Wednesday, February 01, 2012

What is randori

Randori plays such a central role in judo and in aikido, that I thought I'd spend some time this month writing about this practice, how to "do randori" better, and how to get more out of it.

First, what is randori?

The Japanese word, randori, means something to the effect of "laying hold of chaos" or "taking freedom."
There are basically two classical modes of practice for Japanese jujitsu - kata and randori.  Kata is an exploration and demonstration of the form of a thing or idea - the basic shape that it can take.  As such, it can be compared to learning to write by tracing dotted outlines of capital letters, or learning to color within the lines of a coloring book.  But before you get to thinking that kata is just preschool stuff, it can also be likened to very advanced forms of learning - like demonstrations in a physics or chemistry laboratory.  Such demonstrations always happen the same way, go through the same processes, and yield the same results, but it is still very educational to do these demonstrations.

Randori, on the other hand, is any practice that deviates from the structure of kata.  Continuing with the previous analogies, you might liken randori to writing cursive or freehand drawing or a physics experiment where you don't know the end result beforehand.

Randori is often compared to kumite practice in karate (which I think is also frequently misunderstood).  These days, most folks seem to refer to kumite as sparring, but kumite is actually any engagement match - any practice form with a real partner/opponent instead of a makiwara or imaginary opponent.  In judo, all of our practice is with another person - we have no solo forms, so randori can be compared to the sparring idea within kumite.

Randori is a form of practice in which you don't necessisarily know beforehand who is going to be uke or tori, or which form of what technique will end the engagement.

Patrick Parker
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