Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sanda / SanShou: Institut de Wushu de Montréal: Montreal, QC

Renald Meunier Daure* will always have a special place in the history of the “Travelling Ronin” project. Up till now I had relied on friends in order to provide me a spot to film and write about. Sure I had contacted people out of the blue before and gone to train with them but Renald was the first gentleman who agreed to be featured on this blog and on YouTube with no prior relationship. I don’t like the expression that he “put himself on the line” by allowing me to come out. However, that was exactly what he did and I will always be grateful.

A Sanda competition was arguably where I learned my biggest lesson in my development as a fighter. I was at a tournament in Toronto and was matched against a smaller opponent for my fight. There where only two of us in the big lads division and he told me that he had almost no experience. I was coming off my first MMA victory and strutting around like a peacock. After all he was fresh meat and I was an “experienced killer.” Looking back my own arrogance was unbelievable. My Sifu, John Hum, tried to warn me but I would have none of it. I never considered that perhaps my opponent might not be telling the truth and instead had a habit of knocking guys out.
Your's truly learning a lesson about the pitfalls of hubris.

We got in the ring and I waded forward into the storm confident I was going to knock him into next week. At the moment he hit me and then didn't stop. I have fought all kinds of fighters from amateur to pro but I have never been hit like that before or since. One moment I was staring him in the eyes the next I was looking at the mats barely supported by my shaking arms. I don’t mind admitting that suddenly this “experienced killer” was terrified. Let me tell you, being scared and hurt in a fight sucks. Although I rallied in the second and third rounds winning the fight I never forgot the lessons that I learned that day.
Claiming victory but the real prize was learning that 
confidence doesn't equal invincibility.

What did I learn: Having done Sanda in the past I found Renald’s class enlightening in several ways. First was the specialization of training. Because you wear chest protectors in Sanda we threw the kicks in ways designed to achieve maximum penetration. Strikes that lack penetrating power get soaked up by the pads and leave your opponent unhindered to strike you.
I practice my front kicks hoping to get maximum force transfer.

We also worked on variations of the single leg takedown and a hip toss. I have done these techniques before and knew the basic concepts. However, Renald took these and really focused them for Sanda fights. For example, I almost execute my single leg takedowns standing higher and using more muscular strength. I do this because I fear getting trapped in a guillotine choke. Renald showed me a way to hit lower using less strength which will yield a lot of points in a match. These specialized drills are the mark of a good instructor. Renald knows his game and how to exploit it for the maximum effect. It is exactly what you want to see in a fight camp.

The second thing that stood out was the structure of the class and the “guided creativity.” After the warm up we moved into striking drills. These were structured to give the fighters focus and a toolkit to bring into the ring. Afterwards we hit the heavy bags and had free time to do whatever we though fit. Following the drills on the heavy bags we returned to combat drills, once more working structured drills. Finally we sparred against each other and played with whatever we thought fit.
A dodge away from a scorpion kick that passes in front
of my face and surprised me. 

It was a great approach to teaching. Renald grounds his fighters with basics then allows them the freedom to explore and develop on their own path. Instead of letting fighters get sloppy as can happen with too much free time he reconnects them to their roots before sending them out once more. It was a very good way of educating fighters.

What was similar: It felt good to be back in a serious camp. The warm up was cardio drills, running and skipping. If you don’t have the energy to throw techniques or block your opponent’s strikes your skill level become irrelevant. Rather, you need to be able to keep moving. Many fights have been won by “lesser” fighters who simply had the will to hang on and the energy to keep fighting once their more technical opponent faltered.

The “Rule of Three” is another way concept I was familiar with. It is said that you need to show a behaviour three times in order to teach it to someone. Therefore, if you find yourself being repetitive it won’t be long before your opponent figures you out. However, you can use this rule of thumb to train your opponent. Once you see that he is catching your pattern you switch it up and catch them anticipating the prior technique.
I use the rule of three to land an inside crescent kick.

A camp or school will largely get their attitude from their trainer. If your trainer is overly aggressive you tend to have over aggressive camps that lead to injury. Without enough aggression the situation lacks realism and fails to prepare fighters for the ring. Renald finds a comfortable middle ground to train his team. We exchanged solid combos with flurries of punches and kicks but no one got out of control. I landed a beautiful crescent kick against the face of one of his fighters. I didn’t carry any power through it and he acknowledged the hit with a smile. Next exchange he caught me with a left hook but didn’t try to remove my head from my shoulders. I complimented the strike and we moved on, neither fighter hurt both able to keep training, both having fun.

This attitude is a directly attributed to Renald’s leadership. He caught of my front kicks and could have dumped me hard on the floor. Very easily he could have “made a point” or “showed me up” by slamming me down on the hardwood. Instead, he held me for a second. I said, “thank you” in my appreciation of not being hurt, Renald winked and we carried on. Great, safe, technical fun when we didn't have mats to fall on. Travelling Ronin Note: Remember, if you have been an asshole to the teacher all class they will have the opportunity to dump you on your ass, hard. Rule #1: Don’t be a dick.
Renald snags my foot and could have sent me to the ground hard.

Conclusion: If you are looking to compete in competitive Sanda “Montreal  Wushu” is a great academy with a great teacher in Renald. His experience in the ring is obvious and there was a reason that he was a champion. His fighters have great attitudes which makes for a fun but competitive environment. 
Myself and Renald at the end of a great evening of training.
Did I mention the gorgeous facility?

Best regards and keep training,

Martin "Travelling Ronin" Fransham 

* Normally I will put titles like "Shihan, Sensei, Sifu, etc..." however, Renald doesn't use them at his school hence the break in formality. 

If you are interested in training together I would love to get together with you. Drop me a line on facebook and we can connect. I would love to learn from you. On Facebook:
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