This past week wrapped up our summer season at Springburn Academy after a hugely enjoyable couple of months. Much of the training looked at movement, both standing and on the ground. As I have mentioned before, I struggle with my movement when parrying to this sounded like it would be particularly useful.
The classes started with an energetic warm-up, and with some of the summer's humid evenings, it wasn't long until the sweat was flying.
After that we built on the movement skills. This would begin with pad work but rather than an all out assault, the aim was to get in strikes and then move out before attacking again. Sometimes this was one-on-one with a partner, sometimes with two partners and two pads. In each case, attacks were first limited to hand techniques, then kicks and finally any combination.
An additional twist was for the pad holders to present targets that would require the striker to stretch but not move a huge distance to make a connection. This was interesting. At first, this felt quite awkward but after a couple of rounds, I found my energy level improving and perhaps also my reaction times. Rather than finding a target, taking half a dozen steps and then preparing to strike, my responses certainly felt more rapid.
From there we dropped the pads and put on our boxing gloves and shin guards. For the first couple of weeks, this was not a free sparring session but instead two strikes from each side, with the defender having to parry whilst the attacker would move out of range after the strikes. Although a bit patterned (you know what's coming), it was still an effective session for movement.
Towards the end of the summer, we upped this to two attackers. Again, trying to keep moving and stay safe was the challenge. Finally, the group was confined to using half the hall for this practise but, whilst we had to focus on our two attackers, anyone else in the space could also attack.
Now this proved difficult, Being aware of potential attacks from all directions whilst focusing on two definite attackers was a challenge. I struggled a bit here but it certainly helped to judge distance. Towards the end of the session I was at least managing to move into areas where I could see everyone in front of me. Maybe not quite the aim of the practise but I felt I was moving into positions that prevented any nasty "surprises".
So all in all, the movement practises of the summer have been fantastic. The teaching from Hugh, along with Pauline Walmsley and Pauline Sharp have been very informative and tremendously enjoyable. On a personal level, I feel like I have learned a great deal over the past eight weeks and look forward to putting it into further practise over the next few weeks.
On Tuesday and Wednesday this week the club returns home to Bearsden Academy and St Joseph's Academy respectively. I'm really looking forward to these sessions and hopefully you'll be able to come along and join us!
With the school holidays in full flow, the club has decamped to Springburn Academy to join up with Kaizen Shoto Budo for the summer. Bringing the clubs together in this way has worked well over the past few summers. It keeps numbers high when many people go on holiday, gives everyone a chance to train with different people and allows us to get instruction from various senior grades.
With my own holidays and the Commonwealth Games taking place, my attendance has been a bit sporadic but I have thoroughly enjoyed the sessions so far.
Let's look first at the instructors. Between Hugh Russell (9th Dan), Pauline Walmsley (8th Dan) and Pauline Sharp (6th Dan) you have a ton of experience and skill to learn from. I really like how they each have their own teaching style and so often one will point something out that I've never considered before. I think have come away from each session having learned something new and improved my skills.
The focus over the summer has been on movement, whether that is standing, on the ground, during kata or using a bo staff.
Sparring and parrying is the area I that feel least comfortable so the movement work has been very helpful. Pauline S. took a session that looked at movement when striking pads. Rather than being an all-out hitting session, the aim was to move in, get two quick hits and then move out. Initially I found this quite awkward but as we worked on the practise, the movement started to develop. We moved it onto controlled sparring with partner, again doing two attacks each side with the defending side looking to parry the attack. Although it was at controlled pace and controlled attack, I found this very useful and hopefully can put the movement into practise as things speed up.
There have been a lot of warm Tuesday nights this summer so by the end of the warm ups and practises, the sweat has been flying but there is still some work to be done, in the shape of a six feet long bo staff. In my years with the club, I have only used the bo a few times so often when we revisit the practise, I feel like I am starting again from scratch.
It is still an interesting practise, working with the distance and range that the bo provides. I don't feel my bo work is particularly smooth yet; I feel my range against a single pad is improving but when faced with multiple attacks and distance, I had the coordination of an octopus falling out of a tree. I must ask Hugh if we can do some bo work more frequently to try and build on this skill.
Finally, on a couple of occasions we have finished with a mediation session similar to that mentioned in my post about our Springburn course in January. Would it be bad to admit that the first time we did this, I half expected someone to attack us and so never fully relaxed? This time, knowing what was coming, I found it to be a fine way to relax after a strenuous session and is something I have incorporated into other training.
So a quick summary of July's training sessions and there are only a couple of these to go before we return home to Bearsden Academy and St Joseph's for the next school year. Hope to see you there!
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.