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First let me be up front with the caveat that I consider myself a judo beginner. I write this not to share knowledge of judo, but to as it were chronicle the evolution of my own understanding—which may be entirely mistaken at this stage.

That said, I had an understanding of forward throws—let us take o goshi as an example. I would pull and enter, turn with bent knees, fit under my opponent, straighten my legs to get him airborne, and his footing lost, pivot—my right shoulder to my left knee—so as to rotate him about his centre of gravity, turn him onto his back, and land him on the ground. Looking at this in terms of trivial mechanics, the process would then consist of

  1. Kuzushi—break tori’s balance forward so that his centre of gravity lies in front of his feet.
  2. Tsukuri—enter with bent knees to place my centre of gravity below his.
  3. ???—lift him up.
  4. Kake—rotate and throw.

I’m not sure this is so wrong for o goshi in particular, but it’s becoming increasingly apparent to me that as a general rule, step 3 is not only unnecessary, but in fact unproductive and inefficient. My judo instructor often admonishes people not to waste energy throwing people up, when the whole point is after all to throw them down. This should be rather obvious, but I had the lesson driven home kinetically when a friendly brown belt threw me with morote seio nage, a throw I’ve had great difficulties with. Instead of the ballistic arc I’m used to flying on, I had a new experience of describing a very tight circle and hitting the ground from a smaller height but much more rapidly.

Combined with the aforementioned admonishments from the instructor, and my own focus on morote seio nage and bending my damned knees, this has provided something of an epiphany. The “lift the opponent” step above isn’t just unnecessary, it’s inefficient. Instead of raising my opponent off the ground so that he can rotate freely about his centre of gravity, I want to place my centre of gravity close to and below his and rotate him about our common centre of gravity. Because this is lower than his (mine being lower, and it being in between), this means that he goes down more directly and rapidly. Because it involves no lifting, it takes less energy on my part. And rotation about the common centre of gravity, I figure, will surely involve the least possible effort for the effect: I don’t need to shift the net mass at all.

The feeling is effectively one of performing a smaller arc, or tighter circle, during the kake phase of the throw. It’s perhaps less spectacular because the amplitude is a bit smaller, but it’s much faster and requires vastly less energy. Morote seio nage in particular feels like a different throw (one that might actually work), but ippon seio nage benefits similarly, and I expect to see progress in harai goshi and other throws, as well.

haggholm: (Default)

One of the drills the judo instructor likes to have us do on occasion is what he calls power uchikomi. Uchikomi is a drill where you practice the entry into a throw, but don’t actually throw your partner (if you do, it’s technically nagekomi). Uchikomi comes in many variations—static uchikomi (your partner stands there and you enter for throws), moving uchikomi (typically walking down a line), and so forth.

In Scott’s power uchikomi, we get into groups of three. If I’m the person doing the drill, I will be practicing on person A, with person B serving as an anchor—standing behind with his arms around A and keeping him safely grounded. That way, I can enter for my throw with as much power as I can manage without worrying about denting the floor with my training partner.

Scott likes to say that you should be trying to throw both people. He’s not a big guy—probably weighs less than I do—but when he demonstrates it, well, he may not throw the pair, but he certainly gets them moving.

Today I feel like I managed, for the first time, some power in my power uchikomi; I certainly didn’t throw my pair of training partners, but I did lift them both off the ground and keep them there for a few moments. Granted, their feet were never more than a few inches off the ground, and it may not be too impressive for the athletically gifted, but if you’d told the skinny nerd¹ version of me ten years ago that I’d be capable of lifting 350 lbs of people any distance at all, well…I’ve come a long way.

It also makes me think that no matter whom I fight, whether I win or lose, at least I do not need to worry about simply being too weak to shift them. Unless they weigh more than 350 lbs, of course…

In more judo development news, I feel like I’m finally starting to get the hang of harai goshi. It’s a funny thing because it’s long been a throw that I can pull off just fine some days, while other days I couldn’t do it at all—suggesting pretty clearly that there was something I was either doing accidentally (on good days) or not at all. A lot of details go into that throw, but between leaning away slightly, using proper kuzushi to pull rather than bump my uke, and positioning my body properly rather than (as is my wont) as though I were entering for o goshi, it finally feels like it’s coming together. Come to think of it, today may be the first time I did it properly with an orthodox lapel grip rather than the easier overhand.

