We have all heard stories about Okazaki and his students. Stories about how they could do amazing things.   Some of these things are well beyond our usual accomplishments today. Bud Estes is one Okazaki student who is the subject of many such stories. They leave no doubt that he had developed superior skills and temperament.   He and Okazaki set examples of what we might accomplish. But what exactly did they do?

I learned about one characteristic of Bud Estes’ art in the answer to a question during class at Camp South many years ago. We black belts were receiving instruction from Professors Tom  Ball and Robert Hudson on doing the arts with control. The question was asked “What did Bud Estes’ yawara feel like?” The answer was quite surprising  “Bud’s yawara did not hurt – Unless he wanted it to and then it hurt like hell.” Wow. OK these were only two of Bud’s students. Maybe Bud treated them specially and for others he acted differently. To figure this out I started asking that same question to every person I could find who had actually been on the mat at some time with Bud. The answer was always the same.  It was like they were reading from a script. 

“What was Bud’s yawara like?”

“Bud’s yawara did not hurt unless he wanted it to. And then it hurt a lot.”

Since then, I have kept asking this question any time I met another Bud Estes student. I found a new one just this spring and the answer was the same. I no longer expect any other answer. This was a feature of his art that was commonly understood by all of those who had felt his touch. He had developed the skill to exert control before necessarily causing a lot of pain. Pain was an additional option. This is Bud’s lesson to us, given by the stories of the many students that were asked about his technique.

Many of our most senior instructors studied directly with Bud and they all express the highest admiration for his jujitsu skills. So they are qualities that represent desirable goals in our own training. Establishing control before causing pain leads to a considerably more compliant uke and a much larger set of options to resolve the conflict between you.

I believe that if someone has learned to do something then we can learn to do that thing too. For example we can all learn to play a musical instrument. It takes a lot of practice and it helps to have an example of what good playing sounds like. Good instruction makes it easier but self taught performers are not unusual. So we can learn to do yawara like Bud but we need to choose to.   

I did get to meet Bud once a few years before I started to train. I never had the privilege of feeling Bud’s yawara myself. This means that the report of control before pain in yawara is my lesson from Bud. After hearing the same answer from so many former students, I went back to my dojo several years ago and wrote this sequence on the board.   

Yawara: Avoid attack > Attach > Control > Pain (tap usually comes here ) > Injury

It has been there ever since and guides our direction every class. Over the years it has shaped our understanding of the kata boards and expanded our understanding of the human body. I cannot know if this is how Bud thought of it. I only know that we can work to get closer to a yawara that controls before causing pain if we try.     Everyone who knows says Bud did it. If Bud could do it we know that it can be done and it is a good thing. And if it can be done then we can do it too.   

Richard Howell, Yodan is Sensei at Yoshin Jitsu Kai.

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