Thursday, December 11, 2008

Club Competition

So our club had their semi-annual competition tonight. It is a small tournament, primarily members of our club and club alumni. We had a very nice crowd - about 30 or so competitors from age 6 and up, and about another 20-25 spectators.

I got caught in traffic on the way there and I missed my sons first match. Thankfully I caught his second match. He has a lot of good scoring chances and lost by a Yuko. My wife complained that she th0ught he wasn't even trying, but I pointed out to her that he has come so far since last year, where he didn't even look at his opponent. Several people pointed out to me that his seoinage has come a long way, and with a little more practice, I think he will win some matches. He also complained that one of the other kids - who doesn't regularly practice at our dojo (his Dad does, and he comes ocassionally) was choking him - against the rules in the 6-year old yellow belt division. I pointed out to him that referee sometimes make mistakes - they're only people after all. Sometimes they make a mistake in your favor, and sometimes against you - it all evens out in the end.

Of course, I can now say that as a referee. I reffereed about 6 matches, and was the judge for a dozen more. The other referees - two of which have significant refereeing experience, said that my refereeing was okay. I did make some mistakes, and also some good calls.

One good call (IMHO), one contestant was in the safety area on the side of the mat with very little clearance to the wall. His opponent was about to initiate a throw and heading further out of bounds. Fearing for their safety, I called Matte. The attacker failed to stop, changed directions, and threw the other guy in middle of the mat with morote gari - he was going to celebrate, until I pointed out that they had ignored my Matte call.

Finally, I got to compete. There were only 3 competitors in my division - me, Rob and Mark. We always square off in Randori - so not to many surprises. I almost had a choke in on Rob, but then I managed to throw him with O-Soto-Gari. As soon as the throw ended, I was convinced it wasn't an Ippon, so I proceeded to try to get the holddown. The Ref called Wa-zari, and I was fighting to keep Rob down, but then I heard him say ippon - the other two refs had disagreed with his call. Both rob and I didn't think it was ippon-worthy, but I was happy to win.

Then I fought mark, who seemed to have more gas than I did at the time. After a few attacks and counter attacks, I managed to throw him with a nice Tai-Otoshi for Ippon.

Not bad - My first Refereeing gig, my first first place in a long time, and, most importantly, my son had fun.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Fwd: Maybe I should post something here after all....

Wow, I was looking at my blog and realized that I haven't posted
anything since May! that's a real long time. Let me start by saying
this - I haven't quit Judo. I still go to class and help teach the
kids class on Sundays. Truthfully, I've only been going an average of
once a week for the past six months or so, primarily because I've
started a new job, and my schedule often finds me working too late to
get to class. I've also gained a lot of weight as well, and if that
wasn't complicated enough, we were all trying to get used to the new
baby - who is shortly turning 14 months.

Because of my lack of practice, I haven't felt up to competing either.
Some of you might think that I should just go compete, but I view it
this way - I only compete when I feel that I am prepared to win, and
in my current shape, I am not prepared to win.

All that aside, I have been enjoying Judo in different ways. I really
enjoy helping out in the kids class, especially being able to teach
Judo to my son. My second son usually comes for the ride, and will
participate in warm-ups and the occasional round of Sumo-Style circle
fighting. Unfortunately, at 4 and a half, he is not quite ready for
Judo yet.

I have also expressed interest in refereeing, so my Sensei has allowed
me to referee the kids practice matches, and I will hopefully ref a
few rounds in our upcoming club competition next week. I enjoyed the
reffing session, and people thought most of my calls were good (except
for a Koka that I missed and sensei picked up on), but it was hard
reffing my own son's match - he was expecting my coaching and
guidance, which I just couldn't give him being the referee.

That's it for now, but I hope to post a lot more frequently in the future.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Catch-all Post for April

So I haven't posted anything in six weeks, and yet I still hope I have some loyal readers left. April has proven to be a busy month for me - I am about to switch jobs, and I took a two-week vacation as well. April was also a great month in Judo for me, as my Son passed his Yellow belt test.

He also executed a picture perfect ippon seoinage in a 'Mock Shiai'. My wife, who seldom comes to practice, was very impressed. Although he'll be playing some baseball over the next few weeks, he will be coming back to Judo soon, and is excited about working towards his orange belt.

