Monday, 20 May 2013

Pre-dan for Nidan

On Saturday I had my pre-dan course. This is an assessment of your ability to meet the standard for the dan grading a few weeks later. Like I mentioned in a previous blog, I was expecting to grade for nidan at the end of June.

However, the verdict of the grading panel at the end of the course was that I was ‘borderline’ and they have left it up to me to decide whether I want to give it a try or postpone until the next dan grading session in November. My husband (and martial arts partner) has been given the all clear to grade for nidan in June.

Prior to the pre-dan course I would have imagined this scenario of whether to press on regardless so that we can grade together or grade on separate occasions would have been quite a dilemma for me. As it happened the decision seemed very clear cut. Before I had even left the changing rooms I had decided that I would postpone my grading until November and concentrate on helping my husband to pass his in June.

We have graded together on every occasion since white belt, which, if you include our kobudo gradings amounts to 17 gradings; but it was inevitable that at some point our grading schedules would part company. I have done well to keep up with him this long but this time I just can’t keep up, I’m not ready for nidan grading yet and he is. My husband has four years more experience in martial arts than me, he did jujitsu before karate and holds a black belt in that art as well, and this experience massively influences his ability to do karate.

I don’t want to hold him back and I don’t want to risk failure for myself so it makes sense for us to grade separately this time. I would hate to be one of those passed it by the skin of her teeth or pulled it off on the day people. It’s just not budo. I want to feel comfortable in my skin with nidan so I need to be patient and wait.

There are advantages for both of us in grading separately. It is doubly exhausting to both grade yourself and be a grading partner for someone else at the same time. You have to remember their techniques (which may be different to your own) so that you can remember what kind of attacks they want from you at different times during the grading. It will be easier on both of us if we only have to concentrate on one role at a time!

I can now focus on helping my husband to finish his preparations for his grading and make sure I am fully familiar with his techniques so that I can be a good partner for him. I know he will return the favour for me in my preparations for November.

So I soldier on! I will have to do another pre-dan assessment in October which I won’t particularly look forward to (they don’t tend to be very positive experiences for me) but hopefully I will get the all clear next time!

Bookmark and Share
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Friday, 10 May 2013

A kid's sparring alternative...

Kid’s love sparring don’t they? Their faces light up when they are told to get their sparring mitts on and they run off enthusiastically to fetch them out of their bags.

Though I'm not a huge fan of sports karate for adults I do think it’s a great exercise for kids. It develops fitness, courage, reaction times, and a sense of strategy. It also toughens them up a bit and teaches them to show a bit of humility whether they win or lose.

So it is with some sadness that I can’t introduce the kids to sparring in my after-school class. Why? Because they have no sparring mitts! These are kids doing a 6 week introductory course in karate, wearing just their P.E. kits. No gi, no belt, no kit!

To give them a taste of the thrill of sparring I’ve had to be a little inventive. I take in as many belts as I can find (all my old coloured belts, my kobudo club belts and any other spares I can put my hands on) and teach the kids how to tie them on. Then I have cut up several old white belts into strips of about 10 inches long and give them one each to tuck into the front of their belts – this tab becomes the target.

We then do a bit of ‘shadow sparring’ to learn how to move around in sport karate and practice a couple of basic block/punch combinations against imaginary opponents. I then pair them up and get them to use the same technique of moving in to their partner to do a reverse punch but instead of punching (no mitts remember) they pull out their partner’s white tab.

After they’ve each had a few goes at moving in to pull out the tab of an unresisting partner they move on to doing it in a more competitive way with both partners trying to get each other’s tabs. This starts to re-create the energy and flow of a real sparring bout with the kids learning to move around each other, guard their own tab and moving in to grab their partner’s tab.

Once they’ve got the hang of it we have a mini competition which helps to teach them the basic rules and etiquette of a sparring match. I divide them into two groups and sit each group either side of the sparring area. I then call up one from each group (matched for size and age) to compete whilst everyone else watches.

I act as referee and get them to stand opposite each other, bow, get into fighting stance and then at my command (hajime) they start to ‘spar’. A point is scored when one of them pulls out the other’s tab and the match is stopped (yame), the kids are put back to their starting position and the point awarded (ippon). They then bow to each other and off they go again. We carry on like this for a set period (usually a minute) and the winner is the one with the most points. At the end the opponents are brought back to starting positions and the winner announced (kachi). All the kids get a chance to have a go at this ‘shia kumite’.

Alternatives include ‘best of three’ points to win or winner is first to score a point. There are rules about staying in the area and penalties and warnings for bad or dangerous behaviour (not that this needs to be invoked very often!).

The kids really enjoy this opportunity to have a go at ‘sparring’ in this way and seem to get a lot out of it. I have found it a useful way to simulate sport kumite when sparring mitts are not available and many of the same skills can be learnt and practiced in a safe way. I haven’t yet introduced any kicks into this style of sparring but there is no reason not to use roundhouse kicks because our real kumite sessions in the club involve only touch contact anyway and we don’t wear any protective body gear.

Hopefully if some of these kids enjoy my karate sessions enough to make them want to join the main club they will be able to hit the ground running a little when introduced to real sparring with mitts!

Bookmark and Share
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.


Related Posts with Thumbnails