Monday, December 13, 2004

Learning a little each day

So I am a brown belt, and I can honestly say that at this point, I know all of the 67 official throws of Judo by name, and can execute at least 60% of them with good, clean technique. In addition, I know all of the 7 official holds, most of the chokes, and 2-3 of the official armbar techniques. One might take a look at the curricula and say that I don't have much to learn, but that would be entirely wrong.

I view each class as a learning experience. I try to learn from both my Sensei and his assistants, people with greater rank, equal rank, and even lesser rank. Yesterday was no exception.

- I was humbled by a black belt that, as it turns out, was a former Olympian (not for the US). We were pretty evenly matched sizewise (I think he may have had 10 lbs on me, same height), so I knew it would be a good matchup. I was in Ne-waza with him, and no matter how many times we went at it, I was almost always on my back or tapping out. I am usually good defending against chokes, but he just kept choking me. The one or two times I wound up on top of him, he easily rolled me out, or I was working so hard to get him over that when I finally was holding him down we were up against a wall or in someone else's part of the mat. He made me realize that I have a lot to learn. At the same time, given that he was an international competitor and higher ranked, I felt that I put up a good fight against someone with more strength and superior skill.

- I was working with a newly minted greenbelt in Nage-Komi (Nage-Komi is dynamic throwing practice, where one person is designated as the Tori - attacker, and one is designated as Uke - defender. Tori and Uke move around as they would in a match and Tori gets to throw Uke several times, then they switch). He is a very tall guy - abiout 6'3-4", and has long legs. One of our Senseis taught him a nice combination throw (for those in the know - Ko-Uchi-Gari ->Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi). He was practicing really slow at first, so I gave little resistance, but then I increased resistance as we went along, and he threw me really effortlessly. The combo really works for him, and I encouraged him to do it more often. It think that it specifically works for him because of his long legs - he's got the reach to be able to pull this off. I don't think I could use that combo unless I was going against people 4-5 inches shorter than me.

- Uchimata is one of my worst throws. Essentially I screw it up whenever I try it, and ocassionally get it right on my birthday. Of course it is a difficult throw - legs, hands and hip need to be coordinated just right, and unlike my favorite Harai Goshi, you aren't sweeping the weight-bearing leg so much as you are sweeping him up to throw off his balance. I was trying to practice it, and Sensei saw me doing it and gave me some advice on the entry. During our tea break he was talking about using videos, books and demos to learn throws. He singled out Uchimata, pointing out how difficult it is and how people should stick to throws on two feet (i.e. both feet on the ground) as opposed to throws on one foot (like Uchimata).

On that note, I think I am going to work on my Tsurikomi Goshi before I really focus on Uchimata.

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