Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Tough Love is Good Medicine

So I walked into practice last night (about 20 minutes late, as I needed to calm the baby down before leaving), and my Sensei's first question is 'so? how did you do? Where's my trophy?'. I will admit I was actually thinking of bringing the trophy with me, I decided against bringing it. I started to talk about everyone else's wins. 'No', said Sensei, 'I want to know about you.' When I told him I finished third he was pleased, but then I told him there were only three people in my division. He jokingly said that I was dragging his name down. But I explained that I knew that I played well but still have some work to do.

I jumped into practice, acting as uke for someone's Sankyu test. This kid is actually one of the people who is from Sensei's credit class (all of the 'club' classes are non-credit, but then matriculating students at the college can take his for credit class as well), and when he passed sensei mentioned how Judo took him from being skinny and weak and made him much stronger. I also discovered that he's picked up on Sankaku Jime pretty well.


 I am supposed to take a test of my own soon, and I have only a few more days, and I am not sure I know everything that I need to. I am Okay with 99% of the standing techniques and combinations, but I am iffy on the Ne-Waza. Yes I know a lot of the standard fare, but Sensei has a lot of Entries and positions that each has to be demonstrated from, and I don't know them all. I've got a lot of practicing to do!

In Randori, I must have done 7-10 minutes each with 3 different opponents. Sensei was critiquing me very closely, and stopping me to point out flaws in my technique. I was dead tired midway through the second match, and wanted to give up, but he wouldn't let me, and even if I tried playing lighter he was pushing me. I finally bowed out 7 or 8 minutes into the 3rd round. But I felt great, and in retrospect it was one of the best Randori sessions I've had in a long time. One of the many things I like about Sensei Watanabe is that he knows just how and when to give me tough love. He knows just how much to push me to get me to improve without breaking me! This is why I love practicing with him.

Sometimes, even your best isn't good enough...

So as you can surmise from the title, I didn't get very far in today's tournament. I had two matches, both against brown belts who I felt were my equals in size and skill. I played really well in my first match. I opened the match by trying O-Uchi My first attempt didn't succeed, but it succeeded in planting a seed in my opponent's head to watch out for the O-Uchi. The next time I came in, he reacted to the O-Uchi, and I caught him with Uchimata. He pulled me a little off balance when I threw him, but I didn't hear a call from the ref, and was perplexed that I didn't get at least a Yuko. I found out after the match that I had a Wa-zari! In fact one of my teammates thought I was robbed of an Ippon, but truth be told, I am glad to hear the technique worked. But then I made my mistake. I came in for a third time and I got countered with Ko soto Gake.


Second Match, I tried my technique again. My opponent must have been paying close attention to my first match, because he was ready, He tried O-Soto, and I turned in to pick him up - I was thinking of trying Ushiro Goshi, but I turned into his trap, he launched a second effort into O-Soto Makikomi and took me to the mat. I thought I had lost it there, but he only got a wa-zari. Still, because he used a makikomi, he immediately had me in a pin, and 20 seconds later I was done.

Nonetheless I thought I played well. Mark, who I'd met several times at Oishi's Dojo, told me that sometimes you play your best and still go 0-2, and that feels better that winning without working for it. I definitely feel good about this tournament, and that I am improving. The good things I take away are that my favorite combination works well out of the Dojo, and that I can overcome my fears. The bad things of course, are that one combination doesn't make a champion, so I need to work on being less predictable and expanding my repertoire.

In addition to playing well, I learned and enjoyed a lot of other things about the tournament:


- I met up with Steve (who was reffing) and Mark from Oishi's dojo, both of whom are great guys, and who are fun to play against, and offered good pointers and advice. Mark also thought my combo was strong. Mark and his two sons competed and he and one of them took first. The other took third, but he was playing up in a division of kids 2 years older than him.

- I met several interesting Judoka, each with their own story. There was the guy who fought in 3 divisions - taking second in two and first in one (he played his own weight class, then 1 up and 2 up!), and he probably would've done better had he not busted his elbow. It's great to be 18 and full of energy. There was the blind guy who came out and played regular rules - I think he went one and one - just seeing him was inspiring enough, but then I was talking to his sister, who told a few of us that his sensei - another brother of theirs - had died a few months prior, the blind judoka had promised him he would keep practicing and competing. When he won his match, and when he got his medal, he got a huge ovation from the crowd. There were several father-son teams in the tournament - which is always encouragement that I might play alongside my kids one day. Finally, there was another person at the competition with a similar sounding name. I kept getting confused whenever they called him instead of me. Nice guy, roughly my age, and a dad with 5 kids. He one his first match handily, but then dislocated his shoulder in the second match and had to concede. Still 1 and 1 was good enough for second place. I asked him in the locker room if his shoulder hurt. His reply - 'Not as much as it will hurt when my wife finds out!'

