View Full Version : Having fun at practice

Gary Dolce
18th February 2003, 21:41

The title of Johan's thread reminded me of a question that I have been thinking about a lot lately. So, I will ask my question here:

What do you do for fun at practice? I'm looking specifically for new "games", drills, exercises, etc. that teach basic principles but are also fun to do. Examples might include games where you are trying to break your partner's balance, drills that test reaction time, etc.


Tripitaka of AA
19th February 2003, 06:38
I wish I could be more help Gary, but I'm not a great one for originality...

My wife has fond memories of an exercise that Jee Sensei had us doing; Pair practice, facing each other in Tae-Gamae, doing a combination of punches, blocks and finishing with a nicely flicked Kinteki-Geri. The main purpose of this was to concentrate on focus, so the final kick was to be aimed precisely six inches forward of the normal target, to slap against the underside of the thigh. Kenshi receiving the final kick were encouraged to kiai (as much to steel their nerve as to prepare them for any slight deviation from intended point of contact ;) ). The tension and edginess that was revealed by those Kiai is something that has stayed in Yoriko's memory to this day. It was a truly satisfying experience for a weedy 5'0" woman to have a grown man of 6'2" quaking in his bare feet, hollering a strained "eep" every time she aimed a kick near his 'nads :D.

Another one that comes to mind is for distance; pairs facing each other in Kaisoku chudan Gamae, one with hands on hips. The second Kenshi will then perform Chudan-Zuki to the gap created between arms and torso, extending through to beyond the opponents back. This had the effect of correcting any variance from the straight-line forward-reverse snap nature of the punches. We were encouraged to gradually increase speed to see how the form broke down as we reached a critical point of how fast we could effectively control. I seem to remember a variation of this that used a combination strike of controlled Me-Uchi to Chudan with Migi-ken to precede the fully extended Hidari-ken Zuki to the empty space.

Of course, these were years ago and may have been discarded long ago by a Sensei who was always keen to try new ideas.


Jeremy Williams
19th February 2003, 07:18
Interesting question. Am looking forward to reading all the replies. One problem I've had, particularly with the kids I teach, is getting people to 1) cut down the time lapse between being grabbed and assuming kagite shuho, and 2) stop looking down at the bit being grabbed (messes up posture, etc.) My solution has been to have the shusha keep their eyes closed from start to finish. This helps eradicate #2 and does wonders for #1. I guess this would be because they're going straight from tactile sensation to reaction, rather than visual-tactile (has he really got me yet?)-reaction.
Of course, with the kids, I have them just do it as far as the initial kagite shuho. Adults and more advanced students can move through the proceeding steps blind as well. Needless to stay, the dan grades would follow suit, but without any 'stopping' at the point of initial shuho.

Hope that proves of help.

Jeremy Williams

19th February 2003, 09:15
Great question!

My personal opinion about having fun during kihon is based on the following idea:

Solo practice hookei tenchiken 1-6, giwaken 1-2 , byakurenken 1 etc for warming up and to understand the basic forms. Try to let the student understand the technique by practice not by theoretical thinking.

If you have for example have done tenchiken 1 (tanen) for warming up let the student understand its ingredients by practice on focus mitts. If they are minarai you just let them practice jun and gyaku zuki which is ingredients 1 and 2 in tenchiken 1. More experienced students can practice jo-chu – soto uke - kagi zuki which is ingredient 1, 2 and 3 in tenchiken 1. The feeder (holding mitts) can do a jun zuki to check your soto uke from time to time.

Another very good drill with mitts you can do is jitsugi repetition with something that I call ”rootmotions” which is basic series of combination that is caracteristic for Shorinjikempo. Let the students practice uchi uke zuki, uwa uke geri or some other curriculum technique followed by a “rootmotion” that can be jo chu ni ren zuki, jo chu jo san ren zuki, jo chu keri age/mawashi geri etc. This practice will make your student understand 10 times faster than just practice the technique alone. The students footwork, balance, bodywork etc will grow treamendous during this practice.

