Class Review - Hojutsu; the Martial Art of Firearms
by Kirk Lawson

Revolver Font Gun barrel Symbol Wing

Over the summer of 2018 my goal was to spend more time and effort on personal training. The first weekend of May, I took a two-day course on Hojutsu. The instructor was Sensei Norman Hood and the course was hosted by Defensive Training Solutions of Troy, Ohio, lead instructor Bill Martin, himself a Shodan in the Hojutsu system.

Hojutsu is a modern system developed Jeff Hall, an Alaska State Trooper, S.W.A.T. team member, Distinguished Handgun Master, NRA Adjunct Staff Instructor, certified Police Master Instructor, and who holds black belts in six different martial arts. He was inspired to begin developing Hojutsu in 1999, believing that approaching fighting with firearms as a complete, systemized, martial art was a natural outgrowth of training and skill which would benefit both the firearms community and the martial arts community. To that end, he blended firearms skills, handgun, rifle, and shotgun, with Karate-based hand skills.

As a life-long martial artist myself, with black belts & instructor credentials in multiple martial arts, as well as NRA Instructor certifications, the idea of fighting with firearms within the trappings of a martial art appeals to me.

The course requirements did not include any particular firearms experience but there was some gear specified. Obviously a reliable handgun was required, but also an Outside The Waistband (OWB) holster (and a good gun belt to support it), "spare" magazines, magazine carriers, 500 rounds of ammunition, and a Blue Gun.

The first day introduced the venue & range, the instructors, and the students. While a fair number of the students were from local programs affiliated with Defensive Training Solutions, there were several participants who traveled from as far away as Florida. About one-third were ranked black belts in other martial arts, a few of them very highly ranked.

Unsurprisingly, the first topic was a discussion of basic safety and range rules. That, however, followed into basics of a safe draw, presentation, and reholstering of a handgun. The draw & present sequence was most similar to the Clint Smith's method with a bit of Col. Jeff Cooper for flavor. It is a draw from open-carry and did not touch on considerations for draw from concealment. It is worth noting that while the Hojutsu system includes handgun, rifle, shotgun, cane, and bare-handed skills, being only a two-day class, the instruction was limited to handgun. A priority was placed on accuracy above other considerations. Only a hit is a hit. A miss is just noise and wasted resources.

There were frequent breaks which allowed me time to reload magazines, take notes for my personal training diary, drink water and generally recover. Lunch was provided and was a much nicer spread than the usual sandwich and chips fare that I expected.

Over course of two days there were a lot of topics covered including, but not limited to:
  • Stance and handgun grip (preference for Weaver but whatever allows you to shoot best)
  • Magazine swaps; when, why, how
  • Various shooting positions including prone and from the back
  • Safe draw and reholster
  • Safely moving with a drawn handgun; forward, backward, side-to-side, and turning to the rear
  • Move and shoot
  • Multiple target engagements
  • Cover and Concealment
  • Using "pick up" (someone else') pistol
  • "Talking to the target" and Command Voice
  • Shooting with one hand; both strong-hand and support-hand
  • Accurate shooting vs. Speed at ranges from Contact distance to 25 yards.
  • An introduction to the first Hojutsu kata (form)
While in some ways trying to fit everything into a two-day course was a little like the proverbial "drinking from a fire-hose," there were still topics which I would have liked to see covered but, unfortunately, there just wasn't time. I wished there had been time to cover the Hujutsu theory on and methods of:
  • Handgun retention
  • Grappling at the gun
  • Integrating unarmed skills
At the end of the course black belts from Hojutsu interviewed each of the participants, both as a kind of After Action Review (AAR) and to invite the participant to formally join the system. While this would naturally require a commitment to regular training, which is available and reasonably priced from Defensive Training Solutions, at the same time Hojutsu has a "bring your skills" philosophy. The result is that the interviewers gauged the participants skill and offered "rank" in the system commensurate with the skill the student comes in with. This is similar to the idea of batsugan; ranking due to success in competition, or that of some Brazilian Ju Jitsu promotions of "being able to 'hold your own' with people of that rank." As an example, a 6th Degree Judo Black Belt and retired Ohio Police Officers Training Association instructor was offered a grade of Brown Belt in Hojutsu.

A two-day course just isn't enough to fully evaluate the system but I was able to draw some preliminary conclusions and observations. First, the negative. The system seems to be optimized for open carry with little evidence of considerations specific or unique to concealed carry. Given the founder's history as Law Enforcement, this really isn't a surprise. Still, outside looking in, I think it really should include concealed carry techniques. I'm also not a fan of some of the techniques in the first Kata. I am particularly opposed to Nukite, the "Spear Hand." Spear Hand is certainly not a beginner technique, it requires a great deal of specific training and conditioning beyond normal, and I don't think I've ever seen it used in a fight. Still, given the heavy Karate influence, again, this isn't a big surprise.

On the positive side, almost all of the skills taught are directly applicable to anyone using a gun for fighting and self defense, whether from concealed carry or not. And there were a lot of skills taught. The instruction was solid. Further, I agree with the founder that there is a great benefit to firearms skills being systemized, growing from basic fundamentals as the building blocks to ever more sophisticated and skillfull ability; from beginner, to competence, to mastery.

If you are a martial artist interested in firearms skills, or a firearms enthusiast curious about how the martial arts paradigm might be applied to using a gun, I recommend giving Hojutsu a look. If nothing else, the skills taught in a seminar are solid and range time is fun.