Sparring Confusion

Sparring Confusion

Postby Chris Long » Fri Apr 09, 1999 6:45 am

This is a plea for help/guidance. And I hate to post and run, but I will be offline for several days doing my Air Force Reserve thing, so please forgive me if I don't get right back on to thank people for their scholarly input...

I have several sparring concerns of a personal nature. I seem to have developed a great aptitude for what I call "Instructor" sparring. By this I mean that I try so hard to match my students capabilities and speed that I find myself having a hard time releasing into higher levels of sparring.

I certainly don't mean to imply that I am a good fighter. In fact, I am solidly in the mediocre class in this aspect of my karate. But I think I aggravate my mediocrity by spending so much time sparring in this instructor mentality.

My previous sparring problem (which I conquered about 10 years ago) was to fight in what I call the "red haze." This was too much like turning to the dark side, and I have achieved much more of a void approach to sparring, which I believe better represents good karate training. So now I have new problems...

Due to the fairly secluded places I seem to end up, I keep opening up dojos. Then I spend a couple years developing sparring partners. And by the time they are ready to rock-n-roll, I can't seem to shake the training mode I tend to fall into.

So with all the expertise out there, what do some of you accomplished warriors do to keep some kind of edge on your sparring skills? I could use lots of sparring help, but we'll start with this subset first.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts, and my apologies for the delay I will have in learning from/responding to your accumulated wisdom and lore.

Chris Long
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Sparring Confusion

Postby miked » Sat Apr 10, 1999 2:53 am

Chris,

Your scenario plays itself out in many ways in many schools. I find myself spending a lot of time working with and training the kyu ranks up for various dan levels. Then when I have to step up "the the plate" and face other senior practitioners, I find my timing is off and a slight drop-off in my hardness and reaction time.

I would go along with Raffi's suggestion of seeking out other senior ranks at different schools. I get together with a few practitioners from other systems every a few times a year to learn, demonstrate and work out the kinks.

We also have semi-annual dan tests followed by 3-4 hour all BB workouts followed by an all night party. All Okikukai West Coast Association dan holders are requested to attend these events no matter the inconvenience (i.e. distance, expense, etc.)Although the hombu is located in So. California, we will move these tests/workouts/parties to different cities from time to time.

In between the semi-anual Gasshukus we hold have informal Association workouts which also move from city to city .

They may be other Shohei-ryu/Uechi-yu/PanGaiNoon/Kenyukai schools within an hour or two (drive time or flight time). You could get together with these individuals a couple of times a year and "get serious" with each other.

Where are you located anyway?

Mike
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Sparring Confusion

Postby Raffi Derderian » Sat Apr 10, 1999 5:23 am

Chris,
An interesting problem that a lot of people who teach encounter. My first thought, you may have tried this already, is to make friends with teachers from another school and bang around with them. They are probably in the same boat. Even if they are not, they might welcome the opportunity to fight someone from another style. I do this with several other schools. We get together as often as we can and just fight. Fighting other styles in the martial arts is fun as well as humbling.
The other option might be to put more emphasis on sparring in your classes. Again, I don't know if you are doing this or not already. Teachers put emphasis on different things. Like Sensei Canna, I put little stock in pre arranged kumite. My students of the systems I teach do lots of different kinds of free fighting. If you emphasis this area more, the gap between you and the students (fighting wise) would close quicker.
I hope these suggestions were helpful and not something you thought of, or tried, before.
Good luck,
Raffi
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Sparring Confusion

Postby Bill Glasheen » Sat Apr 10, 1999 5:31 am

Chris

You live the problem of most decent martial artists.

My very first karate instructor (I started training in Jan 1972) was a Japanese with phenomenal ability. He clearly had no peers where he was teaching while at William and Mary. And yet...he managed to get 2nd in the All Japan Torunament in Kyoto two years in a row. And he wasn't gone that long on each trip, so I know he didn't get much of an opportunity to tune up while there.

What did he do? Kata, running, calesthenics (we can now weight train), meditation. He worked on a degree in psychology. And he chased an awful lot of W&M coeds. And I saw him partying on more than one occasion. And he drove a really cool Lotus. He even sang in a country/western band for a bit! Basically he had an attitude about life that was applied to everything he did. The lessons he learned in one aspect were applied to the next.

We have a whole family of things that we do in the dojo. Each element of training has much to offer to us, and lessons can be brought over to the next. You can practice your kata and do personal training without ever working out with another student. Many of the rest of the aspects of your karate are like riding a bike. Once you've done it, it doesn't take long to get up to speed again after a hiatus. And if you have otherwise been truly living where your path has gone, then you will find new skills when you come back where you left off.

