Emerging from the various lock-downs and phased restrictions, what we were really missing were opportunities for sparring, the full range, from drills to Jiyu Kumite. After all, this was what we’d all been brought up on, and, for nearly two years Covid had denied us the chances for free-engagement.
Junior grades, who may have started before or even during the pandemic, had very little opportunity to experience how their techniques would fare in an unrehearsed exchange of punches and kicks.
For many of us this aspect of our training has been sorely missed, and its absence made us realise how much we’d taken it for granted.
Focussing on the positive.
However, there are signs that we may be able to leave this negativity behind us and start to emerge into the daylight.
Within Shikukai, instructors have been galvanised into action with two fresh initiatives specifically related to kumite training, developed independently and born out of the fermentation time forced on us by Covid.
The Shikukai team of instructors refused to allow training to be put into suspended animation during the various lock-downs and isolations and instead crafted new ways of continuing training (e.g. Zoom) which brought about fresh ways of looking at what we do. Which, incidentally, also fed into our current restructuring and modernising initiative within Shikukai as a whole.
The two initiatives are up and running; one in the South West, devised by Steve and Pam Rawson, and the other in Essex, piloted by Steve Thain.
These two projects are refreshingly different in approach, which to my mind underlines the diversity available in this aspect of training. Fight training supplies opportunities for some really creative thinking; a contrast to syllabus work and the focus on minutiae associated with high technical demands.
Steve and Pam’s ideas sprang out of their focussed Zoom sessions geared towards fighting drills – a regular weekly event over the last few months. It was almost inevitable that they would want to transfer this into live, face-to-face training, and an opportunity opened up in Weymouth.
A new business appeared in the town centre called ‘The Combat Lab’, a multi-disciplinary martial arts initiative/business project. Steve and Pam approached the owner and arranged dates and times for their proposed workshops, the first of which occurred in January 2022.
They planned to take full advantage of the space and the facilities. The workshop was designed with the use of equipment (bags etc.) in mind. Training was thoughtfully constructed and featured a broad range of fighting skills, including drills and take-downs.
For this first workshop Ken Bu Jyuku students were well supported by Shikukai members from Exmouth and Chippenham. With a new date set for March and a revised format creating separate space and time for women only training, followed by men’s training. Places are limited, so contact Steve and Pam if you are interested (Full details on the main Shikukai website).
The project in Essex took on a different form. The springboard for this came from Steve Thain’s initiative to organise ‘Pop-Up’ workshops during gaps in pandemic restrictions. Although these were not exclusively focussed on fighting, they were designed to explore free-form movement. For Steve the inevitable next step was to design ‘fight-based’ versions of the same Pop-Up model.
His approach was to trawl all of the go-to fight training methods developed over the years. He drew up a list of twenty numbered practices.
The lowest numbers related to the most accessible methods; ones suitable for lower graded, least experienced students; while the higher numbers required significantly more skill and experience. Students were then given the choice of which level to work at. This instantly reduced any trepidation the least experienced may have felt.
The modes of fight training included such things as; mirroring, shoulder tapping, one attack one defends, Shiai, Ohyo Henka Dosa, and fifteen others too difficult to explain in a brief blog post.
Having participated in two of these workshops (the last being Feb. 1st) although, by its nature as a ‘pop-up’ it is only for one hour, it’s very intense and hugely enjoyable, whatever level you are at.
The next one takes place in March (date to be confirmed).