Monday, October 23, 2006

The White Gi - Judo's Tuxedo

Although I own 4 Judogi (3 of which still fit), and have no plans to buy anymore at the moment, I still like to surf some Judo Gi websites now and then to see what they're offering up, and if they have any sales or specials. Last night, on Hatashita's web site I came across this gi (to the right) - in Black and Yellow. This seems to be another step in the direction of the commercialization of JudoGi. For decades the Judo Gi was just plain and simple - a white cotton jacket coupled with a pair of white cotton drawstring pants and a belt representing your rank. Yes there were different qualities of Gis, different manufacturers, but at the end of the day, eveyone looked the same. No ostensible logos, no flashy shoulder patches, and no one really cared. This is a far cry from today where Judo Gi Manufacturers take a page out of the fashion design books and have embroidered sleeve logos and use differentiating insignia to identify different models. Shoulder patches and insignia, normally used in international competition to identify players from different countries (i.e. the black, orange and yellow stripes on the shoulders of the German team), have now creeped their ways into local dojos as well, from companies like Fire Eagle, Toraki, and Adidas. Even the usually conservative Mizuno has jumped on the bandwagon, by offering it's Jimmy Pedro signature model with shoulder stripes (pictured below left; you can get one at KodokanGear).

And no Judo wardrobe is ever complete without a Blue Gi (I have one myself), which since 1997, has been mandatory for all international and elite competitions. Yes, its not just plain white or off white anymore, yet with all of the embellishments of the modern gi, there is something to be said about the plain white classic.

First and foremost, the plain white Judogi is one of Judo's Great Equalizers. The people in my judo class are a very diverse bunch, coming from many different nationalities, races, religions, ages, and professions. We walk in as maybe the South American investment banker, the Canadian reporter and the Japanese student, but that quickly changes. When we put on that gi

The Hazards of Judo on Your Lunch Break

Wow - It's been about 8 weeks since my last post and about 7 since my last Judo class. After a busy stretch at home and at work, I finally managed to get a class in today. Of course, being a little rusty I got knocked around a little more than usual. When I came back to work, the security guard at my office asked me if I had allergies. "Why?" I asked him, "because you're breaking out in hives, " he said, " go look in the mirror". A quick trip to the bathroom revealed that I had accquired some matburn just above my eye.

So are the hazards of doing Judo on your lunch break. Thankfully, I had no big meetings planned for today.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A Good Workout

Knowing that my schedule over the next two weeks will limit my Judo time, I decided to take in a night class. My dojo is probably one of the few in the NYC area to offer classes 6 days a week (daytime classes on M,W,F and Sat., Evening Classes M,T,W,Th,Fr) the dojo has so many members and so many classes that it is not uncommon for a daytime person to show up at night (or vice versa) and be asked if he or she is a new student.

But I decided to give it a try. The pace was a bit different tonight and the sensei who ran tonight's practice is someone who really knows how to motivate me. While my usual practices are a nice mix of Uchikomi, Ne-Waza, and Randori, the sensei suggested that since the next major tournament is 5 weeks away, that we begin warming up. About 90-95% of the class was Randori. We started with 1-minute matches (I must have had about 8-10 matches in a 15 minute span). Later we had about 30-40 minutes of Ne-waza Randori and then another 30 minutes of 3-minute Randori matches with follow-through to Ne-waza. The other 5% of the time we were doing speed uchikomi.

To be perfectly honest I was dead tired. I know that I am out of shape, and I definitely had very little sleep last night, but the Sensei kept on pushing me. And somehow I found the strength and courage to keep going. Even if I eventually lost a step or two at the end, I kept going a persevered to the point where some of my techniques began to hit, or came close.

I feel as if evey limb in my body is about to fall off, but it is the greatest feeling in the world. As we were changing in the locker room on the way out, I thanked him for helping me realize two things tonight:

  • I have more Sen then I ever imagine, I just need to keep pulling it out of its shell
  • As much as I know, as much as I've improved and as much as I've learned, I have so much more to learn before I can even begin to learn Judo

The Sensei smiled and told me he was glad that I realized it, and that I have enough potential to do well so long as I continue to work at it. He also noticed my gut and told me that I need to get rid of it.

I think if I can convince my wife I will try coming Tuesday nights more often.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Saturday or Sunday?

