Sparring, Contests and Fighting

Discussion in 'Kenpo' started by DAnjo, Oct 6, 2006.

  1. DAnjo

    DAnjo Valued Member

    On another thread that got locked so fast I didn't have time to respond when I got home from work, this topic came up and the idea of "Aliveness" in training was brought up. I thought it'd be a good topic for discussion aside from anyone attacking a particular martial art or style. I thought we could also look at the various training methods used with a partner and get some definitions out of the way as well.


    There are various sub-categories to this one (Please feel free to add your own if I left it out or put forth your own definition if you think it adds to mine).

    1) Point Sparring/Tournament Sparring (basically Tag in the Karate world, or Ippon in the Judo world) where after a point is awarded, the participants go back to the starting point and continue until the time runs out or the maximum number of points needed to win are accumilated by one contestant.

    2.) Free Sparring/Randori Where in Karate type arts, the participants engage in a limited contact form of kickboxing that can include take-downs and ground work. In the grappling arts, it consists of takedowns, throws and wrestling.

    3) "Aliveness" sparring I will leave to others to define for now since I think this is where we are going to run into the biggest differences.

    4)pre-set sparring drills Whether this is the one-step and three-step sparring in Shotokan, or the Combinations in Shaolin Kempo, or the Punch counters in Kajukenbo or the pre-set techniques of EPAK or Tracy's Kempo, they are designed to build one's muscle memory, flow, power, and reflexes using proper form and technique in a controlled setting.

    There are doubtless others that I have left out such as Chi Sao etc. of which I have limited understanding and so must leave for others to define.


    These are everything from the point sparring of tournaments, to the grappling contests of jujutsu and Judo to the full contact kickboxing of the PKA and Muy Tai, to the MMA fighting of Pride and the UFC. Each has it's own rules and regulations which emphasize different skills and training requirements. In a contest, both people are willing participants and usually posess some fighting skill.

    Generally the Tournaments have light to no contact, while the full contact is self explanatory as is the Vale Tudo MMA stuff. MMA matches rarely pit one style against another these days as most of the participants train in a pretty generic punching-grappling style much like boxing, i.e., there are differences between people like Ali and Marciano, but not like the contests of 15 years ago. The old Karate versus BJJ etc. are largely behind us in terms of vale tudo fights.


    This is the stuff that one rarely sees examples of. Unless one happens to be caught on tape or takes one's video camera and picks fights as in "Bum Fights" etc., one is left with contests and sparring footage to judge a style or system by.

    There are no rules here and no referees. There are no time limits, nor is there a way to know in advance what your opponent knows (usually). Usually, when one criticizes a martial art, they say something like, "That wouldn't work in a real fight." and they are usually thinking of a contest like one of the one's above. To me there's a big difference between any contest and a real fight and one should keep in mind which he means when stating this.

    Well, I think videos, anecdotes etc. should be welcome here for the purpose of sharing and learning.

    And please feel free to write your own versions of what I've put on here.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2006
  2. Colin Linz

    Colin Linz Valued Member

    I think it would be safe to say that it is not practical to have a totally free form of fighting as a training method. I think it would also be fair to work on the premise that many of us are doing martial arts because of its self-defence characteristics. This concept should make us feel that sustaining significant injuries is countered productive to our reasons for training.

    I believe the best training is to have a mix of methods that allow a relative safe simulation of various scenarios. There is nothing wrong with simulations as a tool to prepare for reality; our armed forces and emergency services use this effectively all the time.

    I don’t feel that competition is all that good on its own as it is too limiting; however if you enjoyed it it would be a good adjunct to other methods of training.

    In Shorinji Kempo we use a number of methods. With our basic pair form practice we always try to make a realistic attack for the defender to defend against. If is a goho attack then you must try to hit or kick them with the proper distance and on target, if it juho then you must try to throw them or put a lock on them. At first the attack may not be too aggressive so that defender has time to get their head around the technique. As competency grows the attacker can be more forceful in applying the attack. Further to this is the practice of ran han ko, this is where the defender follows on from the set counter attack with a series of realistic counter attacks of their choice and the original attacker has to defend against them. This counter attack is free, providing the counter is one flowing string of combinations.

