Thursday, April 14, 2011

Be the Mosquito: Bobbing and Weaving with a Purpose

Since the blogsphere today is full of stuff about sparring - including posts by Samurai Girl, Ariel at Martial Arts Passion and Mr. James at Okinawan Fighting Arts, I figured I might as well toss my two cents into the mix as well...

Although I love working/improving kata and kihon, I really love to spar. Not that I particularly like the idea of getting hit, but the matching of wits/game of tag that is ju kumite in the dojo or in the competition ring is kinda fun. Let me re-phrase that: HITTING and KICKING are fun - and I can usually do that fairly well. It's my evading and countering that always, always, always need a little work.

Tuesday night, Sensei Joe, a yondan who is an amazing tactician and who is as quick as he is powerful, led class. He challenged us to think (and move and fight) outside of our comfort zones. For me, that meant fighting more like the lightweight I am - staying on my toes for the whole fight to make moving in and out as well as changing my angles of attack possible - instead of bouncing a little before planting my feet, remaining on my adversary's centerline and fighting more like a heavyweight with long limbs when the "battle" gets going. It was harder than I thought it was going to be - mainly because the thinking that is NOT supposed to happen had to creep back in. It was the only way I could remember to stay on my toes, be mobile and let the techniques flow.

But flow, I didn't. I'd land two techniques then.just.stop - and promptly get pummeled by Sensei Joe or Sensei S - who took turns sparring us all. Suffice to say I may have gotten a few good licks in, but the reality is that when all was said and done, I had my butt handed to me over and over again.

Biggest problem? My evasions were too big. In an effort to avoid the technique my senseis threw, I moved too far out of range to counter, which meant I had to re-acquire them continuously. They had no such issues, I noticed because their evasions were much more subtle - a shoulder lean here, a hip shift there - which made their counters to the techniques I tried to hit them with much more effective. And they were doing a little more than tapping, unfortunately. Ouch...

Sensei Joe compared it to games of tag he played as a kid. "You didn't really need to run away when the person who was 'it' came charging," he said. "Sometimes it was a lot more fun to let them get really close then shift to the left so their tag brushed right past you." Then he demonstrated while first I tried then training partner, Peg, tried to simply touch his gi, shoulder or face when he was about a foot in front of us. Not only did we miss every time, he tapped us with something on his way past us - like a backfist or shuto to the head or a reverse punch or a little hook kick to the gut. It felt like we fell into his technique - or better yet: like he set us up to hit him only so we could get hit instead. In other words, not only did his techniques flow from one right into the next without pause, the "fight" wasn't over until he had the last attack - which he landed at will. He even turned away as if to run once and the next thing I felt was his foot - via a well-timed ushiro geri (back kick) in my gut. Ouch - again!

As un-ladylike as it sounds, hitting stuff is a one of the things I absolutely love about karate, but the other is the fact that there is always more to learn. What I learned from playing tag with Sensei Joe is that while bobbing and weaving are nice, throwing a technique on the way "out"/getting the last tag in is even nicer - and much more efficient. He reminded us about one of our former training partners who got so good with this that she earned the nickname "Mosquito" because she was there, attacked you, then was gone before you could even raise your hand to slap her away.

"Be the mosquito," Sensei Joe said.



  1. Excellent post Felicia. A great teaching lesson indeed. I really enjoyed the play tag analogy. Be the Mosquito...

  2. Nice post! I am going to borrow the phrase "Be the mosquito" the next time we spar in the dojo. :)

  3. Good stuff! Sparing IS fun, but there is so much to think about while you're in the midst of things! I think I have a similar habit as you, I'm light and small, but I probably try to fight like a heavyweight.

    Next time I spar I will be sure to keep a mosquito mind set. ^.~

  4. Glad your enjoyed/could relate to the post, Shinzen, Michele and SGS. Yeah, Sensei Joe is as full of surprises as he is knowledge. Love what he brings to the table - even if I usually get pounded with it, LOL...

    He and Sensei S (along with my training partners) are why I enjoy my school so much: They lead by example and always find practical ways to make complex concepts relate-able. They are so awesome :-)

    Thanks for stopping by!