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Thread: Sparring vs. Kata

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    Default Sparring against non-aikijujutsu practitioners

    It's one thing to learn and develop excellence in practicing aikijujutsu techniques against fellow aikijujutsu students in your dojo. What about working in non-cooperative practice scenarios against people using approaches from other arts, or even just techniques used in basic "street" or bar attacks? Is this useful to broaden the range of self-defense situations aikijujutsu is practiced in?

    I'm asking because I came across the following post (at www.shenwu.com) from Tim Cartmell, a well-respected teacher of Chinese martial arts and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, commenting on sparring and the experience of one of his students who came to his school from Don Angier's Yanagi-ryu dojo.

    "By Tim on Tuesday, January 08, 2002 - 03:36 pm


    [snip]

    This is a very interesting topic, the sparring vs. too deadly to spar dichotomy. My students also get into this discussion with practitioners of other arts that believe they are too lethal to spar. I suppose their is no 'answer' short of no holds barred death matches, but it is important to look at the evidence we do have so that students can make an informed decision, especially students that want to prepare themselves for a real and violent confrontation.

    I'll preface my comments by saying I have trained all different ways. I've studied traditional styles of martial arts in which all techniques were supposed to be potentially lethal, and which forbade sparring, as well as traditional arts which allowed contact sparring. I've also practiced several combat 'sports.'

    One of the most, if not the most important aspect of success in a fight is mindset, next is experience, then physicality, finally specific technique. Without the will to fight, the greatest fighter in the world will lose to the most mediocre fighter. This is a common sense observation. It is extremely difficult (although probably not impossible) to develop a fighting mindset without some experience approximating a real fight. Like the boxers say, everyone has a plan until they get hit. If you have never been hit hard, crushed under someone's weight or been on the receiving end of a painful and unrelenting attack, how do you know how you will react? You may imagine you will respond appropriately and fight back, but you will never know for sure. Sparring will never be as intense as a real fight, but it is the closest approximation you will find within the bounds of relative safety (although you will be injured on occasion, it's an inevitability of learning to fight).

    Getting hit, strangled and thrown hard by a determined and resisting opponent will condition your mind and body for the realities of a fight. Taking out your opponent with the initial attack is obviously the ultimate goal of a fight (and learning how to sucker punch is something I believe should be practiced often), but the reality is one punch knockouts almost never occur. When they do, the fighter doing the knocking out is usually always much bigger and stronger than his opponent. Despite the popular 'deadly martial arts' idea that a fight will be over in seconds with the opponent lying unconscious and broken on the floor, fights often go on for minutes, with both fighters injured as third parties pull the fighters apart.

    Contact sparring and grappling are also a 'laboratory' for you to experiment with which techniques YOU can actually apply against a resisting opponent. Just because your teacher or classmates can smash bones with a blow doesn't mean you necessarily can. You will never know what you can really do unless you have really done it. You must also practice sparring in all ranges and situations (striking and wrestling both standing and on the ground).

    It is not that the techniques in most martial arts won't work, all legitimate styles have potentially useful techniques. The problem is the method of training. Anyone can make a technique work against a non-resisting partner, and, of course, that is how techniques are learned. The actual execution of a technique is the easy part. The hard part is the set up and entry. The method of learning how to successfully set up and enter a technique for real cannot be learned without a non-cooperative, fully resisting partner. Because that is the situation you will be in in a real fight. In a real fight, your opponent will be doing everything he can to stop you from applying your techniques. If your method doesn't take this into account, it is not realistic. The best fighters in the world use relatively simple techniques, most often the same techniques they learned during their first few months of training. The reason they can actually apply these techniques is that they have learned to set them up against trained, resisting opponents. They have confidence because they have been successful for real.

    Physicality is also extremely important in a fight. Size and strength do matter, and, especially if you are smaller than your opponent, superior endurance could save your life. Besides regular conditioning exercises for power and endurance, sparring practice will teach you how to conserve your energy and expend it when it will have the greatest effect. When the adrenaline is pumping, it is very important not to use up all your energy to no effect. Anyone who has ever been in a combat sporting event can tell you that whoever gasses first loses, no matter his or her level of skill.

