Sparring...what is it and is it worth doing?

jasonbrinn

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Hi Jason,

Not really wanting to get into the rest of this, but I am interested in your Daito Ryu training. Am I right in reading this as saying that your only Daito Ryu training is at seminars, rather than a more formal, regular training? And you were awarded Nidan for that? And, knowing that each different line of Daito Ryu has different ranking requirements, what was needed for Nidan for yourself?


Thanks for the question Chris. As I am sure you know in any koryu art there is only one teacher. In Daito ryu Aikijujutsu Roppokai the shihan is Seigo Okamoto sensei. Okamoto lives in Tokyo and has schools all around the world. I was part of the first American school.

At each school/branch/dokokai "study group" there is appointed a lead. This lead is in charge of running classes, keeping attendance, etc. This lead may teach what Okamoto sensei has taught before but this lead is NOT the instructor and does not award rank. At least 3 times a year (for the most part sometimes 2 just depends on scheduling) Okamoto sensei flies in and holds a week or so of intensive "seminars" lasting ALL day. During this time he works of corrections to past taught techniques as well as teaching new ones (if he feels we are ready).

This is the way everyone outside of Tokyo trains and even at the hombu in Tokyo it is this way because he is not there all the time either. I trained in this organization for 13 years so yes I would say I earned my 2nd dan. However, in koryu arts there was never a "belt system" as things were/are done through awarding mokuroku (scrolls or catalogs). The first scroll is not given out until after 3rd dan. The "belt system" was put in place for the students peace of mind IMO. In most schools in Japan, as I have been told, as long as you are a good person and show up for class within a year you are most likely going to make 1st dan (its much harder in the States and we award for different reasons). Technically your ability is not really scrutinized until you are up for 3rd dan either.

Okamoto sensei said since we were his first American school he was going to grade us much tougher so that there would never be a question as to the rank we earned. He also only agreed to teach us because we already had the basics he said since we were originally a Tomiki Aikido school before switching over. I know he scrutinized my ability because he gave me corrections and things to work on specific to me. I know there were extensive records kept to attendance and hours trained as well because I ran part of the "dokokai" in NC as I lived in Raleigh and the group officially listed in Charlotte.

I also know that I achieved a base technical level because I went around from school to school in NC demonstrating the art due to the fact that it is not so well known and the techniques that Okamoto sensei knows are virtually unseen elsewhere. I had to perform the techniques alone in schools that had never seen them against people who had know idea what I was trying to do. Out of my Raleigh group 4 dan rankings were issued not including my own. To my knowledge there is only one person higher ranked in NC and that is my good friend who lead the NC group collectively from Charlotte.

I would also like to point out here that this practice of training people via seminar is not uncommon in the MAs. When I trained under Carlos Machado this was how BJJ was taught and in fact is still taught. It is very easy to find blue belts, purple belts and brown belts running BJJ schools and bringing their teacher in a few times a year to review them, grade them and teach them.

As to your question about what was required for the Nidan, this is a personal question for Okamoto sensei. Everyone in our group is graded differently. The common factors are attendance and basic understanding of the concepts with an ability to perform them. Okamoto sensei does not have a set curriculum written down that he gives out to be graded by. Okamoto sensei cares more about the person and what they have as far as technique. It is a very different school. Most Daito ryu schools teach the Hiden Mokuroku (118 techniques) for the early dan ranks. Okamoto sensei does not teach these as a core set, and really only teachs a few basics from it when he feels the need is there. Almost everyone in the organization has high ranking dans in other arts so maybe thats why I am not sure. Okamoto teaches techniques from another set of techniques and he does this to try and preserve them as they are high level and a lot of people never make it far enough to reach them.

Lastly, I don't care about rank personally - I do list the rank as a point of context for others to view my comments and to give credit for those who influenced me the most. Okamoto sensei had a profound impact on my understanding of applied principles and I am forever thankful.

 
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Chris Parker

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Thanks, Jason.