Heaven knows when I’ll be able to actually land it in randori, of course, but even if it’s just drilling, my technique has improved one hell of a lot.

¹ I’m still pretty damned nerdy, but I’m definitely not skinny. You could say many different things about my physique, some nice and some unpleasant, but skinny just wouldn’t stick any more.

In fact, today’s BJJ class had a pretty funny moment of illustrating the difference sheer size and mass can make. We were drilling some X guard sweeps and escapes. When one guy, whom I probably outweigh by 50 or 60 lbs, tried the sprawl escape, I just ended up balancing him on my legs in mid-air. —Of course, hard resistance in plain drills would be a crappy way to treat a training partner, but this was the first rep, and I wasn’t trying to resist so much as just keeping the pressure from my X guard; it caught me as much by surprise as it did the other guy. I’d have made a deliberate point of relaxing for the next rep, but we switched up and he had the lucky break of working with a much lighter partner.


Apr. 4th, 2010 12:49 pm
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If you read my journal at all, you not only know that I now do judo, but may even be getting tired of hearing about it. Alas, you’re out of luck! —I’m here to talk about it some more, because this is my journal: I write about what I like and feel like, and I like judo, and I feel like judo…

My Gracie Barra BJJ gym first started offering judo classes in January, when a couple of judo instructors were brought in for one class per week—this was soon increased to two. Judo, of course, sharing a history and a huge set of techniques with BJJ, ties in very well. With a focus on stand-up fighting, throws, etc., it complements BJJ—which focuses on groundwork, chokes, joint locks—very well. I get the impression that our gym was reasonably strong in stand-up in stand-up already¹, but clearly it could be improved substantially with the addition of instructors who specialise in it.

Of course, judo is an eminently capable martial art on its own: Like BJJ, it has a rich history and culture of competition, and competition is a great way (perhaps the only way?) to keep a martial art honest, by weeding out ineffective techniques, and with tournaments preventing the idiosyncrasies of any one school from any cobwebs entering the picture.

Of course, since I don’t compete—never yet have, though I probably should²—the main reason why I decided to take up judo was that I thought it would be fun. The fact that it merges seamlessly with my jiu-jitsu is nice, but hardly a make-or-break feature… Well, I’m here to tell you that I was right: Judo is so much fun!

Initially I found it a little bit intimidating, since I had little confidence in my ukemi and didn’t like to take falls. I still have to force myself to relax sometimes, but a couple of months of judo have taught me that falling in randori really won’t kill me—though sometimes it kind of sucks when the other guy is a judo guy with the judo tendency to fall with and on you. I weigh close to 190 lbs all by myself; I don’t need a similarly-sized guy adding his own falling body weight on my ribs as I hit the ground…

It’s also the first martial art I’ve taken thus far where I feel like I’m actually sort of getting it right away. Karate, BJJ, and fencing all were and remain struggles. I don’t really mind that, but it’s nice to see a change.

I should hasten to add that I don’t imagine that my feeling that judo is so far easier to pick up is any indication of talent. Rather, two years of BJJ has equipped me with a basic repertoire of judo throws that I’m not very good at, but basically know, so that they can be brought up to a useful level fairly quickly in a more conducive setting—in classes that focus almost entirely on stand-up, with coaches who rightly regard it as their specialty… Judo is said to be very difficult to learn, and I’m quite sure I will hit a wall sooner or later and start struggling with the usual plateaus of progress and learning, but right now I’m coasting on the fact that I’m not starting from square one. And while I am fairly at peace with progress-in-spite-of-lack-of-talent as a useful challenge in martial arts, it’s nice to learn something without struggling for once.

