Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Training the Right Way

I walked away from training today thinking about the experiences I had on the mat that day. Then I stumbled upon a blog by Budo Bum and he was speaking about training right. He speaks about training hard but only as hard as your technique can handle. The balance between training with intensity and training slow enough to keep the technique correct is difficult to achieve.

Too much intensity can turn to thuggery.

If you train with high intensity too often your technique can get sloppy. In TSYR, ideally techniques are done in a relaxed manner so not to telegraph your intentions. If you try to force techniques and tense up in the process this is counterproductive to what you are trying to achieve. The end result is that your opponent notices or feels this tension and responds accordingly. At greater speed and with stronger intention both from the attacker and the defender's viewpoint, these subtleties can be lost. In extreme situations it begins to look like thuggery as one or both training partner's lose their centre and overbalance at certain times through the kata or technique. Techniques get cranked on without awareness of body structure and the lesson is lost and increases the chance of serious injury in the dojo.

However, doing the kata slowly and deliberately all the time can have its down side. People start to get a false sense of their abilities. Yes, you maintain structure, yes you move from your centre, yes you create kuzushi but always when things are moving slowly. If the situation is hyped up this can all fall apart very quickly. In this situation people who think they are competent suddenly get a wake up call when someone comes charging at them REALLY trying to strike them. Often people freeze up or find their technique too weak or they switch gears to "force mode" and try to muscle the technique on.

So my point is to try a graduated approach to training. Both styles of training have their purpose but the middle ground must be obtained. A good sensei is one who can see where a student needs to be to be challenged enough for growth but not so much to push them over the edge and allow them to fall back on bad habits.

In our dojo after practising some kata for a while, slowly and deliberately, we do a more free style form of practise. We decide on three to five responses we will use against certain attacks and then have the partner attack quicker and harder than usual. We do not stop to correct mistakes or spend time discussing points. We receive five and then give five attacks. After that set we might stop to discuss points but only then. This allows us to see the holes in our techniques and truely see what parts of the kata have been internalised.
It is important that both partners know what is going on here. Uchitachi should be relaxed and pliable during this process but at the same time, if kuzushi isn't made, then uchitachi will not fall. This is not the time for uchitachi to become wooden and resist every movement as this is unnatural and relies on a certain amount of anticipation of what technique is coming. This will not teach shitachi anything. This relates of course to the idea of uchitachi being in a teaching role.

After this exchange we may change partners and do it again. Different body types add another dimension. After doing these sets a few more times we have now given ourselves plenty to work on when we go back to slow and steady next time in class.

The idea is that over time it will take faster and harder attacks to undermine our technique.

Yours in training,


  1. This is funny. I had the same discussion yesterday in class. We actually went by most of the kata, but only once with the most intensity possible. chitachi would be atacked only once by each one of the rest. Since we were only 3 of us, we did the each kata 4 times, twice as chitachi and twice as uchitachi. The fact is that when you are doing it like that, you mind colaps, after the first set - Body throws, mistakes became more often, errors will ocour not only in the form of the kata itself but also in your execution that becames much less efective. It was a hard training, but in my opinion it is necessary. Otherwise you may have a false sense of abilaty. For me it does not matter if the kata was perfect, or if at some point you needed to change it because you failed something or someone responds in a unexpected way. Just deal with it in the best way you can.... On both sides. It becames evident that we are not in the point we think we are... We do not aise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. That sayed, you need to go back and study more, correct more, be even more aware of what you are doing when you are doing it slow but maybe your mindset has changed and you are more aware of the possible reality... That way even when you are going slow it is just that, slow, but with mind and body conected in what you are doing .

  2. Thanks for the response. I agree with you on many things here.