Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Club Competition

We had our Annual club competition, and all told it was a weird experience for me. Last time around, I had just started refereeing. Fortunately I had Sensei Jesse Wang with his years of experience as a guide. In addition, Larry and Wilson - who both had significantly more experience than me were there as well. All 3 gave me advice and tips as I was going through the matches. Unfortunately, Sensei Jesse passed away earlier this year, and Larry wasn't able to make it. Thankfully I still had Wilson and Mark joined us as well, but I was refereeing a lot more matches this year. It was just strange on so many levels without Jesse.

The beauty of Refereeing was that I was able to see all of the matches. It was nice to see all of our students - both young, old and in between get a chance to compete - even if it was against the same crowd. My son Mitch took second place in his division. He led most of the way through his first match - with a Wa-zari and a couple of Yukos, but then was caught in the last minute and thrown for Ippon. In his second match he also had 3 Yukos and a Waza-ari and held on to win. I am happy with his progress - looking at the video replay, his focus and intensity was there, but still has room for improvement.

As I've mentioned many times before, our Sensei teaches Judo at two colleges, and our competition also included these students as well. The were some great ippons that left no doubt, and there were other calls that, while watchin the video, probably should have made. Still, all told, I don't think too many people were upset with the officiating.

Finally, it was my turn to compete. I got to compete against Mark and Mike. Quite frankly, I didn't bring my "A" game. I played Mark first, and got a Yuko off of a Sloppy Tani-Otoshi attempt. I managed to quickly transit into Ne-Waza and pinned him well enough to hold on for a Waza-ari to win as time ran out. Unfortunately for me, I had to play Mike immediately after. Mike managed to throw me for two Yukos, and I lost the match. He told me afterward that he thought I had him a couple of times. Watching the video, I saw that I had several opportunities to throw him, but I was so winded that I couldn't capitalize. That, coupled with how fat I look in the video is my motivation for losing weight for the new year - at my next tournament, I'd like to play 198!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Trophies, we don't need no Stinking Trophies

When I try to explain Judo tournaments to people, I say that they're a lot like Disneyland - you wait in line for two hours for 2 minutes of excitement, but those two minutes give you enough excitement to make you want to wait inline all over again. I competed today, and I had exactly that experience. I fought two quick matches, won them both, and took first place

This morning when I woke up, I was a little worried. The bathroom scale read 220.3 - 0.3 lbs over where I wanted to be. I skipped breakfast, and dressed in layers - I also cranked the heat up in the car on the way over. I even parked farther away from the venue and jogged from my car to the registration desk. Whether driving in the heat paid off, or whether my bathroom scale was a few lbs over, I wound up being safe - I weighed in at 217.7.

I must say that for the most part at tournaments, I tried spending as little time at the tournament as possible. i.e. Show up for my matches, and then leave when I was done. This time around, however, I decided to stick around and catch as much of the action as possible, even encourage and/or coach my dojomates. I have to say it was a lot of fun. A lot of our guys managed to bring home the hardware, and I got two watch at least two of my teammates pull off some great moves in matches that they, unfortunately, ultimately lost.  Brandon, one of our teenagers, was trapped in Sankaku against a player who had him wrapped up real good. I thought he was done for, but Brandon managed to get out of the Sankaku by sliding his hand in a preventing the choke. Ultimately he lost the match a few seconds later, but it was a great escape. Then there was Chuck. Chuck is one of our lighter adults, and was playing in a division where he was one of the only non-black belts. But Chuck is in awesome shape and is very athletic. I saw one of his opponents throw him with Seoinage, and his feet sailed over his head and I though he would fall into a picture perfect Ippon, but somehow Chuck managed to twist in midair, and landed on his feet. It was amazing. I think that everyone watching that match was stunned that he managed to escape a certain Ippon.

