The first course of 2017 saw a good number of Shoto Budo practitioners descend on Springburn Academy over the weekend of 11th and 12th February. The theme of the course was kata, how to improve and how to use it.
The class was divided into groups and, as with November's National Course, we had 30 minutes or so with different instructors whilst the senior grades circulated to clarify both what was being taught and how it was being received.
I was training with the black belt group over the weekend and, obviously enough given that I only got my First Dan in November, this was the first course where I have been part of that group. Such was the level of information and practice within the group, I can safely say that my head was as exhausted as my body.
For example, on Sunday my group was working through the Tekki katas and using application of these in open space and against a wall. Graeme Muirhead and Richard Price (both 8th Dan) fed into the session about the movement, and timing of certain moves to generate power with Graeme effectively demonstrating what he meant. It really showed that "knowing" a kata is not just some vague sequence of moves but what the moves actually are doing.
Billy Haggerty (10th Dan and Shoto Budo's Technical Director) made a point during the wrap up that he still practises Taikyoku Shodan (the first kata) and it has all the moves need for self defence. I imagine that I was not the only person who was surprised by that, the (incorrect) assumption being that the higher the grade, the higher the kata would be practised. I think the value of all the katas is something everyone should remember.
Another valuable learning point from Billy was that kata in itself is not self defence. If one goes into a situation with the intention of using a specific kata, it will likely fail. He then framed it as "stay safe" rather than "use kata" and that simple phrasing visibly changed the mindset. After a demo of this, he asked if anyone saw moves from kata.
Lots of shaking heads.
But what about these steps he asked? What about these parrying moves?
There were moves from kata but since he hadn't framed it as kata application, many of us did not recognise it as such.
So much information, so much to process and so much to take back to the club for regular training. It was exactly what a course should provide.
It also was the first grading opportunity for our kyu grades and we had one member participating. Congratulations go to Scott McCallum who achieved his orange belt. Well done Scott!
As we enter February 2017, the club is branching out and launching a Women's Self Defence course that will run over six weeks. Given that Shoto Budo as a martial art is primarily about self defence and we have female members already, why introduce this course?
Essentially we recognise that starting a martial art can be quite intimidating, for both men and women, and progression through the grades, attending courses and is quite a time commitment. It may not be what everyone is looking for. However, the elements of our practise can benefit anyone and this new course aims to give some moves that would be useful in a self defence situation.
Therefore Emma and I have put together six lessons which focus on different types of attack, with counters for these. The moves are designed to be simple and memorable so that they can be recalled when necessary. We did not want to include some of our more complex locks - even after nine years of practice it can still take me several attempts to apply these which is not quite what we're aiming for here.
Emma has been very keen to start such a class, having trained as teenager, joined Shoto Budo when she turned 30 and now as a 1st Dan black belt, is looking to pass on some of her skills. She always encourages women to join a martial arts club but understands how daunting it can be. Commenting further, Emma added "the most common reaction I hear about when women are attacked is that they "freeze" so the idea is to give you movements that we practice so that they become natural reactions should the worst ever happen.
We've designed a 6 week course to tackle 5 different attacks and a variety of ways to defend against them". We'll hit some pads (a great stress relief!), try some moves and hopefully have some fun whilst doing it. A six week course won't make anyone a ninja but it might improve confidence, a little bit of fitness and maybe encourage people to join the club. The course is affiliated to our club so we decided to have a logo that was a variation on our triangle logo existing club logo. Many thanks to Laura Murdoch for designing this.
The first class is on 22nd February and we'll check back in here with updates on our progress. For more details, take a look at our Womens Self Defence page.
Scott has been training with BMAC since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.