Sunday, 4 June 2017

Is your Koryu training alive?

Welcome to my 100th post!

One of the exciting aspects I like about training in TSYR, is that there is so much to learn. The knowledge we gain is built upon layer upon layer.

At higher levels of training, TSYR students undergo force-on-force freestyle application of the waza. This ramped-up style of training requires some safety measures. The students fit themselves out in various types of armour to protect the face, hands and body. Most wear versions of kendo armour, but Lacrosse gloves, naginata kote and other protective hand wear can be used. A fukuro shinai is used (bamboo wrapped in leather) instead of the bokken. 

Takamura sensei believed that the art's core principles must be constantly challenged within the context and the assumptions the art was founded on. Freestyle training is one way to do this.   

Chris training in Colorado (courtesy of Threadgill sensei)

My teacher, Chris, has recently returned from an instructor's seminar in Colorado, USA. While there he underwent instruction in techniques wearing armour. While formal kata were taught he also experienced freestyle practice and has bruises to prove it. He had the opportunity to try some of the first kata learned in the school but with the knowledge that his opponent would come at him with more speed and power than normal. 

Chris noticed two things. First of all the ma-ai (combat distance) changed. With no hesitation to hit fast, people closed the distance quickly. However, to hesitate could get you hit even if you were the attacker. So both opponents worked closer to the 'edge'. The old samurai saying that one third of the time you would win in an encounter comes to mind. You can hit the other guy first and win. You and the other guy hit each other at the same time (mutual kill), or the other guy gets you. So you only have a 1 in 3 chance of winning. That is not great odds.

The second thing Chris noticed was that the kata as they were performed in the basic level change slightly. They smooth out (or the movements become smaller) and the timing of the movements may change. It is this change that explains why the omote versions are taught the way they are. They are teaching key principles and body movement. At speed, those principles and body habits still hold true. Chris could spot many of the omote kata in the more advanced kata he was taught.

The freestyle practice really took it up a notch. People could vary the timing of their attack, circle each other, yell, attack fast, attack tentatively, feint, whatever worked. The key to this training was keeping it within a few parameters to ensure the principles were kept intact. Otherwise it would just turn into a brawl.

It was great to see Chris so animated about his training and his enthusiasm was contagious. I'm sure he has had some insight into our Shoden kumitachi and that will be apparent in the next few weeks of training. 

1 comment:

  1. Our dojo focuses on the same thing by practicing "Gekken". It is a free form method of training as you have described it and is used by our group as well. Always fun and a great learning tool to just reinforce what you've learned in another way!