Of the five primary training areas in TKA, One Step sparring is one the most difficult to practice outside of class mainly due to the need of a partner. However, the principal components of it are readily available in Forms and Basic Motion. In fact, there are few one-step techniques that cannot be traced to a Form or move in Basic Motion.
What Is One Step Sparring?
One Step is the controlled demonstration of focus, power and execution of basic karate techniques on an opponent that is stationary and predictable (predictable in that there is only one step and one punch and only at your command). The aim of one step is for the student to demonstrate not only the proper execution of blocks, kicks, punches, and other strikes, but the proper timing and the ability to deliver the techniques quickly and efficiently to within a fraction of an inch of the target (distance varies depending on belt rank. Yellow belts are expected to be within a few inches while black belt candidates are expected to be touching the Gi fabric in some cases).
One step is the evolution from performing Basic Motion and Forms to applying those techniques in a controlled combat situation.
The Goal in One Step is to demonstrate your ability to time an attack so that your defenses and counter attacks are quick and effective. When adding takedowns, the goal is to render the opponent unable to continue by administering a final blow or follow-up with “devastating” power and accuracy.
Characteristics of Good One Step (for exams)
Despite what you may have seen in some black belt exams and demonstrations, good one step is simple, direct, and efficient. Here are some basic guidelines when executing one step:
1. Either block the punch or evade and execute a counter before the attacker’s punch is completed.
2. If blocking first, make sure the counter attack is immediately following the block or (for black belt candidates) nearly simultaneous to the block. An opponent should never be standing with a completed punch while you maneuver and prepare your first strike.
3. Your techniques should look like they could be applied in a self-defense situation and be effective.
4. Each one step cycle should take no more than 4 seconds to execute from down block to follow-up. Never leave an attacker in a down block position for more than a fraction of a second – get them to attack quickly.
5. Don’t try to be flashy. That’s for demonstrations. Keep your set simple and focus on intensity and attitude.
What Not To Do
It is easy to get carried away with one step and begin to create elaborate and exciting routines. But, for belt level exams, remember that the purpose is to demonstrate your command of your body and the art. Here are a few “Don’ts” to keep in mind:
1. Don’t have more than 7-10 parts of a one step including take downs and follow ups.
2. Don’t be boring or ridiculous (up block and 7 face punches is not acceptable).
3. Don’t leave your partner/opponent standing motionless with a punch sticking out. Take them down quickly or finish them standing and step away and prepare for the next attack.
4. Don’t relax at the end of your technique and slowly return to Junbi. Get back to Junbi quickly and force your opponent to be reacting to you.
5. Don’t leave your attacker in the down block position (mentioned earlier). Yell for them to attack immediately. This is most important on your initial technique as it will set the pace for the rest of your routine.
6. Don’t try for locks and pressure points that require your opponent to tap out. These invariably lead to stretches of inaction. Remember to keep it moving!
What are Appropriate One Step Techniques for the Belt Exams?
Each instructor has their own idea of how to get students started in one step. However, nearly all of the instructors share a common theory and that is you should not re-invent your one step for each exam. In other words, use the core one step techniques from your last exam as the foundation for your new set on the next exam.
One Step techniques are very much like Lego’s or Tinker Toys. They can be combined and rearranged to make new sets without actually altering the basic components. Details on One Step techniques for various belt ranks are available in the TKA Handbook for under belts available from your instructor.
Being a Good Attacker
The attacker in one step has a significant influence over the entire routine. A good attacker can take a timid defender and make them seem more effective just through presentation. As an attacker, you are the first to move and therefore will establish the tone and tempo for the set. A good attacker has the following characteristics:
1. They attack fast and move with speed and purpose.
2. Their yells are loud and challenging.
3. Punches are delivered with speed and power and should have the potential to injure the defender should they miss their block or not evade.
4. They cooperate with their partner but do not anticipate the throws and go ahead of them.
5. Once the technique is conclude, a good attacker returns to Junbi and begins the next attack immediately – forcing the defender to be prepared and react.
Applying these five characteristics will make the entire set move faster and appear more realistic. You will make the defender react and the set will have energy and excitement based on the speed and effectiveness of the defense. You force the defender to do just that….DEFEND.
Being a Good Partner
A One Step Partner has two responsibilities: To be a challenging attacker, and to be a critical partner. Your performance is as important as the defenders. As the attacker, you have firsthand knowledge of how well the techniques are working. You need to feed this back to the defender. Tell them when the techniques are working and when they are not. Tell them if the throw is working or not and if not, how to make it work – never just go along until you know the technique is correct.
Something that is often forgotten is that many of the throws and takedowns we use in One Step and Jujitsu are designed to break or damage joints and bones. The fall is how we reduce or eliminate the danger but until the technique is done correctly, you need to be somewhat resistant.