by Sensei Neil Prime
July, 1995

On April 9th 1995 we had a guest Black Belt instructor from North Carolina visit the St.Catharines Wado Kai Dojo. Former World Heavyweight Champion Joe Lewis led a lengthy seminar with guests attending from as far as Iroquois Falls (16 hours north), although the majority of the 26 attendees were from our local dojos.

Although most of the people had been to last years seminar, there were some new faces who seemed to be very pleased with the results of the day.

Although the physical aspect of these types of seminars is not always super intense, the mental aspects can be. I personally find that there is a lot of information that can be easily missed if you don't spend time with others that were there, and talk about what was said. I have been to many of these types of seminars in the past and also found that making notes as well as practising the techniques discussed make it easier to absorb what was going on.

The first part of the seminar started shortly after 10:00am and continued on until after 1:00pm. In this first segment we worked some basic combination techniques to warm everyone up and discussed what and why we were doing what we were doing. I found a lot of key points were brought up in this first part of the seminar that we later put to practical use.

One of the key issues that was discussed at our sparring seminar during the first part was to make sure you understood the importance of the "5 steps in fighting", as explained by Mr.Lewis.

I will briefly try to explain what these are and mean. This will be open to various interpretations by others who attended the seminar... which is the beauty of being able to think for ourselves.

1) BRIDGING THE GAP. The "gap" is the space that separates you from your opponent. Often getting through your opponents defence without getting hit yourself can be a problem. This is what most people have to work on (and we haven't even started to spar yet!).

2) MAKING CONTACT. This does not necessarily mean to strike, but to possibly create a diversion of some sort that will cause a reaction, that will in turn create an opening. What you must consider here is that we are dealing with an opponent of equal ability, one that won't allow you to just walk in and take advantage of them.

3) ENGAGEMENT. This is where our techniques come in handy. The more practised the technique is, the better chance of it doing what you want it to do.

4) DISENGAGEMENT. How to effectively retreat your attack without getting counter attacked.

5) RE-ENGAGEMENT. This may be a parting strike or an added angular attack after the initial techniques are executed to make your disengagement more effective and/or to let your opponent know that your not quite finish.

During the second half of the seminar we worked on putting this together. We also at this point were made aware of the tools used to critique our own sparring.

Knowing that every opponent may have a different advantage (speed, power, agility, execution of techniques, etc...) we must first learn to identify what that advantage is and take it away from them.

The aspect of not getting hit is very important because you can't defeat what you can't hit. Mr Lewis states this very adamantly. This might sound a bit funny coming from a full contact fighter, but it was his key to success and far too often do I see people spar with the "trade your punch for my punch" idea. In point sparring the first punch wins, in full contact sparring the loser had usually taken most punches and in a real world situation, you just plain don't want to get hit.

The other key factor is to make sure every situation you enter you have a plan. Without some type of direction you can only react to what is going on around you instead of controlling what is in front of you. (This holds true in everything we deal with in life).

In summary to the 5 hours of training...

I am impressed with the way Mr. Lewis can bring the best out of people, and I am impressed with the way he makes you think. These seminars don't teach you any ancient samurai secret fighting rituals... they make you aware of what you are doing. Only if you are aware of the mistakes you make can you work on correcting them and continue building on your strengths. He never tries to change a person himself, he only tries to give you the tools to build onto your own foundations.

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