EDITORIAL By John Cheetham.
We have a wide variety of material in this issue, although readers always say that one of the best things about SKM is that each edition has a wide range of traditional karate related articles.
I’m very happy to feature a relatively young instructor, Paul Herbert, in this edition. I feel it’s important to hear the views of instructors of the future as well as the more well known older karateka. As a karateka coming from a traditional background, it’s interesting to see that Paul has a very modern approach to training and it’s a no-holds-barred interview with strong views.
Equally no-holds-barred is the article by Colin Smith and Nigel Jackson, two stalwarts of Shotokan from South Africa. There are some quite amazing stories contained in this piece which I’m sure will tickle the pallet of many readers.
I personally have no interest in karate politics but it’s unavoidable that some form of politics will creep into various articles. It does no real harm and without the support of advertisements from the various Shotokan groups throughout the world, SKM (or any martial arts magazine for that matter) could be in big trouble, as advertising is the absolute life-line of any magazine. No adverts, no magazine!
Someone asked me recently about my own dojo and which association we are affiliated to? Fortunately, my own little club is quite unique, just twelve dan-grades, we have not been affiliated to any organisation for several years, most of the guys are 25 year (plus) practitioners who have no interest whatsoever in grading or rank promotion, (me included) so possibly that has something to do with it, we just like training in Shotokan karate, purely for the sake of training. I know it’s a bit different from the norm but it works for us and has done for many years. I’m not against associations, in fact I think it’s a must for kyu grade students, and Dan-grades who want to progress in rank or to compete etc., or for people who simply want to belong to an organisation who’s philosophy they believe in and who’s training methods suits them personally. I feel that the majority of Shotokan groups are doing an excellent job maintaining and promoting our style, which is not easy, especially these days when MMA and the like are so popular with young people. Just read Josh Stewart’s article to appreciate this point.
I think MMA is very good, I like watching it, but is it the ultimate system? For instance, they can’t bite or eye-gouge, or strike to the groin, so is it real? There’s a very interesting ‘letter’ from an SKM reader in London that I feel puts this aspect across perfectly. It seems that many karate students now cross-train with a wide variety of martial arts in order to be effective for self-defence, whereas others believe that you just need to be good at whichever martial art you practice. And as Bernie Heerey’s article explains, look carefully and all the martial techniques, strategies and tactics you need are contained within our own Kata.
Good health, good training, Editor.
TRAINING DRILLS FOR KUMITE. (Part Two) By Bryce I. Fleming.
I am no sensei; if you follow me I may just be the first lemming at the edge of the cold blue sea.
Well, I hope my first article (last issue) was clear enough that everyone understood both the structure and the point of the drill. The concept behind the first drill was to learn to pick up the attack intent of your opponent and react without hesitation with a pre-emptive interception. Once a karateka can sense the telegraphs of his opponent, then he can react with whatever timing he chooses, effectively always being one step ahead. Unfortunately "reading the telegraph" is not as easy as one might think; perhaps merely sensing impending doom is not enough. It might be nice to actually call all the shots in a sparring match, including when and where your opponent may attack. This is today's topic. The general topic here is "sasoi-waza" or "inviting the technique". This series of drills is designed to both illustrate and train the student to provoke his opponent to attack on cue.
The very essence of fighting strategy is time and distance. In fact, they are basically one and the same thing. On the attacking side the distance to your opponent dictates the appropriate primary technique and the time it will take to deliver that technique. On the defence side the distance to your opponent dictates your time to react to that attack and your likely counter. This further gets muddled because in free kumite both players may attack or defend as opportunity arises. This constantly shifting milieu effectively creates three distances that every karateka needs to figure out for every match: the distance from which you can effectively attack (which is different for each technique), the distance from which your opponent can launch an effective technique, and the net result of those two lengths. For visualization purposes, you can imagine a force field in front of each player which glows dangerous red when they overlap. Let's call that overlapping area "deadly ground" (from Sun Tsu: the point on the battle field where encroaching enemy lines demand action). The drill I want to discuss in this article is all about finding the "deadly ground" of your opponent and then using that knowledge to your advantage.
For simplicity sake, this drill limits the number of attacking techniques to just three: lead hand jab to face, reverse hand punch to face and reverse hand punch to body, all done with a realistic shift in. Of course you can and should train other techniques, especially when considering kicking, but for illustration we will keep it simple. ALL THESE DRILLS MUST BE DONE WITH FULL SPEED AND POWER; no fooling around and everyone needs to stay focussed.
