On the 25th May I attended the Bushido Hombu sparring seminar in St Albans, along with other members of the Bushido Martial Arts Association. As I had not done a lot of sparring in the past I didn’t know what sort of session to expect.
We started with a quick warm-up including some stretching, then Sensei Kevin showed us the basic concepts for the stance we would mainly use for sparring. We were then shown a footwork drill on how to move left and right while remaining in a poised stance, it is very important not to cross your legs as Sensei Kevin demonstrated how easy it is to sweep both legs if you do this. Once we had understood this how to ideally move in stance we were put into pairs and told that we had to mirror what our partner did, to remain engaged in the “fight”. For example, if my partner moved left then I would move right to maintain distance, if they went backwards then I would go forwards. This was my favourite activity of the session as it took a lot of concentration to try to read your partner’s body to see when and where they would move.
This was a really good exercise as it is similar to what you would do when you are actually sparring , Sensei Kevin made a very good anecdote by saying that sparring in the dojo is the same as a game of chess, you must anticipate and predict what your opponent will do next and then think about how to move in response. This helped my understanding of engagement during sparring.
After practicing moving for a while Sensei Kevin showed us some moves that are very useful to use. One of them was a string of several punches ending with a “floating” punch. It was explained that in competition/grading this “floating” punch is like an insurance that makes sure the referee can see that you have hit your opponent successfully because if they were unsure about whether the previous punches had scored, the floating punch would erase any doubt.
Following this, we were shown how effective it is to step to the side when blocking instead of staying in front of your opponent as this changes the attacker into the defender. We then combined both of these aspects and practiced with a partner.
We finished the session by sparring each other one pair at a time in the ring with 4 corner judges and one referee. not only did we get to practice sparring, but we also had the chance to play the part of referee. This was great as it showed us how the referees judge a fight and how they award the points.
Overall the seminar was a great experience for me as my next grading will require a sparring match and now that I have a better understanding of sparring I feel much more confident about that part of my grading.
By Ross Clark (4th Kyu Karate, 14 years old)