Monday, December 19, 2005

Shooting from the Hip

My younger brother managed to get me a video camera to play with. This camera was designed to be used my mountain bikers or skateboarders as kind of an X-games style helmet cam. I decided to try using it attached to my belt in Uchikomi. The results of my first effort were not good. However, I would love to get some feedback from people on the net as I experiment with it some more.

You can download the video file from here


Sorry for not posting - it has been a busy couple of weeks. In lieu of a real post, I thought I'd post some tidbits:

  • I had a great Randori Session the other week. A visiting black belt and I were going at it and I saw my opportunity for Kata Guruma. He tried to get out of it and accidentally kneed me in the head. I came so close, I will need to try that again sometime.
  • I found out that I have only been going to Judo, on average, once a week. This is partially in part due to holidays, work emergencies and other things, still, no more excuses. If I want to progress, I need to keep at least a 2x a week average and I need to find out how to do it.
  • I need to lose weight. All of the October Holidays and non-workout weeks really made me pack on the pounds.
  • My brother gave me an Extreme Cam to try out. I think I will use it to take video during Uchikomi and see how it looks. I will post when I get the chance.

More posts to come, keep reading.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Putin - is he good for Judo?

Say what you will about Vladmir Putin's politics, but there is one fact about him that is indisputable - he too is a Judoka. As seen on the left, from an article on the IJF's website, he recently met with Judo Legend Yamashita in Tokyo. Strange as it may seem, they talked about business and cooperation between their two countries, and Yamashita gave Putin the scroll in the picture, which reads - 'Yours and mine, may they thrive together'.

Putin was also recently made the honorary chairman of the European Judo Union. With all this Judo attention, I wonder if it is a good thing that Putin is involved in Judo. Sure he is a political leader, but not necessarily the most democratic one - by a long shot. But maybe his face can help recruit more Judoka and bring more attention to our art?

Is Putin good or bad for world judo? Please comment and tell me what you think?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

For those of you that asked...

I posted a link to this site on the Judo Forum and asked for some feedback. One of the many things that the kind Judoka of that site suggested was more pictures. Since I don't usually take my camera with me to class or Shiai, nor do I have people photograph me durng them, I don't have too many pictures yet. However, the photo to the left was taken just over a year ago. The man on the left is my Sensei - Shiro Oishi, his Randori partner is Mr. Kelly - a black belt in his 70's - he got his Shodan in 1951 - when my DAD was 2!!!!

Actually, in class on Monday, Sensei informed us that Mr. Kelly needed small procedure done, so we all signed a get well card for him. Feel Better Mr. Kelly, we miss you and look forward to Randori with you soon! Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Learning by doing... Learning by watching...

So last week I went on a business trip to California, and I decided to find a dojo to work out in on the road. Fortunately, my hotel was a block away from San Jose State University, and their Judo team has an open-door practice policy. So I couldn't resist. All told, there were about 25-30 people in the room playing and practicing Judo. It was a great Judo experience for me.

First some words about the SJSU Judo team. They are probably one of the few colleges in the US that takes Judo as a sport seriously. Even though the team's members are students first, they are also excellent and first-rate Judoka, and many of them have competed and won at high-level events. It was amazing to see so many young, enthusiastic and athletic Judoka hard at work.

While I bowed out of the full randori session, I still managed to get one round in with a Japanese student named Kento - his ashi-waza was beautiful. It's as if wherever I stepped, his feet were there. I also admired the skill students' (and one of their coaches, Chuck Jefferson's) techniques during randori.

I realized that becoming a good Judoka requires a lot of training and hard work as well as good work ethic and the will to improve. These 'kids' practice 5 days a week, and also alternate running and weight training days, all told, they probably workout around 4 hours total per day, for five days a week! I again reminded myself that I really need to supplement my Judo with some other excercise - if only I could find the time.

I would be lying if I didn't say that I felt like the white elephant in the room (all but 3 other people were black belts, and excluding the sensei, I was the oldest in the room by at least 5 years). But they all made me feel right at home, and everyone seemed to want to practice with the new guy. The greatest part of it all was that I learned so much -

  • We did some great drills for controlling and escaping from various grips. I quickly found that Sukui Nage is a good attack against an over the back grip.
  • I watched Keith Nakasone teach a great variation on Tomoe Nage using the weak-side leg.
  • I learned a great counter to drop-seoinage - so I can finally counter those people who always try drop seoi.

It was truly an amazing experience, and I hope to get out there again if I find myself in San Jose

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Trying to get back into the saddle

Wow - after a month of Jewish Holidays, and schedule changes with me now driving carpool at least once a week. I have finally gone back to Judo. Before yesterday, I had played about 2-3 times in 8 weeks! (and one of those was a tourney). I am still sore from not working out and still about 7 lbs heavier (all that holiday food).

Practice was good, I am taking to heart some of the things that my Senseis mentioned to me at the shiai, and working on my strengths. I also noticed two other things:

  1. The lower belts got better while I was away.
  2. I need to play to my strengths as well as work on new tricks, because I am becoming predictable.

I also need to adjust my schedule. I don't think that I can swing two daytime practices anymore, which means I will need to convince my wife that to let me workout at night once every three weeks or so.

If I can still workout twice during the day once in 3 weeks, I will get 5 practices in in every 3 weeks.

I hope that I can pull this off.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Sometimes a good loss is better than a bad win...

I lost all 3 of my matches yesterday, which now makes me 0-4 in all matches since returning to Judo. While I didn't get the 'W' yesterday, I did feel that I played a lot better than i had in the previous tournament, and all of my dojomates and Senseis that saw my matches had a lot of helpful tips for me. I have to say that there were many bright spots in all of my matches. First of all, I played well in all of my matches, and I felt (as did others) that I had the upper hand in 2 of the 3. In those two matches, I lost by being countered, which was eventually going to happen considering that I didn't fully commit on my techniques, and started telegraphing the third or fourth time I tried each. Here is how it broke down:

Round 1: I played a guy of about equal height, and roughly equal age - it was a pretty fair matchup. I managed to dig in my grip right away, and he seemed to have trouble with the left handed grip. I tried a couple of Ouchi-Gari - Tai Otoshi/Ouchi-Uchimata combos, but I couldn't pull them off. (One of my Senseis later told me that it appeared as if I didn't fully commit, and if I did I would have had him since I had some Kuzushi and timed the throw properly - all in all both a good criticism as well as a good compliment). After hajime matte rounds of this, on the fourth round the guy decided to play me against the left grip, so he grabbed his right lapel with his left hand to prevent me from taking my grip. I still broke his grip and got mine and went in for the same combo. I gave a hard commitment for the Ouchi, and I thought I had him, but he reversed it into Ouchi-Gaeshi or maybe Ko Soto Gari for his own ippon

Round 2: I played this 16-year old kid with a purple belt. He was also pretty tall and went for the over the back grip. He had good control, but nonetheless, his throws all failed. I got a shido for playing defensive. So I turned on the offensive. I managed to get him down to the ground and tried choking him out of the turtle, but that didn't work. Another time, he got me on top and almost got Osaekomi, but I managed to roll out with his arm. Unfortunately I didn't act fast enough, because I almost had a sweet Waki-Gatame, but he was quick, and pulled his arm in, and the ref stood us up after me working the armbar for about 15 seconds. He finally threw me with Osoto Gari for Ippon.

Third Match: My third match was a volunteer match. I did it because if I won it would be "free points". Essentially, everyone gets to play twice. To go from 3rd degreee brown to second degree brown, you either need to win 2 in a row, or 5 total. Players play up in size from lowest to highest and when they reach the end, the round starts over. But kind of like the last frame in bowling, if the biggest guy has one win, and wants to play for his second straight win they won't match him up against the smallest guy, but rather match him up against a volunteer. So I played someone about 50 lbs heavier than me. He gave me quite a run for my money, and if I had been better able to pull him ito a throw, I might have one, but he reversed my tai otoshi with his own and threw me for ippon.

Granted, I lost all 3 matches, and that hurts, but my senseis and buddys have given me enough information about my playing habits and style that I see my luck is going to change. Now I just need to practice a lot more.

Friday, October 14, 2005

2 days to go - will I get it or not?

So my next shiai is 2 days away, and I truly think that I am grossly unprepared as my practice schedule has been erratic over the past month or so. This tournament is a promotional tournament, which means that how I far may or may not determine how long it takes me to achieve my next belt - Nikyu (to the un-initiated, second-degree brown belt).