The nice thing about mitts practice is that you will get true cooperative environment. A good feeder (holding mitts) must create an environment which creates timing, pace and a good target. He must constantly help and communicate with his partner to have proper gamae, footplacement, bodywork, elbows in etc that will create a true cooperative environment. Focus mitts training are also a great opportunity to fix mistakes and bad habits because you always have a personal “trainer”.

There is a million ways to practice with mitts and this was only a short suggestion that I prefer.

Johan Frendin

tony leith
19th February 2003, 10:46
Most people won't have to be told this, but if you are going to do juho waza with eyes shut ( and it can be very valuable), do NOT deliver a preliminary atemi. I have done this by reflex while demonstrating, and while the fact that I hit the target was all very Daredevil, need less to say my partner didn't enjoy the experience...

Other variations which can be fun if done in the right spirit are things like two (or even three) on one randori - this can be made fun rather than frightening if you encourage students to treat it as a game in which they're trying to develop positional awareness, so in way it's more like tag than fighting. The defender will usually be overwhelmed sooner or later, but if attackers have to sit out for a slow count of five if a good counter gets in it gives the defender some respite.

Something else that can be fun occasionally is to do something different for warm up - depends on the space you've got, but you can do wheelbarrow races etc. up the hall, shuttle runs or whatever - breaks up the routine.

Tony leith

Gary Dolce
19th February 2003, 22:25

Great ideas! Thanks so much for sharing these. We will start experimenting with some of the new ones.

I think it is really important that practice be fun, but all too often, I get into a rut of doing the same small set of practice exercises.

The "blindfolded juho" practice is a real favorite of mine. It's great for beginners (e.g. recognizing just kote nuki vs. yori nuki), but even more fun the more techniques you can add to the mix. I agree with Jeremy that it seems to help encourage a quicker, more continuous response. Of course, as Tony says, you have to leave out the atemi (well maybe you can do it if you allow the attacker to also use atemi :D).

When I was first learning Shorinji Kempo in a university branch, we used to do more races, games of tag, etc. One day a week we worked out in the college wrestling team's practice room. One of my favorite races that we did there was ukemi races (e.g., do mae ukemi all the way down the floor). Unfortunately, there seems to be more of a tendency for adults to get hurt playing kids games.

Like David, I am not great on originality but here are a few other fun games, drills, etc. I like:

1. "Indian wrestling" (don't know what it is called other places) - two people stand side by side with the outsides of their right feet touching, clasping hands in hand shake position. Try to break you opponent's balance so he either falls or has to step.

2. Moving back and forth - example: attacker steps in with chidori ashi chudan gyaku zuki, defender steps back with chidori ashi shita uke, then immediately switches roles and attacks with chidori ashi gyaku zuki. Repeat back and forth, with no count and at increasing speed. Good aerobic workout, great practice shifting weight and stepping, and fun, especially when your partner really challenges you by taking big steps or switching from defense ot attack very quickly.

3. Dodging drills - I like drills that force you to dodge without using arms to deflect, or that force you to dodge and block without stepping, or that force you to focus just on stepping to avoid the attack. One favorite is one-handed randori - attacker can strike with either hand (usually limit the kind of strike), but defender works with one hand behind the back.

Does anyone have any other good drills or games that specifically focus of speed and reaction time?


19th February 2003, 23:59
Originally posted by Gary Dolce
1. "Indian wrestling" (don't know what it is called other places) - two people stand side by side with the outsides of their right feet touching, clasping hands in hand shake position. Try to break you opponent's balance so he either falls or has to step.
I know of a drill, or form of wrestling, quite similar to this. Grasp your opponent's right wrist with your left hand, and he does the same to you. Then try to grab each other's ears. FWIW, HTH.

20th February 2003, 08:57

In Visby Branch we do a lot of randori or application practice and we love it and think it is very fun.

I believe that randori and application is very, very important part of Shorinjikempo practice. But many Shorinjikempo kenshi have some really misguided beliefs about randori/application practice. And if the visit Japan or Hombu and look at the university students randori “competition” they will become even more misguided about how randori should be practiced.:mad:

In Visby we encourage all kenshi to have the following in mind during application/randori practice:

1. Randori/application is not fighting.
Randori is a drill designed to improve technical skills. If the intensity is too high no one can experiment or try new skills. When the intensity is too high the kenshi only do what they are best at and they will learn very little.

