Folks, I recognize that my name does not carry the weight of the top Uechi Masters. If you will give me a moment to pontificate, however, I would like to make a case for Uechi-ryu, rather than myself.
10 reasons why we MUST spar for the future of Uechi-ryu:
1.) We must spar because as traditional Uechi-ka it is our heritage to spar! Just take a look at our own All-Okinawan Championships! More than 20 years of tradition that we as Westerners have abandoned! (By the way guys and gals, that's POINT sparring with a capital "P" for you naysayers!)
2.) You are all "sparring" to some degree already! Why is it that we all faithfully dedicate oursleves to the Yakusoku Kyu and Dan kumites, but stop just short of the next level of training, which is Jiyu kumite, or free sparring?
3.) It's all we got, baby! Everyone tries to make arguments against sparring by stating the obvious fact that it's not "real" fighting. Well, friends, it's as real as we got, isn't it? Or maybe you think the conditioning drills we all robotically engage in night after night will prepare you for that mugger in the street? No? Oh, you must be boning up for your next gang fight with an extra Seisan a night -- maybe two?! Good for you! Or should I say "Good LUCK" for you?
4.) It's required curriculum in every dojo I've ever known! Van-sensei said it himself: Why kill ourselves trying to perfect Seisan bunkai for our Dan tests, but opt to do the "funky chicken" when we spar? Personally, I'll take the moving skills, thank you. Ideally, we'll all strive to be good at both.
5.) You've got to "put it on the line". Talk as you like about your spiritual approach to training. Fact is, we practice a MARTIAL art. You want spirituality? FORGE your spirit in hell's fire! I never would have had the kind of emotional gut checks or internal personal advancements I've made UNTIL I stood in front of the likes of a Mike Rozumek, a Tracy Rose, a Jimmy Deluca, a Kazuo Takara! Challenge yourselves! Find a Black Belt, find a training partner, find a Tourny! Let's GET IT ON!!
6.) You should strive to develop all aspects of your martial practice. Free fighting is part of this TOO!
7.) You are not too old for, too disinterested in, or too far above sparring. I've heard these and a thousand excuses like these in the past 5 years. All they add up to is a pile of horse****. Do a gut check, get your gi on and train!
8.) It's good for your dojo! I stand in direct opposition to those dojo owners and others who say that sparring scares students away! Poppycock! What do you think is scarier? Sparring under the watchful eye of your trusted sensei or being mugged by a group of thugs? People are afraid. That's why they're at your dojo. Don't cloud their perception with smoke and mirrors, give them what they want: the self-confidence that comes from knowing that they can handle themselves! They can get that sparring.
9.) It's NOT too hard to teach (safely)! Get a video, get a lesson, get a guest instructor, but get going! With today's access to information, don't let your shortcomings become your students'! At my dojo I have a "guest" grappling, weapons, and healing arts instructor, and I regularly invite JKD, Tae Kwon Do and other experts in as well. Why? Cuz' I don't know it all, folks. I'm not afraid of it all either!
10.) It will ALWAYS be the most memorable part of your/your student's practice in the end. (Don't BS me and say, "Yeah, how will they ever forget a broken nose?!") Sparring's a rough game. So isn't life! Doesn't mean we should shy from it. And when the training or the tourny's done, the sense of comraderie, accomplishment, self-esteem and satisfaction will be so palpable that you will want to do it again and again! I can't remember EVER saying, Bobby remember that kyu kumite we did in '87. . .But you can bet your ass I still talk about that "one that got away", that missed punch that scored kick that championship victory and, yes, that broken nose!
Spar. If you can't I'll show you how. If you can and you don't, shame on you. You are no traditionalist and certainly not a fighting Uechi-ka!
You can take THAT to the bank!