Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Feeling the Pressure

I have two separate gradings coming up on the weekend of the 5th and 6th December. On the Saturday I am grading for 2nd kyu in karate and on the Sunday I am taking my level 1 grading at tonfa at my kobudo club.

This will be my first karate grading with the new syllabus since we joined the SSK in August. It is quite different to the previous style of syllabus with a lot more partner work, including a locking drill, escapes from headlocks and defences from kicks on the ground. I feel I am only just getting to grips with these new aikido and jujitsu techniques that have been added to our karate syllabus. However I do like doing them and find them more useful additions to our self-defence applications.

These extra things are of course in addition to the usual karate kicking and punching combinations, kata, pad work and kumite that I will also be tested on.

Though the karate grading will be quite tough and comprehensive I at least know what to expect and how it will be conducted. I also have a one day course coming up which will focus on the syllabus. I am much more worried about the tonfa grading - this is much more a black box to me. Obviously I know what is on the syllabus but I have no idea how the grading will be conducted or who will be testing me. This is making me much more nervous than I'll be for the karate grading.

My kobudo sensei insists that I am ready for grading and is trying to be reassuring about it but there have been so many different techniques to learn (who would have thought two sticks could be so complicated!) I'm convinced I'll get them mixed up! I'm also concerned that my nerves will mean I don't have full control of the tonfas and my partner will get a bit bashed up. Fortunately my partner will be my husband - so I know he'll forgive me!

I have decided to squeeze an extra training session in tonight. I don't usually go to the Tuesday class because I go to an 'Am Dram' group but I decided to reassess my priorities - I need my tonfa training more than I need my play rehearsal (play's not until April)!

I'm definitely starting to feel the pressure......

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Felicia said...

With all the stuff there is to remember, gradings can make you batty for sure. But you know you will remember it all - and it will flow like it is supposed to.

Your sensei would not let you grade if you were not ready, so all that's left to do is, well, do it!

Know that your friends on the other side of the pond will be with you in spirit and cheering you on every step of the way. Fight like a girl ;-)!

Sue C said...

Thanks Felicia. I feel a lot better after my training session last night - it all seemed to come together quite well. Only problem is I left my tonfas there - what an airhead!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sue,

Good luck with your gradings, you still have some time left but you sure have your work cut out for you. It seems we are more or less in the same boat: although I don’t have a date yet so there’s less immediate pressure I’m preparing for shodan, an exam that will be difficult at best. On top of that I have to take it twice: once in front of my sensei and the rest of the dojo and once in front of a jury of higher Dan-grades (meaning 2d to 5th). To make matters worse I don’t even have the entire and up-to-date syllabus yet and up till now I know nothing of the guidelines and requirements for the exam organized by our federation. Basically I’m pretty much clueless and this isn’t helped by the fact my sensei keeps changing the curriculum, what I do know is I have to know at least 3 defenses to every attack in the kyu-grades, I’m supposed to know the basics of short stick (escrima) and half staff (hanbo-jutsu) but we’re only at the basic striking patterns and I’m to spar at least two people (possibly armed too). If he would just mail me the damn syllabus, even if it’s only a rough draft, but he keeps telling me it will be ready by next training (sigh). Another problem is that since we’re a young club (it was founded last year) we don’t really have advanced students yet so if I’m to pick an uke for the grading I’m pretty much limited to yellow belts. There are a few guys who would do (two younger ones with at least some martial-arts experience and stamina and one older fellow with loads of experience but a very different background than mine) but it’s not the same as a guy more or less your own level whom you’ve known and trained with for years. My preparation has just started but for now I’m training three times a week (that is if my uke doesn’t cancel on me) which to me isn’t nearly enough but it’ll have to do. Yesterday I got together with Marc (the older guy), he’s a first Dan in some weird koryu-style of JJ which is entirely different than ours (on top of that for him it was 20 years ago so it’s not exactly recent knowledge) and apparently it’s better if you have a different technique for every attack so this means even more work. If you want to impress the jury it’s good if you throw in some flashy techniques (high kicks, locks that sent your uke flying, jumping on top of your opponent for some neat choke), something which I’m totally opposed to: if you’re training for the street it’s insane to have that many techniques (you’ll forget half of them) and what looks good usually isn’t what is going to be effective. What a circus. Yet, when in Rome… Gradings haven’t really been that important to me but I really want that black belt.

Anyway, enough ranting, lets try to offer some good advice for your predicament. First of all train as much as you can (obviously): especially if you’re nervous about testing it helps big time if you trained so hard your body remembers and reacts automatically even if your conscious mind goes haywire. This doesn’t need to be with a partner: visualize and go through the motions on your own, even if it’s just for 10 minutes each day you’ll be amazed at how much this helps. I’d suggest training the new material first (the grappling techniques) when you’re with a partner since it’s kinda hard to apply locks on yourself (it really is, I’ve tried ;-) and your uke will need to know exactly what you’re going to do and how he should fall. You need to look good and a clumsy uke will pretty much ruin that, also if your break his arm you’ll need to find a new uke and that’s such a hassle.