    Another place to look for answers is with men who have a great amount of experience in real fights (street fights). If you read the literature, men like Peyton Quinn and Geoff Thompson (who worked as bouncers in rough places, and who had the 'benefit' of hundreds of real fights) assert that contact sparring and grappling are absolutely essential to preparing martial artists for real fights. Geoff Thompson is especially interesting in that he has liscences to teach over a dozen Asian martial arts. But what he advocates practicing for real fighting ability is Western boxing (combat sport), wrestling (combat sport) and Judo (combat sport). The main focus of training in all three is non-cooperative free sparring.

    In my own experience, I feel I developed more practical fighting ability from a year of Xing Yi Quan training in Taiwan (we sparred full contact on a regular basis) than years of training in other styles without non-cooperative sparring. Do I believe Xing Yi Quan is technically so superior to the other styles I studied? No, what made the difference was the method (we sparred).

    Finally. I'll leave you with a real world example. Meynard is passionate about this subject because of his background in the martial arts. He spent years studying a 'traditional' martial art (with an excellent teacher) that did not allow sparring practice because of the 'deadly' nature of their techniques. When he first came to study with me we could basically strike, throw and submit him at will (sorry Meynard, the truth hurts sometimes). He has practiced very hard the last few years, and is now one of the best fighters in my school. He's done well in combat sporting events (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and submissions grappling) as well as a street fight he got into with a gang member a few months ago (two leg kicks and a Pi Quan knocked the guy down. He had had enough and Meynard let him get up and limp away. Like Water Dragon said above, this is how most real fights end up, no reason to kill anybody).

    I want to make it clear to my friends that posted above that I respect different methods of training. There is something to be learned from all drills, ancient and modern. What's important is to be honest about why you practice martial arts in the first place (for example, people who practice for health or recreationally don't need to spar) stay open minded and look at all different methods of training to see what works for you."
    Tom Douglas

  2. #2
    Kit LeBlanc Guest

    Thumbs up As Usual...

    Tim is speaking the truth. Though I disagree that fights go on for minutes. They usually are much shorter, one guy overwhelms the other, somebody breaks it up, or one or both get the heck out of there.

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    There is certainly a lot of validity to the above post, one small comment I disagree with is:

    "Because that is the situation you will be in in a real fight. In a real fight, your opponent will be doing everything he can to stop you from applying your techniques. If your method doesn't take this into account, it is not realistic. "

    I've heard this line of thinking before (especially from sport oriented peole) but believe it is flawed. I don't believe in real fights that the attacker is normally attempting to stop you from applying your technique or overly concerned with your technique at all. An attacker attacks. This mind set of fully resisting techniques is defensive in nature is not found in an attackers mind set and is found in sporting competitions. In sporting competitiions the enviroment is controlled, predictable (no third parties jumping in, beer on the floor, furniture, hidden weapons, etc) and a competitor has the opportunity to play defensively until the perfect opportunity presents itself. In the real life fights I have been involved in or witnessed, very few last minutes, most last seconds. Generally the person that wins is the more aggressive not the more defensive.

    Now how all this relates to aikijujutsu is the same as any other martial art. The more realistic the training methods the superior the results. I am not sure that aikijujutsu lends itself well to sparring. Nor do I feel that sparring in and of itself is the end-all be-all to realistic training. It has it's place and ueses. Personally I feel one of the best tools to realistic training is a well trained and fearless uke. One that attacks with the proper attackers mind-set and not a grab-ass competition mind set. I frequently feel that learning to be a quality uke is harder than learning technique. Oh, well, just thought I would stir the pot a little.

    mark

  4. #4
    Kit LeBlanc Guest

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    Originally posted by Mark Jakabcsin
    There is certainly a lot of validity to the above post, one small comment I disagree with is:

    "Because that is the situation you will be in in a real fight. In a real fight, your opponent will be doing everything he can to stop you from applying your techniques. If your method doesn't take this into account, it is not realistic. "

    I've heard this line of thinking before (especially from sport oriented peole) but believe it is flawed. I don't believe in real fights that the attacker is normally attempting to stop you from applying your technique or overly concerned with your technique at all. An attacker attacks. This mind set of fully resisting techniques is defensive in nature is not found in an attackers mind set and is found in sporting competitions. In sporting competitiions the enviroment is controlled, predictable (no third parties jumping in, beer on the floor, furniture, hidden weapons, etc) and a competitor has the opportunity to play defensively until the perfect opportunity presents itself. In the real life fights I have been involved in or witnessed, very few last minutes, most last seconds. Generally the person that wins is the more aggressive not the more defensive.

    I both agree and disagree.

    Setting aside the tired old "controlled/predictable/hidden weapons/beer and furniture/third party" argument, which applies equally to non-sport, non-sparring martial arts training, you are right, the opponent will most likely not really be concerned with your technique. Playing defensively is an excellent point, and probably is what is the most maladaptive of sporting methods when applied to real fighting. Not sure the same doesn't hold true of non-sport MA training, too though.

    Bad guys most certainly do resist techniques, however, but I agree not in a "defensive" manner. It is simply that under stress, in unfamiliar circumstances, with an unfamiliar and truly aggressive attacker, the arm bars etc. don't necessarily take, nor do the pressure point strikes, etc. And the bad guy often is not affected by them in the way he is supposed to be.

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    Kit wrote:

    "Bad guys most certainly do resist techniques, however, but I agree not in a "defensive" manner. It is simply that under stress, in unfamiliar circumstances, with an unfamiliar and truly aggressive attacker, the arm bars etc. don't necessarily take, nor do the pressure point strikes, etc. And the bad guy often is not affected by them in the way he is supposed to be."

    Kit,
    I agree with you on this and that is why I am sure you agree realistic training is of the utmost importance. The problem is how best to simulate real conditions and yet remain reasonably safe (kinda hard to defend yourself for real if you are all broken up from training). To date I have not seen a 'best method', each method seems to have certain limitations or drawbacks. As always a quality instructor to facilitate the choosen training method/s is a must.

    mark

  6. #6
    Kit LeBlanc Guest

    Default 100%

    Mark,

    I agree 100%, but that isn't that where the problem lies?

    NO training adequately replicates a real honest-to-goodness aggressively motivated confrontation. So we have to come close without actually injuring one another (HURTING one another is something different...).

    Many are convinced that their training is a realistic replication of combative circumstances. I don't know how anyone who has been in a variety of real world situations at many different levels can think this way, but even some experienced people do. A lot in martial arts is based on faith, and on what we want to believe, about ourselves, our training, and our potential opponents.

    I think it is best to use a variety of training methods to develop the attributes called on in actual aggressive physical encounters. But in so doing, realize that it is only training, with friends and partners, and that no one is actually trying to injure one another. Some methods are better than others at developing more of those useful attributes, but none addresses them all.

    Only repeated experience in many different kinds of actual encounters can really demonstrate what does and does not work, for the particular practitioner, "for real."

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    [Post deleted by user]
    Last edited by Nathan Scott; 12th June 2014 at 03:26.
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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    Thanks to Messrs. LeBlanc, Jakabcsin and Scott for their insights. Nathan Scott's post was particularly interesting, attempting to set partner practice in traditional ryu-ha in its historical context.

    In following up on Mr. Cartmell's approach, it seems like he introduces "light" sparring fairly early on, even in the first week of practice. I don't know what is allowed in this "light" sparring. Students later on are encouraged but not required to participate in "full" contact tournaments. It's a different training philosophy with some different methods and aims than "traditional" bugei schools.
    Tom Douglas

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    Hi Nathan,

    You should archive that post somewhere...I'd hate to see it get burried. Good Job!

    Ron Tisdale

  10. #10
    MarkF Guest

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    Ron is right..already saved to file.

