The first Shoto Budo course of the 2014 was held on 1st and 2nd February and saw a good turnout from clubs across the country.
The course began, rather unusually with Shoto Budo's technical director, Billy Haggerty, asking if anyone had an area they would particularly like to practise. The request was for dealing with an opponent at close range.
The first exercises saw us pair up and stand in the middle of the hall. The challenge was to try and push your opponent to the wall, followed by us trying to pull an opponent in the opposite direction. Finally it was a case of push or pull with the same goal. This was a remarkably physical first part of the practise, with some stalemates, some successes.
From there, Billy advised this was not necessarily the best way to control someone and moved onto using locks as a way to gain this advantage. We worked through a number of differ wrist, elbow and shoulder locks (some more painful than others!), and Billy emphasised the importance of learning the skill and technique before worrying about being able to apply them effectively in a sparring situation.
I found this a good practise, with some locks feeling more effective and perhaps more straight forward to apply. Others required a lot more effort and consideration and some definitely eluded me. I do like the locks as I think they would be good in a defence situation. However the next portion of the practise raised an important point.
We moved onto a push hands practise with the aim being for either person to apply one of the locks. When an opponent is trying to apply the same thing, it becomes a lot more difficult. The end goal would be able to follow an opponent's energy and feel what would be a good lock but that is a skill I am a long way from getting. I watched with awe as Billy demonstrated how this was done.
Saturday finished with a short mediation exercise which was an interesting experience. This is not something we have done much of in the club and at first I was expecting there to be a catch. However with everyone lying on the floor and Billy and other senior grades walking around and talking about the practise, I eventually found myself in a very relaxed state, aware of the voices, the sound of the heavy rain outside and reflecting on the practise. Very interesting and something I would like to revisit.
Sunday's practice saw the group split into the black belts and kyu grades and both practising kata application. The kyu grade group worked on the application of Heian Nidan with Billy looking at a number of details, including why certain moves and positions are important.
As we worked through this, we rotated between the application and doing the kata, hopefully improving both as we went. We finished with several runs through the kata and Billy asked us to apply the learning, to do the kata with the same type of movement that we had to use in the application, rather than just making the shape. Towards the final one or two runs through the kata, I finally felt I got what he meant as I put more body movement into each move. I will need to ask him to explain this a bit more next time I train at Dumbarton!
So it was a very enjoyable and interesting course, with some valuable learning. As is often the case, I came away from the course with more areas that I need to work on and a headful of ideas of things to try.
Finally there was also a grading held for eligible kyu grades and our club had three success stories. In her first grading, Diana Flynn was awarded red belt whilst both Emma Armstrong and Ross Gray jumped from orange belt to blue (skipping green belt). Big smiles all round and a great achievement by all three.
After last week's grumpiness, how did training go this week?
The good news, it was a lot better.
Tuesday night again saw a varied session with a bit of everything, with the distance closing practise being of interest given my struggles with it last week. Whilst I still did not find it a comfortable practise, I had a few moments where the light bulb went on and I was more in control of the distance. As mentioned, I have a tendency to walk into things when sparring but this week I felt like that happened less often.
One bad habit that still needs work is my defence when being attacked. When my opponent comes at me with a rapid series of moves, I have a tendency to turn my back on them which is clearly wrong. I need to be better at either evading their attack or somehow stopping their momentum.
It also was a good week on kata as, for the first time, I made it through Hangetsu Den without a brain freeze. It is not a smooth looking kata yet and still needs work but the moves are starting to go in.
Unfortunately Wednesday night's session was cut short due to work so I arrived about half way through to join in the takedown sequence before more kata. A short session but 45 minutes was better than nothing at all.
So a much more positive week than last week. Coming up at the weekend is the first Shoto Budo course of 2014. Tune in next time for a match report.
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.