As to your kobudo-grading: I’d ask your sensei what the precise requirements are and how it’ll be examined, you have a right to know what you’re getting yourself into and you really need this information to prepare adequately. Still, if he thinks you’re ready you probably are.

Break a leg on the exams and good luck with your preparation,


Sue C said...

Hi Zara,
Shodan. Always a tough one, but then it wouldn't be worth anything if it wasn't. Your syllabus sounds pretty comprehensive.

What is it with Jujitsu clubs and their gradings? When my husband graded for shodan in jj a couple of years ago he had no idea what to expect or what exactly he would be tested on. He was provided with a couple of ukes he had never met before who were high ranking dan grades so he had no idea how well his techniques would work on them until he was actually grading! Fortunately he passed but he didn't enjoy the experience. He felt very negative about the whole thing for quite a while.

I hope your experience is a more enjoyable one. The best advice one martial artist can give to another is practice, practice, practice - we both know that. Good luck!

Welcome to Campus Services said...

Hi Sue

All the very best with both gradings. I'm sure you'll do very well in them both.

Like most people, I've always found gradings to be real nerve-shredding experiences. However, I recently sat (and passed) a krav maga grading.

Although krav spares its practitioners from katas / forms, it is still physically and mentally a very demanding experience.

For all that, I found that I came away feeling that I had had a much more positive experience than what I was used to. When I sat down and examined that experience, I think that what was different was my mental approach to the grading. Basically I decided in advance that I was going to focus on the "experience" of the grading rather than worrying about the end result.

As a result I found myself much more positive, focused and determined. It certainly worked for me!

I don't know if that helps you in any way.



Anonymous said...

We do have to know a lot, especially for shodan. Ju-jutsu was designed to enable one to counter every conceivable attack so you can imagine how much material that is. While there is a principle known as commonality of technique or multiple applicability (meaning one technique can be used to counter a multitude of very different attacks) and this should simplify things (it reduces the amount of techniques and entries you have to remember) I’m told it’s better to select a different technique for every attack since this shows off your technical knowledge (otherwise the jury might think you only know a few techniques). I do know all these locks and throws, I’ve been training them for over 8 years after all, but to me it makes sense to treat similar attacks in a similar manner. A frontal choke (one or both hands) or a lapel-grab (one or both hands, with or without a punch) are basically the same thing and can be dealt with in exactly the same manner so why on earth should you opt to complicate things and tempt Mr. Murphy? Ju-jutsu is quite technical (much more so than other MA) as it is and it requires a lot training to be effective (at least the classical interpretation where strikes are used as a set-up for more advanced techniques) so for me at least it makes sense to streamline things and keep your options to a bare minimum (at least for the major part of training). Apparently this jury is more interested in showcasing classical style and showmanship than in real fighting-skill: at national meetings (organized by the federation) I’ve trained with black belts that were quite good technically but couldn’t fight if it ever came to it, at least not outside the comfort of the dojo. To me attitude and fighting-skill is much more important than showmanship but it seems like I’ll have to compromise at least to a certain level in order to be officially recognized as a ‘master’ (whatever that means). ...

Anonymous said...

In JJ there’s a new trend towards competition and showmanship, basically there are two competition-formats: duo-games whereby two participants who’ve been training together for years showcase self-defense skills in a visually appealing style (a lot of acrobatics and partners basically performing aerial break falls for show) and what is called Ju-jutsu fighting or free fighting. In practice it’s anything but free: although it’s a match between two opponents who go at it to score points and win almost all truly effective techniques are forbidden: as long as there is distance between the two participants it resembles karate point-competition (no strikes to the head and only light contact on the body), as soon as there’s contact the rules change and judo comes into play (only legal judo-throws, no striking whatsoever). When one of the participants falls or is thrown to the ground ground fighting ensues, against with judo-rules (basically only holds, arm locks and chokes) and again no striking. Basically it’s a combination of judo and competition karate and has little to do with real ju-jutsu (no finger locks, no strikes, no low-kicks, no leg locks… basically anything that could end a fight quickly and decisively was eliminated) and it has little self-defense value although a lot of practioners seem to delude themselves into thinking it does and will make them great fighters somehow. Now I’ve got nothing against this practice per se (if they want to play that’s their choice, to each his own) but the problem is that this attitude seems to be become prevalent in juries for Dan-exams too and I do think this is a bad thing: ju-jutsu is meant to be effective and win fights by any means necessary, if you remove this attitude and skill-set and you only value showmanship and technical mastery you’re basically turning the art into a mere sport, a spectacle meant to woo amateurs and you’re undermining the effectiveness of the system. In a lot of clubs competition becomes the main goal and self-defense training is regulated to second place (at best, sometimes even conditioning is more important since it’s more useful for matches) and hardly trained properly or updated. ...

