Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Urawaza - half-assed or full blast?

The Tomikiryu counter kata, Urawaza, has its proponents and its detractors.  I've read one instructor state that he thought it is the ultimate expression of our art.  I've also heard instructors state the opinion that practicing urawaza is undesirable because it can teach uke to make half-assed attacks so that tori can counter them properly.
I tend to think the right place to stand in this debate is somewhere in the middle.  I certainly see what the detractors are talking about, but I tend to stand a bit closer to the urawaza-is-good side of the scale for several reasons.
  • We always have to beware the potential for uke to give half-assed attacks, whether we're doing Urawaza or Junana or any other exercise. Urawaza does not appear to me to be more succeptible to this weakness than Junana or Sankata.
  • A good way of practicing this exercise is for uke to go into each technique looking to be as close to the sweet spot as possible and for tori to enter each technique looking for one specific weakness.  If the uke throws his technique, then it will be because he did it perfectly, but if tori gets the counter then it is because he successfully spotted and exploited uke's deviation from the sweet spot. In other words, by removing the requirement that tori must win every encounter, practicing these counters can help uke and tori become more precise instead of less.
  • Urawaza is not really any different from the chains that we do in which tori sets up a technique and uke walks out of it and tori moves to another technique.  Some of our chains (like #2) feature this trading-roles style practice in which control switches back and forth from one player to the other.  In fact, at our club we like to jokingly call chain #2 the "Who's the boss now?" exercise.
What do you think?  Does practicing urawaza make you more half-assed or full blast?

Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: or phone 601.248.7282 木蓮
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