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!
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.