The other day, we were at a family get-together, and one of his cousins was bullying him a bit, hitting him a couple of times. Mitch stepped in and was about to throw the kid with O-Uchi Gari just as my wife, the kids' mom, and I intervened. At first, I scolded him. But when I realized he was defending himself, I apologized, and told him that if that happens again, throw the kid, pin him and call for help.

Earlier this week, my middle one expressed some interest in Judo too. Maybe I will have a lot more to write about in the coming months.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Is Judo Getting Stronger and more visible?

I know it's been a while since my last post - as usual, my life gets busy and I don't have time for blogging or Judo.

I also haven't been busy reviewing the Judo web, so I hopped back on today and discovered a few interesting things:

  • Rhadi Ferguson, Ronda Rousey, and Jason Morris were interviewed by the Wall Street Journal Online - while it's not as popular as the print version, nonetheless, its great that one of the top 5 most circulated newspapers in the us picked up a story on Judo.
  • Of course, even though LeBron and Gisele grace its cover, if you look inside April's edition of Vouge, Ronda Rousey is one of the athletes featured in their shape issue (which I've yet to see).
  • And then finally, Dr. AnnMaria DeMars indicated that a lot of the pictures she was sent for Growing Judo showed Judo events attended by hundreds of people.

With all that, every time I go to my own dojo, I always see a new face or two. It leads me to believe that Judo is growing - even if I am not playing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Judo and Stress

We all have stress in our daily lives - whether it comes from pressures at work, or at home; From our Spouses/Significant Others, from our parents, and from our kids. Stress can take a toll on your body and on your mind. Thankfully for me, Judo has been a great source of stress relief.

I was feeling a bit stressed out over the last few days, and then I went to Judo last night and it made it so much better - my stress was pretty much gone. Yes, I might wind up taking out some of my frustrations on various ukes, but at the same time, I know that they are doing the same with me - so it all balances out.

As for updates, I had a good practice last night. I was getting killed in Ne-Waza and I think I need to improve my skills there, but I had a good couple of rounds in Randori, and re-discovered that I can Actually throw people with O-Soto Gari!

Gleaning knowledge from Kata

So I have been learning Nage-No-Kata for over a year now, and up until recently, I would just walk through the techniques, one-by-one, but never really execute them. Basically it was a moving uchikomi. Recently, at the cajoling of my Sensei, I started to throw as well as be thrown when practicing the NNK. As I am now taking Kata to the next level, I have started to notice several things, that were not so clear before. First and foremost, my techniques are improving. It's as if the movements in the NNK are working on building muscle memory for better form. Secondly, other techniques are starting to click and trickle into my 'combat' repetoire.

But most important of all, I am gaining an appreciation for the role of Uke in the NNK. I am learning the dynamics of the throws better, as well as getting a lot of ukemi practice along the way. Personally, I don't think that I am alone in saying that Uke is a harder role. But in being the Uke, I better understand what my actions need to be when I am tori.

I hope this doesn't sound like rambling, and that it makes some kind of sense.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Feeling bad about hurting someone else

So there was a pretty small crew in the Dojo last night - only 6 of us - and that is including our two senseis. I had a very long run through of Nage-No-Kata, and as uke, I am also taking throws as opposed to just going through the motions.

We then did Uchikomi followed by Ne-waza practice. I was trying to work on my turnovers and particularly turning uke from Prone into Kata-ha-jime. Somehow I was a little over zealous, and I managed to tweak my Uke's neck. Normally this isn't a big deal, but he was really stiff. I felt really bad - as his night was done, and I was concerned that he really hurt himself.

I know that Judo is a contact sport, and people do get hurt, but it hurts me that I hurt someone, especially when being careless.

I hope he's okay.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

How Football and Basketball improve my Judo (and maybe yours too).

So I am ecstatic - my unlikely champions - the NY Giants, beat all odds and shocked the world when they became World Champions last night and made the 'perfect' patriots, just one bit less perfect. (By the way, while the Patriots have won 3 championships in the last 7 years, they have also lost 2 as well). Of course, I always hoped my Giants would win, even while acknowledging that the Patriots would be a difficult team to beat.

In every discussion and interview and news blurb regarding the Superbowl, one important factor stood out in my mind. Whenever any of the Giants were asked about the Patriots being 18 and 0, they simply brushed it off as those games don't count anywhere as nearly as much as the one we are going to play. They knew they were the underdog, they new that the Pats were favorites and had a perfect season on the line - but they didn't let it get to them!

