University of Bradford Union Katana JuJitsu Club
Before the class can start the mats need putting out, the area used is a multi-purpose studio and 2m x 1m mats are set out in the middle of the room to provide the training area, every one then signs in in the club log book (mainly to keep a record of numbers).
Sensei then asks everyone to line up on the mats (in grade order), every one does a full kneeling bow then the warm up starts, nothing overly difficult if you fit but enough to get you moving; a bouncing back and forward start, followed by stretching, then a few flexibility bits and some fitness then another pulse raiser, jogging on the spot then breakfalls normally just one of each, with any beginners told just to watch. Still in line some striking combos with comment on technique, sometimes some individual focus pad work but only very basic. (sensei walks round with the pads and makes some comment on technique one by one)
The next bit varies, everyone is then told to pair off and either some more fines work, resistance sit-ups etc or conditioning, e.g. one person punches steadily to the chest the other blocks from hands on heads, then speed up.
After this, or sometimes straight into this is 'back-to-back' essentially rolling from knees but starting sitting back to back, each round lasts at most 2 minuets but usually nearer 30 seconds - 1min then change partners and go again, up to about 4/5 times depending. Very few spesific ground techniques are taught as most locks are from standing or after a throw where the attacker is still standing.
The next bit is one of the problems. 'Controlled' sparing, with no pads or gloves its non-contact/touch contact sparing with no take-downs. Many begin (the club attracts lots of people with no MA background) by standing 2 arms lengths apart & flailing most gradually pick up the idea from the experienced members, pull you strikes and acknoladge when you would have been hit, but some just keep walking into pulled strikes and other wise being stupid. The biggest problem is getting into the habbit of always pulling strikes, one all to easy to carry over to a fight.
Before the class proper (syllabus work) starts, normally pairs, Sensei demonstrates a technique, what exactly varies greatly from basic escapes to using a wall to you advantage, to long strings of locks and block, this is then repeated once or twice and everyone tries to copy it while Sensei and his uke, one of the other senseis, walk round an correct, possibly going over again if evry one is struggling. The idea seems to be to get across how to move from one position to another and to show techniques that aren't covered at lower levels.
The main portion of the class is taken up with syllabus work, everyone splits up into groups by grade (odd ones either pairing up or joining a group with an odd number near thier level). The syllabus are a set of techniques that must be learnt to pass the gradings that happen every 3 months (November, March and June). There are 10 kyu grades, 10th kyu (red) is the starting point and the first set of techniques are learnt to pass the white belt (9th kyu) grading.
These include break falls some escapes from strangles and a few combinations starting with a block (one step style), mainly of punches and a short kata of the basic blocks. Throws are included as part of the escapes. Each belt includes a range of techniques
Normally Sensei Riley initially demonstrates then lets people practice comes back and corrects etc., with the large groups at the start of each year normaly on of the othe black belts is left to supervise and correct while Sensei Riley goes around the different groups then comes back and shows another techniques from the syllabus.
All of this is taught by demonstration normally Sensei Riley demonstrates then lets people practice, with the large groups at the start of each year normally on of the other black belts is left to supervise and correct while Sensei goes around the different groups.
At the end of the session everyone lines up for announcements then a full bow, and put the mats away. Occasionally we line up and do hip-throws or another technique every one throwing everyone, or pair of and do throws alternately for a couple of minuets.
Before being entered for gradings everyone is put thought a mock to check the are ready, these are normally done by Sensei Riley. The kyu gradings are done by Soke Robert Clark 9th dan and and assistant (normally a 7th dan Mr Fredriezak) and include some revision of previous material on higher belts. For Dan gradings which happen twice annually you have to travel to Liverpool and be graded by a panel. All gradings require an annual WJJF membership of £13 (including insurance) and gradings are £15-20 for kyu grades.
The techniques are largely practical with a self-defence spin but the club dose not compete at all and most techniques are only learned just on one side till after 1st dan. Techniques manly from a right punch which is blocked or an escape then a weakener, e.g. a solar plexus/stomach strike, before attempting them. The level of resistance put up varies, some people gradually move from completely compliant to near full resistance after grasping the technique, some only ever train compliantly.
Especially on the higher belts some of the techniques begin to be slightly less practical, lower percenage, including several sacrifice throws. There are some throws where the original version is no longer taught but a modified 'training' version, some seem sensible for others the replacent is very impractial.
The weapon work of Kobudo is done in the second half of the session by anyone who is interested and graded separately. There are several weapons are used and progressed though in order (nanchaka, sai, tonfa, bo, kama, katana, jo, yawara stick) some repeat in more detail. Each is graded separately (agian 10 gradings to 10 1st dan) The training is focused about equally on applications and katas, each having several applications and at least one kata, applications including defences against other weapons
Alot can depend when you start, if you begin with the influx of new students at the start of a year it's very crowded (the class roughly doubles in size for the first couple of weeks). If you join later in the year you may be the only person on you grade but people do join thought the year. As you would expect most of the members are students but there are some non-students who train there and other ex-students who still train at the club (like myself). This means that while the class is slightly formal (bowing on and off the mat, after a technique is demonstrated and at the start and end of class) the atmosphere is generally friendly.
While the aliveness of training is not great the techniques are sound and have used or adapted them when pressure testing in other settings, for the price its very good and with some effort can can become better.
Update: There is now NO continuous sparing some punch-defence bits are some to replace this but it really is not good. This is a directive from the WJJF and is apparently due to insurance (sparing insurance costs more I imagine).