The Shoto Budo organisation descended on the National Sports Centre in a chilly, snowy Largs over the weekend of 16th to 18th March for our latest national course. In contrast to November’s course, turnout was quite small with 35 martial artists in attendance, which allowed for some closer coaching from the senior grades.
Following on from February’s Springburn course, the theme was using kata to improve our sparring skills. Technical director, Billy Haggerty, referred to this as “kihon kumite”. These are two words common to many forms of karate with Kihon meaning “the basics” and Kumite being when training against an opponent, so this could be thought of as basic sparring.
Over the weekend we used Heian Nidan as the kata to build the practices around. Friday night began with us doing the kata several times and then over the course of the next two hours, practising the moves from it in a linear attack. We had been practising this in the club over the preceding weeks, so I felt this went reasonably well. However, some of my timing was a bit off and I did wear a few (fortunately controlled) shots.
Saturday morning continued with a similar practise, gradually adding in more movement and less linear attacks. It was one-on-one defence and attack, but Billy noted that it would move on to multiple attackers. In contrast with the previous night, I found myself struggling to get my upper and lower body moving at the same time, so I didn’t feel I was getting this right. I asked for some help, with Pauline giving me a good example of how maintaining some light contact could still pose a threat to an opponent.
During this session, everyone at the course was presented with a new Shoto Budo book, an encyclopaedia of knowledge compiled by Billy and Richard. Whilst the book itself has taken eight years to produce, the information contained has been accumulated over a lifetime of training. It feels like this will be a valuable resource over the coming months and years. I’ve only skimmed it so far and will write more about it here soon.
Back to training and onto the afternoon session which is usually outdoors. My back was a bit sore, so I stayed inside with a group of ten for an excellent indoor session, again lead by Pauline. This still focussed on Heian Nidan movement and added in defence against a wall and movement on the ground. This was a very interesting practice. At one point I was training with Adam from Newcastle who is much bigger and stronger than I am but in doing the wall defence, I was able to keep myself safe. It was very tiring but at the same time I felt a lot less threat than if I were grappling him in an open space.
The session ended with me getting a poke in the eye so my record of avoiding things was looking decidedly ropey at this point.
We have a sports massage therapist, Mark, at these events and I made use of his services before the evening session as my back was getting worse. After being twisted into a pretzel I joined the practice which was starting to free up the sparring movement a bit more. Despite the massage my back was really hurting, and I was struggling to get any movement going. I asked one opponent to slow things down, but I was still not getting my technique.
About an hour into the practice, Billy was reviewing what we had done when my back went into a spasm. It was agony. I thought I was going to be sick and made a quick beeline for the bathroom as the colour drained out of my face. I ended up going to my room to lie down and missed the rest of the session and, more shockingly, the evening in the bar.
As it would transpire, that was the end of my weekend. Sunday morning arrived, and I had to climb up myself to get out of bed. There would be no training for me. Fortunately, Mark had a free slot, so I got another treatment to try and loosen things off. It helped but it was well into the following week before I could move freely.
I stayed to watch the grading and it certainly looked to be a tough one. At that point, my back was killing me, so I headed home before the final session.
It was a disappointing end to the course. The weekend had been hard work but personally frustrating in places. I learned a great deal, but I really felt at the limit of my skills and that I was being stretched so I was well outside my comfort zone. It is good to be challenged but I will admit that not being able to do some of the techniques and getting injured has dented my confidence. The Easter holidays are coming up and the two weeks off is probably well timed to let me recover physically and mentally. And then it will be time to get back on the horse.
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.