KARATE ARTICLE 63 Never underestimate an opponent

Never underestimate an opponent or belittle their skills.
Throughout my many years of Martial Arts (now over 55 years), I have always made a point to teach to those with Physical Handicaps, and also to the Elderly. Here I want to relate a story about one such student. The students name is Serge. We originally met when I was training with a Kyokushin style based Group. The club was very close to my then Home. Due to my existing background, I was quickly raised to Sempai or Senior status (eventually granted a Nidan or Second Degree). Serge was a junior who they had a hard time figuring out how to teach to.
He was born with his Left arm lacking certain muscles and tendons, as well as very little bone density. His left arm was like a soft rubber tube. He had absolutely no control over the arm or hand. Therefore it was sometimes a hindrance when he moved, and of no use to strike or block.
The club had a change in owners, and after a certain amount of time I felt the need to move on. I returned to my Karate roots and found a JKA Shotokan club that I liked. Serge when learning this, followed me there. I guess he felt I knew what I was doing. I started at the bottom as I always have a tendency to do when starting at a new club or organization (just my way). Again I was rapidly advanced. In the course of doing so I felt the need to mentor Serge in his training, as once again the Instructors seemed at a loss of how to work with him. This is one of my first points in all this rambling. I had been exposed to many different arts and teachers and styles. I feel that this exposure to all sorts of arts, permitted me to step out of the Box some styles put you in, to conceive or invent techniques specifically for Serge. Many of my colleagues in specific styles earlier on would have a negative attitude to sampling or trying other styles or Ryu. Some organizations even went so far as to outright ban participating in any activities of other organizations (Such as Tournaments). Whether politically based or otherwise motivated, to my mind this was a really short-sighted policy.
Back to Serge and his training. I worked with Serge to develop his hand-techniques in such a way, that every block was a simultaneous strike, and every strike served as a block when executed. Also worked a great deal with him on his footwork, what is called in Japanese styles Tai-Sabaki (Body-Movement).
So we worked Ashi-Sabaki and Te-Sabaki (Foot Movement combined with Hand-Work). Serge was a diligent and eager student, willing to work hard to improve. His hard work was paying off, and his skills in Kumite became better than before.
The reward came when the club in question (Dojo Central JKA Dojo in Montreal) had an opportunity to incorporate members from another club that was closing and therefore members were seeking another club to train at. The entire membership was invited to train Free with us for a Month to establish whether they enjoyed our training and Instructors.
A Sandan (Third Degree) lined-up with Serge and began Jiyu-Kumite (Free-Sparring). He got the surprise of his life when the Green Belt started scoring on him. He obviously thought he would take it easy on this poor Handicapped fellow, but quickly learned he better watch out for techniques he was not used to. My reward came when I saw the subtle smile Serge had when he was able to score on a Sandan.
The Sandan afterwards being puzzled asked about the techniques and eventually came to me to discuss this stuff.
Serge went on to quickly attain his Brown Belt.
So here is my other point or reason for doing this Article.
Many Clubs or Organizations fearful either of losing the purity of what they do, or because of the attitude if we do not do it here it has no value, close themselves to alternate or different ways of executing or doing a technique. What I showed to Serge was not new, just put together and executed in a different way. It has also always been my belief that any well executed block can also be an attack.
Now some of you out there are going of course all of that is so obvious. Well in some circles and in some organizations this is not so. Once again I point out that being exposed to as many Arts and Styles and Ryu as possible will have a positive effect on all your practices and types of training. While I am at it, I wish to Commend and Congratulate Anthony C. Marquez Sensei for his work with those who are Physically challenged.
Thank You for Your Time
Paul Dupre

Leave a Reply