    We also use embu, embu is a prearranged fighting sequence of a few minutes made up from techniques within the participants syllabus. It should be done at full speed with accurate targeting and distance. The techniques should be realistic and not hollywood style ********. Embu is a great tool in developing links between techniques and using techniques in a dynamic environment. We also use embu for demonstrations so it is common to see some exaggeration in techniques to allow the audience to see and understand what is happening.

    We use a number of different styles of randori. Some are designed to simplify the environment; they work by selecting a focus on one area and concentrate on training for this. This is great when students are trying to use new techniques realistically. Some are designed to relieve the stress so that students can be more experimental; this helps stop them from just retreating or practicing what they can already do. Some randori is done in circumstances that places stress on the students, this is needed to help them learn strategies of dealing with it. Some randori will be practiced with protective gear so that full power can be used while still having a safety element, while other randori will be done without safety gear as people behave differently when they are at risk of injury. As students become more proficient the randori environment becomes less restricted. We use randori for both our goho and juho techniques, although they usually aren’t combined at earlier stages of development as the juho needs some basic skills honed well before it can be used freely and safely.

    Shorinji Kempo’s philosophy of training is to work in pairs, break down the required elements, practice them, and then tie it all back together again. Once a technique is understood then move on to how it works best for you, how you can apply it in a free environment and then what you can do to modify or change it when the technique fails.
  3. DAnjo

    DAnjo Valued Member

    I agree with this. The idea that one has to actually go out and fight to improve is silly. In addition to the military, police departments and the FBI have used simulators such as "Hogan's Alley" etc. with great effectiveness for decades.

    Yes, but it's FUN!

    These sound like good training methods.

    Thanks for sharing this. It sounds like a very balanced system.
  4. BGile

    BGile Banned Banned

    colin linz,

    I appreciate your post and I believe the information to be high in content, informaive and quite lengthy. I liked it.

    Shao Lin is a seagod'es in the Minds of China and the power they had when in the 14th century they ruled the seas of the world.

    Any comment on how it is mentioned, regarding your lineage. Shorin + Ji
    meaning Shao Lin +. What is the Kanji of your style?

    Regards, Gary
  5. DAnjo

    DAnjo Valued Member

    Gary, please start a different thread to discuss that aspect of his art. Thanks.
  6. Rebel Wado

    Rebel Wado Valued Member

    Good posts DAnjo and Colin Linz.

    Before this goes too far, I believe many do not understand that "aliveness" is not a training method. It is not defined as sparring, it is not defined by competition, etc.

    In my understanding, aliveness is, for a lack of better word, a stage of training. The key to aliveness is energy, movement, and resistance.

    For instance, take a partner drill where one holds up pads and the other punches the pads:

    1) If the pads are held up and the other hits them, this is static (not alive).

    2) If the pads are not held up all the time but just when they are to be hit using some set pattern, this still considered static but is better than #1.

    3) If the pads are put up at random, this is better than #2 but still static because there is no movement.

    4) If the pads are put up at random to be hit and the pad holder moves around in the same directions, this is still static because the movement is predictable.

    5) If the pads are put up at random to be hit and the pad holder moves around like it was a real fight... this is almost live training. It has random movement, has energy, but lacks resistance.

    6) If the pads are put up at random, the pad holder moves around like it was a real fight, and the pad holder occassionally hits the other back forcing the other to block or get out of the way... this is alive training. The next level would be to actually spar against an non-compliant opponent (this is also alive but is a stage above partner training).

    Alive training is a stage of training that is better than static training, but in order to reach this stage, one might start first with static training.

    The ONLY ISSUE is that some people never "graduate" to alive training. They stay with pre-set patterns (static training), only doing alive training maybe less than 10% of the time during sparring or something like that. They neglect the alive training.

    By black belt levels, 90% of the training should be alive by some accounts. That means pad work should be done in an alive manner, technique work should be done in an alive manner, etc. Perfecting technique and learning new things would still have static elements, however. One will always have reasons for static practice. Just as alive training should not be neglected, static training should not be neglected either for many reasons.

    Also, IME, you don't need full contact fighting to have alive training. Full contact training is, however, a stage above alive training that can be beneficial for many reasons both for competition and self-defense. So there are reasons to at least occassionally have exposure to a full contact environment.
  7. James Kovacich

    James Kovacich RENEGADE

    As far as "aliveness" relates to ones training, at your level you should be doing it already. It isn't "no form." It is the level at which we react without thinking. We are able to use skills from over the years at any time without thinking, just doing.
  8. BGile

    BGile Banned Banned


    Thanks for that thought, I guess it is off the topic. Yes, if I don't get a reply maybe colin could pm me.