Technique notes:

A game of footsweeps ending with hiza guruma seems to be my strongest randori game so far. I often try to go for uchi mata, but I’ve yet to hit it. I have more luck with harai goshi. In uchikomi/nagekomi practice, harai goshi is often my strongest throw…though some days some wires get crossed in my brain, or something, and I can hardly do it at all.

My most satisfying throws tend to be o goshi. However, it seems it only really works for me on people taller than I am, when I can more easily fit in my entry… I do like the throw a lot, though, and even moreso since it works unmodified without a gi.

¹ Though as I’m not really involved in competitions in any way, my word is hardly authorative.

² I’m sure it would do me some good, but it’s hard to feel gung-ho about it when the argument pro sounds like the motivation for eating your broccoli.


Feb. 24th, 2010 07:54 pm
haggholm: (Default)

Well, not really—it was just randori, not shiai. But still—

It doesn’t happen every class, or week, or, well, honestly, it doesn’t happen every month, but every once in a great while I manage to pull off something well enough that I come home feeling good about it.¹ Today it was a pretty much picture-perfect judo technique (so I believe; so my training partner claimed). It went something like this:

  1. Other guy comes in for a throw
  2. I block the throw; he’s in an awkward position, so
  3. he backs out and pulls his right arm free, leaving a gap; so
  4. I step in before I can even think about it and pivot into a left-handed² o-goshi; he goes down, and I look rather surprised at how well that went.

I do love o-goshi, though. It’s a great throw for a short, stocky guy like me—my centre of gravity is nice and low, and with most of my equal-weight opponents (and many people lighter than myself) I’m shorter, so my hips are below theirs, and my arm can very easily swim under and around for their back.

¹ If it happened often, I’d feel rather odd blogging about it. I’m not going to post on Livejournal every time I pass somebody’s half guard…

² Had you asked me before today, I would have said that I can’t do a left-handed o-goshi at all.

haggholm: (Default)

5 pm Fundamental BJJ class will be replaced with another judo class. Since this is one of my usual time slots, this changes my schedule to Monday 5 pm Intermediate gi BJJ, 6 pm judo; Wednesday 5 pm judo, 6 pm Intermediate no-gi BJJ, if I keep going at the same times. More judo will be fun, challenging, and useful…though I do feel that I ought to take more than two BJJ classes a week, and in particular, more than one gi BJJ class! Not sure what to do about it. Also don’t know whether the schedule is stable or whether more changes will open (or close) any opportunities.

I have been insanely sore today from Monday’s judo class. My neck muscles were so sore (for some reason) that I had to take the Advil variation against muscle pain (contains a mild OTC relaxant) to get through the days. Going for my two hours of jits tonight required me to suppress some urges toward self-preservation. Fortunately the Fundamentals class is pretty forgiving and basically served as an hour-long warm-up…and it did take the hour.

Ah well. Enough drama; I went, it went fine, and I feel moderately impressed with myself for going through it without having to take extra breaks. No big deal for the athletically adept, but for me it represents significant progress.

haggholm: (Default)

…Which was fun, though there was a scary bit when someone landed badly and cried out in pain for a while. I didn’t see what happened or to whom, but no one seemed to be carried or limping off the mats, so I believe it went well. Nice introduction, to my very first judo class!

We worked on a few things such as a sweep (ko-uchi gari?), and seoi nage and harai goshi, both of which I knew from jiu-jitsu. I really quite like harai goshi, because when you pull it off your opponent goes for such an impressive, truly airborne fall. It’s slightly uncomfortable to receive sometimes, though, because if it is performed very badly so that your foot is not swept off the ground, it turns into an awkward toppling over where your knee gets trapped and could easily be twisted the wrong way. Oddly, I find that I never perform very bad harai goshi—most of the time I either fail completely, or I send my opponent flying. (This is in drilling, mind. In randori, there’s a vast preponderance of total failure.)

On the BJJ side, the Intermediate class was fun and intense and really much more at my level, though I will miss having Rodrigo as one of my regular instructors. Happily, I found someone else who’s interested in splitting private lessons with Rodrigo two ways, so if we can work out a schedule, I’ll ask Rodrigo what I ought to focus on and we’ll see if I can’t improve my game a bit.


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