Self Defense vs. Sparring

By Susan Elrod

A few of us were sitting around after class discussing the idea of sparring versus self-defense. One of my friends, another karate student, said, “Wait, how are those separate? Isn’t sparring the same thing as self-defense?”

It turns out, I had some very definite opinions on the subject.Karate Sparring

With sparring, you have a responsibility to ensure your partner’s safety as well as your own. You absolutely do not strike to the joints. You avoid all contact to the face. In some styles of sparring, head strikes of any kind are prohibited.

None of those things are true for self-defense. In self-defense, your only concern is your safety. If someone has threatened your physical safety, their well-being is forfeit.

Karate Self DefenseFor self-defense, especially a woman threatened by a man, all the things you should avoid for sparring are among the first things you should do. Go for the eyes, the throat, and the knees if you can manage it. As a student in my woman’s self-defense class said recently, “Go for the soft bits.” Use elbows, knees, teeth, anything that will brutally disable your attacker as effectively as possible. As a Yoshukai student, I know that I can rely on the principles of Yoshukai to help protect me. Being prudent in action and speech are among the best ways to avoid a confrontation.

However, it’s important to realize that one’s Yoshukai techniques alone may not be sufficient to dissuade an attacker. A smaller person may not be able to fight off a larger attacker using head-high kicks and/or body strikes alone. Those abilities combined with the willingness to “fight dirty” by attacking areas typically prohibited in sparring is what may allow for greater likelihood of safely removing oneself from a dangerous situation.

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Upstate Yoshukai Dojo

By Erik Hofmeister

At the end of May, Dr. Elrod and I visited Sensei Ben Dawkins, the Head Instructor at Upstate Yoshukai Karate.  Sensei Dawkins is one of my old students, and held several teaching positions at Athens YAthens Yoshukai Upstate Signoshukai, including Senior Instructor.  He pioneered the classes at the Tate center and one of the students he brought in, Hali Serrian, is still heavily involved with the dojo.  Another, Megan Lyn Powell, left Athens, but still keeps up with her training, attends events, and visits Athens for training.  When Sensei Dawkins left Athens to live in Spartanburg with his new wife, Blair, it was an absence felt by all.  Since moving to Spartanburg in August, Sensei Dawkins has been interested in teaching Yoshukai.  This January, I was able to scout an arrangement for him with the Timken Community Center in Cowpens, SC.

Cowpens is a small town northeast of Spartanburg.  Even though Cowpens is a somewhat economically depressed area, they were able to build a new community center recently.  The center is still expanding its offerings and was quite enthusiastic to add karate to the program.  The classes right now are solely for kids, ages 6 and up, although Sensei Dawkins is recruiting adults and hopes to add an adult class as soon as possible.  Classes are held Tuesday and Thursday at 6pm in the large central room of the center.

Athens Yoshukai Upstate WorkoutOn the Saturday of our visit, Sensei Dawkins arranged a special class with his students at Barnet Park in downtown Spartanburg.  Four of his white belts- Samantha, Kyron, Tyler, and Dalin- joined us under a sprawling tree to train in preparation for their yellow stripe test.  Each of the high ranks worked with the students in small settings, and we polished Ni Ju Shichi No Kata, blocks, punches, and kicks.  The students were quiet, respectful, enthusiastic, and very interested in learning and doing a good job.  We capped the session off with a quick game emphasizing good blocking technique.

After the white belts had their time, Sensei Dawkins and I worked through the kata required for Nidan.  It can be difficult learning and training and progressing when you aren’t attached to a dojo with someone of higher rank.  I grappled with this for years in Washington and then in Athens.  I would get as much training with Sensei Blanck as possible when I went home, but then it was up to me to keep on training.  Now that Sensei Dawkins has his own dojo, training can be much more regular, which is what I experienced when I started Athens Yoshukai Karate.

Starting your own WYKKO dojo can be daunting, but it IS a manageable task!  It requires a Shodan rank or higher, proper space, time, dedication, a recommendation from your instructor, an OK by Kaicho, in addition to other administrative steps.  Fortunately, Sensei Dawkins is a remarkable individual, excellent teacher, and had the opportunity to learn the administrative tasks as Senior Instructor at Athens Yoshukai.  We all hope that his dojo will continue to excel, that he will be able to add adult students soon, and that he will be able to introduce all of those students to the rest of the WYKKO family!  Osu!

Athens Yoshukai Karate Upstate Lineup