Start off by learning your attack distances from a static position. It really does not matter whom you pair-off with for this drill; every partner will be different and therefore you need to switch partners frequently. Starting from your standard fighting stance, take turns back and forth attacking with the three punches sequentially. In this drill one member is merely an undefended target (Remember to respect your partner and don't actually hit them; it's their turn next). Make absolutely sure you are launching your attacks from a correct sparring distance; neither too close nor too far away. Because your partner is an undefended target, there is a tendency to either creep up on them slowly and then launch an attack unrealistically close or, conversely, leap from too far away. It is best to always pretend that your helpless partner is actually a blood-thirsty Nidan trying to earn his Sandan in front of a heartless and demanding examiner. Train this several repetitions with numerous partners; it will warm you up and help you get a feel for your own and other's attack distance.
Once everyone has a really good feel for their respective attack distances, the fun really begins. Assign one of the pair to be "initiator", while his opposite is "receiver". In the first stage of this drill the "initiator" must remain static; he has one job and one job only: attack from where he stands with one of the shifting-in attacks previously trained. He must attack the very moment he feels he has the proper (realistic) distance for his chosen attack. Now, on the other side of the drill, the "receiver" starts advancing slowly from far outside his opponent's effective range. The "receiver" shifts inch by inch into range, testing to find the edge of "deadly ground" where his "initiator" will attack. Test this several times; each time starting the approach closer, decreasing the time it takes to enter "deadly ground". Eventually the "receiver" should find himself sitting with his lead foot just inside "deadly ground" so he may shift his head and torso in and out of the danger zone, one moment offering a good target, then suddenly taking it away. An important observation should be made here: there is a tendency for "initiators" to hold back their punches until the "receiver" has advanced close enough that there is no hope of an effective defence. This is likely due to the fact that the initiator does not feel any threat from his opponent (because he is the initiator and therefore doing all the punching in this drill). One way to put the "initiator" on notice about this little dishonesty is to allow the "receiver" to make a pre-emptive body attack if he is capable of touching his opponent's lead hand without difficulty.
For this exercise imagine you are a matador, offering up your body to the enraged bull. Your real intent is to snatch your body out of the path of lethal horns at the last moment, using the power of the bull's own pass to run your own killing sword into his vital arteries. A matador cannot kill the bull without drawing the bull to attack, but for success the bull must attack on the matador's terms.
The point of this drill is to learn to draw or "invite" the attack of the opponent by playing with the distance. The key to making this drill work is that the "initiator" must, without hesitation, attack when he sees the "receiver" enter his effective attack range. The value of this drill to the "initiator' is that he must remain completely focussed and on edge at all times, (aka. "Zanshin"). And of course, the receiver is learning how to control his opponent by controlling distance; well done it is as if you are dictating to your opponent when you want them to attack.
You can use this drill for any attack, including the kicks. Please do so.
Once you have a good feel for this drill from a static position, the students should start moving around as if they really were sparring. In this case "the initiator" may attack with any of the three attacks (or any one single attack as experience dictates) once he feels he is within range. The "receiver" now moves and shifts, trying to remain right on the edge of that invisible sphere, sometimes shifting onto deadly ground to taunt the initiator. Play with this; try to draw the attack or perhaps learn to unbalance your "initiator" by suddenly offering up a target and then, just as suddenly, removing it before your opponent can actually attack. Watch the effect of this game on the opponent. He will typically feel deflated and may let down his guard momentarily, thus creating an opening for your own attack.
Of course there are other forms of sasoi-waza. You can draw a specific attack to a preferred target by purposefully leaving an opening in your guard. An example of this may be dropping your guard to expose your head, encouraging a head attack. The key here would be to keep things subtle: if you leave an obvious and huge opening, you might as well do the "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" to your opponent; he is unlikely to fall for the obvious. If you are against "a kicker", you may play the game by shifting in and out of kicking distance, trying to draw him into using his preferred weapon, or conversely, you may shift inside his kicking range to take away the advantage of his favourite weapon. Either way, you must always strive to control your opponent and maintain the upper hand.
Once we have learned both early interception and intentional drawing of an attack, then we can start playing with timing to our advantage. As I said in my first column, the key to kumite is to always lead the opponent. This specifically does not mean that you always attack; it means that you strive to always dictate the match on your terms. In future columns I will detail drills that train various timing strategies that may be applied in combination with early interception and sasoi-waza.
(See Photo's Below) Position One: I am sitting just outside his comfortable punching range. Here I may not shift my feet much at all, but I may shift my torso and head, weaving in and out of his "deadly ground", trying to incite an attack.
Position Two: Clearly we are much closer and you should note that my opponent is in motion, initiating an attack. I am responding, but I may be too late.
Position 3: I dodged the bullet, but in truth I was hopelessly late: note I am too close for a really effective gyaku-tsuki worthy of an "Ippon". Just because you are inviting the technique does not mean you can stop watching for the telegraphs and apply early interception timing.
Position 4: Despite my late reaction, I get to hit him because... it is my article and I felt like it. Credit goes again to Mike Tchosewski; as tough as they come. Credit to my daughter Calista Jasmine Fleming for the photographs.