From what I understand, I need to accumulate four points in wins to jump to the next level. There are various combinations of how that can happen, but in simple terms I need to beat 4 people of equal rank to advance. Given my current state of practice, I don't think it's going to happen, but I will play my best and my goal is to get at least 2 of those points.

Wish me luck, and I will tell you how it goes.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Promotional Coming Up

The last promotional tournament for my area was held in May, and I didn't sign up because of a high load of family obligations. This worked out for the best because I was sick like a dog that weekend. I have signed up, however, for the next promotional tournament, which is this coming Sunday. I will only get in one practice between now and then, but I am going to go nonetheless. I just don't want to pass up the chance. I think that I need one win to make Nikyu, and I hope that I will get it.

I have really been struggling with keeping up with Judo lately (and this blog too! - wow, only one post a month), but I really know that it has been good for me over the last 13 months, and now I need to find a way to keep at it.

I will hopefully update you all on my progress at the tournament, as well as my progress with my schedule.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

A lot of work in a small amount of time

So continuing the rough spell of weeks starting with my vacation and culminating with the Jewish Holidays that make it virtually impossible for me to attend Judo classes for pretty much the entire month of November, I went today to ensure that I get my workout in. Sensei continued pushing me to improve my Ashi-Barai. And since there were an odd number of people in the class today, I spent most of the Uchikomi time working on it solo. I definitely think that I have improved significantly and so does he, but I still need a lot more practice. I am hoping to do a lot more solo practice in the next few weeks when I can't make it to class.

I also got a rare opportunity to work with a blind individual. While it might be hard for a blind person to take a striking art, there are plenty of sight-impaired and blind judoka out there. (Like Paraolympic Gold Medalist Scott Moore of Denver Judo). This guy was actually a perfect size match for me - a couple of inches taller and within 5 lbs - and his technique was excellent.

Finally, I was asked by someone for Randori advice, which I am reluctant to do. But it made me think - if he is asking, then clearly he values my opinion, and if I can give him a succinct, concrete answer that actually improves his judo, then maybe I am getting better at this without even realizing.

My advice to him was predicated on a common habit that many people (including me some times) have. When they win a strong grip, the fight to hold on to the grip, without ever thinking that a great time to attack is when your opponent is trying to break your grip and take his own.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Busy summer / Slow summer

Hey everyone. I came onto my blog and noticed no recent entries. Unfortunately I have been too busy at work lately to blog, so I apologize to all those of you who have been following my site. Due to work commitments my Judo practice time has been a bit sporadic of late, but hopefully I will be back full swing in September.

I will need to alter my schedule a bit - I am now a Carpool daddy two days a week :), so I might wind up playing a bit at night. Hopefully this will give me an opportunity to work with some new faces.

While I am getting better, I still have a long journey ahead of me. So long as my commitment to the road remains constant, I will be able to succeed.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Fancy Footwork

Sorry for not writing in a while - things have gotten busy at work, but thankfully, I still have some time to go and play judo. I have been really working hard at fine-tuning my footwork. Not just Ashi-Waza but Ayumi-Ashi as well. I am debating if I should get one of those sweeping tools that I have heard about (and seen when visiting a dojo). Needless to say, I have seen some improvement in the way I move. I haven't developed a solid attack plan yet, but at the same time, I have become much harder to throw.

I guess I need to keep practicing. If you see someone practicing footsweeps on a NYC city subway platform, please say hi :)

Monday, June 27, 2005

Playing Worse...but Getting Better

I have noticed marked improvements in my Randori. Interestingly enough I don't get in as many throws as I used to, but at the same time, I also don't make the same mistakes, nor do I get thrown as easily. I am really loosening up my play and I see my skills going to the next level every day.

I guess when using Randori as a measure of one's skill it is not so much that you throw, but rather how you throw.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Transition....

Somewhere in the last couple of weeks, I feel that I have made a transition in my Judo. I have started playing a little looser and more fluid. I don't telegraph my attacks as much, and even though I am not hitting my major throws as easily in some cases, I am getting close enough to realize that they will be super effective with a bit more practice. I have also greatly improved my timing and footwork (although, admittedly, it needs a LOT more work) as well.

In talking to my sensei about my progress yesterday, he mentioned that he too has noticed a changed, and predicted that once I get my hands and feet to work together I will notice that my judo will reach a whole new level.

I think in the past few weeks I have learned (both from within and outside of judo) that reducing tension and loosening up can go a long way. I guess if you think about the stiff-armed, body-power Judo played by lower Kyus (at least the kind that I played) and compare it to forcefully removing the lid of a pickle jar - sure brute force will open the jar, but it also increases the chances of me opening it very sloppily and getting pickle juice all over the place. But if I do it soft and gentle with a firm grip, (or smartly, say, by running the cover under hot water) it will open almost effortlessly and neatly.

I think I've just discovered that the brown belt kyus are really the transtion of Judo from stiff begginer play, to the smooth efficient style of black-belts that I will need to perform the Kata.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Casting doubt... reeling in confidence

Out of the blue this morning I was greeted with an e-mail from someone who I don't know who said he saw me lose to a white belt at my last shiai and told me that I don't deserve to wear a brown belt and that I should give up judo, or start again from scratch. I politely told this person (who sent this message anonymously) that I would be more than glad to come to his dojo for some instruction from him (her?), as I am open to learning from everyone. I eagerly await his reply.

Even though I know in my mind that this person admittedly only saw me play in one match (forget about multiple matches in a shiai), and has know idea of how I really play Judo, he still put the monster of doubt in my head.

I wondered aloud if he was right. I decided to ignore him and let my technique tell me the truth. Today in Randori I landed to amazing throws - one Ippon-worthy Uchimata and one wazari-ish Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi. Okay, maybe it is no big deal that I did this - after all, I have landed hundreds of throws in Randori and been thrown with hundreds more - so why are these special? Because these two throws were two throws that I had extreme difficulty with even 3 or 4 months ago. While one can say that this was a fluke, it is also safe to say that I have improved to the point where my technique shown through and I was able to execute them.

I am now so much more confident than I was after reading those e-mails. I still look forward to a reply from the sender inviting me to his dojo for a workout. If he/she does, I will be glad to be humbled by his or her experience, and who knows, maybe I will surprise them to show that I am worthy of my Brown belt after all.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Priming the pump

In grade school, one of my teachers made us listen to a cowboy song called 'Prime the Pump'. The gist of the song was that a desert traveler, dying of thirst, comes across a water pump with a small bottle and a note. The note indicates that the small amount of water is neccesary to 'prime the pump' so that you will be able to get more water out of it. The chorus' final line -'You need to give of yourself before you're worthy to receive.' He asked us to ponder that thought and think about the concept of reward for personal sacrifice.

This concept popped into my head yesterday about Randori and Judo. Our sensei was away yesterday and class was taught by one of the senior blackbelts in the night class - someone who rarely comes to the afternoon classes. I commented to him at one point that the thing I love most about Judo is that to be able to execute a technique, you must make yourself vulnerable first.

Every time I enter for a hip throw I need to give my Uke my back; Every time I go choke against choke in the guard, I need to give my uke some leeway before I can get close enough to choke him out.
The moral of the story is you need to have the courage to accept the risks so that you can execute. Yes I know that if I go in for the win, I will need to make myself vulnerable. The worse that can happen - I lose the match, or I tap out. But playing defensive gets me nowhere. I guess its like playing the market - investing nothing win nothing, invest wisely, and even though you have risk - it's heads you win a dollar, tails you lose a quarter.

This strategy paid off for me as I through the guest instructor with Eri-Seoinage. I was definitely not ippon worthy, but the key point was that I pulled it off.

Now I just need to keep the 'prime the pump' song in my head and I know that I will improve in Randori.

Monday, May 23, 2005

(Bad) Place!

So here are my shiai results with baited breath:

I took second place .... but ... there was only one other person in my division and I lost to him.

I was dissapointed for two reasons - first, I thought that there would be more than 1 other person - 2-3 at least. And second, I made a stupid mistake and it cost me the match because it left me significantly vulnerable to be thrown and my opponent took advantage of it. My mistake was that I tried a backward sacrifice throw - a no-no in competition.

However, I was happy that I competed, and happy to be there. I met some nice people, saw some old faces, and even saw a couple of great Judo matches.

There was one match between a guy from Camal's Dojo in Jersey against a guy from one of the Russian Dojos in Brooklyn or Queens (might have been spartak, but I am not sure). At the end of the match, the two senseis were playfully trash talking each other.

I also took my son for a few minutes when I went to weigh in and I think he really enjoyed watching the kids competition.

