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.