I recently received an e-mail from the local Yudanshakai to announce its next promotional tournament. As I went to note the date on my calendar I noticed that it was on a Saturday. Unfortunately for me, that meant not being able to attend. You see as an Orthodox Jew, I cannot travel on Saturday, our sabbath , nor could I compete on Saturday either. In the past, our local Yudanshakai would hold the promotional tournaments  on Sundays, but recently they tested out a Saturday and a lot of people expressed interest in continuing having tournaments on Saturday. Unfortunately there aren't too many other Orthodox Jews in Judo, and quite frankly, I don't want to make a big stink about it. 

I also don't want to switch to a non-competitor status for the purpose of ranking. I haven't fared well at my first few tournaments since coming back, but I still want the opportunity to a least try and win my next belt. I just hope that they shift the promotionals to Sundays again so that I can compete.

I know that there are a few tournaments coming up on Sundays, and although I will only compete in one or two, I want to make sure that I compete in them, before they also make the shift to Saturday as well.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Belts and Ranking Standards

Recently, on the Judo Forum, I have been following these two threads (#1, #2) with questions regarding ranking in Judo and how to deal with overly demanding students who demand being promoted to Black Belt Rank.

The unfortunate effect of Pop-culture martial arts has launched many a McDojo that are very eager to sign-up students by offering guaranteed Black Belt contracts to everyone from 8 to 80.  While I would like to think that those who pick Judo, or another legitimate Martial Art do so because they see greater value than they do in a 'Belt Factory', it is naive to ignore the pressure of the Jones's kid next door having a black belt at age 10, while little Tommy can't get one in Judo until he's at least 14.

In High school the one with perfect attendance is not awarded Valedictory honors for just showing up - so why should it lead to an advanced belt in the Martial Arts?

In Judo, pretty much the world over, there are three key elements to achieving promotion (for both Black [dan] and colored [kyu] ranks)- Skill, Commitment, and Maturity. Skill - is judged in the form of Kata demonstration and competition; commitment is judged by participation points - i.e. you get points not just for competing, but for refereeing, judging, teaching, and other time commitments to the Judo community. Maturity is judged by time in grade (not so much by calendar year, but by practice time) and age. By ensuring these standards and not wavering from them, the integrity of Judo ranks is more universal. In addition, Black belt rank applications are reviewed by other Black Belts on the regional level. This ensures that Senseis cannot scrimp on quality when promoting someone. 

Why these high standards? It's simple - PR. Just like a graduate of a school represents their education, so does a Black Belt represent Judo. Who would you want to represent you? Someone who has committed themselves to Judo and has proficiency in Judo skills, or someone who has achieved their blackbelt through superiors attendance and a fatter wallet?

Finally, what about those students (and/or their parents) who demand higher rank? How do you deal with their ultimatum to walk if not promoted? When this happens, it is an indication of the fact that they just don't get Judo. Above all, Judo is about character and respect. If these students have not learned character or respect as your students, then either you have failed them as a teacher or, more than likely, they have failed you as a student.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Look to be challenged

I am in the process of Reading Neil Ohlenkamp's new book - Judo Unleashed so that I can review it here. With most of the Judo books I have read in the past, I have glanced over the 'intro' sections and jumped right in to the 'instructionals' -i.e. the illustrated pictures and steps of techniques. However, this time around I am perusing the 'intro' because I find it is a tremendous improvement over other books in the past.

One such element is the notion that Judo is a never-ending, lifelong learning process, and that one of the best ways to improve your Judo is to seek out new challenges.

I wonder about this principle a lot. I am, admittedly, sometimes reluctant to play people phyiscally larger than me (regardless of their relative skill). I know that the challenge is great, yet sometimes I am just not willing to step up and on to the mat.

It's strange, but Ohlenkamp also suggests Judo is a way of life - a sentiment echoed by many - and looking for challenges is a fitting example. Even in life we need to seek out and embrace new challenges in order to grow. Yes that makes us vulnerable, and at first we may stumble, but if we truly strive to succeed, it will work itself out.

Now the question is - does life imitate Judo, or does Judo imitate life?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Working on some new stuff...

Wow, it's been a couple of weeks since my last post, I guess I was too busy reading Judo Unleashed to put up any blog posts. I am almost done with it, and I promise a review up here when I am finished. I am also looking to put more feature-length articles on this site as well, and I am currently working on 3-4 of them. In addition, I am also building a mailing list for my blog too. More details to come.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

El Blog Del Judo - A Catalan Judo Blog

Someone posted a comment here yesterday linking to his own Catalan Judo Blog, entitled - El Blog Del Judo. I figured it was news enough to warrant its own post and not be buried in comments.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Book Review - The Beggining Runner's Handbook

As I have opined many a time on this blog, Judo has essentially become my only exercise. This of course is a good and a bad thing. When I was struggling to get to class, I was literally not getting any exercise at all. But now that I am back to 2x a week, I still find myself lacking in terms of general fitness. For one, I have put back on about 10 lbs. since January, and secondly, I find that my lack of fitness is hampering my Judo. So I bought this book with the hopes that I would be able to start running. Running as a compliment to Judo is a great idea in that it will help build stamina and cardio-vascular strength to enable me to perform better in the dojo.

