another more traditional Jiu Jitsu blogger out there. I look forward to reading your blog.

Dan Prager said...

Hi Journeyman

Great to see another Japanese Jiu-jitsu blog out there - I'll be checking out your blog over the next few days.

Does the style of JJ I do lean more towards aikido? I guess that depends on what you compare it to. There's certainly overlap with aikido, but the foundation is closer to classical judo.

Interestingly, many of our restraint and control techniques are practiced on both sides from the outset.

Journeyman said...

Hi Dan,

My initial question about Aikido was based on only one of your posts. Your reference to sword techniques and single side training made me wonder. I've often seen Aikido people who only train with a hand position mimicking holding a sword. Having had the opportunity to read more of your blog, I realize this is not the case.

I put a large weight on realistic application, so it's nice to know your restraint and control techniques are practiced from both sides from the outset.

I'm enjoying reading your blog.

jc said...

journeyman recommended this site to me... i think this concept of training more on one's syronger side is realistic, and i really agree with the intial comment about using something else if it's a left-side attack. good post.

John said...

Yeah! I guess that's a pretty inspiring post in there. I clearly can say that trainings and other important matters should not only be for the right handed but for the left handed as well and ambidextrous would be a great addition :)If anyone knows how to your their left and their right hands, then that would really be great :)

Kenneth said...

Work with left hand if you are a lefty then try to learn ambidextrous skills if you can, this is for your own gain and advantage.

Ed - Practical Self Defense Training said...

Training both sides makes total sense.

Training your dominant-side only is limiting.

What if a boxer fought only with his dominant hand?

What about a piano player using only one hand?

What about a basketball player who can only dribble and do layup with his dominant hand?

What would you do if aren't able to use your dominant hand because of an injury, multiple opponents, environment, etc.?

Also, training your non-dominant side can improve your dominant side.

In the book the "Inner Game of Golf" a right-handed golfer was having problems with his mechanics. He was advised to golf a couple of holes left-handed and after doing that his right-handed mechanics returned.

It's said that ambidextrous training creates new neural networks and the brain literally grows.

Don't limit yourself - train both sides.