The first Shoto Budo course of 2018 was held in its traditional home of Springburn Academy over the weekend of 10th and 11th February. Usually the first course of the year is a busy one but for whatever reason this year, attendance was a bit sparse with 20 or so people on Saturday and only 15 on Sunday. Nevertheless, the six hours of training were excellent.
Technical Director Billy Haggerty opened proceedings by explaining the intention to use kata to improve our parrying and sparring skills and confidence. Asking for feedback, mine was that it sounded good. I don’t have a lot of confidence in my parrying and always feel that it is my weakest skill so something that helps me improve here can only be a good thing.
The weekend built on the first five katas and using the movers to defend the intended attacks. Billy said that whilst this may seem basic, sometimes it is necessary to go back to these basics in order to improve. There was reference to Sanbon Kumite (also known as three step sparring) – not something I have practised in my time training but is a way to practise defensive moves against three attacks and then strike back on the last one. (see here for example http://www.blackbeltwiki.com/shotokan-sanbon-kumite).
However, Billy emphasised that the intention here was not to teach three-step sparring so whilst we started defending by the third, this moved onto defending on the first, second, third or fourth attack. Over the weekend we built up the moves and direction of movement, initially back and forth in a line before freeing it up a bit.
I felt I struggled with some of the timing so occasionally asked my training partners to slow things down a bit. There were some light bulb moments where I realised my movement was taking me a distance from my partner that any kind of responsive strike was not possible. I thought some of my parrying techniques were improving to be less slappy, less of a block but some of the bruises on my arms would suggest otherwise.
We only had one person grading on the Sunday morning so the rest of us got involved. I paired up with Richard from Newcastle for some takedowns and wrestling and a few different partners for some parrying. Two things stood out: despite the theme of the weekend, my parrying is still poor and feels one dimensional with an over reliance on gedan barai as a tactic. Secondly my fitness level is horrible, with me gasping for air after a few rounds of parrying and grappling. Both areas need a lot of work.
We followed up the course at the club this week with similar exercises, mostly built around the Heian Nidan kata. Some elements from the weekend showed improvement although I still tend to grab an attacking arm or leg rather than just moving it. Nothing wrong with that in the overall scheme of things, but it is not the skill that we are trying to improve. I believe we will continue to work on this over the coming weeks.
So, a very good course then, certainly focussed on a weak area for me, and both my body and head were aching afterwards from all the information that was delivered. I still don’t feel comfortable parrying, but this is hopefully a first step to improving that. The next National Course is only a month away so perhaps we will follow up on this very valuable course when we land in Largs.
Scott has been training with BMAC since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.