- I warmed up with Mark, and he was using a Gill Sports Gi, Another wish list item! Ironically, I thought of buying one a couple of years ago when it was still $1.20 Canadian to every US dollar.

- I got to watch a lot of Judo - both adults and kids, and got to see some really good waza. Including a textbook Tomoe-Nage and an amazing standing Seoinage where the uke was practically doing a handstand on top of tori. There were no doubts that both of those throws were ippon, and I think everyone in the room had a sense of jealousy and awe when they pulled off those throws.

Grandpa's Approval; Tidbits

Because I competed yesterday, I had my dad take my son to the kids' class yesterday. He was impressed with the skill and patience Sensei exercised with my son. He also told me that my son has very little Zitsfleisch (A Yiddish term for patience or attention span). I explained to him that as bad as my son might have seemed yesterday, his attention span has grown exponentially over the past two months since he started Judo.

My son also mentioned that he had a new 'partner' in class, as one more younger sibling of one of our current students started Judo. In addition to that, at the tournament I ran into two more dojomates - one who's family just returned from a few months overseas, and one who's son is turning six -  that they are going to enroll their kids for the next semester. This is awesome, I love that the kids class is growing, and that the number of kids the same age as my son is growing too. Sensei is looking to add a second kids class during the week, which will hopefully bolster attendance.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Father and Son - Growing as Judoka

I am always trying to learn and grow in Judo and trying to help others do so, including my son. My son is only 5, he has the attention span to match. A lot of his teachers and such suggested he try martial arts, and I am glad (in more ways than one) that he and I can practice at the same dojo, and even more so that I get to be on the mat with him. He has a phenomenal memory, and hardly forgets a thing you teach him, although Judo can be confusing for him. Nonetheless, his memory for techniques and their names is pretty impressive for a five-year-old. This past Sunday, our Sensei announced that we would be having a Club Shiai in a few weeks, and since some of the kids don't compete that often, he turned Randori into a mock Shiai to educate them on the rules.

While he'd never competed before, and was only at one of my matches, he was somewhat familiar with the rules. When my son was about three, I used to play the Osaekomi game with him. I would pin him gently on his back and say 'Osaekomi' and he would have to roll over onto his belly and say Toketa. Of course, since he started Judo, I've gone into more detail with him. A few weeks ago at night, he asked me how someone gets points from pinning their opponent. I explained to him the rules, and how they relate to the number of seconds from Osaekomi to Toketa (or until Ippon). So on Sunday, he is doing Ne-Waza Randori, and he pins his opponent (a little girl, about 7-8 months older than him). All of a sudden, he starts counting really fast - everyone starts lauging. First I explain to him that he can't count so fast, so he slows down, then the sensei explains to him that he doesn't count, save it for the referees.

Later on, in the Mock Shiai, both him and his opponent (the same girl), go to the mat and she is on top of him, but he quickly rolls onto his belly and says "Sensei, you can't count, because I am on my stomach."

He served as good fodder for laughs all afternoon, and his match ended in Hiki-wake, since he and his opponent are still working on their techniques.

The next night, I had a conversation with our Sensei about it. All kidding aside, we both have seen him grow in Judo. Yes, it is still hard for him to pay attention for two hours straight, but at the same time, every week he shows tremendous progress, and it shows outside of Judo as well (just a little bit).

I on the other hand, have been continuing to learn and prepare for my next promotional test - not sure when it will be, but hopefully soon, and I will keep you all posted. My sensei has his own set of requirements for each rank - some of which are things I've been doing for years, others are things that are new to me, but nonetheless, it has been an interesting learning experience. And by doing all of these throws, and because of all of the Kata work that I have been doing, I feel that my Judo has been improving, and slowly ascending to the next level.

While I can see it in my sights, I know that I still have a very long way to go.