    1) Nearly all traditional Japanese arts (not including modern variants like judo and modern karate) are, or were adapted from, methods designed to kill an opponent as quickly and efficiently as possible.


    Please, I promise not to put in a good word for judo here. My problem is the chicken/egg thing.

    Leaving out everything from meiji on, or whenever, how were these techniques practiced, how did they come about? Perhaps the adapting part should be the other way around, I'm not sure.

    All methods designed to kill were practiced...how? While I'm positive many held contests where keeping one's head was how to win, while the other got the head as a trophy.

    If you say it was from the sword or short sword/knife, surely they were practiced to get to areas which were not armored, and by doing this didn't they involve some kind of pracitice *approaching* something similar to today's version of not getting hurt, per Tim's post on the other web site?

    So I suppose it just comes back to the chicken/egg thing. Was it the attack which sponsored the killing arts, or was it defense of the killing technique which gave birth to the arts. I agree that almost all technique had killing in mind, but when did self-defense (go no sen) come into the picture, or was it all sen, or sen no sen?

    From my perspective, keeping one's own life is always preferable, and always has been IMO, then taking another's. So doesn't it make sense that life was/is a series of "techniques" to keep one's life, and not the other way around? It wasn't war that took everyone's life.

    That said, then yes, they did come from some sort of combat, but when attacked, the first thing one does is get rid of the threat; IE, the attack. That is self-defense, even when one strikes first, the next technique used if the wound wasn't fatal, was defense, striking first, also is a form of self-defense.

    So I may be arguing a semantics topic, but I've always found it is better to let the attacker to go into motion and defend from there. It's like a foot race, in a way. Don't dismiss any manor of practicing self-defense too quickly. Even then, the idea was to keep your life, even to go on attacking, you need to defend yourself first.

    (OK, wise guy, was the "judo" remark meant for me, or not....errrrrrrgh)
    ***

    Again, it was a good post. Anything which gets one thinking is a good post.

    mark, where've you been? I looked everywhere for you.

    I'll drop you an email. Still haven't downloaded the IM thingy.


    Mark F.

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    Good day everyone. This is a great discussion and I'd like to add my two cents.

    I started training in the martial arts primarily for self-defense reasons. My background is in Jujitsu and sparring is generally discouraged because joint locking and attacking pressure points isn't necessarily conducive to sparring. A lot of you had great things to say about what happens when an opponent resists your technique but I'd like to follow-up on what Tim Cartmell said about being hit.

    I took a free class at a San Shou kickboxing gym recently and they encouraged me to spar. I'm 5'9" and I weigh 207 lbs. My opponent was about 6'2" and about 235 lbs. This guy really hit hard. At that momment I realized that I need to cross train in a full contact combat sport (i.e. boxing/kickboxing/san shou/muy thai, etc.) to better prepare myself to have composure under fire. I'm pretty strong but that isn't everything. Like Tim's post read, "Everyone has a plan until they get hit."

    In closing, I'm not a masochist or anything, but I think that being hit and figuring out how to continue when you're hurting, is a crucial to simulating a REAL fight.

    Tyrone Turner
    Queens, New York
    Tyrone Turner
    Aspiring warrior-scholar
    Queens, NY

  12. #12
    Kit LeBlanc Guest

    Default Counterpoint...

    Sorry guys, I had to re-do the post. I don't know how to break up the posts into individual quotes that are still in bold and showing as quotes.


    Nathan,

    RE: KILLING vs. RESTRAINT

    I dunno, it seems that with the existence of hojojutsu, and with many classical methods that can involved a coup de grace WITH and edged weapon or without, or that involves an armlock and pin, for example, that many techniques, even on the battlefield could have ended as restraint OR with the dispatching of the enemy. Thoughts?

