We will discuss ways in which you might enhance your training in this section. As you will discover, your skills and knowledge will grow substantially as you observe, consider, and experience new ideas, patterns of movements, and skills. Watch, listen, experiment and learn through every possible venue.
Martial arts tournaments are a fantastic way to gain experience and to judge your skills relative to those of others. Even if you do not participate in a tournament you can still learn a great deal. Simply sitting in the stands and watching the participants, judges, tournament organizers, audience, and concessionaires can teach you a great deal. You will notice how the standout athletes perform relative to others. You will also notice that individuals who do not exhibit a clear purpose to their movements seldom fare well in scoring. If you decide to participate in a tournament you will learn even more about yourself and what is required to excel in tournament performance.
Exhibitions and Demonstrations
You will periodically find a martial arts school or club that puts on a demonstration. This could be at a local event, during a parade, or as an open-house event at a Dojo. You should consider attending as many of these as your schedule permits. You will get to see a mixture of both good and mediocre martial artistry and will learn a good deal about what works and does not work well both for demonstration purposes and as general martial arts skills. You will want to notice both what is done well and what could have been done better. As we will discuss later, you will also want to notice what patterns of movement are both similar and dissimilar to movements you have learned and practiced. Comparing and contrasting is an excellent want to judge how well you are advancing as a martial artist and where you may wish to make improvements.
Many instructors and martial arts schools hold training seminars and learning events that are open to members of a school, organization, or to any martial artist (or the general public). Some of these seminars are restricted to only members of the sponsoring school or organization, but often any martial artist can attend (for a fee, of course). These seminars are often excellent for acquiring different perceptions or for sharpening specific skill sets. You will always come away with some knowledge you did not possess previously. In Tensoku Ryu we encourage students to attend seminars provided by their school and by the Sei Tensoku Ryu. We also encourage students to attend seminars provided by other instructors and martial arts systems. Again this allows you to compare and contrast your skills with other attendees and to gain additional insights that you may not have (yet) achieved in your Tensoku Ryu training.
Learning to spar will teach you a great deal about the dynamics of a conflict. Things seldom pan out as you might imagine in your mind. Sparring is extremely tiring and you will quickly come to understand why you never give an opponent time to think. Sparring also teaches you a great deal about such things as maintaining a proper guard, using combination movements, moving off-center, distancing, and timing. These are skills that are difficult to acquire without having done some form of sparring. Whenever possible spar with a training partner to help sharpen your skills in this area. You need not subject yourself to hard contact to learn a great deal.
Isometric, Anaerobic, Aerobic Training
The martial arts is a bit unique when compared to many sports in that you need to train in a great many different ways. You will need the aerobic training of a runner or boxer, the quick energetic bursts provided via anaerobic training, and the strength developed by isometric training. Most of these skills will be afforded in various ways in your regular classes, but you may also wish to now add additional training in all of these areas as you prepare for the rigors of this belt and the more advanced training you will experience later. You will find this belt is much more physically and mentally demanding than prior belts. You will want to prepare for these challenges by engaging in more vigorous and varied exercises.
Wear Protective Gear
The martial arts are a contact sport. You will no doubt experience injuries at various times in your training. To minimize these injuries you should wear appropriate protective gear when training. It is not necessary to wear headgear, gloves, a chest protector and a mouth guard to your private lesson (unless you will be practicing sparring), but you will likely still want to wear groin protection and ensure that any temporary supports such as braces or medical devices cannot be damaged or cause injuries (to yourself or others) while training.
If you spar you must wear full sparring gear to reduce the risk of what could be a serious injury. We do not allow any exceptions to this rule. If you are sparring, you must be in full gear.
If you find you have some idle time at the Dojo find someone else with idle time and work together on some skill set. Perhaps practice Nage, Kansetsu Waza, self-defense skills, fundamental skills (kicking, blocking, striking, falling, etc.), Tensoku Ryu conceptual training, or partner exercises. You have learned a tremendous amount of material up to this point in your training. Much of it can stand some additional practice. Rather than sitting idly in the Dojo think of something you have not practiced in a while and get busy. You’ll learn a lot, perhaps make a new friend, and sharpen your skillset.
By the conclusion of this belt, you will have studied over twenty different Kata in Tensoku Ryu. These Kata provide you with a tremendous wealth of training opportunities. Not only can it be physically challenging to work through any or all of the Kata in sequence, but the material in each Kata can also offer you an endless supply of new learning opportunities.
Here are some things you should consider doing with Kata, especially those you have learned in prior belts.
- Change the timing of your movements. Different timing can lead to varied assumptions about what you are doing. Change the timing of delivery of individual movements, sometimes going faster and sometimes slower. Also, change the timing between any two movements. Finally, change the timing of multiple sequences so that some of the movements are fast while others are slower. There is a lot you can learn from varied timing.
- Think of different Bunkai. Change the purpose of movements. Change something you had been thinking of as a block into a parry, check, or strike of some kind. Do the same thing with strikes. Think of them as Onna No Atemi Waza or as blocks, parries, and checks. Every time you think of a movement differently you will perform it differently. This changing variety not only offers you endless ways in which you can apply movements, but it also trains you to think differently. Consider, for example, how Kihonteki Shodan can be used as an offensive Kata. There are limitless opportunities in this rudimentary Kata.
- Think of individual movement sequences as being one single sequence. If you face angle four and perform some movement then turn to angle two and do some other movement, think how this sequence of movements might be applied as a combined sequence against a single opponent. Consider how movements in the first sequence can be used to ensure the opponent is properly positioned so that you can readily perform the movements in the second sequence. There are many such opportunities in Kata.
- Think of different uses for movements. If a pattern of movement seems well suited to dealing with an opponent’s punch, think of how the movement might be applied to different kicks as well. This is often possible. Even when it is not you will appreciate the type of movements not to employ against that form of a kick.
- Vary your stance elevation. You will see different things if you are positioned at different elevations.
Essentially anything you change in how you think about or perform a Kata will offer you some new insight. This is a fundamental way of thinking in Tensoku Ryu. Your forms represent lifelong learning tools. The only times when a Kata cannot teach you something is when you are not practicing it or when you consistently practice it, in the same way, each time.
Sitting in the Dojo is not always idle time. You can learn a tremendous amount by spending some time in observation. Watch how more senior practitioners move. Compare those movements and your own with junior or beginning practitioners. You should see quite a range of difference. Now try to appreciate the nature of these differences. How is one person using his or her body differently than another? Through observation you will notice things that you are doing well, things you can improve, and things you need to reevaluate.
But observation is also useful outside of the Dojo. Sitting on a bench in a public area (busy park, mall, airport, etc.) can teach you a lot about how people move, how different body types distribute weight and balance, and where people with different body styles are both weak and strong. This can provide you with insight into the event you are confronted by someone with a particular style of body.
Just ensure you do not use every idle moment in the Dojo as “observation.” Make each observation a specific task. If you don’t have a task, then find a training partner and invent one.