    Regarding the topic. I find more injuries in this particular subject then actual
    confrontations in the real world, why go there?

    Funakoshi did not do it so are you figuring it is a proper tech.
    I feel many things are lost when resorting to the male ego desire to combat that has gone on since time immemorial, one of the reasons I do like FMA you can work out have contact but it is the stick that take's the beating not the body.

    Sometimes in the take aways it can get hard on you. But I believe that part is for the higher learning of the art. Same with this subject.

    Need to know the art before you fight that is for sure takes a progression of learning.

    I certainly would not want a highschooler to debate an experienced person with out all the tools.
    Which I dont believe the lower ranks have. Unless you have some outside experience to bring to the room.

    I have seen good martial artists hurt with sparring, egos get going and knees suffer or some other location that does not recover as it should have been in the first place with proper training. The contest should be in the ring and only the student know's, when that time is right.

    I believe.
    Regards, Gary
  9. BlackCatBonz

    BlackCatBonz New Member

    Danjo, i must say i agree with your assessment of the various modes of practice and implementation.

    I also agree that one does not have to go out and fight for real to become a good guy might go out and totally kick ass, another with exactly the same training might develop lockjaw and get his ass kicked.

    I look at martial arts like's there in case you need it, but it doesnt always come through in the pinch.

    good post.
  10. DAnjo

    DAnjo Valued Member

    Thanks for the definition of aliveness. I think this reflects pretty well what I had in mind. Let me assure everyone that Kajukenbo does plenty of aliveness training. In fact, most of the places I've ever trained have engaged in this to some extent. I definitely agree, however, that static training is also an ongoing neccessary component of training. I don't notice boxing champions neglecting bag and pad work.
  11. James Kovacich

    James Kovacich RENEGADE

    You posted well but as predicted the definition of aliveness can very and I'd consider you're #6 more of on the threshold of aliveness. In Eskrima we have a similar drill I'd also consider "on the threshold" where the attacker can strike with any (or multiple) of the 12 strikes and the defender must block and strike or the the attacker can strike with any (or multiple) of the 12 strikes and the defender must do a disarm.

    I think that there may be differant level of aliveness as well but the main ingredient which you hit right on is what it takes to get to aliveness. One can't have one with the other.
  12. BGile

    BGile Banned Banned

    You mention.

    Hi akja,
    We have talked, but quite a while ago. Are you going to be going to the Gathering in Sac. this week end. If so you will see quite a bit of FMA.
    Many styles, are usually represented it is usually very good.

    Different strokes for different folks, they say :)
    One without the other ;)
  13. BGile

    BGile Banned Banned


    Yes that is the way, takes much time and training.
    I dont believe the way is Kata.
    Judo Gene was mentioning that he took some instructions and the Sensei informend him Kata is xxxt. He has many holds and can get to them as long as there is an opening or not, he is/was very good.

    What style do you train in? FMA. Inosantos stuff?

    Goes the same way with a boxer.

  14. Colin Linz

    Colin Linz Valued Member

    I’m not sure what your point is here. Possibly you have misunderstood my use of free fighting. What I was saying is that it is not practical to have a scenario of practice were opponents have no rules at all, there needs to be some limiting factors. At an experienced level we sometimes practice full contact with no banned targets, but we always have some form of understanding that provides a level of safety like the instructor stepping in to stop the randori if a participant is in trouble. There is no point practicing self-defence if the very act is going to kill or severely injure you.

    We use various forms of randori to achieve instinctive use of techniques in a random environment. The ran from randori or ran han ko literally means chaos. It refers to a the chaotic environment of a real fight where you have no idea what the other person will do and everything is fair game.

    Our training is based on the Japanese concept of Shu Ha Ri. Shu being beginner level where you just copy your instructor, Ha being an intermediate level where you have come to understand the basic concepts of the techniques and have adapted the techniques to your own body and can use them freely, Ri being the highest level where you start to develop new techniques based on the concepts you have learned.
  15. Colin Linz

    Colin Linz Valued Member

    I don’t want to create a diversion from what is being discussed, but if you want some information on us check out the links in my signature. Yes, Shorinji does mean Shaolin Temple, and it is written in the same kanji.

