Take a look at our gallery pages and you will see that Shoto Budo is a martial art that covers a lot of skills so I decided to ask my club mates to name their favourite practice and why.
Interestingly, the most common response turned out not to be a particular skill but being able to feel a sense of improvement with Fraser, David, Diana and Emma all enjoying seeing things come together. I agree with this; there are moments when the light bulb goes on and I feel that I have grasped something which always feels like progress.
Fraser expanded further by saying that his favourite practice changes. As a beginner, he favoured kata, as there is something tangible about learning a new one. Conversely he hated sparring but now would say sparring and parrying are probably my current favourite practices because you get to put a variety of skills into actual practice in a fun/safe/energetic way.
Kata is also popular with David, Diana and Emma although for different reasons. David likes the emphasis on movement, strength and posture whilst also finding it useful when it comes to understanding skills and how they can be used. David then talked himself into also enjoying the sparring, groundwork and kata applications, saying that everything works as a total package!
Diana likes kata because it can be relaxing. It's one of those practices that can be many things. It can be high intensity, it can be about strength and body conditioning and it can be dynamic. I have really enjoyed some recent practices of performing kata against resistance that really strains the muscles and emphasises the total body movement.
Back on seeing skills come together, Emma mentioned getting over a fear, in particular of getting hit or grabbed. Interesting one, something I had not thought of before but even in a controlled environment, strikes and grabs can be unsettling if not expected and some recent classes have been based around maintaining control and discipline. The challenge is to develop a confidence so that one does not freeze or overreact something that should stand in good stead in a self defence situation.
It can feel unnatural moving towards an attack, yet that might be the best thing in that moment. In that vein, adapting and revaluating skills such as the movement is something that appeals to Ross. He cited practices involving changing distance in order to employ different strikes, takedowns and grappling techniques. Explaining further, Ross likes that it helps develop understanding of when a technique is appropriate. This is a good point. From a personal perspective, I have a tendency to rely on favourite moves rather than the best one for the situation.
Another benefit of these practices is it teaches how to handle both different distances and scenarios (such as 2-on-1, attacker is bigger than you, has a weapon), making sure that you can get past the disadvantages forcing you to improve and develop a variety of skills.
This relates to my own favourite: multiple attacker practices. I feel it develops movement, control and awareness of surroundings. When it comes together and everything flows, the practice feels very natural and can be high intensity, and the challenge being to maintain that. It can be easy to get caught up with one opponent and forget about the others, and multiple attacker sessions switch the emphasis to staying safe rather than disabling a single opponent.
Similar to that, Jamie favours practices of strikes and takedowns, especially in a random manner rather than a patterned attack. Being able to see a technique coming, deal with it either by take down or lock is high energy, excellent fun, and practices your unconscious thought process of just doing what comes naturally. I think this ties in nicely with the theory of conscious / unconscious / competence / incompetence from an earlier article. When we first learn these techniques it can difficult to adjust to random attacks. If we practice only right handed attacks, how do we react to a left handed attack?
Grant likes all areas of training, particularly when it is up tempo work that leaves you in a puddle of sweat at the end. Diana enjoys the pad work for a similar reason, with the added benefit of gets out some of the 'bad' energy of the day and converts it to something more productive.
A frequent response was the satisfaction gained from helping others develop. It is interesting that as you watch others train, you see what they could do differently to improve, perhaps on positioning or technique and can then provide feedback. It is very much a collaborative effort as we all help each other to grow our skills.
So as you can see, a wide array of skills being practiced and throughout the club, there's a preference for different things. I believe this variety really does help us all to improve and keeps the practices fresh
However perhaps the most surprising answer? Hugh Russell, renowned throughout the Shoto Budo organisation for his ground skills, did not have a preference
The BMAC blog began in 2013 to chart one member's journey to black belt.