2. Randori/application should be beneficial to both kenshi.
If one kenshi is more experienced and dominates his partner totally nobody gets any benefit and it destroys the confidence of the person getting “beat up”. In Visby branch NOBODY dominates his or her partner. If somebody overwhelming his partner he need to back off and let him in to the “play”. In this way randori becomes mutually beneficial and we try to practice half for yourself and half for your partner.

3. Let the kenshi always have a goal in mind.
Having a specific objective or goal in mind helps keep kenshi focused on what their performance and away from negative competitive influences during randori.

We use two fundamental randori drills to new kenshi in Visby branch:

1. The first drill we call “Shorinjikemp dance” – Both kenshi stand in tai gamae. The attacker steps in with – jun zuki (jodan) – gyaku zuki (jodan) – jun furi zuki (jodan). The defender can do any parry he wants against jun/gyaku zuki (jodan) but always do kusshin against furi zuki. When the defending kenshi understands fluidly umpho/taisabaki/bogi wasa he/she can do any counterattack against his “trainer”. It could be uwa uke geri against jun zuki, uchi uke zuki against gyaku zuki and after that the kenshi take safe distance with kusshin and repeat the drill again. Repeat over and over again at increasing speed.
More experienced kenshis do the same drill but with higher speed and with jun or gyaku zuki also aimed to chudan region.

Really experienced kenshis can do this drill in a more advanced way with the “trainer” (attacker) doing a kick after the defender have reached safe distance after furi zuki. The defender shall immediately counter this kick with harai uke geri, yoko tenshin geri, kinteki geri hiza uke nami gaeshi, juji uke geri etc.

This is good aerobic workout, great practice to learn timing and proper distance and totally safe for both partners.

2. The second drill we use are something we call “ping-pong” which is a nickname for the sport Table tennis. The drill is almost the same as Gary called “Moving back and forth”. The attacker steps in with any zuki wasa, defender steps back and parry and then immediately make a counter attack. The attacker receives the incoming counter, parry and counterattacks again. Repeat back and forth, with no count and at increasing speed. Both partners must receive the attack and then “send it back” to the attacker just like table tennis. The timing go no sen must be used by both partners.
This drill is great because you can not run away from your partner in a straight line backward which is very common when you are new in randoripractice. You need to do chidori ashi and parry and counter attack then you have to wait for you partners parry a counterattack and this makes it impossible to run backwards.
More experienced kenshi can do this drill with both punches and kicks and with very high speed.

Randori/application is fun, fun, fun, fun.:D

Johan Frendin

Gary Dolce
20th February 2003, 12:58


I like your attitude about randori!

We will try the "Shorinji Kempo" dance very soon.


tony leith
20th February 2003, 14:13
Johan's last post was excellent - the kempo dance was one I've already seen (our branch master in Glasgow tried it out, and I filed it away for future reference with my customary enthusiasm for stealing other people's good ideas). It's a good drill, but it can be quite physically demanding (no bad thing). I would also agree that a structured approach to randori is crucial for everybody to get something out of it - my observation is that if you give everybody something to think about apart from just hitting each other - whether its making it genti randori with limited/specified patterns of attack and defence, swapping ren han ko or whatever- there's less of a tendency for it to degenerate into an outright slugfest or ego driven sparring. It just seems to make people treat it more like what it is, an exercise in trying out kempo technique, rather than a chance to kick lumps out of each other.

One question that's occured to me watching some of our students - there seems to be a tendency for them to revert to previously practised styles when doing randori. This is perfectly understandable, but I wonder if anybody else has encountered the same phenomenon, and has any ideas about solutions to the problem?

Tony leith

George Hyde
20th February 2003, 15:34
Originally posted by tony leith
One question that's occured to me watching some of our students - there seems to be a tendency for them to revert to previously practised styles when doing randori. This is perfectly understandable, but I wonder if anybody else has encountered the same phenomenon, and has any ideas about solutions to the problem?

It depends on the style/problem. I've found that former kickboxers who are used to wearing big spongy gloves and holding them up by their heads for cover usually get the message once they've whacked themselves in the side of the head with their own bare knuckles a few times. Any assistance one can provide in raising the frequency of this learning experience is helpful :) Aside from that I find kihon is the best place to get rid of (dare I say "unlearn") former habits.

