Martial Arts Randori Practice

Thoughts on randori practice in training…

At shodan the practice of randori starts to become more important.

Certainly at the kyu level it was practiced, but from the perspective of looking to see if the student is moving in a “budo taijutsu” like manner.

At the dan level, it is practiced from the perspective to see if you are shutting down your training partners movement.

This is mentioned here along with the statement and understanding that randori is NOT sparring, or about trading blows back and forth with your training partner- nor is it fighting or trying out techniques on them.

We say this here, and over and over again in class since it is easy in the moment to lose sight of this, or fall into the trap of what other martial arts think randori it.

Correct randori should be approached in the following way:

Know the level of your training partner and what is appropriate for both your and their place in training.

If you are working with a kyu student then it is always one attack- perhaps a punch, kick, or grab, and always at a slow yet committed speed.

Training with a lower dan student it should still be one attack, but at a normal speed with good nagare and kime.

Practicing with an upper dan student, 3rd-4th , it should be a combination of attacks at normal speed, with good nagare, kime, etc.

There are also a number of attacks and waza that should never be done in randori regardless of the experience or rank of the training partner.

So if randori is not about sparring, or beating your training partner with techniques what is the point and how should it be approached?

You should go into the lesson with a specific point in mind- something you needed to work on in class, or something movement wise you are trying to get better at.

As an example let’s look at the posture ichimonji no kata from a randori perspective.

It use would be that every time your training partner attacked you used moving into ichimonji to protect your weak points (kyusho) and as a starting area to respond back with an appropriate technique.

Use the randori experience to learn how and why things work, in a safe and controlled environment. If you got hit moving into kamae, what did you do wrong? If it was “correct” you wouldn’t have gotten hit. Use it as a form of self-diagnosis- was your distance off? Footwork wrong? Balance? Timing?

Randori is about self-learning through what your training partner gives you, NOT about beating them. It is not about “winning” but rather about nurturing the real movements you need so you can see them, to help take you to the next level in your budo taijutsu movement.