Fourth Form: Ataru Ataru
Ataru: Action/Attack, “The Aggression Form”, The Way of the Hawkbat.
The forth Pillar in the system is Ataru. It is the formula of action and attack. Of power and force. The movement trained in Ataru is similar to that in Soresu, but it is focused in the opposite direction. Instead of moving to obstruct or cut off it aims to hit and destroy. It moves through the orbits and turns with the intention of being able to cut at any point in the arc. It send the blade directly through and to the opponent. It moves the body to avoid rather than parry. It doges and weaves in order to concentrate on using the weapon as a weapon, not a shield. Ataru is also primarily concerned with the body and it’s mechanics. Soresu was a increasing of blade work, Ataru turns the focus inward to the wielder themselves.
Ataru’s combat philosophy is characteristically simple. One endeavors to string together a series of powerful attacks to overwhelm an adversary and not give them an opportunity to retaliate. It is given the reputation of being good for single combat and inappropriate for the battle field. The opposite is the truth. Ataru excels at multiple opponents. It’s fast footwork keeps one moving and a hard target while enabling the swordsman to deliver powerful strikes at the same time. It’s performance become far more subdued in single combat, relying on internal power and firm grounding to crush an opponent. However, Ataru’s mobility and power come at a cost. The open positions, lack of many guards, and focus on constant movement make single combat more difficult to apply the principles of the formula.
Like Soresu, Ataru is incomplete. It is more akin to principles to be used in conjunction with other techniques in the system and a training method to increase one’s offensive capabilities. Ataru starts with Su Ma, the basic rotation/stabilization patterns. These patterns form the basic planes of movement in there dimensional space. They also are the patterns of stabilization and of strength that we use to create power and force in combat.
The two aspects of Ashla and Bogan are introduced here, albeit in a subtle way. The Ashla is the obvious and outer forms of the Ataru formula. The flips, spins, and jumps that the Form is famous for all follow these paths and are easily seen by novices and the uninitiated. For this reason Ataru has the reputation for being too showing and acrobatic. This is a short sighted and shallow view for most of it’s application comes to play during the conventional movements and techniques that are used most frequently. A simple Sai strike is far more indicative of Ataru than is a jumping cartwheel.
The two concepts point out the duality in the form. The Bogan refers to the inner and unseen aspects Ataru. As mentioned above, any arc you can move through you must be able to stabilize and keep still. When this happens, the inertia of the moment and structure of the attack are imbued with incredible force in a small area. Moving through and arc and stopping it dead in it’s tracks in training also increases power by increasing the body’s ability to stop it’s self, thus allowing it to move faster with less effort. This is all done inside the body and cannot be seen by outside observers. Those that are well versed in the formula will see the signs of this in one’s mechanics, but it is obscured from direct view.
If one does not understand the basic concepts of Ataru and the relationship between movement and stillness, any exercises done will be mere mimicry devoid of the particulars of the formula. Often beginners simply perform the Su Ma as if they were exercises from another Form, Shii-Cho or Makashi. Until the concepts are understood, one cannot call the practice Ataru. The Su Ma lead to the approaches (G’o G’wa) and those to the jumps (Mugee). Simply performing a memorized Dulon will not teach these concepts.
The Form is called “The Aggression Form” for it’s fierce appearance and furious movement. The association with the Hawkbat too, seems to be a reference to the erratic and confusing paths followed by one proficient in the method. It is also a mention of the fact that many novices gravitate toward this Form because it’s simple philosophy appeals to them. It is also a favorite among Kai Kan troops and amateur dueling rings due to it’s often flashy and impressive appearance. In the system, it teaches action and intention as well as mechanical power. It is contrasted with Soresu and occupies the same relative place in the progression. All of this seems to be in agreement.
Like Ashla and Bogan, Soresu and Ataru go hand in hand. In the system they are trained separately most often as to not confuse the learner. Ataru requires one to control their body and use it as the weapon it’s self.