But on to my matches. First and foremost, this wasn't a big competition. My division only had two other competitors and I didn't want to be the 'default' third place guy. I got the luck of the draw in the sense that the other two guys fought first, so a) I would be a little fresher for at least my first match and b) I could see their style. I gleaned a couple of points about their techniques and their gripping styles, and got prepped for my first match.

My first match was against the loser of the first match in our group - a guy from Long Island. We came in a couple of time trying our throws, on the third try I got in deep enough for an O-Uchi-Gari, and I threw him to the mat. Based on the throw, it seemed to me that it wouldn't go for an Ippon, so I immediately began an entry into ne-waza. I pushed him down to the mat and started to attack his arm. Of course, what was really about 4-5 seconds since my throw seemed much longer, and it seems that two judges called off the initial wa-zari in favor of Ippon in my favor. 1 down, 1 to go.

My second match was against a guy from New Rochelle. I knew that he liked playing lefty like I did (from watching the first match) and I thought I would play to my strong, left-handed, side.  I came in for O-Uchi, and it failed, so I pulled out. He realized I was stepping back, immediately jumped in for an O-Soto-Gari, I felt him catch my leg, but I knew that I had one shot to wiggle out of it. I spun around to my right and countered him with a Right-handed Harai-Goshi. It was timed almost perfectly, and he landed on the mat with that loud thud that is the telltale sign of a beautiful Ippon. I was told by someone watching the throw that it was a really nice technique. No matter, I was just happy that I had taken home first place.

When I got to the awards table, they had ran out of first place trophies. No matter, I got my win, I played well, and I didn't need no stinking trophy to remind me of that.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rule changes in action at the Junior Worlds

Last Janurary, the IJF made some rather large changes to the rules of Judo. As of last New Year's day, they abolished the score of Koka and it's corresponding first Shido became a warning - which only has value in a referees decision if the score is tied. They also banned grabbing the pant leg directly from 'Hajime' - you could grab the legs, but only after attempting to take a standard grip.

The IJF - seemingly no fan of throws where the leg is grabbed - also decided to experiment with banning leg grabbing altogether - using the Junior World Championships as a testing grounds. The new rule would give you a warning for the first infraction and disqualification for the second one. When this rule change first came out, I ranted a bit about it, especially because of the ambiguity of the language. For example, while it was very clear that you couldn't initiate an attack with a leg grab, it wasn't clear if you were able to use a leg grab as part of a counter - For example, using Te Guruma to Counter a hip throw. They are also experimenting with having one referee and video assistance for close calls.

 Well, the Junior Worlds were last week, and I got an e-mail from USA Judo telling me that I could watch them live via streaming. Unfortunately, the match I wanted to watch (Katelyn Bouyssou of the USA) was not streamed, but I got to watch several others and interestingly saw a lot of the new rules in action. Here are some of the matches that I watched, and my observations:

Campese (ITA) vs. Huang (TPE) -55kg Bronze Medal Match

 - This match went the full 4 minutes, plus 2 minutes of Golden Score. The only points in this one was a 'Warning' shido recorded in the original match against Campese. Huang one, but had to go the full distance to make the Koka stand up. I know that these rules have been in place since Janurary, but this is a weird one, I wonder how many times this has happened so far this year. On the one hand, I like this rule, so that the penalties do count, it also gives both Uke and Tori a second chance. The only bad side. If I am up Wa-zari to Yuko, with 15 seconds to play, what's to stop me from taking the warning shido as a means to win the match. If I had my druthers, this 'warning' shido wouldn't apply in the last 30 seconds of the match. Here is the video:

Shishime (JPN) vs. MUSHKIYEV(AZE) -55kg Gold Medal Match:
 - Mushkiyev, about a minute in, tries to dump Shishime with a Te Guruma, he instantly gets his warning shido. At 2:55 in the match (about 1:54 in the video link below), Shishime tries to take a grip and go in for a hip throw. Mushkiyev brushes his hand aside and then attempts to counter him again with Te Guruma. The Referee calls matte, and then ends the match right there - calling the match for Shinshime because of Mushkiyev's forfeiture. 

