Sparring In Your Ninjutsu Training

 Practitioners of the Bujinkan system of ninjutsu or Budo Taijutsu are generally taught and train without the use of randori (sparring). I know that some Bujinkan schools do use randori in their training and some to great effect. However it is a well known fact that most Bujinkan schools do not. Either way there are points to be made and both sides train the way they feel they should and this is the way it should be. Train in a way that suits you and be better and happier for it. I will make an attempt at addressing some of the issues of both sides in this article. If you feel the need to add something, or if I am in error somewhere please feel free to leave a comment.

 Training Without Randori

  The Good:

  • You don't have as high a risk of injuring yourself or someone else.
  • For those of you who teach it may keep your insurance premiums down.
   The Bad:
  • You will not be as prepared for a real situation.

 I'm sure I could go on and on but those are the basic reasons behind both sides. It is my opinion that randori should be used at different intensities at different levels of training until you can spar with an opponent at a near full contact pace. Of course using protection such as gloves (think MMA gloves), a mouthpiece, etc. Also of course "pulling" or holding back the use of full force techniques to certain areas of the body such as the head, groin (wear a cup!), etc. As it is training and you don't want to seriously hurt someone. Randori such as this is done in alot of other martial arts and injury does happen although it isn't terribly common place and it is rarely severe. Especially if the two budoka express control and stay at their respective skill levels. Meaning that injury is less frequent when randori is gradually intensified as the students progress. As they progress they become more competent as to what they are doing and can usually express more control.

 I know that many Bujinkan students have been taught that the techniques of Budo Taijutsu (Ninjutsu) are too dangerous to be applied in sparring sessions or competition. My opinion (and it is shared by many, both Bujinkan students and others) is that you won't be prepared for a real life situation if you don't train for it. The drills that most Bujinkan students use in their training where they practice choreographed techniques (which is what drills mostly consist of) are good to use for training the proper application of the technique and your uke should be compliant as you are learning the technique. But to use the same drills to train in the real life application of said techniques is something that is both redundant and dangerous.

 Example A :

 Two students engage in a drill. Student A stands in shizen no kamae and student B stands in ichimonji no kamae. Student B steps forward and grabs student A by the upper sleeve of his gi. Student A reacts in a moderate pace and applies muso dori. Student B offers little resistance and rolls right over.

 Good job to student A for a nice application of muso dori, and good job to student B for being a good uke. This was a good (and accurate) example of the type of drill we in the Bujinkan and other martial arts use for our training. Both budoka should have learned something and no one was injured. Drills such as these are crucial in the learning process and I am in no way putting them down as I myself use them to great success.

  Example B : 

 Two students engage in randori (using gloves, etc.). Student A stands in shizen no kamae and student B stands in ichimonji no kamae. Student B kicks at student A only to have it deflected away. His opponent went too far out of his reach so student B decides to retreat a little and regain his footing. Student A suddenly advances and grabs student B attempting to throw him. It almost works but student B was able to resist it fully by changing his footing and lowering his center of gravity. In the midst of having his technique resisted however student A was able to hit student B with a good (but controlled) elbow to the back of his head (something student B will have to work on). Student B shrugs off the blow and attempts to apply muso dori when he feels his opponent still has hold of his gi's upper sleeve. Student A is taken by surprise and although he resists the technique, student B has used enough force to take him to the mat. Student A uses the safe falling methods that he has learned to lessen the impact. Student B then shifts his weight onto student A while throwing multiple punches at his opponent's head. Both students get up off the mat, adjust themselves, and begin another session.

 My question about the two above examples is which pair of students do you think learned more about actually defending themselves in a real life situation? The two practicing drills? Or the two engaged in randori? I would say the students of example B.

 I really do hope no one gets offended by this article. I am in no way saying that drills shouldn't be used. I think they are fantastic and crucial for learning techniques and their various applications. However I do feel that sparring is what will prepare a student for a real fight. You are of course entitled to your opinion and I really do hope that you train in a manner that best suits you. Please leave your comments.

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