    RE: FREESTYLE TRAINING

    And as we have seen in discussions of kata vs. freestyle training in the works of Dr. Friday and Cameron Hurst, many members of classical methods adapted/adopted these methods for MORE REALISTIC training. Others seem to develop later after the ryu members were no longer actually fighting on a battledfield...they needed some way of practicing that more closely approximated the aggression and explosiveness, and unpredictability of combat.

    Ellis Amdur recently pointed out in a post RE: the history of jujutsu something along the lines that it is reasonable to believe that many bushi were not only practicing jujutsu methods for the battlefield in kata form (and with weapons, no doubt), but practicing sumo both recreationally and for the battlefield. So they WERE probably practicing freestyle resistive grappling along with the more dangerous methods in kata form.


    RE: COMPLEX ARTS, EFFICIENCY, AND TRAINING TIME.

    I strongly disagree here. Complex arts, by definition, are LESS efficient, particularly when considering training for combative effeciency. In trying to train people for battle, "taking far longer to learn" makes little sense. Regardless of social status, battle between men is battle. The higher social classes may have had more training over a longer period of time, and a better understanding of principles than the lower, but that does not mean that their arts were more complex.

    I would point to Liam Keeley's excellent article in Koryu Books Sword and Spirit RE: the Tojutsu of the Tatsumi-ryu, in which he expounds on the KISS principle. I would also point to his discussion on pp. 112-113 where he discusses the much shorter period of time for transmission of a ryu's teaching in times of warfare than in times of peace. I submit that this due to a number of reasons, one being that the teachings were far LESS complex than they became during the Edo period and after, and there was probably a lot smaller of a curriculum to learn at that time as well.

    I think Aikijujutsu, like Judo, and many of the classical jujutsu methods which continued to develop after the beginning of the Edo period have far too large a curriculum to be considered "combative" arts. They seem more to have identified principles and use their extensive repetoire of technique to explore variations in how those principles are applied. They are more "art" (or sport, I guess, with Judo) than "martial." The actual combat-efficient methods found in both arts need to be separated out and adapted.

    A curriculum concentrating on just the latter methods would be far smaller, but no less an expression of the overarching principles of the art. Training in the various other techniques within the dojo DO give a greater understanding of the principles, but the dojo is not the field. What is good for training is not necessarily good for fighting, just as training methods are not necessarily fighting methods. Confusing/not seeing the difference between the two is in my opinion one of the biggest problems in martial arts training.

    RE: PROLONGED ENGAGEMENTS AND STRIKING BEFORE THE ATTACK BEGINS


    I think this is an EXCELLENT point and one which is rarely broached when discussing actual physical confrontations. In the real world, strike first, maintain the pressure, and you have a decided advantage. But again, simplicity is key. The more complex your techniques or chains of techniques and the more chances the other guy has to counter.

    RE: BEING EASIER TO KILL THAN RESTRAIN

    I think this is ENTIRELY dependent on individual circumstances.


    RE: WHY DON"T TRADITIONALISTS FARE WELL IN FREE SPARRING>

    I think the answer to this is actually: because they have a training method which is one sided. If they were to live like their warrior forebears, that is, train in their kata, probably train or at least recreate with resistive sumo/sportive wrestling, AND/OR actually go out and use their stuff in actual fights, they would fare much better both in free sparring AND in combat.

    RE: NOT SPARRING BEFORE DEVELOPING FUNDAMENTALS

    Whereas I view proper sparring as reinforcing an understanding kihon and riai in a much more immediate way.....against someone trying to undo their every effort.

    RE: BASIC AND ADVANCED COMBATIVES AND POLICE TRAINING, AND THE EASE OF RESTRAINING SOMEONE NOT TRAINED/FAMILIAR WITH YOUR ART

    Well, I would disagree with that last point. It is not necessarily easier to deal with and control someone who is NOT moving in a manner that is trained, or that you are familiar with, and vice versa. I think that is dojo-budo thinking.

    In reality it is kind of a catch 22. Certainly I would not want to fight a skilled judoka/jujutsuka trying to hurt me when I try to make an arrest, but I can tell you that I have dealt with several untrained, but very motivated people that it was not any easier to control. It is in the motivation, not in their training.

