It was 6am on a Sunday morning in March.
“I should be in bed for at least another 3 hours!” And with that, I made the fatal mistake of shutting my eyes… just a couple more minutes… oops! I was due to pick up Sadie at 7:30, but I’m completely useless at getting moving first thing in the morning, so 6am became 6:20… became 6:45.
“Oh sh*t, better get moving!”
Thankfully, I already had my kit bag and lunch packed and ready to go, so a quick breakfast and I was on my way. So, why was I getting up that early? Well, I thought it would be a good idea to go to Lewis sensei’s ‘Psychology of fighting’ course in Braunton, North Devon. I knew it was going to be an interesting day as he had said to me a couple of times “I don’t know what I’m going to do! I really don’t.” I’m sure he was joking.
After an uneventful trip, we arrived at the Dojo at around 9:30, and come 10 o’clock there were 13, plus Sensei Lewis. Three of which were from the host Shito-Ryu club; Pete, Naomi and Jon from Torquay, Bondi and his student Ric from Braunton DKK, and Sadie, Rob, Matt, Tim and myself from Bristol.
We started the session in pairs, one circling the stationary other, to see where we were able to attack, control, feel safe, feel vulnerable, etc. It was quite interesting to see the effect of your personal space being intruded upon. It also became apparent that it isn’t a circular shape around yourself. You need more distance in front when facing your opponent, than you do to a 45 degree angle, or when behind them. I also found that you instinctively feel nervous when a person is close behind you. From there we moved on to exploring how the other person might feel as you control the situation by positioning yourself in various positions in front of the other. People don’t talk standing directly opposite each other – there’s always a slight angle, otherwise it feels uncomfortable. However, an aggressor will stand facing you directly. It is a display of perceived dominance.
Lewis sensei then talked of how there were certain triggers that might flip a verbally aggressive person into becoming physically aggressive, i.e. ‘DON’T YOU TOUCH ME!’ and how a hidden defensive stance can help a person deal with this. A non-aggressive, palms open stance is not really much different to a palms closed – fists – stance, but it has a profound effect on the perception of the other person.
From there we moved on to controlling a pushing or striking arm followed by a neck hold, then we would take them to the floor. Sensei showed us the method he teaches security staff of how to subdue an aggressive person… but also pointed out that this is ok if there is only one person to deal with, but if there’s more, i.e. his mates, then you would have to be more
severe in order to disable the first one, then be instantly ready for
From there, we moved on to Bunkai practice at high intensity.
To do this, one person would be on the centre of the mat with three to their left and another three to their right. Each of these six would attack one at a time, left side, then right, then left; in the prescribed manner for the 1st bunkai of Geki Sai Dai Ichi, then 2nd bunkai and so on. This would be done without a break, so by the time you’ve finished dealing with one person, the next is already approaching.
At the end, the person would have completed 30 bunkai. Quite exhausting, but a very good indicator of how well you know and understand the bunkai. I did notice how there was a flutter of laughter when Jon was doing his take downs. He’s a big guy, and all he needs to do is swing his arm at a person’s shoulders and they just get knocked to the floor!
After a break for dinner, we had a little workout. Firstly, in pairs, 1 minute on pads, then 50 press-ups, 50 Hindu Squats and 50 sit-ups. For the second round, the same again, but with 10 Burpees a-la-Daz style (thanks for that little invention Daz!). Then 1 more round as per round 2, but with 1 minute of jumping squats.
After a short break, we stepped up the level on physical interaction to shoving a person around in a full-on aggressive manner. Some of us managed to use the tiredness from the workout to fuel the mental focus, but it seemed to me that others were instinctively falling back to a pacifistic manner – they were uncomfortable with the situation. Interestingly, I found that this happened with the less experienced members, but the more experienced ones could deal with it better – to be expected, I suppose.
Personally I found it difficult to switch off the aggressive focus at the end of the session and simply had to let it fade over the course of 20 minutes or so. After packing up and having a quick pint, and a laugh and a joke in a nearby pub, we said our goodbyes… ’til next time!
So… was it worth getting up at stoopid o’clock?
Oh yes! Definitely.
Hope to see you at the next one!