Needless to say I had a great time, and hopefully I will get a chance to do it again soon.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

3 days to go - I think I am ready

So I was hoping to get 3-4 judo sessions in this week, but unfortunately I got a cold and was barking like a dog all of last weekend and Monday and Tuesday as well. I was finally able to get back to practice yesterday, but only did half a session as I didn't want to overdo it.

I think that I am ready for the Shiai, I just hope my cough (which is 97% gone) will be 100% gone by Sunday. I also hope to get in another practice tomorrow as well.

Ironically, last Thursday morning I got on my bathroom scale and weight 197 and thought to myself that I need to lose a few lbs, just in case my scale is slightly 'under'. This morning I weighed in at 190 -> I don't think I will have many problems making weight on Sunday now.

Wish me luck. I will try and update once the Shiai is over!!!!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Still not fully there...

I had another difficult session in Randori Yesterday. I tried springing several traps for my ukes - most of whom were at least equally ranked as well as relatively close in weight - but didn't even land so much as a koka. Part of me wonders if my game plan doesn't work on them because they are used to my 'tricks'.

I also heard of another person who might be in my weight class at the tourney - A former Wrestler with minimal Judo experience. The last thing I want is to get a Wa-Zari throwing some wrestler and then get pinned for ippon - or worse, have him take me out with Morote Gari - the two leg takedown.

Well, I still have 3-4 more sessions to get into form. Wish me luck!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Competition Update - Less than two weeks to go

I am getting a wee bit nervous, as I only have two weeks left to go to the Shiai. My wife asked me yesterday if I thought I would win, and I said that I honestly didn't know. I am competing in the novice seniors division. The main reason I chose the novice division is simply because since the Black Belt pool had a $500 cash prize, and because 3 people who had strong showings at the nationals (Higashi, St. Leger and Mikolacz (sp?)) are in my weight division and live and train in the NYC area. Seeing that this is my first tourney back, I want to keep it simple and play the novices - I could mop up, if there are few brown belts in the division and my experience conquers the lower ranks, or I could get my lunch handed to me by a quicker, younger yellow belt with one good throw.

In any case, it should be exciting. I am going to focus my Randori this week on solidfying my gameplan.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

And now a word about our sponsors

To be perfectly honest, when I started this blog it was solely for the purpose of sharing my Judo experience with the rest of the world. And I promise that it will always stay that way. However, I will also use this site and my blog to promote some other money-making ventures from time to time.

With that in mind - I have created a web site to sell t-shirts with some Judo slogans that I have come up with. I don't make much money on the t-shirts, but every little bit helps. Check out my t-shirts at CafePress' website

Monday, May 02, 2005

Competition Update - 3 weeks to go.

So I went on the scale this morning and weighed in at 199. Granted, this is also on 'my scale' and doesn't mean that I am truly 199. I want to give myself about 5lbs of leeway so that I don't get on my scale the morning of the tourney at 195 and think that I am safe. Given that I want to weigh 191-192 on my scale the day of, just to ensure that I weigh-in within my weight class.

As for practice, I went last Friday and got in a lot of Randori with a black belt of comparable size. But I didn't have focus or a game plan. I have given my plan some thought, and I will try to execute it today in Randori.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Who's reading this blog anyways?

For the most part, I don't care, but every once in a while I am curious. So I checked my stats today. Not including last november when I first started I have been averaging over 1000 visitors per month. This month, so far, I have almost 1700!

According to my stats software, you come from the USA, Japan, Canada, The Netherlands, Israel, Australia and Italy.

I am always curious to know who's reading this. So if you'd like, please leave a comment!!!

Feeling Fatter Already - need to step it up

So I have been missing a bit of practice this week - Monday the second day of passover and I couldn't go because of religious reasons, and because I took off on Tuesday, I couldn't afford 2 hours away from work on Wed. I might try to go tomorrow (Fri.) but probably won't get a full 1:45-2 hrs in. In addition, having been on the South Beach diet for about 9 months now I have had a terribly carb-infested week.

One would think that on a holiday where bread is not allowed, I could manage to stay low-carb, but unfortunately rice and beans - two 'good carbs' that I was consuming a lot of, are not permitted (I won't explain why, because it's beyond the scope of this blog) and Matzah - the special passover crisp bread - is listed in the SoBe book as one of the foods to avoid entirely as it is one big 'bad carb'.

Couple that with the generously increased amounts of sugar in everything, and I am scared to step on a scale. I will have a lot of work ahead of me in the next 3.5 weeks to get in form and weight for the shiai!!!!!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

5/22/05 - My next Competition

So I sent in my entry forms today for Westchester Judo's Westchester Open. I will be competing in the Senior Novice -90KG division (assuming I can keep my weight under 198 with all of the passover food I will consume).

Wish me Luck! I better start getting ready!!!

Friday, April 15, 2005

Back in the Saddle - a rare Friday treat.

So as it turns out, my numbness was a temporary condition, and my doctor even encouraged me to exercise, so I went back to Judo today. I usually don't go on Fridays. You see, I am an Orthodox Jew, and I need to leave work early on Fridays during 'Standard' time to make it home in time for sunset and the onset of the Sabbath.

But I needed to get out there, I am going to miss a couple more days in another week because of Passover, so I figured that I would get it all in while I can now.

Unfortunatley, I had to limit myself to 45 minutes down from my usual 1:45. All I got to do was warm-up, rollouts, and about 50-70 uchikomis. Thankfully the time off has given my right wrist more time to heal and I hit some nice Harai Goshi pickups. I am also thankful that I got to work with a realtively light uke as well - just so I could take it easy.

Monday, I am going to go back full throttle. I missed Judo. I still plan on competing on 5/22, so it's time to gear up.

Monday, April 11, 2005

More sidelining

So yesterday morning I woke up and my left arm had a loss of sensation. In the past, this has happened in situations where I fell asleep on my arm, but would usually go away within a few minutes, or at most after a hot shower. It lingered the whole day. By 6pm, I felt tingling or burning on most of my body. I even went to the ER to check it out. The ER doc suggested that it was most likely a nervous condition issue caused by either a viral infection, slightly herniated disc, or a muscle spasm. I hope to see a Doctor about it shortly, but until I figure out what it is, I think I need to stay away from Judo - at a minimum a week or two more :(

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Missing my Workouts

I missed all of my Judo this week, in part because I was still feeling a little loopy from the sinus infection and in part because I took off a sick day or so from work and needed to catch up. That is the one thing that sucks about Judo - it's not like you can workout on your own. Karateka and TKDer's can easily practice kicks and punches, but it is really hard to practice anything more than basic footsweeps and entry motions without an Uke and mats. Well, I guess I will just need to train harder next week.

Sidelined... but thankfully safe

On Sunday, I was shopping with my wife and kids and my oldest started acting out. I bent down to pick him up and bumped my head lightly on a fixture hanging off of the wall. It was a light bump, but I felt dizzy immediately. I also hadn't eaten that day - but the bump was scaring the crap out of me for two days. Finally on Monday I had it checked out and discovered it was only a sinus infection that happened to come on as I got this bump on my head. I decided to stay away from Judo this week to not push myself. But I am so grateful that isn't anything worse.

When I didn't know, I kept thinking how I get thrown and banged around a few hours each week, only to be sidelined by a bump on the head from a shelf - go figure :)

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Neural Networks, Reflexes, and the Importance of Practice and Combinations

Our dojo is pretty small, and generally speaking we can only get 3-4 Randori sessions going at one time. When there are 6-10 people at a particular class this is great, but when we get more than 10, you have to wait your turn to play. Needless to say, it isn't that bad waiting around as you can cull ideas from your colleagues and also assess how to play them when your number is up.

I was watching one particular match where one of my dojomates was executing a beautiful combination from Uchimata into Tani Otoshi. I have seen Jimmy Pedro actually demonstrate this in a video made to teach the American audience about Judo for the Olympics, and this guy was great at it, he must've hit it several times yesterday. Watching him got me thinking, not just about the combination itself, but the concept of Combinations in General as well as the concept of reflexes.

Any one will tell you that the key to performing effortless Judo is all in the timing. If you do not agree with me, or don't believe me, try executing De-Ashi-(H)Barai in Randori or Shiai. Hard isn't it? Of course your answer to that question is proportionate to the amount of time you've spent in Judo, and how much time you have devoted to practicing foot sweeps. In reality we are not talking about dance-move style timing, but rather reaction time - or in another word - reflexes.