This book seemed like the perfect choice because it offered a very gradual approach to build up your running. The content was great, it offered a lot of good background not just on running but on nutrition and preventing injuries, that are applicable to Judo as well. In addition to the beginner's programs for running and walking, it also provides you with step-up programs to maintain and improve your running, as well as good training advice for building up to a marathon and half-marathon.

However the jury is still out on the program and its long-term benefits. Still if you are thinking about picking up running, and don't know much about it, I would reccomend this book as a good starting point.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Trying to refind my humility

On the plus side, I have been actually getting to judo about 2x a week for the past month or so, and despite feeling rusty the first couple of time back, I am now refinding some of my groove. But as I find my groove and hit in Randori, I find myself becoming too cocky sometimes.

If I haven't learned anything about myself from judo is that I fair a lot better by respecting everyone and learning from those that beat me as well as from those that I defeat. If you are open-minded and humble you will be able to do that wholeheartedly, however, if you are haughty and arrogant you will close your mind to learning and that is beneficial to no one - especially not yourself.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Why it's called the Road to Shodan...

While surfing the JudoForum today, I came across a new user on the site who's handle is roadtojudan - and I wondered if I inspired him with my own blog's title. (Incidentally, Judan, or 10th Degree is the highest level of Black belt awarded in Judo, and is very rare. It is only attainable by those who have dedicated their entire life to the spread of Judo and even then, they are usually well into their 70's when it is conferred. I believe that there are only a dozen or so Judans in the world that are recognized by the Kodokan in Tokyo, but I digress).

I wondered why I chose to name my blog the road to Shodan instead of the the road to Judan? If I am aspiring, why not aspire all the way to the top, instead of merely to the first rung of a ten-rung ladder? The answer - because I am focusing on learning to walk before I learn how to run. Shodan not only translates into first degree, but it also translates into 'First Step.' Some people view the Black belt as the mark of an expert, I view it as the end of an era of being a Judo begginer and the first step along the path to becoming an expert. Just like your high school diploma signifies your preparation to enter college, so too your does your shodan indicate that you have graduated from the kyu - beginner grades, into the dans.

Will I ever name this blog the Road to Judan? Maybe, but it will have to go through nine other name changes first :)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Finding some of what I lost

So I've been back into Judo for about 2 weeks now, and some of my reflexes keep coming back. I had a very positive Randori session yesterday where I was very effective at throwing my opponents, including a lot of throws that I hadn't used in a while like Uchimata a Tomoe Nage and even a Tani Otoshi. It feels good to find things that you lost. Unfortunately, it seems that I have found some of the weight I lost too, I will need to work getting it off.

On a happier note, I learned that my Sensei had recently been promoted to Shichidan - 7th degree black belt. I need to get him a present.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Step Behind...

So I have been back at Judo for almost two weeks now, and although I still have a lot of my techniques, I noticed that my reflexes for Judo are shot. As with anything in life, muscle memory and technique get faster and more accurate with practice. Since Judo is so complex, and since I was never doing it more than 3 times a week, my reflexes wax and wane with my current practice schedule. This unnerves me, especially during Randori (both standing and on the ground).

Throws that I was able to get off effortlessly a few months back now seem to just miss. I really need to buckle down and find a way to practice at least 3x a week - now can one of you out there please explain that to my wife?

Monday, June 12, 2006

... with anticipation and trepidation...

So I have my gear bag all packed with a fresh gi and towel and all of the stuff that I need. I haven't been to Judo in around two months, and I am finally going back today.

I am both excited and scared. How much of my skills have vanished? How will my nagging injuries hold up - or worse, will they be exacerbated.

More importantly, during my inactivity, I gained weight. I need to look at my ever changing schedule and make time for Judo again.

Friday, May 26, 2006

New Look, Injury Update

First of all, my abdominal strain seems to have gone away on its own. Thankfully it was nothing more than I strain, and I hope to return to Judo in June.

During the downtime, I changed the look of the site. Look familiar? :) - I figured any decent judo blog needs to look like a Tatami.