This, in my opinion was why they won, why their defense persevered and shut down Brady and Moss, and why their offense found ways to shine when it counted the most - because they were not intimidated by who they were playing.

Last week, before the Superbowl, and while this discussion was going on, (and in the wake of a very sloppy Judo session), I reminded myself of a time where I tried out for the Camp Basketball team.

Let's preface this by saying that I have been 5'10-11" or so since then - since I was a junior in High school. In high school, we had a small team, and 5'10 and change was enough to make me a second-string forward and occasional center. But on the camp team, I was more or less a dwarf. The average guy on the team was about 6'1". But I knew they were having an open tryout and figured I had nothing to lose.

The tryout was pretty much a 5-on-5 full-court game. The Captain/Manager of the team was the head lifeguard and also my boss. He would basically take people from the tryouts list and have them play in the game alongside existing team members. I was kind of nervous at first, and then I realized that I needed to calm down and step up my play to match my opponent. And that's what I did.

I probably played my best basketball ever that night, and then, the unexpected happened - I was playing one of the best players on the team - a 6' 3" forward, he started to drive the lane against me and I knew that he was going to try to go in for a lay up. I stayed with him the whole time, realized when he was going up, and timed my jump perfectly. My hand found nothing but ball, and slammed it hard to the side of the court. Everyone stopped. no one could believe that I, who was never known for being picked first on the court, could "stuff" a guy with four inches on me and much better skills. It energized me. I played with even more intensity, and even though I ultimately didn't make the team, I was so glad that I had had the opportunity and rose to the challenge. The reason I didn't make the team was not because I didn't try hard enough, or because I didn't get a fair shot - but quite the contrary, I didn't make it because even when I gave 110% and had a fair shot, my skills weren't good enough.

But I definitely learned some valuable lessons from that experience and from listening to the Giants this past week:

  1. Look to be challenged by playing those that are stronger and more experienced than you - you WILL rise up to the occasion and sometimes even surprise yourself.
  2. No matter who your opponent is - don't be intimidated by them because they've won ___. If they are only human they too will lose even in a perfect season, or at least get a shot blocked by someone 4-inches shorter.

What I am saying right now isn't anything new. It's something that you might have heard in a similar vane from Rhadi Ferguson, or AnnMaria DeMars, or a whole bunch of other Judo Senseis and coaches out there. Each one of us has our own stories of where we played our most difficult opponents and still managed to eke out a win, against all odds, or even if we didn't win - where we rose up to the challenge and played better than we had imagined.

Here's the rub - the more we look to be challenged, the more of these moments that we will have, and the more of those moments we have, we might ultimately become the elite Judokas that others need to not be intimidated by.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Being a Judo Dad

As I've mentioned a couple of times before, I have 3 sons, the oldest of which, my 6-year-old, is currently a Judoka. As a father, one of the toughest things that one does is take a reality check whenever you want your children to start an activity to determine if this is something that they would want for themselves or something that you want for them to live vicariously through them. The minute that someone suggested he try martial arts as a means to build up his discipline and self-confidence, was the minute that I began looking into Judo options for him.

Yes I considered both TKD and Karate as valid options for him (of course I would have never consented to some of the McDojoes that I had visited in the process), but once my own dojoes class schedule changed to make Judo available to him, I jumped in with both feet. My son is 6 and has an attention span to match. So clearly his focus is not as good as that of a 9-year-old. Yet at the same time, each week, I see him making steady progress, and although he occasionally complains on the mat when things don't go his way, I've never heard him complain about Judo - until last week. Our dojo was closed because of MLK day (our dojo is run out of a Community College and we're beholden to their schedule, with all due respect to MLK, I am sure that he would want a sport that sees no color to hold classes on his birthday). He turned to me and said - 'Daddy, I don't like Judo, I don't think I want to go anymore'. He seemed pretty serious about it, and admittedly, I was hurt. I didn't push the subject, but I mentioned to him that why doesn't he stay for the rest of the semester and then see if he likes it. He really let the issue lie fallow, and didn't say anything about it. Yesterday we just went along to class. Yes there are a million things he needs to improve at, and yes, he still sometimes gets frustrated - but then there is this smile on his face - that tells me how much he enjoys playing. How much he enjoys his friends, competing against them in Randori, Ne-Waza or sumo-wrestling, and I know that I made the right decision.