Essentially a reflex is an action triggered by a stimulus - just like the little kick we give when the Doctor hits our knee with that little rubber hammer, or how our pupils dilate when we walk into bright light. For the most part, these are unlearned and involuntary - or are they? None of us were born walking, yet once we start (assuming we don't have other impediments) we ultimately get the hang of it and it becomes second nature. None of us are born talking either, yet again, barring any other impediments, we learn and ultimately are able to talk as if we did it straight out of the womb. So clearly, reflexes can be learned. Depending on your level in Judo, you may already be noticing this in yourself or have noticed it in your dojomates.

Another interesting thing about reflexes is that the more you practice the quicker they become. Why is this? In theory you aren't able to detect the action any quicker, nor is your body becoming faster, so why does response time improve? The answer of course is in the brain.

You see our brain is really one massive computer network. When we want to raise our hand, a message from the part of the brain which we think with travels from our brain to the necessary muscles to get them to move in the right direction. These paths that the impulses traverse are known as neural networks. But unlike computer networks that have fixed bandwidth, the speed at which the impulse travels is increased with the frequency of a particular action - In other words the more often you do something, the quicker you will be able to do it because the frequency will prepare your body to boost its execution priority. Obviously, we will hit a wall with speed at some point, but by continuously practicing something over and over again, both as a motion on its own, and as a reaction to uke's action, we will improve our reflexes and lower our response time.

I am sure that this is evident the first time any of us learns a new technique. We go slow the first 10, 20, 50, 100 times and then ultimately as we get the motion down pat we start to pick up speed. This why Uchikomi are important, and even more important are combinations - why you might ask? It's very simple. If you just study simple Uchikomi, your attacks will be single-faceted. But as we all know humans take multiple reactions to the same action, therefore, one move is not enough. By practicing combos you are further training your mind to deal with what steps lie further ahead.

Ultimately, by putting together various combinations from a specific starting move, your body and brain will learn the appropriate action to take in response to a specific reaction from uke. Obviously, the possibilities are endless, which is why practice in Judo is so very important.

The bottom line: keep practicing, and you will even begin to amaze yourself.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Circle to the Right ....

When I injured my wrist a few weeks ago, I had to almost completely switch over the the left-side, because I wanted to go easy on the right hand, and using it as my Tsurite (Lifting hand) was quite painful. I think that it has healed enough for me to be able to go back and try the right again, I will let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Mystery Solved

I know that once you get to Shodan and above, you need to successfully perform Judo Kata to reach the next Dan. However, I wondered when and where those Kata are taught and practiced.

As I was leaving class today, I noticed that my Sensei had a 'Kata' class listed on the schedule. Although I am not yet ready to study Kata, I know that it is there for me when the time comes.

Visible Progress...

For many reasons, I decided to go back to playing right-handed today (for the most part, anyways). In addition to testing out how well my wrist has healed (it's like 80%, still can't use it to bridge and do certain throws), I also wanted to test out some of the techniques I have been doing on the left side on the right side as well. I was amazed at how much progress I am making with my Tsurikomi-Goshi, and even my Hane Goshi has improved a bit.

But in Randori, I really surprised everyone, including myself, as I almost pulled off an Uchimata. I was going for Ashi Guruma, and my Uke stepped out, so I immediately switched back to Uchimata, but he managed to avoid my sweep. Later on, I also almost managed a Ken-Ken uchimata, but in the end, I got reversed and thrown.

Nonetheless, my uchimata was so bad just a couple of months ago, that people asked me not to practice it.

Maybe by the 1-year anniversary of my return to Judo I will have it down pat.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

My Bag

On Mondays and Wednesdays - my two Judo days, I carry my Judo gear bag with me to work. Of course on the way in and out I look like a pack mule - With an overnight bag slung over one sholder and my Backpack - with my laptop, work stuff, and lunch - on the other. Although it isn't a problem to find a seat and ample space for my gear on the commuter train I take from my suburban home to NY's Grand Central Station, it becomes a huge hassle on the two subway trains I take between GCT and my office.

For those who haven't lived in New York City, you need to understand that carrying these two oversized bags through some of the most crowded subway stations (Grand Central, Times Square) is a hassle in of itself, even there wasn't the stigma associated with large bag carriers. You see, given the crowds at rush hour, the bigger the bag, the more hated you are - and I have two, so I am one Notch above the Devil, Osama Bin Laden, and whoever is currently living in the Mayor's Mansion.

When I first returned to Judo, I simply found a small square duffel in the house that my wife had gotten from work - it has both the logo of a Golf Company and a Financial Services Company on it - it was big enough to hold two gis and my other assorted gear. Part of me wishes that I had a Mizuno bag or one that Said Judo on it, so people would part like the sea for me. But on the other hand, such a bag might also cause them to take more umbrage with me. I can just picture some pissed-off guy saying something like 'Hit me with that bag again Karate Man, and I will introduce you to old-fashioned whoopass'.

Of course some of the guys at my dojo leave their 'washable' gear at the laundromat next to the Dojo. But they charge $5 to wash a gi/towel/underwear that I would put in the bag. While it may not seem like much - $5 twice a week is about $500/year, which is a lot of Judo classes and tournament entry fees. (Although I recently started keeping a spare gi in the office, in case I forget my bag, which I do once in a blue moon).

I think for now, I can deal with being 'that guy' on the subway for two days a week.

What is in my bag you might ask? Well, if you are that curious:

  • My Gi and Belt

  • A Towel

  • A Change of Underwear

  • Various Braces - Wrist, Knee

  • Deodorant

  • Hand cream - don't make fun!!!

  • Instant Heat Patches

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Outhinking Myself

While there are many people in my club of various shapes and sizes, there really aren't too many that are within my weight class. There is one guy that I like playing who is about, if I had to guess - 30-40 lbs heavier and a couple of inches taller than me. I really enjoy playing with him, simply because his size advantage is a big challenge.

I played against him a lot today, and couldn't even get the slightest concession, he kept beating me with more moves, and kept overpowering me - so I foolishly tried to counter with harder moves and more force. Which only led to both of us being tired out. In Randori week after week he continually throws me with Tai Otoshi, and I keep trying to counter it, but then he gets mad when I don't take the slap when he throws.

I think I need a new tack. Part of the tenets of Judo is 'Maximum Efficiency' or 'Best use of energy'. I need to get a little more cunning and mix it up against him, at least so that he doesn't get in for that throw.

I also need to prevent my adrenaline and frustration from getting the best of me.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Another point about Constant Attack

In January, I talked about the importance of constant attack, and how the timing of your attack in concert with one by your opponent can tip things in your favor.

However, I recently realized another element of why it is important to constantly attack - because it puts your opponent on the defensive. I love to counter - sometimes I will sit and wait for my opponent to try something before I counterattack. I am seeing more and more why this is a bad idea. The minute my opponent throws me on the defensive he is at an advantage.

Why? Because even if I am waiting to counter, I am still thinking defensively, and If am in 'defense' mode, it is hard to spot the opportunities for attack.

I think I will need to be more aggressive. The worse that can happen is that I get thrown :)

Friday, March 18, 2005

One wash can make a huge difference

So I shrink-washed my two new Gis yesterday, and although I thought that my gis would change with the wash, I didn't imagine that one shrink washing would make such as huge difference.

The sleeves shrunk to the perfect fit with just one washing and between the shrinkage and airing out of the fabric the fabric expanded to a considerable heft - it now feels a lot more like my Double-weave Toraki Silver in terms of thickness. Of course, as has happened in the past, my skirts are just an inch or two too long. I will wear them for a couple of weeks and/or possibly shrink them again (although I am a little worried about the sleeves) before I take them to the tailor. Even if the tailor only charges me $10 bucks to shorten the gi, it would kill some of the value. Still $38 bucks for a double-weight Gi is an awesome price!! (Besides, if I like these gi and get mileage out of them, I might save the $10 for some emboridery :) ) Of course, the skirt is made of a lighter material than the jacket, which definitely affects it's shrinkage - the denser the fabric the more it shrinks it seems (which is why many people do not wear the same size gi in a double weave as the single.

The pants are a bit on the flimsy side, but to be fair, I usually drip-dry my pants so they normally seem stiffer.

As for the blue color, it faded in the first wash to a lighter shade of blue, and now the color in-line with what I'd expected. To be more precise, the pants and top half of the jacket faded, but a lot more than the skirt. The gi now has a two-tone look to it that I have seen in many other Blue gis.

I will hopefully get to use them for the first time next week, so I will let you know how it goes.

As an aside, the woman I bought them from on e-Bay, is no longer selling them. Simply put, she found that selling gis and shipping them from taiwan, in addition to dealing with customer service and long lag times, makes selling gis less profitable, and she has decided to concentrate her efforts on Judo DVD's. She'll soon be opening a website to do just that at I am sure that if you write to her, she will be more than willing to get you the same gis (but probably not at the 'bargain' price that I paid for them :)).