Incidentally, about 1:20 into the video, Shishime tries an unsuccessful O-Uchi-Gari, and then attempts to follow up by grabbing Mushkiyev's leg, but didn't get penalized. This last bit speaks to the 1-ref situation - he might not have seen it. I really don't like this new rule - I am willing to agree that leg grabs from Hajime should be banned, this is a just a wacky rule. Even if counters are allowed - how can we differentiate? Espeically when there is only one ref on the mat! Here is the video:

Abdulzhalilov (RUS) vs. Urani (FRA)
- I couldn't find an offline video for this one. But the decider here is a Yuko that should have been a Koka. I guess when you remove Kokas, it takes a while to redefine which get bumped up to Yuko and which don't 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fushida Gear Bag - First Impressions

I finally capitulated and bought a new gear bag - the old one, was literally falling apart after 5 years of use. The folks at Fushida had a limited 25% off sale advertisted on Twitter that I took advantage of. (as I write this, the bag is still at an introductory 15% on their site) I was torn between the "Medium" and "Large" sizes, and I opted for the "Medium" - truthfully, they should really be called "Large" and "Extra-Large". I was able to easily put both of my two Gis (A Blue and a White Toraki Silver, size 4.5) with enough room for my sons gi - which doesn't include all of the side pockets.

All told, it seems like a solid, sturdy bag. I'll follow up with more info once I use it a bit more.

The last couple of weeks

The last couple of weeks have been interesting. I have been really consistent in attending practice. Our Wednesday night practices have been getting good crowds, and I am getting a lot of good work in. Especially in Randori and Ne-Waza Randori.

Our Monday nights have been a little weaker, only handful of students show up, but I have been doing my best to make the most of it. I've been getting a lot of Nage-No-Kata practice in, and learning a lot by teaching some of the beginners that show up.

Because all of the Jewish Holidays are on Sunday this year, my son has missed a lot of time at the kids' class. Thankfully he is back now, but because of logistics, I myself have been missing my time on the mat with him. I enjoy watching him learn and helping out him and his friends.

Of course, this is all anticlimactic, except for one of the most important and sad events in my Judo career - Sensei Jesse Wang - one of the senior black belts in our club, passed away last Wednesday. Jesse was 4 days shy of his 83rd birthday, and wonderful teacher and friend in our club. Up until he became ill earlier this year, he'd show up at practice 3x a week. Even though his body might not have been able to do as much as it used to, his mind never lost a beat. Whenever anyone would ask him a question about a technique, it was never a yes or no answer - he would observe, and then begin to point out 8 different things you could do to improve your technique - be it in Randori, Uchikomi, or Kata.

Last year, I told Sensei that I wanted to learn to referee (a bit unusual for someone not quite a black belt). So he hooked me up with Jesse. At our club tournament last December, I stepped on the mat in socks for the first time. I was very nervous, but I was relieved to know that I had Jesse in the corner if I needed him. A minute or two into the match, one of the players threw the other, I look at the result and stuck my hand straight out to the side to signal - Wa-Zari, but of course, Jesse immediately waved it off, and called it Ippon. Then, after the match, he pulled me aside to explain why it was an ippon. Yes, he called off my very first Judo Refereeing call, but true to his nature, he made it a teaching moment.

The club tournament will be upon us shortly, and I will referee that one as well. I need to step up my ref knowledge a bit, because no matter how good his replacement is, I know that Jesse is not in the corner to back me up.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Maybe I'll start blogging again...

So I thought that I might start blogging again. Fear not, dear readers (however many are left), I have not abandoned Judo, but just given up on blogging for a while. But recently, I thought I would come back to it, if not for anything else, than to keep my head in the game. When I was practicing more consistently, and blogging more consistently, it helped my Judo - it made me think about Judo, what I was learning, and how I've progressed.

Maybe I am long overdue to start writing? Who knows?