Training Strategies
by Sensei Neil Prime

Over the years we have conducted a few sparring seminars. I suppose you can consider any night you spar a learning opportunity, but these nights we really get into what works and what doesn't work for an individual.

It is very important that you concentrate on the needs of each individual. We work these clinics in two formats, hopefully each format showing some positive results in the same round about way.

1) Team Sparring: We separate into 2 groups or teams so to speak. Each individual will spar only one pre-determined opponent. Immediately after the match the karateka will reside to their designated team for a group discussion as to what worked, and what didn't. After each pair of karateka has had their opportunity to spar, we then repeat the process with the same opponent. This now allows you to concentrate on your criticisms in a somewhat controlled environment.

This is a good opportunity also to get judging experience. We have worked the rings like a traditional tournament setting and used 4 corner judges and a referee and we have also had it set up so that the remaining participants (all ranks) surround the ring and everybody becomes a judge. Try arguing a point when it's 12 to 1.

2) Freestyle Rendori: We have a center referee to make sure that good control and the rules of kumite are followed, but instead of stopping when a point is scored we continue the match to allow each karateka work on a flow of offensive and defensive maneuvers. We also designate a coach for each player. The coach will verbally assist while the match is taking place and there is a short conference after the match to highlight the events that have just taken place.

I have personally found that these seminars are not only a lot of fun, but the information received is absolutely invaluable. You can see a noticeable difference in all participants from the beginning of the evening to the end of the evening. This is especially good because while you are personally improving your technique, so is your opponent. Quite often it is a chore to score a point near the end of the evening because both karateka are mentally in tune to what they are doing. The key is that you learn by doing!

When involved in a seminar as such there are a few points to try to remember to make the most of this learning situation.

1) Have a goal in mind before you start. Whether you are going to be concentrating on your footwork, or on counter fighting, using a set choice of combinations, being the aggressor, what ever it may be, you have to have a plan.

2) Stick to your plan. Don't worry about what the other person is doing, Obviously you have to be aware of them, but don't get caught up in their plan. If you are trying to react to the other player then you can't focus on your own goal.

3)Stick to your plan. Even if you are getting scored on time and time again you have to make it work. Your coach should be aware of what you are trying to accomplish, so ask your coach for ideas and feedback. Believe me, it's a lot easier to see what should be done when you don't have to deal with someone attacking you while you're working your technique. It may be a simple distancing or timing problem with a relatively simple solution.

4) Make sure you listen. Put your ego aside and be willing to learn. You would be surprised what a black belt can learn from a kyu belt if you take the time to listen to an honest, insightful critique.

5) Try to absorb what is going on. When you are not sparring yourself, or if your not coaching, don't just sit back and relax. You should be looking at every person as they fight and imagine yourself either as the person you are watching or as the opponent. In both cases you have to try to determine what would you do if you were involved in the match.

We try to hold these types of seminars before each tournament. Every individual will gain something from them whether they are competing or not. It is also a great way to build up a comradery between clubs. You can benefit by working with the people in your own club, but you can benefit more by working with people you don't necessarily get a chance to work out with. In the past we have worked closely with the 4 main clubs in our area, St.Catharines, NOTL, Grimsby and Welland, but I think it's time that we plan a real whopper of a seminar and send out the invites region wide!

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