Thursday, 26 November 2009


When I started studying martial arts twenty years ago, I was training in Goya Ra Ru (now Tetsudo). This is a pseudo Tibetan, very modern martial art. I say pseudo Tibetan as all the stances, blocks and kicks seem incredibly similar to traditional karate styles and to me the 'Tibetan' tag is an attempt to seem different or aloof. Having said that this artform ignited in me a lifelong passion and drive for the martial arts as a wave of improving body and mind-back then it was touted as the "thinking person's martial art". Take that or not it, I found its approach to free fighting or sparring quite enlightened.

There was, and probably still is, three levels of sparring: compromised, competitive and combat. These are fairly self explanatory and as a beginner the compromised version of sparring in a stress free environment; slowed down and collaborative helps to boost esteem and skill in stringing together techniques. Both participants understand that this is a training exercise with nor pressure to 'score'. I still enjoy this form of sparring as a training exercise much like I enjoy one step and three step sparring. These contrived varieties of conflict help beginner's and experts alike. More experienced practitioners can really feel comfortable looking for striking points and target areas and feeling the flow of different opponents.

There are times and places for more intense and rapid combat but tonight at Shorinji Kempo we were encouraged by TO to really flow through the randori and it felt good. Stress free and gave me a chance to feel more what Kempo is about. Conversely I recall training in Grenoble when I was a student in France with the local University Shotokan club. While they were a nice bunch of people I never felt part of the club. I recall that their kumite or randori consisted of lining up against each other and upon 'Hajime' crap was kicked out of me. You could, of course, tell me to shut up, suck it up and take it but what I found very frustrating was that the brown belt I was sparring with would pull up half way, stop and realign. I didn't understand and he explained that he scored a point so we start again. I was a beginner so really didn't get a chance to score any points! All I got was a load of frustration, sadly. There is a way of thinking that you train in a hard way and the students have to go through a long tortuous journey of getting kicked in but eventually....they get it. They train and train and get pounded but sooner or later 'ils pigent'.

I prefer the slower but more thoughtful approach.

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