Thanks for the question Chris. As I am sure you know in any koryu art there is only one teacher. In Daito ryu Aikijujutsu Roppokai the shihan is Seigo Okamoto sensei. Okamoto lives in Tokyo and has schools all around the world. I was part of the first American school.

Ah, that depends on the Koryu. Quite a few have a number of licenced teachers.

At each school/branch/dokokai "study group" there is appointed a lead. This lead is in charge of running classes, keeping attendance, etc. This lead may teach what Okamoto sensei has taught before but this lead is NOT the instructor and does not award rank. At least 3 times a year (for the most part sometimes 2 just depends on scheduling) Okamoto sensei flies in and holds a week or so of intensive "seminars" lasting ALL day. During this time he works of corrections to past taught techniques as well as teaching new ones (if he feels we are ready).

Yeah, I know Okamoto Sensei's schedule as pertains to the US Roppokai groups.

This is the way everyone outside of Tokyo trains and even at the hombu in Tokyo it is this way because he is not there all the time either. I trained in this organization for 13 years so yes I would say I earned my 2nd dan. However, in koryu arts there was never a "belt system" as things were/are done through awarding mokuroku (scrolls or catalogs). The first scroll is not given out until after 3rd dan. The "belt system" was put in place for the students peace of mind IMO. In most schools in Japan, as I have been told, as long as you are a good person and show up for class within a year you are most likely going to make 1st dan (its much harder in the States and we award for different reasons). Technically your ability is not really scrutinized until you are up for 3rd dan either.

Yeah, again, I'm more than familiar with the ranking of Koryu arts. With regards to Daito Ryu, the Kyu/Dan system was introduced by Takeda Tokimune, Takeda Sokaku's son and successor to the mainline, with pretty much all the split-off organisations utilising their own form of it as well (including, of course, Okamoto Sensei when he founded the Roppokai). As to why Takade Tokimune Sensei put it in place, that seems to be a matter of debate, but peace of mind might be part of it. I also think it was to give more of a "common ground" for some form of comparison with other arts, and add to Daito Ryu's acceptance and popularity (especially if compared with Aikido, which had already adopted that ranking system).

The Dan ranking doesn't really relate directly (or even at all, really) with the Menkyo/Mokuroku licencing system previously used, though, and, from what I hear, some lines of Daito Ryu still use the Menkyo system for higher level students (Uchi Deshi). That said, it's interesting that you'd say that your technical ability isn't really scrutinized until Sandan, yet also say that you feel you'd earned the Nidan after 13 years. Are you saying that your Nidan isn't based on technical ability, and is just for 'hanging in there'?

Okamoto sensei said since we were his first American school he was going to grade us much tougher so that there would never be a question as to the rank we earned. He also only agreed to teach us because we already had the basics he said since we were originally a Tomiki Aikido school before switching over. I know he scrutinized my ability because he gave me corrections and things to work on specific to me. I know there were extensive records kept to attendance and hours trained as well because I ran part of the "dokokai" in NC as I lived in Raleigh and the group officially listed in Charlotte.

I take it this branch for the Roppokai no longer trains? The only ones I've found listed for the US are in Texas, California, and Oregon, which is a fair bit away. Okatomo Sensei seems to dominantly travel to California, from the looks of things.

I also know that I achieved a base technical level because I went around from school to school in NC demonstrating the art due to the fact that it is not so well known and the techniques that Okamoto sensei knows are virtually unseen elsewhere. I had to perform the techniques alone in schools that had never seen them against people who had know idea what I was trying to do. Out of my Raleigh group 4 dan rankings were issued not including my own. To my knowledge there is only one person higher ranked in NC and that is my good friend who lead the NC group collectively from Charlotte.

Hmm, maybe not then. Interesting that they don't show up as an official branch dojo, if this was the first US school, and is still running.