Monday, March 14, 2005

Murphy doesn't like me...

So I get an e-mail yesterday from one of the exmainers on our local Yudanshakai's promotion board (I will explain this in my next post). His e-mail included the application packet for the next promotional competition - to be held on May 15th. This is one week to the day before the Competition that is literally in my backyard that I wanted to compete in. While competeing in both would be great, somehow I don't think it is going to happen. I will need to talk it over with Faigy and figure out which of the two I will attend. Who knows, she may say yes to both!

One little detail can make a world of difference.

When I bought my new gi the other day, I also got along with it a DVD of Instructional Judo as well. The DVD was created by former US Olympian and World Champion Mike Swain for the purposes of teaching instructors how to teach Judo.

There were some small little details in his video that I picked up on on how my Kuzushi wasn't working properly, and in particular, effecting my ability to throw with two throws Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi and Hiza Guruma. I picked up on these details - a little twist of the wrist when pulling, and turning your head to the side slightly - and BOOM! A throw which I had great difficulty performing before suddenly became very easy. It's still far from perfect, but those two little pointers made a world of difference.

Interestingly enough, I don't think that anyone who has no clue about Judo techniques could possibly learn such a complex throw simply by watching a video. I think that the point Mr. Swain makes is simple if you could learn from a video, why not make a video for beginners instead of for instructors? The answer - because you really need to learn these throws hands-on.

The details helped me because after years of instruction on how to execute this throw, I was still missing something that I needed to spot for myself and myself alone. And now that I have it is amazing how much difference these details make.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Initial Gi Review

Close-up of the Blue Fabric

My Gis arrived yesterday in the mail. To make a long story short, I one an auction for two gis - one blue and one white - on Ebay for $75. Considering that these were billed as double weave - it seemed like a two for one deal. Even at that rate - most size 5 singles are at least $45 - so it is definitely a good deal.

Here are my impressions so far - bear in mind I haven't washed or worn the gis short of an initial try-on.

  1. The blue is a little bluer than I thought it would be, but then I have seen other pictures of brand-new blue Gis and they look as if they were a lot bluer to start with and I expect it to fade a bit after the first few washings.

  2. The fabric seems a thinner than I expected, but it hasn't been washed. I can tell from the workmanship that this is constructed from two plys of fabric, and more than that at most seams, but I know from past experience that a)Fabric is thin right out of the bag, and thickens up a bit as it is aired out and b)Shrinkage will increase the density, softness, and hand of the fabric.

    If I had to guess the overall fabric weight, I would put it between 400 and 600 gr/m2 - which would put it in the area of a lightweight double weave. But my impression can and will change once I wash it.
    My Gis Hanging in the Closet
  3. The size seems perfect - which means that it is slightly bigger to the point where it will fit perfectly after shrinkage with no additional alterations.

Overall I am happy with these gis, and I would definitely reccomend them to Gi-Seekers on a budget.

I provide additional updates (and maybe an additional picture or two) after I get to shrink them down and play once or twice in them.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


MY wife, and my boss noticed that I spend too much time on the Judo Forum. So I imposed a two-week absence from it on myself. Let's see how it goes. I wonder if my virtual friends miss me?

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

My article is picked up by another Judo Club's site...

I just found out that another judo club - the Oakville Hatashita Judo Club in Ontario, has linked my Judo Article to their site as well.

I am working on one or two more articles on Judo that I hope to publish soon

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Working the sleeve side.

Randori is the part of Judo training where we simulate competition and actually see how well our techniques work. Of course Randori in the same dojo with the same people has its pros and cons. For example, it is good because you know everyone's weaknesses and can take advantage of them, but it is bad because you don't see anything new unless someone else joins your club. I have been doing a lot of work using a left-handed grip against right-handed opponents. But since I have been doing this for a while, my partners have caught on, and will now nullify my advantage by playing lefty against me. As part of this style of play, I have generally worked the lapel side of the gi - meaning that my first hand grip goes on my Uke's lapel and then I wait for my opportunity before taking the sleeve-side grip. Of course this too is starting to get predictable.

So I am contemplating a new strategy, working the sleeve-side instead. While I know that I will have greater control to lead uke with a lapel grip, I think that there is a lot of potential opportunity for the sleeve side too. It will open me up to a lot of throws where the primary lifting action is sleeve side and/or the lapel pull is not used - three good examples - Koshi Guruma, Kata Guruma and Ippon Seoinage.

I think I will try em. Hopefully my uke's are not reading this :)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Working with Black Belts

Yesterday one of our regular Black Belts returned after a some time away from our particular class. I was paired up with him during most of our class and he offered a lot of great pointers on my technique. He showed me a couple of ways to improve my groundwork as well as my standing techniques, and he reiterated that I have a really good seoinage (although my left-handed technique needs to catch up to the right hand).

It was just a great day working with him and I felt that I had learned so much just from the one session. It really cancelled out the feelings of inadequacy that I felt on Sunday.

I would like to think that when I get my black belt, I will be like some of these guys who I respect and revere. But first, I will need to get there :)

Just a wee bit of pain...

As i mentioned yesterday, I went to a sunday night training program in a local dojo. During ne-waza with one of their senseis (who I might add, is playing at the NY Open this weekend - which is a relatively high-level competition), and I caught my wrist in his 'triangle'. It hurt a bit but I still played on, I also went to practice yesterday at my regular dojo, and played with a wrist-brace on. Of course, as I was trying to throw a senior Black belt with Seoinage, He tried to pull me down, and I fell flat on my face.

To add to all that, the excercises I did on Sunday were a lot more strenuous than I am used to, and included a lot less general stretching. As a result I am sore in place that I forgot existed. We did like 150 squats (something I never do) and my thighs are so sore that I can hardly walk up and down a flight of stairs. In addition, my neck is sore from Ne-Waza, and avoiding the chokes of that highly-competitive Sensei.

My wife laughs at me - she asks why I pay money to put myself in pain - she's willing to hurt me for free. She just doesn't know how good it feels.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Tsurikomi Goshi

Last night I was critiqued in my Tsurikomi Goshi practice with someone saying that I wasn't using my Hikite (pulling hand) at all. I have said that this particular throw is an achilles heel for me, and that I wanted to learn it better. I think the time has come to ask my Sensei for real advice. Learning to execute this throw properly is super important for three reasons:

  • It is one of the throws required for Nage-No-Kata -the kata done for Shodan
  • It is the two-footed basis for a lot of one-footed throws - Harai Goshi, Hane Goshi and Uchimata
  • It is one throw that I really don't know well and want to learn.

I think if I really work hard at developing this throw, I will become a lot better in Judo in general.

New experiences

So I went to the local dojo's training program last night and I had a realtively good experience with some unfortunate side effects. Originally it was scheduled for the JCC in a local Gym, but it didn't quite work out that way. Because of the scheduling conflict they moved it back to their dojo a few blocks away - but the Dojo was a bit on the small side (and I thought that my Dojo was small) nonetheless it was a serious workout. The Head Sensei is a former French olympian, and takes competition very seriously. (His very frayed French National Team gi hangs from the Dojo Rafters). But he doesn't take it too seriously and ensures that both the kids and the adults have fun in his dojo. His assistant is a lightweight guy - 60-66 kg - but faster than most of the Judoka I have ever played against. (He is going to compete in the NYAC against the lieks of former World Champ Arash Mirasmeili among others).

The warmups were intense and I can't remember the last time I did so many squats (150, + ~150 pushups and situps - i didn't do the full set, but came close). The adults were essentially two groups the 'masters' like 2-3 guys in their 40's and the 'seniors' me, the asistant sensei and another brown belt in his 20's. Being that I usually play guys in their 30's and 40's the young bucks gave me a run for my money. Also, Randori was harder, because I am not used to that type of game - fast and ready reflexes. Leo (the asistant sensei) was throwing me as fast as I could stand up, and even my venerable throws and counters weren't working.

For the first time, I also used a crash pad. For those who've never seen one, a crash pad is a very think foam pad (6-8" thick) used for Nage-Komi, throw practice. In my dojo we do our Nagekomi on the mats, and I have never used the crash pad before. My throws all sucked because I couldn't get my positioning right for the pad. I nearly hurt someone with a failed Kata Guruma.

In ne-waza I also went up against Leo (the asistant sensei, and he choked me out everytime (save one armbar). I also injured my hand fighting the triangle. (I hope it's playable,but I will know later).

