View Full Version : Sparring Not Budo ? Self Defense Not Budo ?

8th January 2009, 03:20
Hey All,

I'm a humble Judo white belt who trains with people from a range of arts, including, Karate, Judo, Jujutsu, Sambo, Grappling and Krav Maga.

Wondering what your thoughts on sparring and Budo are.

Is sparring contradictory to Budo ? Should relatively-young high-ranked Yudanshas spar with their students ? What if they never did.

Say, theoretically, there was a high-ranked Yudansha in a traditional style of, karate or jujutsu, who never sparred. Let's say he was, more interested in preserving the techniques and practices of the traditional art, saying that sparring arts discouraged the spirit of Budo.

I'm only a white belt, so I don't know.

I heard of one case where a high-ranked Yudansha (5th dan!) in a traditional style, was politely invited for a rolling by a white-belt BJJ student, who didn't know the traditional etiquette. The BJJ student was later rebuked, being informed that it was rude.

The senior grade accepted, also graciously, but was later offended and angry, according to people present.

The Yudansha said he "didn't like athletes who challenged people." (The Yudansha's students often display reverence for him, being required to neatly fold his gi after training and "obey him" in matters relating to the martial arts).

What's the right Budo etiquette in the above situation ?

8th January 2009, 07:25
Hi Tom san,

In my very own personal Budo journey, I realized that one of the lessons which I was slow to accept was to (1) realize that I was mistaken and (2) admit that fact.

In the case you mentioned above, if I am the high-ranking Yudansha, then I must say that I have misunderstood the meaning of Budo. I have only scratched the surface, and thought I understand it all. I must blame my own egoistic self, imperfection of character and limitation of intellectual capability for that.

In any case, I apologize to all of my friends if there are anything I ever said or done that contradicts the true meaning of Budo. It is obvious that I am still learning, and are nowhere near true understanding yet. And I must thank you as a true friend who pointed out my mistakes, thus offering me chances to re-think my decision making and go back to the "drawing board" :).

BTW, happy new year! :)

8th January 2009, 07:43
Hi Mr. Ben (and John Benn),

It's a very gracious reply, but I'm not sure if it answers the wider question of "what's the etiquette"?


"Should Yudansha spar with their students" ?

Whilst it's a very gracious reply, it carefully avoids the issue of:

1. What happens if the Yudansha doesn't "win" the sparring session ?

2. Is there such a thing as "winning" ? If there isn't, what's the problem in sparring ?

As mentioned, I'm just a humble white belt, so I wouldn't know... ; p

8th January 2009, 07:53
Hi Mr. Ben (and John Benn),

1. What happens if the Yudansha doesn't "win" the sparring session ?

From what I know, winning and losing is only in tournament (shiai).

In normal practice usually there are no winning or losing, sparring in normal practice is to teach ma-ai (distancing and timing).

It's just like pro boxing sparring, where the boxer spar with the trainer and with the sparring partner. They are not really trying to "win" against the pro boxer, but to help him improve certain techniques, such as the bob, weave, jab etc. In the realm of martial arts, the karate sparring is to improve the stance, footwork, punches, kicks etc.

2. Is there such a thing as "winning" ? If there isn't, what's the problem in sparring ?

Communications problem and ego problems aside, there is no problem with sparring if the sparring is actually to help improve the techniques as described above.

In fact, in competitive sports, sparring is to help prepare athletes for formal competitions. But for people whom are not active in formal competitions, sparring is just one amongst the many training methods of Karate, and it is used mostly to improve the things mentioned above, such as ma-ai.

There are off course other methods such as solo Kata, paired Kata and Ippon Kumite.

8th January 2009, 07:55
As mentioned, I'm just a humble white belt...

..with black belt experience.. :D

8th January 2009, 11:50
"Should Yudansha spar with their students" ?

The answer varies between arts and Dojos, but it is sufficient to say that in competition art like Judo and Brazil Jiujitsu, everybody spars regardless of belts.

In fact, in competition arts, the belt ranks doesn't really matters, in many instances colored belts people could "defeat" black belts during tournaments. It's all depends on whom are more prepared or more lucky during the goings of the match.

In arts like Aikido and Aiki Jujutsu, usually there are no free sparring.

As for Karate, each Dojo usually has their own rules. There are Dojos where the top black belts doesn't spar anymore, instead they are more focused into teaching the juniors. There are also Dojos where everyone spars regardless of belt ranks. So it all goes back to the first answer: it varies between arts and Dojos.