I would also like to point out here that this practice of training people via seminar is not uncommon in the MAs. When I trained under Carlos Machado this was how BJJ was taught and in fact is still taught. It is very easy to find blue belts, purple belts and brown belts running BJJ schools and bringing their teacher in a few times a year to review them, grade them and teach them.

Oh, I've seen it before as well, including in Daito Ryu, I just hadn't heard of it for the Roppokai, that's all.

As to your question about what was required for the Nidan, this is a personal question for Okamoto sensei. Everyone in our group is graded differently. The common factors are attendance and basic understanding of the concepts with an ability to perform them. Okamoto sensei does not have a set curriculum written down that he gives out to be graded by. Okamoto sensei cares more about the person and what they have as far as technique. It is a very different school. Most Daito ryu schools teach the Hiden Mokuroku (118 techniques) for the early dan ranks. Okamoto sensei does not teach these as a core set, and really only teachs a few basics from it when he feels the need is there. Almost everyone in the organization has high ranking dans in other arts so maybe thats why I am not sure. Okamoto teaches techniques from another set of techniques and he does this to try and preserve them as they are high level and a lot of people never make it far enough to reach them.

Ah, cool. I'm aware that each branch of Daito Ryu seems to rank differently, with some using the Ikkajo set for Shodan, Nikajo set for Nidan, Sankajo set for Sandan etc, others use the Hiden Mokuroku completely for Shodan, others use half of it, and so on. I was just curious as to Okamoto Sensei's use of the Ryu's teachings in dividing it for rank to get an idea of how far into the curriculum Nidan would be for you.

Lastly, I don't care about rank personally - I do list the rank as a point of context for others to view my comments and to give credit for those who influenced me the most. Okamoto sensei had a profound impact on my understanding of applied principles and I am forever thankful.


Not caring about rank is one thing, but when dealing with Koryu systems, to be at a particular level means that you haven't been taught any of the material above that, so the understanding of the system would be incomplete, no matter how long you'd trained.

That said, the video you linked (I'd seen it before, for the record) certainly seems to indicate that Okamoto Sensei doesn't really focus on the kata and waza of Daito Ryu, instead looking more at principles and concepts. Interesting approach, especially for a Koryu teacher.
 
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jasonbrinn

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Thanks, Jason.



Ah, that depends on the Koryu. Quite a few have a number of licenced teachers.



Yeah, I know Okamoto Sensei's schedule as pertains to the US Roppokai groups.



Yeah, again, I'm more than familiar with the ranking of Koryu arts. With regards to Daito Ryu, the Kyu/Dan system was introduced by Takeda Tokimune, Takeda Sokaku's son and successor to the mainline, with pretty much all the split-off organisations utilising their own form of it as well (including, of course, Okamoto Sensei when he founded the Roppokai). As to why Takade Tokimune Sensei put it in place, that seems to be a matter of debate, but peace of mind might be part of it. I also think it was to give more of a "common ground" for some form of comparison with other arts, and add to Daito Ryu's acceptance and popularity (especially if compared with Aikido, which had already adopted that ranking system).

The Dan ranking doesn't really relate directly (or even at all, really) with the Menkyo/Mokuroku licencing system previously used, though, and, from what I hear, some lines of Daito Ryu still use the Menkyo system for higher level students (Uchi Deshi). That said, it's interesting that you'd say that your technical ability isn't really scrutinized until Sandan, yet also say that you feel you'd earned the Nidan after 13 years. Are you saying that your Nidan isn't based on technical ability, and is just for 'hanging in there'?



I take it this branch for the Roppokai no longer trains? The only ones I've found listed for the US are in Texas, California, and Oregon, which is a fair bit away. Okatomo Sensei seems to dominantly travel to California, from the looks of things.



Hmm, maybe not then. Interesting that they don't show up as an official branch dojo, if this was the first US school, and is still running.



Oh, I've seen it before as well, including in Daito Ryu, I just hadn't heard of it for the Roppokai, that's all.



