I've said before that sparring and parrying feels like my weakest skill. It certainly is the area of training where I am least comfortable, despite regular practise. So the question is how to improve?
Well the last couple of weeks may have provided the answer. Ross and John have taken the class and we have looked at slowing the pace of the parrying down, keeping contact and restricting movement to a confined space, such as two or three mats. By slowing down, the focus can be on parrying an attack, moving to an attack of your own and dealing with being parried, rather than the somewhat frantic situation that can occur otherwise. A slappy fight, if you like.
I found this helpful. Initially training with John, firstly the slow pace of parrying helped with just the basic principle of staying safe. Not every parry was a majestic sweeping gedan barai but generally I was dealing with all of John's attacks.
Keeping as much contact with John as possible helped with an element of control. Whilst he was primarily attacking, keeing some contact allowed me to preempt some of his moves to get in some of my own.
Finally trying to remain in a smaller space started to address one of my weak spots - movement. In parrying I find I tend to move back and forth without much left and right movement, the upshot of which is I eventually run out of space or have to walk into an attack. In this scenario, I am force to adopt some side to side movement which again helps to avoid an attack and gain an advantegous position. I found myself getting more comfortable moving to the outside of John but when he started to counter this, forcing me to move in towards him, I was more open to attack. Still some work required.
However what was noticeable was how quickly the speed escalated whilst the parrying and movement still happened. The practice moved from being quite slow and deliberate to a pace that quite frankly surprised me. Interestingly when I then practised in a similar way with Iain, Scott and Emily, everyone found they were very quickly able to up the pace of their practice after starting slowly.
I am looking forward to further similar practices as this has made me feel an improvement in my parrying that I have not had in some time. It's still not my strongest skill but by starting slowly and deliberately, the light bulb has gone on about how to get better. Onwards and upwards!
A few weeks ago, I covered our first block of the Women's Self Defence Class. Due to the positive feedback, Emma and I ran a second block of six lessons which wrapped up on 31st May. So how did that go?
The plan remained the same - six weeks of simple moves that might be useful in a self defence situation. However, we did make some tweaks to the content based on both feedback and our own observations on how things went.
The first thing was timing. 45 minutes is not a long time to include warm up, a recap of the previous week and then the demonstration and practise of new skills. The amount of practise felt right most weeks, except for the wall defence so this time around each week would have three new skills. That seemed to work better, allowing for more practise time of each skill.
In terms of content change, in the first block the wall defence class included chokes. This time around we decided to drop the chokes from the class as, judging by the reactions of a few of our class, we felt it made a lot of the class uncomfortable. Whilst it is a very useful skill to learn and to defend, I think it would work better once people are more comfortable with contact and so we kept the focus on being pushed against a wall.
With this block extending into May, we took the wall defence lesson outside and practised against a fence in the car park of St Joe’s. As mentioned before, it’s always interesting to train outside as the surfaces are slightly different. I think this went reasonably well but let’s just say it was a bit colder and breezier than we were expecting before we started. And hopefully we didn’t do any damage to the fence!
Prior to the self-defence course, I would assist in teaching but did not put the actual lesson together so this has been a good learning experience for me. After two blocks, I’m happy that the lessons flowed from one week to the next. In the first block, we didn’t really know what to expect in terms of the class, fitness levels and how people would embrace it. With some experience behind us, I think we had a bit more confidence to deliver the course and did our best to keep it fun.
Our second block had 10 people rather than the 16 of the first one. Originally, we had 17 people sign up but there were a few no-shows and whilst that was disappointing, 10 worked out as a good number as it allowed Emma and I to give some more time to each group. This has been useful as we now know that 10 is a good number but equally that we can handle a bigger class.
It has been interesting to see the dynamic of the class. In our regular Shoto Budo practice, we change partners frequently so that we get to train with different people of varying shapes, sizes, ages and grades. In the self-defence class, we have tried this but people have generally stayed with the same partner. I wonder why this is. Perhaps it is a comfort element which I can understand as it is important to feel comfortable with your training partner. I must ask this when we do our next block of lessons.
As before, we wrapped up with a little demo of a typical Shoto Budo lesson which is fun. I did learn that trying to do some commentary to explain things whilst sparring and grappling with Emma is a bit of a challenge. Next time we need a narrator!
Feedback to the second block was very positive and there were some very nice comments about both the course and Emma and I as instructors. It is very flattering and regarding to receive feedback such as this. It is also cool that we have a couple of the class now joining us for the regular class and hopefully they will enjoy that. We will think about asking Hugh for commission!
With the school summer holidays upon us, we will run a less formal version of the self-defence course at the Allander Leisure Centre. This will be an eight-week period and each week, different black belts from the club will take the group. When we return to the schools we will run another block of the class – keep an eye on our Facebook page and the website for confirmation of dates.
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.