Thanks for all of you who were concerned, and stay tuned.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Any News is Good News for Judo

Ronda Rousey was named USA Today's Athlete of the week after winning gold at the Birmingham World Cup in the UK. On the list of popular US sports, Judo isn't all that high, but hopefully Rousey's (and her current US teammates) success might change all of that. How do we change that - publicity. Yes there are Judo websites out there, and the web is full of English-speaking sites with news from all-around the world, but it is the exposure in the mainstream press that will bring parents and kids into dojos wanting to be the next Ronda Rousey, Mike Swain, or Jimmy Pedro.

I just hope that this publicity will continue for Ronda and USA Judo, so that Judo grows in the US.

Progress (or lack thereof)

Yesterday, a commenter on this blog made a good point - that he's noticed (presumably by the content in my posts and by their frequency of late) a waning of interest on my part. This got me thinking - have I lost my commitment to Judo? Have I lost my desire to play? My desire to learn and progress?

Personally, I consider myself a recreational Judoka, and I think that for adults, attendance becomes a struggle. Each of my dojomates has their challenges in terms of attendance. And we all seem to make it there. Of course, of late, I have not been making it as much. There is a promotional tournament that I want to attend in about 8 weeks, and if I have any chance of making my next grade I need to practice. Which means I will need to negotiate with my wife on coming to class. I want to win, I want to succeed, but I need (as my anonymous guest put it) to show commitment and desire.

At my last shiai about 6-7 months ago, one of my senseis gave me the best advice about my technique. "Your technique for Tai Otoshi is good, and your attack timing is good - but the real reason why you didn't land your throw is because you were not committed."

Although he was talking about throwing, the same would apply to practice and training too.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

In-Line Skating and Judo - a good combination?

So I haven't posted in a while. This is very true. I also haven't been going to class as often as I would like. Responsibility at work and at home have been piling up and so has the fat around my waist.

I got on the scale the other day and I was shocked. I realized that because I haven't been exercising lately, (and because I have been giving in to temptation) I have been gaining weight. I decided that I needed to supplement my Judo with other Aerobic exercise to take off those extra pounds.

Of course, in NYC, doing this isn't difficult, the trick is doing this without spending money. I realized that my office is close to the Hudson River Park - which, among other things, contains a skating and biking path. I decided to make use of my in-line skates and use them to get me in better shape. So yesterday I about 5-6 miles in three 1.75-2 mile spurts. I hope to do that more often on non-judo days to get my cardio-vascular system a daily workout and to burn some calories. Thankfully the weather is getting warmer, and this will prove to be a good activity for the next several months.

All that aside - I think in-line skating is a great compliment to Judo training. Obviously skating will improve my balance, improve my flexibility and increase my stamina. It is also lower impact than both Judo and running, so my cross-traiing will not take a toll on my knees.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? What do you do to Cross-train?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

How Americans Became so Fat

Firstly, let me apologize for not posting in a while. I have been super busy both at work and at home, and quite Frankly, I went to Judo for the first time in six weeks yesterday. It felt good to be back, and I was happy to see my sensei and dojomates. Considering that I will also be away from the dojo for parts of April because of Passover, I will try to maximize my time in the Dojo for March.

Because Judo has been off my mind for the last few weeks, I wanted to talk about fitness. I have made it no secret that one of the many reasons I returned to Judo in 2004 was for fitness. I had no exercise in my life, and I needed it desperately. Combining Judo and diet changes took me from 230 lbs (104 Kilos) down to about 195 ( 89 Kilos) in about six months. However, since then I have given back between 5-10 lbs. This is probably due more to my lack of exercise over the past few months and not due to changes in eating. (Although I have fallen off of the wagon a bit).

Since New Year’s I have been exercising regularly every morning (nothing major, just some simple calisthenics and stretching). However, I see the need to put some regular cardio into my daily routine. Judo is great on many levels, but its biggest shortcoming is that you are limited in what you can do without a partner and a dojo. Currently, if I don’t get to the dojo, my Cardio is limited.

Going back to the topic of this post, Americans got fat when we started to eat indiscriminately and stopped exercising. Yes, a lot of people belong to a gym, but how many of them go? And even the ones that go, what are they doing there? If we would only put in 3 hours of intense cardio a week, we would all be lighter and in better shape. That being said, if I am not going to Judo at least 2x a week, I need to find Cardio elsewhere. I have thought about running.

The problem I have with running is that I’ve never done it. I was always a big skater and ball-player, but running or jogging was just not something that I have ever done before. Yet somehow, it needs to be something that I need to start doing.