Ah, cool. I'm aware that each branch of Daito Ryu seems to rank differently, with some using the Ikkajo set for Shodan, Nikajo set for Nidan, Sankajo set for Sandan etc, others use the Hiden Mokuroku completely for Shodan, others use half of it, and so on. I was just curious as to Okamoto Sensei's use of the Ryu's teachings in dividing it for rank to get an idea of how far into the curriculum Nidan would be for you.



Not caring about rank is one thing, but when dealing with Koryu systems, to be at a particular level means that you haven't been taught any of the material above that, so the understanding of the system would be incomplete, no matter how long you'd trained.

That said, the video you linked (I'd seen it before, for the record) certainly seems to indicate that Okamoto Sensei doesn't really focus on the kata and waza of Daito Ryu, instead looking more at principles and concepts. Interesting approach, especially for a Koryu teacher.

Chris, the first American school founded in Charlotte was disbanded years ago, however, two students from that group my friend and myself stayed in the Roppokai and eventually re-setup a "study group" that has recently left as well I believe. I personally left the Roppokai in 2009 for personal reasons.

Okamoto had a stroke and decided to restrict his travel so CA became the hub for his US activity. This left schools on the east coast with a lot to consider going forward as to the amount of time they good get training with sensei and so forth.

I joined the Roppoakai in 1996.

I obtained my rank by earning it on a technical level, not by "hanging in there."

I am not surprised that you think Okamoto sensei's techniques are outside of the Daito ryu curriculum as they are almost never seen, however, they are in fact from one of the sets of techniques. Okamoto's sensei was Kodo Horikawa (a VERY short man even among typically short Japanese men of his time) and he was taught a specific group of Daito ryu techniques due to his short size by Sokaku Takeda himself. The 53 aikinojutsu kata. Okamoto got what he got from Horikawa and I got what I got from Okamoto. I understand aiki as taught to me by Okamoto along with how it should be applied - that was all Okamoto cared about other than proper etiquette (which might have been the most important thing).

I am very versed on the traditions and history of this ryu.

As for belt rankings, you are largely right however. Within the Roppokai we really only have three belts - white, brown and black. White has 2 stripes you obtain and then you go for brown. Dan ranks are typical except for a special ranking between 3rd and 4th when you receive your first scroll. to my knowledge only two people stateside have received it one of which is no longer in the organization and the other I consider a good friend.
 

elder999

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I'm going to avoid the whole topic of your various teachers and ranks, entirely, Jason, so that you don't think I'm persecuting you. To get back on topic, though, I'm really interested in some exposition on your training methodology:

elder999;[URL="tel:1454207" said:
1454207[/URL]]Care to expand on this? "Different" how? "Much more rigid" how? They certainly can be done at any pace and level of intention or contact-so, if the concepts and reasons for doing them are very similar, and they're 'scripted training," how is your "just drilling" less rigid and different?
 

Big Don

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The whole idea that you can become a good fighter without sparring is as stupid as claiming to be a great marksman without ever having picked up a rifle.
 
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Aiki Lee

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I would say its more along the lines of never shooting at moving targets, but regardless, i am interested as elder999 is in what specifically the drills Jason does look like. How are they different from kata training? Where does resistance come into play?
 

MJS

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The whole idea that you can become a good fighter without sparring is as stupid as claiming to be a great marksman without ever having picked up a rifle.

LOL! So true! I tempted to add this to my sig line. :)
 

MJS

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I would say its more along the lines of never shooting at moving targets, but regardless, i am interested as elder999 is in what specifically the drills Jason does look like. How are they different from kata training? Where does resistance come into play?

Yes, me too!! :)
 

jasonbrinn

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Ok, without putting up video which I might be able to if it is ultimately needed here is what we do.

