Randori 乱捕り means “free fight” practice, sometime it is also called unyōhō 運用法 (application method), and is also a very important part of Shorinji Kempo practice. One usually says that randori is the application method (unyōhō) of hōkei.
Purpose of Randori
The purpose of randori is to develop ones techniques – hōkei. It is a method of to refine what one learns as hōkei.
Randori combines the pre-arranged practice of hōkei with free combinations of attack and defence. Shorinji Kempo practice is built around learning to do hōkei in pairs, but when practice consists only of set patterns, one doesn’t learn to react to unknown dangers. The level of hōkei is never reached that way.
It is required that one master the techniques to the point where it comes naturally to perform hōkei, even when one doesn’t know what attacks to expect. Randori teaches how to move in accordance with the principle even when surprised.
Under real circumstances one needs a sense of spacing (maai), fluid combinations of techniques, and a developed ability to adapt to the movement of the opponent.
The purpose randori practice is for improvement of this, not to defeat others.
Today it isn’t very common with randori competitions within Shorinji Kempo, but it does happen in some places.
It is very important that one does randori in the spirit of Kongo Zen. To succeed or fail in protecting oneself in randori are important lessons to learn from. However Kaiso often stressed that one should not strive to have championship style randori matches that pursue the goal of winning a game. The leadership of Shorinji Kempo (hombu) have opposed to tournament competitions that place primary emphasis on randori.
Randori practice with bōgu 防具 (protective gear) give the opportunity to practice to learn to hit something and still have good balance, get a feeling for correct maai (distance) when really hitting, etc. But the use of bōgu in randori also means several limitations.
One is that wearing boxing gloves restricts the use of jūhō techniques, which require free movement of the hand and finger. One’s style of fighting adapts to the arena of punches and kicks, and bad habits are bred of ignoring the dangers of grappling attacks.
Another danger is that one might ignore the pain of being punched or kicked when wearing protective gear. It makes it possible to counter successfully when, in a real fight, one would have already received a fatal blow.
Methods of Randori Practice
One can practice randori in different ways, but it is important to not only practice free randori, with unlimited attack and defence. In order to develop ones ability in randori one should have a purpose of each part in the practice of randori.
A common way to practice randori in Shorinji Kempo is to appoint kōsha 攻者 (attacker) and shusha 守者 (defender), in this way it is more like a self-defence situation than if both persons were allowed to attack freely.
Other ways can be to have a limited number of attacks and from that choose among a number of different hōkei as defence. This can be adjusted to different levels and degrees of difficulty depending on the level of the individual kenshi.
Shorinji Kempo hombu have also developed a number of different types of bōgu (protecting gear) that can be used in randori, of course these can be used in ordinary hōkei practice as well.