Posted by: B Gourley | June 6, 2011

Randori Keiko: Don’t Let The Training Wheels Get Stuck in a Rut

In free-form “sparring” training, sometimes we start out putting limiting conditions in place before gradually ramping up to completely free exchanges. Such an approach is invaluable. Often times good technique goes out the window under the pressures of facing unknown attacks. As I mentioned a couple posts ago, raw instinctual responses are often far from ideal [this is why we train in the first place.]

So, for example, a training scenario may involve having a set attacker and a set receiver, and the receiver may just practice evasion. This can teach an individual the importance of footwork. Without such an approach, students have an overwhelming tendency to become rooted in place in the proverbial “toe-to-toe” like some sort of single-camera Hong Kong Kung fu flick. Eliminating the need to be concerned with counter-attacks lets one put all one’s attention into footwork, and can also help prevent the bad habit of over-extending to intercept attacks.

However, there is a substantial risk that participants in such a scenario will fail to be sufficiently mindful. First and foremost, the attacker, not being concerned about incoming attacks, may press forward more than they would in reality (i.e. a situation in which they might take one on the chin for loitering in range too long.) This, in turn, gives the receiver a skewed set of options. A receiver may not recognize when they should move out because they are disproportionately facing attacks that are too close, and, therefore, for which moving in is optimal.

I’m increasingly conflicted about the virtue of such constrained randori because, for all its virtues, it seems to encourage / require too much thinking, when the objective is not thinking.

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