1. General Fitness
2. Combat Fitness
3. Teach the concept.
4. Teach the technique.
5. Drill broken down components of the technique
6. Drill the technique as a whole
7. Drill the technique in scripted scenarios where the timing and execution situations are fed to the student

#7 is probably where the confusion has been. I know everyone does this on some level. It is very similar to one step sparring, etc., but done in a live manner - as I am sure every MMA gym around the world does. The two unique factors about my school are probably;

A. NO resistance training for application technique development
B. #5 from above

#5 we have developed some different concepts and processes to train the specific components of a technique that I KNOW are different than anything else I have trained. I made them up. I know many teachers make up and devise training methods so this is not revolutionary stuff people.

If anything at all is controversial about what I teach, what we do and what I say it is probably the fact of my STRONG belief that resistance training, live sparring, etc., is really bad for the overall development of the student. I stand by this. I have tested this and my students have won out everywhere we have chosen to compete and test the theory. I run/ran a VERY open school. I allowed people from anywhere to come in and train with us. On one occasion a UFC fighter came in for the weekend to train and afterwards I asked him how we were doing and he told me "keep doing what your doing you guys have a got a good thing here." Now he could have just been nice but he had no reason to be and he could have easily pointed out anything at all to change or work on. This coupled with many other stories I could give have along with our results have made me confident until the data changes or even better training methods are discovered (I am always looking).

I hope this answers your questions?

Oh, and by the way - I feel it is more ignorant to reject a thought process you don't understand/agree with outright than say testing the theory or at least reserving judgement until it has been independently tested and proven to be "stupid." (this is for all those out there simply posting "not sparring is stupid and doesn't work") I'm not saying but I'm just saying.
 
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Tez3

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Jason we do all that and we spar. I haven't said your thought processes were stupid, how can they be when you won't and still haven't shared what you actually do, all we have here is yet another boast ...a UFC fighter...well, who? We've had two UFC fighters, a UFC judge and UFC ref say what we do is great as well...namely Ian Freeman, Leigh Remedious, Skip Hall and Marc Goddard, what we do they also do so no surprise they like what we do. You won't say who the fighter is that you claim won all those fights and all you've done is make a list of stuff even non MMA martial artists most likely do. All you are saying is that you know the way you train works. We can't... not won't see this, there is still nothing to go on and I'm aware this is as frustrating for you as it is for me like as not.
 

Aiki Lee

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How can you say you don't practice putting the technique on against any resistance when any fight scenario (sport or otherwise) will always include resistance? Not putting any resistance in the training process at all leads to an infection of dojo-itis, the disease where people think they have something down but are really not applying the technique the way it would need to be applied in a real life setting.

I have no problem with leaving out resistance when learning to do something, but you need the resistance to TEST the students ability to do it under pressure against an uncooperative opponent.

In my opinion sparring and pressure testing are useless only when there is no goal or purpose to it and it becomes more or less a game of tag, but after doing all the other things you mentioned, Jason, it needs to be done under pressure. I don't see how you could have drawn any other conclusion. You need ALL of these things to train.
 

Tanaka

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I've read a little of this thread. I think live sparring is a very good addition to training, and this is based on my own experience. When we are practicing a technique our partner is being compliant(slightly resisting) and giving us what we need to do it. When I am sparring I learn that people fight differently and that I have to find out what is the best technique to use against what this guy tends to do. Sometimes one technique works so well on one guy because of how he fights and at other times I will never get it on another guy. So basically sparring has showed me that I have to find the right technique, and not script what I am going to do in my head. Because once I script what I want to do to this guy I always fail. In a real live situation the energy is constantly changing. I might be getting a forward energy, sideways energy, or backwards energy. And I have to realize and feel this energy changing and not try to force a technique but do it accordingly to what he gives me the most. I've also learned through sparring how to get someone to give me something to work with.
There are just so many things that I cannot see possible without sparring.(Some kind of resisting unpredictable motion from your partner)
 

oaktree

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We spar in taijiquan. Sometimes pretty hard.
Just look at some of the Chen sanshou videos
In the taiji section.
 
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