Attack Life

Well I started this month off with a bang by posting a couple of times a week, but it has quickly gotten hectic. I have been doing my best to both post and practice but with a new (and colicky) baby at home, it can be kind of rough. The last few weeks I've intended to go to practice on Monday and Wednesday nights, but on each Monday I get greeted with a 3-minute voicemail of a screaming baby - which precludes me from going to Wednesdays practice. I told my wife that I need the extra practice for the next few weeks for several reasons, the least of which is my upcoming Shiai this weekend (I will post results right after). I hope I do well, especially because I've been thin on practicing. The last few weeks have been really hectic. While my nights have not quite been sleepless thanks to my loving, and awesome wife (who lets me sleep because I need to go to work, and because I don't have the 'equipment' to feed our son anyways), I have definitely been running on much less sleep that usual. But nonetheless, I am still working out almost every morning and managing to go to Judo class. I have gained a lot of mental toughness over the past few months. I am not sure why or how, but I am starting to find ways to work through the weak spots. Which leads me to the picture above.

That picture is from October of 2004 - 3 years ago. I had long forgotten about this picture (even though its my avatar at the Judo Forum), but the website I had posted it to was going out of business, so I downloaded all of those pictures to my computer, and there it was. At the point that this picture was taken, I was just about at my goal weight of 195 lbs after coming down from 230! I looked good (if I don't say so myself). I was on the south beach diet at the time, and I was also going to Judo twice a week consistently.

This past summer, I promised myself, and my readers, that I would lose weight. But unfortunately, Instead of making a big splash, I've only made a small ripple. When I wrote that post back in the summer, I was 218, this morning I was 210 on the same scale. Nonetheless, I haven't been sticking to what I promised myself - to lose weight.

Between the picture, discussions with my wife, and just looking at the scale and in the mirror every morning, I've made the determination to get back down to the 190-195 range. Although a time limit would be nice, I am not going to do that.

I will just keep working at it until I get there. Working out every day, going to Judo as often as my wife and screaming son dictate. And I've been working at this for a couple of weeks now. Although I've only dropped a pound or two, I surprise and please myself when I able to pass over the snack cabinet, or forgo a sports drink for water or seltzer instead. I feel that even though my mental toughness regarding my weight had lapsed, my overall mental toughness has grown. I don't give up as easily, I have found my inner voice that guides me. Whether its telling me to keep on going in a 20 minute Randori session, or if its helping me keep my cool while calming down an inconsolable, screaming child at 1am, it is there. Yes, we all have lapses in judgment and get frustrated (I did in Judo a week or two ago, and was swearing like a sailor), I still think that I am a lot tougher now than I was three years ago, and a lot of it has to do with Judo.

Life needs to be attacked! Constantly! Being passive might help for a few minutes in an argument, but it is not a long-term strategy. In life, no one is going to give you a Shido for stalling or for being too passive - you need to be your own referee. You need to attack life. Finally, after all these years, I am starting to understand it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Learning in order to do...

There is an old Talmudic adage that goes something like this:

He who learns in order to teach will be able to learn and teach, but he who learns in order to do will be able to learn, to teach, to preserve, and to do.

(Avot 4:6, in case you're wondering)

I've always applied this to my learning of anything, and especially Judo. The idea here is that the study of Judo isn't just academic, but part of our lives in more ways than one. I once commented on the JudoForum, that Judo creeps into my life in the strangest of ways - for example, I sometimes find myself using foot-sweeps to open doors when I don't have a free hand.

As I get more senior, and as I help out in the kids class, I am seeing this more and more with my own eyes. The techniques that I had the hardest time with as a beginner, and the ones that I spent the most time learning and working on, are the techniques that I enjoy teaching the most. All of the advice that I never took until I learned the hard way has become all of the advice that I dole out.

And of course, the ones that I've been asked to demonstrate that I didn't really know, are the ones that I feel challenged by even more when I am practicing.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Losing makes me want to learn more!

I had a couple of tough workouts this week. In addition to the one on Monday that I wrote about, I went to Oishi's on Wednesday. I spent several minutes in Ne-Waza Randori with a Brown Belt who seemed to be able to twist me every which way he wanted. I think he must have tapped me out about 8-10 times in a 20 minute span, and the best I could do was pin him for maybe 5-10 seconds tops. I asked if he was a BJJer, and he said 'something like that'. Needless to say, I was greatly outmatched.

If that had been anything else but Judo, I might be having doubts about why I keep going. But nonetheless, I kept on going. Stronger and harder each time. I might have magnified my mistakes, but at least at the end of the workout, I knew that I had a lot of work to do, and that gave me more motivation for next week. Judo does that to you. It gets under your skin, and makes you want to work harder and practice more.

Regardless, It was nice to go back to Oishi's and see some of my old buddies, and since my club is beholden to the college's semesters, I think that I will be going there during the holiday break.