    Most modern police training deals with simple responses. I do not think this is an issue of higher vs. lower level, though. It is simply that is what experience has shown will actually work against resisting persons. The more advanced you are is revealed in how you better use the basics in the widest variety of situations. Being advanced allows you better control and thus more options may be available.
    Last edited by Kit LeBlanc; 31st January 2002 at 19:11.

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    Tyrone wrote: "At that momment I realized that I need to cross train in a full contact combat sport (i.e. boxing/kickboxing/san shou/muy thai, etc.) to better prepare myself to have composure under fire. I'm pretty strong but that isn't everything. Like Tim's post read, "Everyone has a plan until they get hit." "

    As I pointed out in my first post I agree with a great deal of what Tim Cartmell wrote in the post that Tom Douglas pasted in for us. I agree that experiencing contact is important, however I don't feel competitive sports is the only training method to achieve this reality. Don't get me wrong I spent a great deal of time doing competitive martial sports and enjoyed that time greatly. I still do on occassion but my body doesn't seem to ignore the after affects as easily as in the past.

    My initial point was/is that sparring/competitive sports also has limitations when training for reality. Each training method has limitations and short comings and using a mix of training methods to perpare for reality seems best to me.

    I did note that Mr. Cartmell mentioned Peyton Quinn's stance on full contact sparring which may not be totally accurate. Peyton has been extremely verbose on the AOL martial arts forum for a number of years and discussed this topic several times. From what I have read of his posts I don't think he feels dojo sparring in general is all that valuable for preparing someone for a real life encounter. It goes back to the mind set of the attacker. In a sparring match, full contact or not, both parties start on an even footing and generally feel each other out without fully committing. Sparring matches can last a long time while real violence is generally over quickly or at least decided quickly. The attacker attacks full out and the defender either takes advantage of an opening created by the initial attack or is pummeled by a continuous onslaught. Does this happen sometimes in sparring, sure, but it is not the norm imho.

    Again this is not to say sparring is bad or does not contain valuable training lessons for surely it does, but like all other methods it has limitations. Scenario training is one method that can be used to bridge the gap. This is where a quality and fearless uke is invaluable. Likewise a dojo made up of people with various backgrounds (wrestling, boxing, judo, kick/punchers, etc) comes in handy.

    mark

    ps. Mark F. I have been reading the boards just haven't had much to say or ask lately. Perhaps this is because I haven't been traveling as much lately therefore I don't have as much time in hotel rooms to sit and think. The mind is a terrible thing.

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    2)There are relatively simple arts, and relatively complex arts, depending on who the art was developed for (farmers/goshi or hatamoto/daimyo). The complex arts are more efficient and require less effort, but take far longer to learn and become proficient at. Aikijujutsu is one of these, and as such very few people train hard and long enough under qualified instruction to reach a level where they can apply the methods with a consistent degree of success in a real confrontation. - Nathan Scott

    I completely agree with this assessment, Nathan. For example, one can utilize the techniques of boxing in self-defense far faster, easier and more effectively, in a short period of time than can an aikijujutsu exponent in the same amount of time. I would add that this is partly due to the combative theory of aikijujutsu, partly due to the combative principles of AJ, as well as the teaching methodology.

    Of course, nobody has yet brought up the issue of AJ as a pure combative art. Was it? Is it today? Perhaps the answer to this question also has a large bearing on the teaching methodology.

    Sincerely,
    Arman Partamian
    Daito-ryu Study Group
    Maryland

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    [Post deleted by user]
    Last edited by Nathan Scott; 12th June 2014 at 03:26.
    Nathan Scott
    Nichigetsukai

    "Put strength into your practice, and avoid conceit. It is easy enough to understand a strategy and guard against it after the matter has already been settled, but the reason an opponent becomes defeated is because they didn't learn of it ahead of time. This is the nature of secret matters. That which is kept hidden is what we call the Flower."

    - Zeami Motokiyo, 1418 (Fūshikaden)

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