I would definitely go there again, wife permitting, but I think I will need to get into better shape to keep up with the young bucks :).

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Going to try out a different dojo...

So I am going to try out a different dojo on Sunday night. This is a great opportunity for me to get in 3 workouts a week. I just hope the people are as nice and cordial as they are in my own dojo. I'll keep you posted.

New Gi(s)...


I just won an auction on eBay for two new Judogis! These gis are billed as double-weave and both cost me what I think one comparable gi would cost me in the US. (They were being sold together 1 white and 1 blue).Of course I know what you are thinking - he's bought gis before sight unseen and screwed up royally, or that this would generate yet another pantsless post on Judo Forum.
But this time around I actually did some homework. You see the person selling me the gi actually lives near the Wacoku factory in Taiwan and gets unbelievable prices on these gis. Although I don't know too many Judoka that use Wacoku gi, I know that it has a pretty decent reputation as a Karate gi manufacturer (although, given the differences between Judo and Karate Gis, this shouldn't mean much). She has also sold a lot of them on e-bay. So I went through the feedback and contacted a lot of her previous sellers. They all provided valueable feedback - some good and some bad - that helped me make my decision. It was also nice to see how friendly members of the martial arts community are. I contacted about 5-6 people and at least 4 of them responded and answered follow-up questions as well. I am looking forward to posting information about these gis, as well as some pictures (I promise I will post them with pants on).

Thursday, February 17, 2005

You maybe in a McDojo if....

While there are tons of legitimate martial arts schools out there, and thousands of serious practitioners studying those arts every day, there are at least an equal number of McDojos out there (especially in the US). For the uninitiated, a McDojo is essentially a martial arts school that puts greater emphasis on marketing and profit than on educating the public in its selected eastern art. That being said, here are some signs that you may be in such a program:

You may be in a McDojo if...

  • Every belt has up to 4 tabs, 2 stripes, in each of 3 colors, making for 19 possible combinations at each belt level.
  • You have so many belt colors that they've resorted to using Camouflage, Gingham and Plaid as belt colors.
  • Your monthly membership fee is $10, your grading fee is $30, and you pay amonthly average of $100;
  • Requirements for grading are: attendance, completing a 'homework/behavioral' checklist, attained specific knowledge, understand specific terms, and pay the $50 fee - all of which are flexible, except for the fee :).
  • The instructor in your adult class is a Black Belt and has the title 'Shihan' and has been practicing for 7 years... but he is only ten years old.
  • Their 'pro shop' offers black belts down to size 00.
  • The head instructor let's rank beginner's take him down - but only at their own birthday parties.
  • You are required to buy a new Uniform to color-coordinate with each belt.

Feel free to comment and add more to the list.

Another Great Opportunity - that I don't think applies to me

There is a training camp right after the NY Open with some of the Elite Athletes that are to compete in the Tourney. Unfortunately, it seems that the clinic is only open to Black Belts.

Oh well.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Missing Practice

Unfortunately my oldest was sent home from school with a croup-like cough and I needed to forgo my Judo session yesterday to leave early and take him to his pediatrician. Thankfully it is just a cough, and nothing major, which given that his little brother is still taking medicine for an ear infection, is pretty darn good.

I think that the one advantage that the Gym had over Judo was that I wasn't bound to a class. If I was still going to the Gym, I could have brought my son home after his appointment yesterday and then gone to workout.

Unfortunately given yesterday's missed class and given that monday is a legal holiday and the dojo is closed (and I am not going to be anywhere near it), I will have gone 10 days between workouts - not good.

I think what I need is to be able to identify 3-4 additional workouts that I can go to, so If I miss a regular workout or two, I can go to the other ones.

Changes Brewing

I think I mentioned early on when I started this blog that I was also going to possibly use this site for other Judo-related projects (quite frankly, I am not that arrogant to believe that my personal blog should be called '' :)).

That being said, instead of trying to teach myself a new language and develop it that way, I am planning on rolling everything over to a Language that I know, ASP.NET.

There is just one problem - my current blogging software won't work with it. So I will need to replace it. I am not sure how and where, but once I figure it out, I will let you (the few people reading this site) know about the impending changes.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Dobuting one's ability... and focusing on what's important

So I was practicing yesterday with a green belt. Generally speaking my brown belt is just one notch above green in our ranking system, which basically means that it is quite plausible that there is very little difference in our abilities to some extent.

I have to say that while I think that my knowledge of technique and trickiness in Randori are better than this particular green belt's - he definitely has me beat hands down when it comes to speed and execution. But then again, he plays 4x a week, and I play 2x (if I am lucky).

Working with him, and watching him, made me doubt my worthiness to wear a brown belt. I felt inadequate for a little while. But then I remembered a quote (which I heard second-hand) from my Sensei: "A Belt is merely a means to keep up your pants and hold your jacket closed".

I thought this morning about how much I have improved since I returned to Judo 5 months ago. I now feel comfortable in Randori with black belts and brown belts; My Ne-waza went from piss-poor to half decent; and I have not only improved my technical skill in many techniques, but I also have picked up some great tricks for Randori that I can't wait to use in Shiai.

I also acknowledge that I have a long way to improve in other areas:

  • I want to work on Tsurikomi Goshi and it's derivative throws - Uchimata, Hane Goshi and Harai Goshi (it works for me now, but my technique needs improvement).
  • I want to build up my confidence to play more offensively in both standing and ne-waza Randori.
  • I need to learn how to really use foot sweeps.

I think if I keep focusing on getting better - I will, and I will also enjoy Judo more.

Friday, February 11, 2005

A New opportunity

I was trolling the net looking for new Judo sites, I discovered that a local dojo (less than 2 mi from my home) finally got a website up. When I went back to Judo, I picked my current dojo primarily because of its proximity to my office and the convenience of its classes.

The dojo nearest me has adult classes at an hour that fits my schedule - 8-9:30 pm (just after bed time) but on my busiest nights of the week.

But anyhow, I noticed on their website that they are no going to be having sunday clinics at the JCC just down the road from their dojo location. I am in like flynn. I will try going once in hfeb. and if I like it, I will go again in March. Maybe I shouldn't say that so loudly, as the post below will attest, stranger things have happened.

Man plans, G-d laughs...

As I walked in the door last night, minutes after posting that I was going to definitely attend a tourney, I check my mail and realized that it conflicts with my Synagouge's annual dinner, to which I have already committed myself too.

I will compete, I promised myself that I would go to 2-5 a year. There is a tournament coming up in May that is in my local area, in addition the promotionals (a tournament where you win points towards your next promotion) is coming up in may as well (I believe).

Maybe I will go to both? I think I need to send in my registration ASAP, so at least I have no excuses this time around.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

A Compliment

Lately, my Sensei has been pairing me up with an Uke who is just a bit larger than me (say 40 lbs heavier and about the same height +/- 1" inch). Because he is much heavier, I have had a hard time lifting him up onto my hips for a hip throw, so in Uchikomi I would stick to Leg throws - O-Soto-Gari, Ko-Uchi-Gari, etc.

Yesterday, Sensei tells me to do Seoinage. Both to get a better workout and to work on my technique. Skeptical, I started with Ippon Seoinage, both left and right. It was working so well, even I was impressed. He just popped up right in the air! At one point Sensei was watching and complimented me. and while I thought he didn't pay attention to our randori sessions he mentioned he's noticed how I confuse people by constantly switching grips and sides.

My uke, a long-time member of the dojo turns to me and says - 'Wow, a compliment. You'd better write this down, as he doesn't do it very often.'

It just felt good to hear.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

I promise, I will actually attend this tournament!!!

So now there is a tournament on March 13th, in Bergen County, and I hope that this time, I will actually make good on my threats to compete. Let me back fill you on the saga so far. First I was going to compete on 2/6 (this weekend) at my Alma Mater's invitational tourney, but that was cancelled. Then I was mulling the 2/27 tourney in Central Jersey, but after carefully examining the math - 1.5 hrs. Each way, one mat=long tourney. This one is only 30-40 minutes from my house, and they have specific division start times and weigh-ins.

So long as the Mrs. has nothing else planned, I will be going. Interestingly enough, her best friend lives nearby, so maybe I will even get her to drive me there, and either have her watch or go visit her friend and pick me up afterward.

Since we'd be near Teaneck, maybe we could make a day of it, and go out to eat dinner in one of Teaneck's many Kosher Restaurants - hopefully it will be a victory dinner:).

Improving my judo - one tea break at a time.

