One of the guest instructors at the recent American Kenpo Federation Spirit Camp was Mr. Ray McCallum. He’s a 9th degree black belt and a still-active, legend on the competitive tournament circuit. (To get a flavor of his fighting style, watch this!) Mr. McCallum was at camp giving lessons for all ages and skill levels on sparring. At the end of the session for advanced belts, after he’d sparred all of us, he asked for questions. The first question received was what drills he worked on. His answer? I fight. The second question was how did you get over your fear of being hit. His answer? I fought and got over the fear. It was his recommendation to everyone as well. Simple yet effective wisdom.
Over the course if his multiple classes he reiterated three key points.
Fight – Mr. McCallum told the story of how his first instructor, Demetrius “The Greek” Havanas, kept kicking him, then age 14, off the stage at a demo. Each time he’d come back to do it again. He also kept coming back to class every day taking the hard lessons. Finally his instructor became impressed with him, and they developed a strong bond. It’s the lesson to never give up and keep fighting he preached to us. Get on the mat and start fighting. He’d say you can’t learn to fight unless you’re in a fighting situation.
Make mistakes, but don’t make the same mistakes – Repeatedly during matches, Mr. McCallum said it’s ok to make mistakes while you spar. Just don’t keep making the same mistake. If a maneuver doesn’t work or your opponent has figured it out, stop using it. Set it up differently. I also interpret the concept of “its ok to make mistakes” to also mean experiment with new techniques while sparring to see how you can incorporate them into your regular arsenal.
Technique to target – “If you’re going to take the time to learn a technique and use a technique, then make sure it hits the target.” Mr. McCallum would say. During the belt test on the Friday night preceding the Spirit Camp, this situation came up a lot. Mr. McCallum stopped quite a few matches to repeat the point. Throwing jabs to gauge distance is one thing, but throwing two or three attacks and never connecting or connecting where there’s no opening is something else. Look for targets and hit the target.
Mr. McCallum gave a great seminar, and his instruction was top notch. He’s certainly worth seeking out if you get the chance. (He’s teaching classes in Dallas now.) I will remember forever his wisdom. How do you learn to fight? You fight.