Of course, on the way home, I left my Judo bag on the train. I was kind of scared at first - I had my gi in the bag, as well as some Judo books and papers - that I would have to go out and replace all of it. But thankfully, this morning, I went to the Railroad's Lost and Found, and they had it waiting for me - contents intact.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Toraki Judo Shorts Review

When someone thinks of Judo gear, there isn't much to think about beyond a gi and a belt (unless, of course, you want to list the various neoprene bandages for each joint that you have in your Judo bag). Nonetheless, there are people who make a lot of Judo-inspired products that might never see the light of day inside of a dojo. One such product is Toraki's Judo Shorts.

Toraki Judo shorts are basically shorts made out of Gi Pants. Their black, and according to the folks at toraki, don't necessary match your Judo Gi size (For example, I wear a size 4.5 gi, but the shorts were a 3.5) because Judogi are a bit baggier to meet competition rules. I bought these during the summer and have been wearing them since. They're very comfortable, and are great for working out in around the house, since they offer the same freedom of movement as gi pants do. Granted their not cheap (for the $25 they charge for the shorts I could easily buy two or three pairs of sweat shorts at a sporting goods store), but I highly recommend them if the money isn't an issue for you. I would also say, they make an interesting gift for the Judoka in your life who already has enough gis and books.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Getting Served up some Humble Pie

So I show up at practice last night, to discover that there are only 3 others at class. Since I am, by some crazy coincidence, the highest ranking person there, Sensei asked me to lead the warm-ups. Afterward, we did some Uchikomi practice. I am looking to expand my Shiai repertoire and I was getting some good ashi-waza advice from Sensei.

After about 20 minutes, our Uchikomi practice turned into Randori. Since one of the three others was coming off of an injury, he bowed out of the Randori, and the rest of us went at it. I did about 35-40 minutes of Randori, including the first 20 minutes straight against the same Judoka- who is relatively my size. In the opening minutes I had a lot of good attacks, but I quickly ran out of gas, and then I got sloppy. He threw me with some light throws at first, but then he got me with a beautiful O-Soto! One or two more losing rounds for me, and took a break.

So I sat down and let the other two guys go at it. After about 10-15 minutes of their randori, I played the other Judoka. Same deal - at first I hit my moves, but then I got tired, and I got sloppy. I also lost my will to attack, and started playing passive and getting schooled.

As good as I think I am, and as much as my Judo has progressed, I still have a long way to go. It's funny, every sensei that I've ever had has told me to improve my Ashi-Waza, and for some crazy reason, I am finally listening to them. I am realizing that I need to use 'small judo' and generate better opportunities for myself.

I guess I am not as good as I thought I was afterall, but this is a good thing, it helps me focus and understand how to improve.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Jewish Judo Pride + finding your fight and not giving up.

Of the many benefits of participating in a sport that is contested at the olympic games, is the idea that you can promote nationalistic pride with it as well. Although I am an American, and I enjoy when Americans succeed in Judo, as a Jew, I also take a lot of pride in Israeli successes as well. Thankfully, for Israel, there has been a lot to cheer about over the last few Olympiads. The video above, is Ariel (Arik) Ze'evis bronze medal match against the Elco van Der Geest of the Netherlands. These two were at the top of their game, and ze'evi wins it with a beautiful O-Uchi-Gaeshi for Ippon.

The other day, I was watching Koga's Video - a New Wind, and there was some footage of Koga vs. Smadga (of course, in these clips, Koga kept beating Smadga, because, after all, it was Koga's video!) and my son, a new Judoka, had a lot of pride seeing the ISR on back of his gi. Interestingly enough, his favorite throws so far seem to be O-Uchi-Gari and Ko-Soto-Gake, so this makes for a nice video for him.

In addition to Smadga, there are other Koga matches from when he played in the Open weight class at the all Japan competitions in the early 90's. This was something that was great for my son to watch as well, primarily because it enabled him to see how tiny Koga was in comparison to the people he met up with in the open. This was a great base to teach him a lesson about not giving up against bigger opponents. We only have 2-3 kids his age on the mat, and he'll sometimes play people that are 2-3 years older than him.

In his first sumo match against a nine-year old, he didn't even play. I reminded him of koga for his subsequent matches and even though he lost, he had a lot more fight and desire in him.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

I'm using this service...

I'm using this service called Jott, Jott makes blogging so much easier because I can actually use my phone, call in a blog post and have it transfer the post on my blog. It's a really cool service, if you like to try it yourself, you can go to www.jott.com. Try it and I'm sure you'll like it. listen

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