I also highly recommend taking up kobudo. Working with a weapon is a lot like working with a partner - particularly when you get to grabbing, grappling, and throwing.

My personal experience, Chris, is that I find the breaks from sparring help me a whole lot. I find that my sparring gets very stale and over-customized to the rules I am working with. A break from it gives you a chance to think about, practice, and internalize new patterns of motion from kata and maybe your own prearranged kumite.

Got lemons? Make lemonade. Think of what you can do to take advantage of the opportunities that your unique situation presents.

Good luck. I'm interested in what others have to say. My e-mail tells me that Raffi got here first.

Bill
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Sparring Confusion

Postby gjkhoury » Sun Apr 11, 1999 1:06 am

Hey Chris!

I'm with these guys. I have a pretty strict rule never to fight with the students (yes, like you, I "play" with them, but never for long and never very hard).

Instead, I train A LOT on my own, working visualization, distancing drills, bag work, skipping rope, etc.

On a rare occasion, I call on a ringer (Bobby Spoon or acquaintence from another dojo/style) and we lock the doors. I think it's extremely important that none of your students be around when you want to crank it up a notch.

Why? Certainly not to hide your "weaknesses" should you have any. Simply, you want to train YOUR way, sweat, yell (yes, sometimes swear) and take breaks when YOU want them. You can't do this with people watching. Also, we all have a tendency to do what looks good instead of what works when there's an audience.

For what it's worth. . .

Gary
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Sparring Confusion

Postby JOHN THURSTON » Sun Apr 11, 1999 7:48 pm

Gary Sensei:

It's funny you should say that. I dislike fighting with my own students.

I spar with my Tai Chi Sifu (orig. shodan in Uechi and Wah Lum Master Instructor) behind closed doors-so to speak.

One of the other Tai Chi students came in as we were (shall I say I was being pounded) sparring and said: "Sifu-I don't have to fight you for Tai Chi do I?"

Somehow that fits.

JOHN T.

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Sparring Confusion

Postby Bill Glasheen » Tue Apr 13, 1999 9:15 pm

Chris

I have to "third" a sentiment expressed by both Gary and John. Back in 1975 when I first started as an "assistant" instructor and then in 1978 when I went solo, I was told by my instructor (the late Rad Smith) to not spar my students. Work with them on drills? Yes. Occasionally take a chosen student behind closed doors? Sure. But with the instructor's hat on, I was told you cannot also be in the proper predator state of mind for a good sparring match. I was given a list of other good reasons, but that one stuck in my mind as being most relevant.

Now I see two people who I know are (Gary) or have been (Hamada sensei) good competitive sparrers and do not - as a rule - spar with students in class. And yet they both managed to compete at a high level.

In the dojo, Chris, I would sometimes pull Bruce Hirabayashi aside and spar with him - after class behind closed doors. Working with him represented an opportunity for quality practice. And Bruce wouldn't get (permanently) pissed at me if I occasionally lacked control (which I sometimes did). My out-of-city work in another style was also an opportunity to hang up the instructor robe and let someone else control me as student against student. You know how the saying goes - Practice doesn't make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. Fewer sessions with some quality partners (not necessarily knock-down-drag-out) can go a really long way.

I found myself identifying with Gary's statements a lot. When sparring, I want to do all the things as student that I cannot do as instructor. I want the opportunity to try new things and fail at them. I want the opportunity to have someone really good kick my butt. I want the opportunity to have gentlemen mutually agree on a set of rules that maybe I would never allow in a formal class. And since this "quality time" is rare, I want it on my own terms so I can get everything out of it that I can. For all that I give in the dojo, I feel I am entitled to a little bit of time on my terms.

Bill
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Sparring Confusion

Postby Chris Long » Mon Apr 26, 1999 7:45 am

To All -

Thanks for the input - lots of great ideas were thrown out, and I really appreciate them all. I do apologize for the late response - Kosovo and a week of computer glitches delayed my response more than good taste calls for!!

I am preparing to turn the NAU dojo over to my assistant, as I am leaving for Haiti this summer. Hence I will once again be in the position of starting a dojo in order to make training partners. I think I will employ the student sparring embargo (at least in public). I already try to work with a variety of instructors so I can shuck the teacher-hat, but we all know the time requirements for getting past the initial impressions and kindness stage of working with someone new...

Again, my sincere thanks (I do mean sincere, even though sarcasm tends to be my prefered mode) for all your inputs. I will be quite tasked over the next couple of weeks, as I am going to Okinawa for some training. Should be fun (in a painful kind of way). Happy training to all.

Chris Long
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