Then there is the middle one. Because of the newborn, my soon to be 4-year-old son tags along as well. I will be the first to admit that its hard to keep him off the mat, and I am sure that some of you will flame me for trying to juggle helping out on the mat, and keeping an active toddler off of it at the same time, but unfortunately, this is the reality I need to address. Whenever I ask my little Mikey about taking up Judo, he emphatically replies "Judo is not for me!"  His only concession to the notion of his participation in Judo is when he asks me if he can get a Blue Gi. But on the side of the mat, one would think that he's gleaning a thing or two. Yesterday, I watched gleefully as he was trying to do the warmups from the side of the mat. Then, when I was showing some of our younger students basic Katame-Waza, Mikey wouldn't get off the mat, so I used him to help teach. (don't worry, I was only teaching had positioning, and not dropping my weight on him). Even at the very end of class, Sensei asked all of the kids to Duck Jump and Duck walk across the mats. I tried to cajole Mikey into doing it too. He was in a shy mood, and asked me to hold him - so I did. I wrapped him around my waist and did the Duck Jump with him on my lap. He loved it, it was like a horsey ride for him. I then repeated it for the duck walk.

On the way home, I asked him if he liked Judo and wanted to try it. He still responded "Judo is not for me!" - of course, this is such a canned reaction, and I couldn't wonder if he really felt that way even after all of the fun he had.

Hmm.... I wonder if Toraki has a blue gi in size 000?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Making The Most of Randori

Balancing Judo and my family is a hard deal - especially with the new baby. My wife groans when I go to Judo - now 2 nights a week. And I have been getting there a little later than usual as I plan on getting a handful of things done at home before going to class so that my wife doesn't feel like I am leaving her out in the cold.

I showed up about 25 minutes late last night, and quickly warmed up. Everyone was doing Uchikomi and Sensei had me work with a Yellow belt who was working on Koshi-Waza - Namely Tsurikomi Goshi and Harai Goshi. I was giving him instruction, and indicated that some of the Kuzushi and entry and form of Tsurikomi Goshi would be useful for Tsurkomi, Harai, Uchimata (to a lesser extent) and Hane Goshi. As I walked him through the motions, I noticed that my technique has actually improved. To the point where as I explain the theory to him, I am actually practicing it as well (as opposed giving him the  'do as I say, not as I do' speech before showing him anything).

I also had some good challenges in Newaza, one Black Belt, two Brown Belts and a strong yellow belt. In all three cases I was fighting from the turtle a lot. Sensei was getting on me to attack more and not play so defensively. Still, I managed to not get pinned or subbed, and I got 2 subs in the whole process. My favorite submission of late is extending uke's arm in Kesa-Gatame, and it is still new enough that I can pull it off on a couple of people in the dojo without too much trouble.

In Randori, Sensei was telling me that I was too passive as well. I started to play a little more intensely. I managed to get a few good O-Uchi's off, as well as a nice K-ouchi, and I have also improved my timing for Seoinage, but not quite to the point where I feel I can pull it off.

Sensei told me to keep working on the O-Uchi as it is a great technique to follow-up with Uchimata, Tai Otoshi, and of course, K-Ouchi. Yet I still want to get the Seoinage going. I'll let you know what happens next week.

Finally, one of my three Randori opponents was a Yellow Belt, much smaller than I. (Fear not, I haven't given up on being challenged, I played an evenly size-matched shodan and sankyu as well). He was very quick, and liked to fight for grips. I saw this opportunity to try an off the grip Sode - and it worked! It was nice throw, with clean technique, but then I realized it was against someone smaller, lighter and less-experienced. Still, I now know that I can pull it off, so I need to try it on someone bigger, heavier and more experienced.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Everyone one of us, in every dojo that we've ever been to has one - a nemesis. That one (or maybe more, or maybe one every few years) Judoka in our dojo or on the competition circuit who always seems to have our number. Our technique improves and evolves, but somehow, this person is always one step ahead.

They are our goal. Just one match one, or one good unquestionable ippon-worthy throw in Randori. Don't get me wrong, this isn't petty or vindictive, this is about improvement. It's about knowing that no matter how good your technique is and how much you've improved and yet there is still one person that it doesn't work for.

