John Marley took the club for a new practice this week. It was one which I thoroughly enjoyed and took a number of lessons and benefits.
The scenario was one person defending against a series of attackers, grappling for 20 seconds per attacker. The aim was to takedown the opponent and be ready to face the next one. Takedowns, locks and throws were allowed but no punches or kicks.
First observation was how physically tiring this was. Each attacker comes in fresh so by the time I was defending against the 5th one, I was pleased to just stay on my feet never mind take them down. When my turn was complete, it took me several minutes to recover. Although I feel my overall fitness level has improved, this was another different type of stamina.
Second observation was how we approached defending. Rather than trying to take an opponent down AS they attack, we all pretty much waited to get in a grappling position and then try and work from there to get a takedown. Would you do this in self defence situation? Probably not.
I guess it is the context of the situation. It's a training session and so we all focussed on the technique rather than avoiding getting caught. We have been focussing on grappling for a little while and so practised with that mindset. This would certainly explain why it was such an exhausting practise.
In addition. once caught in the grappling position, we all adopted a stance that was quite far from our opponent, so as much as trying to work on a takedown, we were all conscious of being taken down. As a result, we were rarely in a position to get a takedown.
It was just novices like me making similar mistakes. During Hugh's turn, he immediately went for a grappling and control position and whilst very effective 1-on-1, it was not allowing him to dispense with his opponent and get ready for the next one.
At the end of the practice, John pointed out these observations and gave some pointers.
1. Deal with opponent BEFORE they grab you.
2. Deal with them quickly so you can be ready for the next attack (which could come from anywhere).
3. Look for any opportunity to distract the opponent which could lead to a takedown.
So an excellent session that I really enjoyed. I felt it gave a new context to how we practise takedowns and certainly forced me to think, in addition to keeping moving even when exhausted.
Hopefully we do this practice again soon, I would like to see if I can put John's pointers to good use and improve my performance here.
With some unseasonably warm weather, Tuesday night saw Hugh suggest we train outside so, after another high energy warm-up courtesy of Grant, we headed out to the courtyard of Bearsden Academy.
The fresh air training began with Heian Yodan kata, followed by the application. I was struggling with a couple of the application techniques and Hugh pointed out where I was going wrong. I need to slow down! In my eagerness to demonstrate the techniques, I am tending to rush with the result being sloppy technique. If I can slow down, the technique should become more crisp and gradually the speed will come. Noted for next time.
Next up was some parrying, first on a one-on-one basis, followed by two-on-one with Hugh asking us to also consider surroundings. It was remarkable just how the different surfaces and obstacles such as hedges, trees and benches change the practise. In a gym hall, parrying tends to be a focussed practise, with emphasis on techniques.
Take it outside, particularly if it is two-on-one, and it becomes a far more exhausting, wide ranging practice. The space available to move away from multiple attackers certainly encourage more movement to avoid being cornered but it man, did I get tired quickly. Using a shelter to provide an obstacle was a useful tactic to get a breather but there is still a need to land one or two blows to allow an escape. Very interesting practise, with a change of tactics and totally different demands on stamina and technique.
Finally, we tried a practise with teams. One team sat in a shelter (acting as the local pub in this situation) and the other team had to enter and pick on one of the first team. It quickly descended into a brawl and Grant, (the newly minted black belt no less!) summed it up best that technique went out the windows as he started windmill punches at opponents. I take it that one of the challenges for us is to retain control and composure under a stressful situation.
So what did I take away from this week? One, the need to slow down seems obvious but we will see how that works in practice. Two, my overall fitness still needs to improve as taken out of a traditional setting, I gassed out fairly quickly. Three, when under pressure there is still a need to use the skills we have learned.
It was an excellent session and hopefully the weather will cooperate enough to let us take it outside again soon.
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.