Judo for Girls and the Sexist 60s

I came across a book titled "Judo for Girls" in Amazon, but there was no description or reviews associated with this book.  I thought that this could be an informative read, as I have never been a girl, and have considered that there may be some unique concerns from the female perspective that I haven't really considered...  So looking for a review (which I didn't find), I came across this article from Black Belt Magazine (1965):


My favorite part was the caption for the photo at the bottom of the first page:  "Ruth stands husband Nick Horan on end in a Ju-no-Kata position.  Girls in the class find this technique helpful for getting loose change out of their husbands' pockets."  Seriously?  Also interesting was that they apparently didn't let women participate in Shiai - kata competition was the only option.  Well, I guess they were encouraged to only ride sidesaddle back in the day, so we're progressing on all fronts?

Anyone out there know anything about this "Judo for Girls" book?


Book Review: Winning on the Mat by Steve Scott

A solid, well-rounded book that focuses, as the title says, on "winning on the mat."  Three stars (out of four).
Winning on the Mat: Judo, Freestyle Judo And Submission Grappling

Here's a review for (probably) the first Judo book that I have read cover-to-cover.

The Upshot:
This was a really good book.  While most Judo books out there focus solely on technique, and thus significantly overlap with... most Judo books out there, this book has a heavy focus on the practical aspects of winning a Judo contest.  Mind you, the bulk of the book is technique description, but there are sections on defense, gripping, etc.  Steve Scott (interviewed here) shares a deep knowledge of Judo, and a his framework for "organizing" Judo is fairly unique.  I enjoyed the book (even if the numerous typos were annoying), and I think it is a great addition to your Judo library - even if you aren't a competitor.

What's In It and How It's Organized:
Winning on the Mat covers standing and ground techniques, in addition to gripping, defenses, other tactics, and more.  Each of the technique sections begins with principles, frameworks, and key points on the subject at hand.

  • Winning Concepts:  Definitely my favorite section of the book.  It's here that he discusses "Control Judo" and has tips on things like scouting opponents, mat-side coaching, grip fighting, defensive tactics, and more.  This is the section that really differentiates it from other books.
  • Winning Forward Throws: Not as self-explanatory as one might think.  His classification of "foward throws" describes those throws that, while standing, involve taking an opponent over your body from back to front (e.g., Ogoshi, Seoi Nage, etc), and does not include those throws listed as other sections.
  • Winning Knee Drop Throws:  Basically those throws that involve dropping to one or both knees.
  • Winning Uchi Mata:  3 guesses...
  • Winning Pick Up Throws:  As this book focuses on winning using Freestyle Judo rules which (appropriately) don't forbid attacking the legs, Scott devotes a nice section to pick-ups.
  • Winning O Soto Gari/Harai Goshi (titled "Winning O Soto Harai")
  • Winning O Uchi Gari
  • Winning Leg Hooks (titled "Winning Ko Soto Tani Otoshi"):  In addition to the "Gake" throws, this also includes Tani Otoshi.
  • Winning Foot Sweeps
  • Winning Tai Otoshi
  • Winning Sacrifice Throws
  • Winning Groundwork (title "Winning Newaza Pins):  Includes not just pins, but also general groundwork principles, breakdowns, rollovers, sweeps, guard passes, and basically all aspects of groundwork, save submissions.
  • Winning Armlocks:  Fairly self-explanatory, with lots of nifty entries for Juji Gatame.
  • Winning Strangles: Strangles - including a nice bit of history that mentions how "Shime Waza" originally included a) constricting the neck (same as today), b) constricting the body (e.g., Do Jime - illegal today), and c) smothering your opponent (one of my personal faves - never knew I was still performing Shime Waza!)
  • Winning Final Thoughts:  Primarily Freestyle Judo rules.
The Good:
One of the first things you'll notice is that this is a big book - over 400 pages.  So he's not holding much back.  Among these 400 pages, there is healthy section (~150 pages) on groundwork, which I think often goes lacking in most Judo books.  As I mentioned above, my favorite parts of the book are when he isn't describing techniques; not because there is anything wrong with them - indeed, I picked up some new approaches from this book - rather, it is here that the most unique insight is shared.  There also is a decent smattering of history and language in there, both topics of interest to me (though he does have a definition of Zanshin that is markedly different than everything I had ever heard...  but that's just a couple of lines of text, and it may be that everything I had heard before was wrong).

