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.

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