Anonymous said...

Maybe I should have stayed at my old dojo or at least combined training since they know how to make it look pretty and sophisticated. After my old sensei retired he appointed his successor after which my current sensei left (he was sempai who trained with sensei for over 12 years and was to be heir to the throne so to speak) the dojo was becoming more and more competition-orientated and the original style diluted since the current sensei lacks certain technical skills and wasn’t fully trained in the arts principles and practices. While I’m sure a few of their current members are good at what they do (raking in medals) and a few of them could still fight if necessary (they got their base earlier on) our style is more true to the fundaments and will actually be effective in reality, not just on the mat with a referee. I left because I just couldn’t take this horsing around, the lack of superior techniques in the teacher (when he’s not better at it than you are you know it’s time to leave) and the unrealistic way of training: if you think people on the street will attack you with a neat oi-tsuki or will play by well defined rules you’re in for a rude surprise and hitting nothing but air all the time will never produce hard-hitting and effective weapons.

I think the main difference between karate and ju-jutsu gradings (at least from what I’ve heard) is that in JJ you pretty much decide on the technique you’re going to use (there are so many of them and you can pick whichever suits you best), at least at the higher levels, while in karate things are much more prearranged (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). Both ways have upsides and downsides and training in JJ can be confusing at times, still there is merit in letting people decide for themselves since it forces them to develop skills and techniques they’re best at. There is a great deal of specialization in JJ since it’s a very broad system and attacks can be dealt with in many ways. In any case the fundamentals are the most important and requirements should be crystal clear: I’m absolutely willing to put in the work but I want it to be worthwhile and I want to know what I can expect and what my training should be aimed at.

We’ll see how it goes, keep me informed as to how your training and grading goes.


John W. Zimmer said...

Hi Sue,

Hang in there... it was always a little fun and un-nerving testing. But you will perform the same way you train... if you are happy with your practice I am sure you will do fine!

Indomitable Spirit said...

I trained in an eclectic system that valued principles and concepts above technique. So I agree with Zara that if you understand the principle, then it shouldn't really matter what technique you use.

We also have to consider Hick's Law, which basically says that the more options you have, the slower your response will be, because your brain has to sort through them all to decide what to use. That process may take milliseconds, but that delay could very well be the difference between winning and losing, living or dying.

I certainly agree with the need to drill, drill, drill. Sadly it seems that students in the west are way too anxious to get onto what they perceive as the 'cool' stuff, to spend their time on the 'boring'.

I blame MMA for some of this attitude. I train MMA, and help teach and I love it, but the students can be the worst for lack of patience and not wanting to drill. I also train in traditional martial arts, and see a very different attitude from the students. Doing both gives me a balance to my training that I find very valuable.

Sometimes I fear that MMA is becoming a place for those who only want to scrap and roll around the mats with their mates but don't have the patience or the willingness to train in traditional systems.



Sue C said...

Hi Avril (I see you have many guises!). I think just aiming to enjoy the experience rather than focusing on the end-point is good advice.

I wrote a post about MMA on my other blog in Martial News (you can link to it from the 'about me' section in my side bar). I admit I know next to nothing about MMA so it might give you a laugh - or make you want to put me straight on a thing or two!

I've added your new blog to my blogroll - it's looking good.

John - thanks for the encouragement. I don't usually get worked up about grading, it's just the fact there is two on them in one weekend but I'm sure I'll be fine.

Zara - I agree that it can potentially be a problem when a sports side of the art gets introduced into the dojo - it can change the priorities of the instructor, which won't suit all the students. Sport karate is quite a big part of shukokai karate but I am lucky in my club that a clear distinction is made about what is sport and what is traditional karate. So though we are encouraged to train and enter both kata and kumite competitions (not compulsory) we still spend at least half of our time training with traditional karate. I think the kumite training is useful because it teaches speed and agility as well as having to think on your feet. It also gives you the courage to face an opponent. Though the sparring techniques are useless for street defence the other skills learnt could be useful when coupled with more effective self-defence techniques so there is a useful cross-over between the sports side and self-defence training.

Indomitable Spirit said...

Hi Sue

Just the two - couldn't cope with any more than that, lol.


Indomitable Spirit said...

And you're not that far off the mark in your analysis of MMA.

All of us who teach or help teach in my MMA club all have a background in traditional martial arts, and this forms the core of how we train and teach.

Many of our students don't have that background, and show little or no interest either.

One of the positives of MMA is its accessibility. Being a sport, it's much more available to the average person on the street. I'm always amused listening to the guys at work discussing the relative merits of kicks to the head and body. You certainly wouldn't hear them discussing a traditional martial arts tournament that way!



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