Old School

03_Image2One of the Senseis who works with me on a regular basis has told me he would like to see me be more patient when sparring.  I need to either create or wait for opportunities.  Another Sensei put it this way – I’m often so intent on nailing my opponent that I miss the big picture.  I’ve improved some, but there’s still room for more growth.


One day, the first Sensei I mentioned called me up to the front of a class to help him illustrate his points about sparring.  I listened to and watched him for cues on what to do.  This is well within my comfort zone and I love helping this way.  It’s a challenge to keep up with the expectations on the fly, and sometimes – surprise!  I end up on the mats twisted up in a pretzel.  All in good fun and for the benefit of us students.  I get to experience the techniques firsthand, which is a good lesson for me in trust, in the importance of control, and in what these movements are supposed to do.

StaringAt one point Sensei backed off a bit and I paused in response, but I maintained my fighting stance.  Sensei finished his point and then said, “Now, in the old, old days – sparring was this,” and he suddenly “froze” in fighting stance, guard up.  Not really frozen as in stiff – more like a coiled spring.  I copied him.  I had no clue what to do next, but during a demonstration, one cues off of Sensei.  After an uncomfortable few seconds of us staring at each other, watching each other for signs of attack, I raised a questioning eyebrow.

BAM!  Next thing I knew, Sensei had covered the distance between us, coming at me like a spring-loaded freight train.

Sensei explained to all of us that in that style of fighting, one waits for a flinch, a submissive lowering of the eyes, a shifting of the gaze in response to a sound in the room, or whatever other cue that shows one’s opponent is vulnerable and/or distracted.  In my case, it was that raised eyebrow.  Yep, I was too busy communicating and wasn’t spending any brain power observing.

About a month later, this Sensei faced off with another black belt for sparring.  Both men went into fighting stance…  And they just waited.  I grinned, recognizing what they were up to.  I don’t know who broke first, but they both exploded at almost the same time.  A heartbeat later the corner judges’ flags went up, so obviously one was faster.

Patience works.  Impatience and haste doesn’t.  I think that’s one of the things I was supposed to learn, and I’m glad I had this firsthand experience with an “old school” method of fighting.

Author: Joelle White

I began training in Karate in June of 2014 after a 27 year hiatus.

7 thoughts on “Old School”

    1. Ossu, Ando! Yep, I agree. And don’t forget to look before you leapfrog. Confucious say: Man who plays leapfrog with unicorn is fool.

  1. You make your Sensei sound awesome Joelle – suitably scary when he wants to be, but also very kind and great fun at the same time 🙂

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