As for fun games...

Goho randori - one partner with a foot against a wall. The idea is to dominate and control the distance with extreme zenkutsu dachi. This usually reults in the defender only being able to use tsuki waza and LOTS of tai sabaki and uke. Keri waza is allowed but only if they can manage it with the back foot remaining against the wall and they can change between hidari and migi ONLY by hiraki sagate. Attacker has no limitations.

Juho - defender offers the index and middle finger of each hand to be grabbed by the 'attacker' (in each hand). The attacker MUST grab tightly and maintain tension in the arms thereby simulating a proper attack, otherwise it doesn't work.

The defender then has to take the balance of the attacker and throw them with a combination of footwork and arm movements (furiko no ri). The fact that the only connection they have with the attacker is their fingers, makes it virtually impossible to rely on strength.

The degree of difficulty can be adjusted by the extent to which the attacker anticipates and resists the defender's attempts to throw them.

VERY IMPORTANT - make sure your students don't confuse which one is the attacker and which is the defender - someone will end up with broken fingers!


Thomas Fontaine
20th February 2003, 20:48
One of the warm-up activities we sometimes used when I was training in Hamamatsu was the 'grab the obi' game. Everyone paired off and then you had to try to get a solid grip on your opponent's belt while preventing him/her from grabbing yours. Obviously some individuals will have a clear advantage if their belt only dangles 4 inches either side while their opponent's is really long. We used to play to three points or so and then switch opponents.

Really a speed/reaction warm-up, I suppose it could be used to practice shita uke although the form tends to deteriorate pretty quickly so I'm not sure it would be a great formative exercise in that regard. It can be fun, however, and if you play a few rounds with different partners it can become a pretty good workout.

Thomas Fontaine
Toronto Branch

tony leith
21st February 2003, 10:41
Regarding my earlier query re. students reverting to other styles, I don't supoose there is any alternative to simply waiting until basic hokei patterns are sufficiently firmly established. I did wado ryu karate before kempo, not to any great level of proficiency I hasten to add, and it took a long time to even realise where I was confusing the two, and longer still to sort out the confusion.

George's finger juho sounds intriguing, though I can imagine it all going horribly wrong (kersnap!). One thing on the defending in own bodyspace theme I once did was having the defender put himself/herself in a doorway we have leading off the training hall, and try to fend off a couple of attackers. Again, it's the sort of thing that self evidently you're not going to be able to doindefinitely, but it's instructive. A lot of the time randori practice does seem to assume that the defender has a lot of space to maneouvre in, which of course may or may not be the case in a real world scenario. Fortunately a lot of our techniques rely on taisabki rather than ashi sabaki, so we can hope that at some level this is becoming ingrained...

Tony leith

Tripitaka of AA
21st February 2003, 20:15
I knew I would enjoy this thread from the very first post... It is like listening to great Chefs all swapping their favourite recipes. Mouthwatering, and I can hardly wait to get in the kitchen (oops, Dojo) to try them out :)

18th May 2004, 12:19
Sorry! Another ancient thread I just had to add a little to.

When I was training with children our teacher had some ways of warming up. The dojo would open up at 6:30 and start at 7:00pm. For that half hour he would blow up some light volleyballs and we would play dodgeball, volleyball style games, tag, whatever. Means you get to run about, stretch your arms, get warmed up before stretching.

Another thing we had as a warmup/cool down activity was the 'shippo' (tail) game. There was a bag of about 40 1m long strips of red material. You put it through the back of your obi (once!! not looped around and tied, not that i ever did :p) and then a set area is chosen and the game is on! Pull it out of another person and they are 'out'. Make it interesting by kyuu vs dan people, guys/girls once you start thinning people out etc.

Another good warmup we had on a gasshuku was a dance made up by the university students. Another "shorinji dance" :p So they had a simple repiditive music and we jumped on the spot, then front back, side to side, starjumps, sqauts (squat every 4th beat), jumping high, then while jumping in kamae doing jun geri, gyaku geri, mwashi geri, various tuki. Very good exercise, great for a morning exercise on a camp ;)