    If you want to discus this I’ll respond in more detail if you start a new thread for it.
  16. James Kovacich

    James Kovacich RENEGADE

    Colin, we are slightly on differant pages. But free fighting doesn't "truely" equate to aliveness as it relates to martial arts. If it did, then anyone ioff the street would qualify.

    I think I maybe misunderstood this quote as you thinking that free form=aliveness.
    "I think it would be safe to say that it is not practical to have a totally free form of fighting as a training method."

    I beleive that aliveness "can" be related to full contact but truely is the "actual state" of training or fighting totally without pre-arrangment of any kind.

    Thats why I replyed to Rebel Wados post where he stated what he tbeleived was aliveness and I said I thought it to be on the "thresshold of aliveness."

    Because with his example and my example (which followed). Even though it technically was not pre-arranged. It was still "attached" to pre-arranged drills.

    If you attack me I do not know what techniques I will use until exactly the moment when I react and when I react I will not think about it. It will just happen.
  17. James Kovacich

    James Kovacich RENEGADE

    Inayan Eskrima.
  18. BGile

    BGile Banned Banned


    Great stuff.

    I am familiar with it. Hanshi teachs the Cabalas and Carlito does also.
    I have been to numeous classes and It is good stuff. I have talked to many about it.
    I believe it will be on display at the Gathering "Original system of Cabales"
    Anthony Davis will be there, I heard.

    It is a small world this one we call Martial arts.

    Sensei Pat Kelly teach's it at the school I go to. Cabalas and others also.
    The man is an encyclopedia of knowledge about FMA and Kempo and many other arts.

  19. Rebel Wado

    Rebel Wado Valued Member

    Threshhold of aliveness would be a correct interpretation of taking a sparring drill with a partner and making it alive.

    No one probably knows more about aliveness than Matt Thornton, here is some of what he has to say about it from ( ):

    Now what I feel is one of the big misconceptions is the belief that aliveness is a method of training, but not thinking it also as a stage of training as I defined. Matt Thornton describes the method.

    The training method starts like this:

    If you look at the above, the method of aliveness training is well stated by Mr. Thornton.

    However, what I attempted to define was not the method of aliveness, but instead the difference between static and aliveness. Basically how to take a sparring drill that is static and instead turn it into alive training.

    I think this is key distinction because many of the partner drills done in martial arts that are considered static because they use set patterns, but they can be changed to be alive through the progression of resistance. Yes they are still drills, and yes they would be just at the "threshhold of alive" but they are still alive and not static. In this manner of thinking, aliveness is a stage of training that one can reach above static drills.

    This is different than Matt Thornton's method of starting with only alive training. I make the distinction for those that want to keep traditional methods of training but then add aliveness to it.

    Make sense?
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2006
  20. BGile

    BGile Banned Banned

    Colin Linz

    Hi, that would be great, I find your knowledge to be of high caliber I would really like to discuss this Topic.

    I was in your area in 1960 Sydney and Melbourne, Not so sure where you are though? It is a pretty big chunk of turf.

    I'll think of something to call it so it is not so restricted to just that.

    As far as this topic is concerned I am of the feeling that to use some kata and teaching basics is essential, they have about 5/6 strikes in Boxing.

    They have 5 strikes in some systems of FMA and it can climb from there.
    I believe that the world has gotten to commercilized and it is for that reason more than anything else they add and add.

    Some believe if the strike is from the right hi med lo it is easy to learn because it is treated as a strike from the right, your left. Of course the same for one from the left, your right. Then you have the over head and below with not a strike but a stab.

    When you want to mix and add knife/dagger or sword and dagger.

    The contact is not as much as other systems but there is contact. I have mentioned injuries as being the number one reason I am against it (contact)

    I like drills more of them the better, but at some time the student is just going to look at them like I mentioned from the right or left or center.

    Foot movement is essential for it, and they, then have drills to do them and with that is the essential Cardio that comes with it.
    Continious movement.
    Some will call it spontanious others explosive or a conception of the whole rather then a piece of it.

    The folds of the body are very important, one needs to know them, If you know the weakness's of the body, then you know where to best strike or hurt or manipulate the other person. Kata is good for elementary work to learn.
    Others have different opinions.
    It would be nice to talk them, rather than shove the minor points of a pinecone, when if thrown and it hits you it hurts, that is the name of that tune. The whole of it, is all the different parts, put together.


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