I was going to put a running goal here, but I won’t. I don’t think it’s prudent to do that until I start running and figure out a reasonable goal for myself. But if you are a Judoka or not a Judoka, and have some running tips – post em’ here, I and all the other readers of my blog will appreciate it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The NinJew

To help pay for some of my hosting costs, I post ads on this and my other sites using Google Adsense. While I don't typically click on the ads, ocassionally when I am checking out my site, one or two ads pop up that catch my attention. Today I came across The NinJew. I think that I will take a look at his book, sounds interesting.

I guess I am not the only Orthodox Jewish Martial Artist writing on the Internet :).

Hitting that textbook throw

On Monday in Randori I pulled off a textbook Tomoe Nage (actually, it was a variation of the throw that I learned from Sensei Keith Nakasone when I visited San Jose State in November). My partner was playing stiff-armed and pushing me backward and I quickly used his momentum to vault him over my head. It was beautiful, even my Sensei (who doesn't generally approve of us using sacrifice techniques in Randori) approved.

I hadn't thrown with Tomoe Nage like that since I was a sophmore in College and realtively new to Judo (I was a yellow belt - Rokkyu). My partner at the time was a freshman white belt, and my Sensei was pissed that I used a throw he had never seen before - rightfully so, I could have hurt him. But this time it was against another sankyu, and he admired the throw too.

What is this variation that I used? I call it Goofy-foot (in deference to the snowboarding term for leading with your left foot). Essentially, traditional Tomoe Nage has the tori taking the foot on the lapel side and sticking it in the uke's gut to launch him over your head. In this variation, you use the foot on the sleeve side so that uke doesn't see it coming.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Book Review - Judo by Vladimir Putin

Since I haven't posted in a while, I decided to try something new, a Book Review. Yes there are dozens of Good Judo books out there, and while there are only so many techniques, each author brings their own unique spin to entries, execution, and follow through.

A few weeks ago in this space I talked about Vladimir Putin - the Russian President - and wondered if his experience as a Judoka was good or bad for the sport. As it so turns out, Mr. Putin is the author of a book on the subject. The book, originally published in Russian, is now available as a large format book cover.

I've owned this book for over a year now, and while it is a good book, it is definitely not a definitive reference along the lines of Kodokan Judo or Best Judo. In fact, the section on throwing techniques only covers about a dozen throws. In addition, the translation is a little weird. While most english-language books use transliterated Japanese names of throws, the translator somehow wrote out the names of the throws in english (i.e. Body Drop instead of Tai Otoshi ). But despite its shortcomings that make this book a worthwhile read:

  • He has a unique approach to throws and combinations by taking a specific throw and then showing a 'wheel' of other throws that you can either in combination either to come into or out of this throw. I have found these diagrams to be well-thought out and useful, and I haven't seen anything else like it in other books.
  • He includes some interesting chapters on sports nutrition. While they're not comprehensive, it is definitely something that I haven't seen in other books
  • There is also some good information on the history of Russian Judo, as well as a chapter on Combat Sambo and self-defense.

While I wouldn't call this a must-have on your shelf or must-read, I would definitely say the time spent will be worthwhile.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Site - and life - changes... please be patient

Just FYI, I recently migrated from Linux hosting to Microsoft so that I can compliment my blogs with some ASP.NET programming. However, I am still in the conversion process, so bear with us as we get our house in order.

In addition, I have a lot more work and responsibility at work so far this year, and less time for blogging (and, unfortunately) Judo. However, February is looking a lot brighter, and I promise bigger and better content for 06'

Friday, January 06, 2006

Goals for 06'

We all need goals, and I have decided on some judo and fitness goals for myself for this year. I know that lip service isn't enough, and I will need to really work hard to get there, but I hope that at least one of these will be reached between now and next December.

  • I want to get my Nikyu. There are two promotionals in each year and that gives me two more shots at it.
  • I want to get in better shape. I went from 225-230 lbs. in August 04' to 190-195 in August 05', but by December I was back up at 205. My goal - hit 185 by April.
  • I want to start cross-training. I have begun doing calesthenics in the mornings, but I need to find a suitable Cardio workout for my non-Judo days - Running is a thought, so is cycling, but I am also thinking basketball.
  • If I do achieve my weight loss goals, I want to think about dropping down to the 81KG(178 lbs) weight class. If I can hit 185, sucking down 7 lbs shouldn't be too difficult.

What are your goals for 06'? Do you think I will make mine realistic?