I don't know if I've talked much about my Judo class. Essentially it runs from roughly noon to roughly 1:30. Usually speaking there are about 8-12 people in attendance, and most of the crew is fairly regular and consists of people working in the area. Ocassionally, we get a visitor from out of town, or someone who normally goes to our Dojo's nighttime classes and has part of their afternoon free.

Generally around 1pm, our sensei gives us a tea break. He prepares a pot of tea the old fashioned way (from loose tea leaves) and pours a glass for everyone. While we drink we usually b.s. about Judo, our club's results from the latest tournament, or get a verbal lesson from our sensei. On Monday he spoke about the following story, and I was really inspired:

"When I was a Junior at Meiji Univeristy, my Sensei asked me to coach the team of another university over spring break in preparation for a tournament. I was perplexed because I couldn't understand why he would send a student to coach a college team. But he told me 'Go, and you will understand'. While I was there, I realized why he had sent me. While at our school, we would leave practice tired and worn out, they would leave practice to play mah-jongg. I realized that the difference between those that are good and those that are great is the desire for constant improvement, and the idea that practice isn't repeating the same mistakes over and over, but rather the quest to improve ones technique, timing and reflexes."*

I realized, then and there that maybe that what was missing from my routine. That was what separated the fraying brown belts from the fraying black belts - the desire to improve.

I think that today, I will work on my weaker techniques to improve them. Hello Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi and Tsurikomi Goshi.

*My Sensei's english isn't that great, so this isn't a direct quote, but I am sure that he will be pleased by the eloquence I put into his mouth

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Fraying brown belts

I've noticed in my dojo that we have a few fraying brown belts. While a fraying black belt is a mark of someone who has passed the 'first' degree of judo, a fraying brown belt is tantamount to what college kids refer to as a 'super senior'. Granted, in our local belt system a brown belt is worn for three Kyu or levels, it still shouldn't hopefully take longer for someone to pass these three levels for their belts to start fraying. I am sure that there are many reasons why these people never reached shodan - maybe because of lack of desire or willingness to take the test. Maybe the didn't feel the need to get to the next level?

I am not here to question their progress, nor do I mean disrespect for my colleagues. All I know is that I have the desire and ambition to improve so that I get my black belt before the brown one begins to fray.

Monday, January 31, 2005

One-Armed Bandit

A couple of weeks ago, I talked about one-handed Seoinage. Ever since then I have playing with both one-handed throws and entries. I have had mixed success. Last week I threw someone with a one-handed Eri-Seoinage, and yesterday, I almost threw someone with a one-handed Morote Seoinage.

Essentially, this love for the one-handed teachniques is borne out of the inability to get a second-hand grip against Ukes who love to grip-fight. The scenario basically plays out as follows - at Hajime, I walk to Uke and look to get a right hand grip. Uke does his best at preventing me to get that grip, so I go lefty - grabbing his right lapel. At this point, he's confused - partially, I am sure because he doesn't play lefty enough to understand what I might be trying to do. So they stiff-arm, trying to keep me at bay, and making it very difficult for me to grab at their left sleeve. I used to have a hard time figuring out what to do, but then I tried the one-handed grip.

Essentially, when I get my left-hand grip on his right lapel, I try to circle him around so I am almost parallel with him, as he tries to square-up with me, I give a little tug towards me on his lapel. If the timing is right, he will need to take a step slightly forward to adjust his balance, and that is when I strike. I quickly take advantage of the Kuzushi by darting in across his front and pouncing with left-handed Tai-Otoshi/Seoi-Otoshi/Yama-Arashi. Seoinage is almost there, but I am not getting in far enough to load Uke onto my back. I guess I will need to practice it more.

I am also thinking about what to do when circling the other way - Sode Tsurikomi Goshi needs work, and I could probably use a Ko-Uchi Gari/Ko-Uchi Makikomi too.

I'll keep you posted. I just hope my potential victims, err.. ukes don't read this blog :)

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Randori with Sensei and Ashi-Barai

I had a good session today. After about 15 minutes of Randori with 2 different partners, Sensei asked to Randori with me. I am always apprehensive in Randoriing with him for two main reasons: a) I feel that I need to show him that I am progressing and b) I know that his knowledge and skill (he has been doing Judo for at least 20 years more than I've been alive, and he is a 6th Dan Black Belt) far exceed any physical advantages I might have over him.

We Randoried for about 10 minutes and he managed to throw me at least once each minute. Each time he threw me it was with Ashi-Barai foot-sweeps. At one point I decided to get him with an attacking Tani-Otoshi. I baited him for Ashi Barai, and when he tried to sweep, I dropped to the side, and slid my leg behind him to drop him down - except he was still standing. Somehow he read my attack, and managed to pull his leg out of my sacrifice. The end result was me lying on the ground and him standing on his two feet, as if I had thrown myself.

I asked for advice afterward, and he told me to stop crossing my feet and keep my feet in line as much as possible.

I guess I have some work to do.

Friday, January 28, 2005


I need to start doing workouts on non-judo days for two reasons: a) I need to keep myself in good Cardio-vascular shape and b)I still have 5-10 lbs to lose to reach my goal, and I need an extra push to get there.

It's interesting, but as I thought about what workout I could do, I started to ponder the differences between strength training and conditioning. In a nutshell, the goal of strength training is building muscle mass -both for good looks and to build strength/power. The goal of conditioning is building endurance. That being said, the approaches taken to each is different as well.

For example, when strength training the goal is ading reps and resistance. So after a few weeks of 20 pushups, start doing 30. Or after benchpressing 3x8 reps of 100lbs, go to 110. While with conditioning, it is more of a time game - as in run for 20 minutes or do as many crunches as possible in 3 minutes.

With conditioning training, the goal obviously is to watch that number steadily climb as time progresses. The idea is to get you performing at your peak over a specific period of time - and I think that is what I am going to do.

My time situation easily lends to this, as I will only have a few minutes for calesthenics each day, but hopefully they will get me into better shape and provide me with good results.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Objects of Judo Desire

We don't have much in the way of gear for Judo. Basically the only gear you need is your Gi, and even that only comes in one style and two colors (Royal Blue and White). Sounds limiting, except that there are 25-40 manufacturers of Judo Gi and they range in price from $40 up to $300. Of coursethere are lots of variations in Quality, thickness, and durability that go into these models.

My current Gi wardrobe consists of 2 gis, one is what would be called a middle-of-the-line Gi. It retails for around $100 (although I got mine for less from the manufacturer). The other is my first Judo gi, a 'Student Special' that I have for ten years, with about 4 years of use on it, and it is just starting to fray.

Ultimately, I want to get a higher-end gi, but right now there is no cost-justification for it, as I only practice 2x a week, and I don't really compete. The gi that I want (Toraki Gold, first blue and then white) cost about $150. (closer to $200 when you factor in taxes and shipping) - a pretty penny. There are only two situations that I see myself getting one - a)Price comes down to below $100 (clearance maybe?) or b)My wife is nice to me and lets me buy it as a present (not gonna happen until I hit 35 or black belt).

I guess I can still desire though?

Trying to get

When I first returned to Judo in August, I was amazed how much I had remembered after an almost 8-year absence. My dojomates commented that my Seoinage technique was really good. Although I can do Seoinage well in Uchikomi and Nagekomi (all three of the grip variations - Eri, Ippon and Morote, but I haven't yet dabbled with the drop variations). But somehow, I can't set it up right in Randori. I think I want to focus on setup throws more in Uchikomi and Nagekomi so that I will find myself in better position to execute it in Randori. I will work on Ko-Uchi Gari today and see if I can get that to work to my advantage.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

You never know who is going to show up....

So I introduced myself to a Dojomate who has been started coming to our dojo recently. Turns out that not only is he a 4th dan, but he is also a high-ranking city official and on a state judo board. His technique was awesome. That's the great thing about wearing the Gi, you really have to guess what your uke does for a living, etc, because the Gi is a great equalizer.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Thinking about the Shiai

I am debating if I am going to go to the Shiai or not on the 27th. On the one hand, it is a small tournament with only under black belt ranks which will ensure that I won't get in over my head. On the other hand, it is 3 hours of driving (1.5 each way), the tournament lasts for 5 hours, and I will fight for a maximum (say) of 30 minutes total.

On the one hand, if I lose out early, I would just leave, but on the other If I do well, I will need to stay for the medal round - so this could easily turn out to be a whole-day affair.

Stay tuned.


New Faces

It is nice when new faces come to our Dojo. Today we had a black belt who was a regular at our school's evening class but decided to join us during the day. He showed us a neat turnover from the turtle into an armbar/holddown.

It's great when new people show up to share their knowledge and experience with us.

