Training at the Seishin Tanren Dojo, review by Frederic Lespine

Xavier and I don’t have many opportunities to see each other since I left Taiwan 3 years ago. We try to seize every opportunity and we had a chance to meet early July next to Taitung where I spend my holidays. An opportunity to go to Hong Kong arised and even though it was only for a short trip, I was keen to see Xavier again, as well as his students, some of whom are also my friends.

I haven’t been training in a year and a half, I’m overweight with poor physical condition and lower back pain, even though I try this summer to keep it under control. I was quite reluctant to go on the mats but Xavier encouraged me to train a bit. After arriving in HK and one of our long discussions in the afternoon, Xavier passed me a keikogi and belt so I could join his class in SCAA. It was the opportunity to meet some of his new students and see again my friends Chris and Hugh.

We arrived early and warmed up with some push out and other exercises in order for me to slowly get ready. The class started with body exercises to apprehend the ground and prepare beginners for Ukemi followed by a couple of Te Hodoki (grips releases) in suwari waza and we started the technical part of the class. This one sometimes comprised two versions for a technique, with preparatory exercises for beginners and complete versions for the most advanced students. Every time, Xavier emphasized a global approach of the body, internal connections and absence of excessive force to apply techniques. Among others, we worked on (not exactly in this order) Sankyo (Yuki Chigae), Ude Kime Nage (Tembin Nage), O Soto Gari, Shiho Nage (including a version with a hip throw), an educative close to Irimi Nage to prepare for Hachi Mawashi and some sutemi, with Yoko Guruma among others.

Failing softness (I got cDSC_7366aught a couple of times using brute force), I can still fall and acted as Uke for Xavier but also Hugh, the most advanced student of the dojo, for him to execute his techniques without any restriction with Xavier watching. Training with Hugh was an interesting experience as he is the most advanced student of the dojo and has no previous martial arts experience. A pure product of the Seishin Tanren Dojo. Hugh is well structured and knows how to works smartly, using limited amounts of muscular power, and if he still lacks some fluidity (his strong build doesn’t necessarily help), he clearly deserves his 1st Kyu. Most of the other students are starting but showed great enthusiasm and curiosity, training was studious in a warm atmosphere. It is said the soul of a dojo is the one of its teacher. Xavier lets everyone feel the technique and receives it from everyone. He often insists on good body structure and proper connection rather than mere muscular power. Using the weight of the body and softness allow for an optimization of the techniques . When he does it, it looks easy. When I manage to do it, by luck and only from time to time, I’m happy but I can measure the distance between us.

The class ended the way it started with some body exercises, to allow for a better appropriation of the body via the ground. I was exhausted as two hours of training was a bit too much for me so I only watched.


Following this training, intensive for me, we spent a good time together at the bar of the association, with as always some very passionate conversations on martial arts. Soreness lasted two days… it could have been worse.

In the end I spent, as always, an excellent time with very interesting technical exchanges and the great pleasure of spending time with my friends.

Drinks Fred