Personally, I think the black belt around a Yudansha's waist is not a sign that he/she is an Alpha Athlete or a kick-ass street fighter. The status of Yudansha should embody these things :

1. A sign that he/she have remained loyal to his/her organization, and the head of the organization reciprocrate by giving him/her a visible sign in appreciation of that loyalty.

2. It implies knowledge about the style that he/she practices, which centered around the history, traditions, techniques and training methods.

3. Emotional maturity and wisdom.

As for myself, these days I realized that despite my Yudansha status I often lacked point 3. That's why I hang out in E-Budo, to improve my self by reading about other Budoka's experiences.

8th January 2009, 15:35
Motive matters utmost.

What was the white belt's motive in asking?

Chris McLean
8th January 2009, 22:20
No candy coating here just keep going to practice.

9th January 2009, 00:49
Motive matters utmost.

What was the white belt's motive in asking?

@ Terry. Good question.

From what I know, the motive was the spirit of inquiry and exchange of ideas. A second one was making a point about the efficiency of training methods.

To be able to execute a move under pressure, seems like there are 4 stages - 1. Static drilling - no resistance (hundreds of reps, maybe thousands). 2. Drilling with a little resistance. 3. Sparring under pressure. 4. Integration into your repertoire.

My personal criticism of only 2-person kata drilling if you want the moves to be functional is that it doesn't ingraine complex patterns into the nervous system.

There's that story of the Japanese Aikido teacher who threw someone who attacked him, only to come back shaking his head and telling students, "i have to study aikido much more." Why went the reply. Because he had reverted to the Judo of his childhood and used a hip throw.

Fear and panic shut down parts of the brain. No time to think. We all know the arguments.

Black belts or long-term students who've made a conscious decision not to train for functionality are different to the newcomers who haven't made that choice. Surely people should be able to do martial arts purely for fun with no intention of using them.

Perhaps the BJJ student wanted to test some of these ideas in the collegiate atmosphere of the Dojo.

9th January 2009, 01:29
I had a very strong Yondan of an instructor that I trained with for years. He never once sparred with me but I saw his kihon and kata..he had a lot of power, no doubt about it.
Years later having my own students for thaiboxing and karate I would be happy if they could "beat me" in kumite/sparring. A good instructor should be pleased if their student lands a good technique on them.
With that being said, I never had a student that did anything close to challenging me nor "beating me" in sparring..I have had students occasionally land a good punch, kick, knee, etc. on me and I tell them "good!".
I have met instructors that don't want to "lose face" and won't spar...one such school the instructor had me spar all his students under what I can only describe as K-1 rules but wearing a TKD chest protector but no shin pads! His students made me look like Anderson Silva or Buakaw Por Pramuk to make a long story short..but he wouldn't spar me! Yet he told me he could "make me better" if I came back.
Look, there is etiquette and there is common sense. You shouldn't ask your instructor to spar with you...but your instructor should spar you or at least have some people better than yourself for you to spar with..one or the other. You only stagnate when you spar with people that are beginners and you're a sr. student, etc..Just my own .02 cents.

9th January 2009, 05:18
As an Instructor I find it a valuable tool to spar with both my upper and lower level mudansha (all egos must be checked at the door, period). I utilize a great deal of restraint and emphasize that the exersize must be safe for all involved. Safety equipment is a must. The focus is to improve technique not kill each other. Sparring with my upper level Yudansha (Shodans and Nidans) takes on a bit more intensity, focusing on inovation, creativity,fluidity, good solid contact with control,etc..
The Goal....Always help your students to become better even if it means taking an occasional Mawashi Geri ...etc...to the body or head(ouch) or a good Yoko Sankaku Jime, Juji Gatame..etc. while grappling to help instill some confidence in the lower level Mudansha.
Upper level Mudansha and Yudansha have to work for those....no freebies:laugh:. At the end of the day we are all still family and come back to train another day.
I whole heartedly agree with Power Of One's post. avoid stagnation by working with others who are more advanced. Teachers should lead by example, as this in and of itself facilitates much respect.
BTW..nobody folds my Gi after practice:(, but my wife likes to fold my Hakama after Aikido practice:laugh:.

9th January 2009, 05:36
Thanks, Jitsumania, Brian.

Sound advice: check the ego at the door, safety first, it's good for instructors to spar with students and adjust to their level - whatever it may be. It also sounds like it's a personal choice of the instructor.

Perhaps it also depends on how respectfully the request is put foward. At the end of the day, it's all about everyone's progress in the art.