New students guide to randori

What is randori?

Randori (atleast according to wikipedia) means “chaos taking” or “grasping freedom”, and can be used as an alternative to drills or kata.

Randori tends to be a more advanced form of practice allowing experienced students to develop the ability to practice techniques based on instinct rather than thought.

Unlike drills or kata the movements in randori are not pre planned, meaning both uki and tori are free to do what they consider to be the most appropriate action, the benefits of this are that tori learns to react to stimuli, a grab, a kick or a punch, rather than consciously thinking through the movements and techniques.

However initially with students randori should probably be done slowly allowing the student to think through their movements before implementing them, allowing the student to gradually build up confidence and muscle memory, to the point where they react with speed and without conscious thought performing an appropriate technique based on the appropriate stimuli.

There are various different ways of using randori, randori can be simply 1 on 1, with uke restricted to only 1 punch, the advantage of training in this particular fashion is that this form of randori is similar to the drills the student may have started with, thus allowing the student to learn taijitsu in a less linear step by step fashion.

1 on 1 restricted randori can be expanded to allow uke to perform multiple attacks of different style of attacks (say grab and punch), again keeping the training method similar to 1 on 1 but tori now needs to use a greater repertoire, and the attacks are increasingly becoming unpredictable forcing tori to react rather than think and act.

Then eventually randori can be expanded to include multiple attackers, the attackers can be queuing or randori can be done in a circle with tori in the center, queuing allows tori to know where the attacker is going to come from, circular randori forces tori to be aware of the people around him as any person in the circle could attack, personally I find randori with multiple attackers a good test of technique, sometimes in drills or in 1 to 1 randori techniques can be forced using strength (in other words done incorrectly), against multiple attackers you may be able to force through an application on maybe the first or second attacker, however if your fighting against 5 or 6 people stamina becomes an issue, it doesn’t matter how effective the technique was on the first 2 people if you don’t have enough breath to deal with the other 4. So multiple attacker randori can be a good honesty check on our technique, are we really doing the technique correctly or are we trying to use strength, if we are puffing like a steam train after the second person we need to evaluate how we are implementing our techniques.

Multiple attacker randori can be expanded further so that the attackers are armed, tori may then be allowed either a weapon to begin with or allowed to retain a weapon, should he disarm an opponent or alternatively tori may be restricted so that they can only use their hands.

Also tori can may be restricted, tori can be restricted so that they can use only strikes, throws or locks, tori may even choose to restrict themselves allowing them to focus on those techniques they feel they need to train more (a good strike may decide for the next week he will only use grappling techniques).

Tori may also be restricted with stance or guard the randori may start with tori having to kneel.

Finally pressure testing can be introduced (although I suggest this is left only for experienced students who know exactly what they are training and why), shouting, swearing and aggressive posturing, this addresses the psychological aspects of conflict allowing the student to experience the adrenal dump and the fight or flight response that comes with it, without having to experience “real world” violence.

Ultimately randori at its zenith randori may allow tori to develop the skills for them to deal with multiple armed aggressors, while kneeling and without getting out of breath, at which point if you ever get attacked in the street it will be just another opportunity to practice.