That person is the one person you want to play when it's time for Randori, and the one person you feel the greatest challenge from. You will try progressively harder with them each time, and for a while they might have their way with you.

Then one day, out of the blue. You throw them. It feels so good - and it motivates you even more.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Value of Yudansha

The semester starts this coming week, and I am now going back to my full Judo schedule again - 2x practices a week plus helping out with the kids class. I hope that my wife doesn't protest to much, especially since the Baby's witching hour has kind of gone by the wayside, so that she can actually do things in the house while I am gone.

We had an 'intersession' practice for both adults and kids last Sunday in the regular kids spot. It was a nice practice, especially since when I get on the mat with my son I don't generally get to practice much myself, and most of our black-belts were on the mat as well. I got to do Uchikomi with three of our Yudansha, all of which had great advice for my technique (and Sensei even gave me two or three bits of advice on Seoinage) - and that experience leads me to my topic - The Value of Yudansha.

One of the more common questions that beginners have is how many beginners do you typically have. Yes they want people to go through the ranks with, but some of them are also intimidated by the prospect of going a few rounds in Randori with black belts. They're scared off by the prospect of being the one cog in the class that slows down a group of experienced athletes, and that they might be in over their heads. The reality is, that this mentality is the opposite of reality - the more Black Belts and experienced Judoka you play with, the better off you are. When you practice - be it Uchikomi, Ne-Waza or Randori - with someone more experienced, their experience will rub off.

We all learn a lot from our Sensei, but each and everyone of us has certain little nuances that we apply to techniques. Each and everyone of us has gripping strategies, and combinations and moves that we sometimes share with our dojomates - either explicitly or implicitly by practicing with them. While all that I have said so far holds true for most Kyu-grades as well, obviously with Yudansha, the level of technique and experience is generally better, and it shows. While many of my colleagues have shown me stuff, I have learned lots more from the regular, good-ol' black belts in our Dojo, and I am thankful that we have a good handful of them to help me progress along my journey.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Searching for Seoinage

During my holiday break, I was thinking more and more about improving my Judo, and especially expanding my Randori/Shiai repetoire. One technique, that I keep coming back to is Seoi-Nage. It was a little over three years ago that I returned to Judo, and in my first session, I started doing Uchikomi. I went through the litany of techniques and decided to stick with one of the most basic. I started with Morote Seoinage. Within a few minutes, Sensei commented that I hadn't lost it, and that my technique was still good. But somehow, I have neglected Seoi-Nage since then, focusing more on Uchimata and O-Uchi Gari among others. Yet Seoinage is still that awesome powerful throw.

I guess I am waxing nostalgic for many reasons. For starters, a friend of mine lent me his Koga Video where Koga Demonstrates his winning seoinage techniques, I also saw a phenomenal standing seoinage when I was at the Nakabayashi tournament, and finally
I recently purchased the Masterclass Series 'Seoi-Nage' book on sale and I thought that I would use it to help my technique.

Obviously, there are many elements to a good Seoinage, and first and foremost is form and position on entry - once that's in place, I can begin to work on timing, setup and execution.

I discovered that I tend to lean forward when spinning in for seoinage, as well as don't get down deep enough. So far I have been practicing by doing a lot of squats - while trying to keep my back up and straight - and also adding a spinning element to it - i.e. I start standing, then spin in as if I were going to execute and squat while spinning, so that when I finish my 180 degree turn, I am in the down position - I spring straight back up from there, and then start the spin again, the other way.

Hopefully, this is a good beginning, practice resumes on Sunday. so hopefully I will be able to report my progress.


If you want to help offer advice, please feel free to comment.

Women's Judo is more than Just a sport

I came across an interesting article by way of the JudoForum. A group of women in the UAE have started their own National Judo and Sambo team. Why is this so special? Because this sort of thing is frowned upon in their country! Yet they have found a sport that they love and have decided to promote it.

I am not a women, I have 3 sons, my wife won't step on a mat, and I can count on my hand the number of women that I have practiced with, but at the same time, its articles like these that show how powerful Women's Judo is. It goes beyond exercise, fitness and competition, it goes beyond self-defense - it's about empowerment.

In in this case, because it goes against societal norms, empowerment goes even further. I wish the UAE Judo team well, and I hope that they help promote Judo in their country and abroad.