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.