Re: Bokken Sparring- Chushin Tani Aikidojo
Have you tried doing it where neither of you are acknowledging the other's strikes? It seems to be what most people do even in kendo (where the ref stops it instead of whoever is hit) and western martial arts, but when I was doing some weapons sparring we decided to do away with that and see what happened. Here are some things we noticed:
- It was interesting to practice sparring without the psychological breaks. Stopping between "points" (for lack of a better term) seemed to encourage us to relax zanshin a bit, whereas not stopping to acknowledge a hit (even if there were momentary breaks in the action) produced a much higher degree of psychological and emotional tension.
- Stopping and acknowledging when you've lost, while polite and in tune with the spirit of how most of us practice budo, seems to ingrain in the practitioner the tendency to give up when they perceive they are at a disadvantage. I noticed when I started training in submission wrestling and BJJ that I had an unconscious tendency to give up when I felt that my sparring partner got me in a clean technique, because that was what had been ingrained in me over several decades of traditional martial arts training. I would also get frustrated at first when I would get my partner in a dominant position, but they would fight it and reverse it; even though I knew intellectually that that is what happens, I was unconsciously expecting them to give up and acknowledge my superior position or my submission attempt by tapping. It took me a year or two to deprogram that tendency.
- Forcing yourself to continue sparring and either aggressively attacking or actively defending after you've been hit seems to be a more realistic and advantageous habit to develop. Although I've never been in a major altercation, let alone one involving weapons of any kind, the general wisdom I've seen from people who have either been there or studied those types of incidents is that your ability to function after being shot, stabbed, cut, etc, is largely dependent on your mindset. If we take that as an accurate assumption, it would make sense to me to train yourself more to keep going after having been hit than to train yourself to assess your own damage and stop fighting. If you've taken a bad shot and the bad guy is still coming at you, acknowledging that they got you isn't going to stop them, so if you're still breathing, why not keep fighting?
- Acknowledging when one person has "won" an exchange, while somewhat useful for feedback about the effectiveness of a technique, seems to shift the overall emphasis of the sparring session to "who is better, me or him?" Continuous action with no official breaks kind of short-circuits that type of thinking (kind of, but not completely), and the session becomes more focused on each person really getting the chance to keep on flowing through the exchanges.
I know you've done some fighting with the Dog Brothers, so it would be interesting to hear your opinion on the similarities/differences between what you are doing in the dojo and what you do with the Dog Brothers.