On top of that, I managed about a full ten minutes of Randori with 2 different partners. A lot of good technique too - even if I was sometimes on the receiving end.

It is good to know that 25lbs lighter, I have a lot more stamina than I did in August.

Friday, January 21, 2005

The importance of constant attack

In Randori this week, I was trying to use Tani-Otoshi, which I normally use as a counter, as an attacking move. I tried bating my Uke into stepping towards me, and as he did, I moved my foot to slip it in place behind him - which he met with his own foot to throw me with Hiza Guruma - But because I was iniating my own attack, momentum was in my favor. I quickly reversed my hands and threw him forward instead of backwards - reversing his attempt.

It was profund. Many of the observers told me that it was a great move on my part, but I told them if I hadn't been attacking I would have been toast. I learned a valuable lesson from that:

Granted, when you move to attack, you make yourself vulnerable to an attack, but the effort gives you two advantages - 1)It puts your opponent on the defensive and 2)Even if you are off balance, you at least have more control - especially in your own head.

I guess it is Tora, Tora, Tora in Randori from now on.

The Ne-Waza Double Trap

I in Ne-Waza Randori, one of my partners got me into a unique Double-Trap, that was so powerful, it felt that there was no escape. With me on my back, he had his legs coiled around my head and right arm. He began to choke me with Sankaku Jime the triangular choke (you hook the ankle of one leg into the the kneepit of the other and then using the first leg's knee, apply pressure to the carotid). But as I tried to use my left hand to free it, he armbarred me with Hiza Gatame. If I would have fought the armbar, he had the choke.

I need to try that as Tori sometime :)

Learning new things everyday

I had a really good workout on Wednesday, and it seems that I learn more and more each day. During our 'tea break' (our Sensei prepares tea for us, usually right before Randori), someone talked about Koga and his one-handed Seoinage. I decided to try it - not ever even having seen Koga do it (or even his first name). Although I didn't land it, I discovered a new way to enter into Yama Arashi and Eri-Seoinage.

I also learned some cool new ne-waza tricks as well (saving one of them for a separate post).

I still am focusing only on getting to Nikkyu right now - the next level up, because G-d only knows how long I need to go to get to Shodan.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know

I had two great Judo workouts this week, and with the help of our Dojos black belts, I spotted several flaws in my technique and started working on correcting them. The more I play with Experienced Judoka, the more I realize just how much further I have to go to my shodan. When I returned to Judo last August, my goal was to reach Shodan in 2-3 years. While I haven't shied from that goal, and while I don't believe that it is completely unreachable, I now have a different approach: That I want to work hard to improve my Judo, so that when the time is right, I will be awared my Shodan.

My wife, who knows me like a book, often says that I always try to jump steps - i.e. I'm looking at Shodan instead of at Nikyu, the next level up.

Maybe I should start listening to her more often.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Gi off of his back..

I think everyone you meet in your life will have varying amounts of sincereity and kindness. There is one guy in my Judo Class that has an abundance of both.

I forgot my Gi on Monday, and knowing that he has been with our club for a long time, I asked if he knew if our sensei had any loaner Gi lying around?

He said he didn't think so, but since he has his gis washed at the laundromat down the block, he offered to bring one of his for me to work out in.

He is a great guy - another reason why I like this dojo is that we have a lot of people like this.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Missing Class, Finding Class

I missed my regular class yesterday because of a timing conflict. Again, in the grand scheme of things, this is no big deal, but at the same time, I also feel that my whole diet and excercise program is off when I miss a workout, especially because I only get in 2 classes a week.

The classes I attend are from 12-1:30 each day and with changing and travel time, take up about 2 hours total from my workday. I accomodate for this by shifting my schedule to work later on night that I work out on and taking less time for lunch on days that I don't.

I was talking to a friend today about how martial arts classes can be so inconvenient sometimes. Obviously they realize that most adults will take classes after dinner and most kids will take them after school, so kids classes run from, say 5:00 to 6:30, and adults run from, say 6:30-7 up to 9:00 or so.

Of course, this sucks for someone like me who spends the time between 7-8 on most nights with my kids bedtime routine - bath, story, bed, etc. Something which I would definitely not give up for anything - even my beloved Judo.

I am lucky to have found a school with a noon class close to my office that fits into my schedule, I just wish I could go at least one more time per week, but sadly, there don't seem to be enough hours in the day. I wish I could find a Dojo with a late evening class - like 9-10:30 pm or maybe a combined adult/kids class from 6-7:30 or so. I would gladly go to either of these.

Even a dojo with 'open randori' for a two-hour period would be great too. Maybe when I get my shodan, I could open that kind of Dojo? :)

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


The Polytechnic Invitational Judo Competition I was going to enter was cancelled. So now I think I will enter a competition in New Jersey sponsored by Cranford Judo.

It'll give me two more weeks to practice.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Learning to Stand Up and Throw Tall

Yesterday in Randori, I was having a rough time getting a grip on my Uke, and he was playing very defensively. I finally got into position for Harai Goshi but it just wasn't working. So I pushed it a drop further and then turned it into Harai Makikomi (essentially these two are very similar, except that after the first one, the Tori - thrower - is standing after the throw, while in the latter, the Tori rolls towards the mat to get increased momentum and, if executed properly, winds up on top of the Uke with him being pinned down). A few moments later he was also playing stiff armed, and I went for a Sumi Gaeshi against him.

Both throws were marginally successful. I would say that at best, I would have gotten a half point for the Makikomi and less for the Gaeshi, but the technique, I was told, was pretty good. So my partner tried a Makikomi that was half decent but he partially landed on me - thankfully it wasn't that painful.

After witnessing this, our sensei urged everyone to focus on throws that leave you standing after the throw. I couldn't help but think he was addressing me specifically. Especially after him observing my mixed results with Uchimata and Hane Goshi in Uchikomi.

It's funny, but he has some of the senior brown belts (2nd and 1st KYU) practice a lot of Tsuri Komi Goshi - a throw who's hand motions and off-balancing are at lot like those of the aforementioned trio - Harai, Hane, and Uchimata. I am now starting to see why, and think that I will join them.

In a related note, I have been taking part in a heated debate about Drop Seoinage in the Judo Forum. There are a few Judo techniques that have a 'Drop' variation in which dropping to your knees or kneeling (and/or springing back up) are utilized to provide more momentum for your throw. Of course, these throws can sometimes be more dangerous.

In light of these two events, I think I will work harder on my two-legged techniques - and once I am confident in my control and technique, I will try to work on the more advanced stuff.

I guess it is safe to say that the road I walk on towards my shodan seems to get longer everytime I feel like I am getting somewhere.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Stamina, Spinning and the Single-Step Spring

I got on the scale this morning and was happy that it read 193! I am just over 25 lbs lighter than I was when I returned to Judo in August. My goal is to get the needle below the 190 mark, and I hope to get there before my next competition in Feb.

Although I can attribute my weight loss to my diet more so than I can to Judo, it is my regular Judo practice that has increased my stamina and overall well-being.

When I first started Judo, I had very little steam in Ne-Waza and lagged significantly behind in calesthenics. Say I was able to perform maybe 30% of the Calesthenics load in our warm-up and warm-down excercises. Now I am at 90% capacity (my goal is 110%, so that I don't feel winded by the workouts).

One of the places where I have seen significant improvement is in the spinning excercise. The spin excercise is a warm-down/stretching excercise, in which you start in a seated position, spin your legs around and behind your back until you are prone, and then continue around again until your are sitting up. In august, I bowed out of doing them, because I just couldn't. Then I started by completing just a handful of 30-50 spins, and poorly. Now I can do about 20-25 full spins with no problems (it's the last 5-10 that kill me) and at the tail end of each I will be sitting up about 315 degrees from where I started - only 45 degrees to go.

I also finally got to meet Mark one of my virtual friends from the Judo Forum. He returned to our Dojo after a 9-month absence, and he was my Uke for Uchikomi. Sensei urged him to do his Hane Goshi, which he remembered being really good. It was probably some of the very best technique I've ever seen for that throw. I of course, immediately tried it afterward and he and Sensei watched, and then critiqued.

I entered the throw with a two-step move, that is, from a right-handed grip, I stepped my left foot towards Uke and then planted my right foot before pivoting on the left to execute the throw.

They showed me a much more efficient way of doing this - skip the second step by turning and planting with the left foot and then pivoting into the throw. It was phenomenal. I now see Uchimata and Hane Goshi in a whole new light. I still, however, need a lot of practice, but now that the stage has been set, I will hopefully be able to put a new set of throws into my arsenal.