Could Have Been Better:
I think it is telling that the only two complaints I have about this book have little to do with substance... The pictures in this book are almost entirely competition shots - I like the approach, but in many cases, it can be difficult to see exactly what is going on.  Neither here nor there, but at first, I thought it may be due to low resoultion in the cameras used, but I think it may actually be to low resolution in the printing...).  Another downer is that there are tons of typos in here.  Tons.  Mutiple chapter headings (repeated on every page of the chapter) have typos, and it can be annoying if that sort of thing bothers you.  Other than that, I would have liked to have seen more real-estated devoted to pins, but given the Freestyle Judo approach, it is understandable that he placed the emphasis where he did.

One Thing I Learned:
There was a lot, but I think one of my favorites was a slick rollover into Juji Gatame from when you are sprawled on your opponent after he attempted a leg pick or something similar, such that he is still grabbing your right leg.  It involves swinging your left leg over, and hooking it on to his left leg, grabbing his right arm with both of your arms, and then rolling to finish in Juji.

As a side note, Gerald Lafon recently reviewed Winning... in his blog.  I generally try not to overlap other blogs I read, but in this case, I just recently finished this 400+ page book, and I'll be damned if I'm not going to post my own review after such an investment!


Throwing Principles: Come in Low

This one is simple:  you know you need to bend your knees before you throw.  Many reasons for this:
  • You can straighten your legs to get lift.
  • You lower the fulcrum for your throw, which generally makes it easier to execute.
  • And much much more!
But when does this bending of the knees need to occur?  When practicing, beginners will often wait until they have set in to bend their knees, but that is TOO LATE!  You need to lower your body before setting in (a.k.a., before you fix the Glue).  If you wait until you have already fit in, and then you lower yourself, your uke will just lower right along with you, which negates both the benefit of your lift (because when you lift, you will just be putting uke back to the original level) and the benefit of lowering your fulcrum (because uke's body will be dropping right along with you).

So you need to be low before you get there!  If you are taking steps to set in, increase the bend in your knees with each step such that you are at the desired level by the time you have set in.  If you are hopping in, make sure that by the time uke makes body contact with you, you are at the right level.  This means that your level will have to be dropping as you hop.  When you practice your uchi komis, take note of your level.  For most throws, you will want those knees bent, and bent before you have set in.



The Value of Competition

"He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool..."
We have a tournament coming up (the Ken Tamai Classic in Beltsville, MD, on 10/15/11) so I wanted to post a few words about the value of competing.  Most - if not all - of the Akari Judoka are the so-called "recreational" Judoka - those with no serious aspirations of winning the nationals or going to the Olympics.  We learn and practice Judo because it is fun, and something we want to get better at.  We (generally) tap before we get hurt by an arm-bar, because it is more important to function well at work than it is to "win" in Randori or Shiai (tournaments). 

That said, I still think that it is vital for us to compete.

Why?  One of the things I love about Judo is the ability to test what you learn.  You can try it on your training partner in static or dynamic repetitions, and then you can test it in Randori.  If it works?  Great!  If it doesn't, you can keep practicing, figure out why, and tweak it until it does - or abandon it.  So we learn a bunch of techniques and then we figure out what we like to use.

But Randori doesn't teach you all that you need to know about the technique. 

  • Intensity:  Some Randori sessions may be pretty tense, and you both may be giving your all... but there is still something different about a tournament.  Putting yourself out there in Shiai is a different experience - and a necessary one to get the full benefit of Judo.  Just being out there is a type of training in and of itself - it's usually uncomfortable at first...  but the more you put yourself in the position, the less uncomfortable you feel - and this ability to stay more centered can be applicable in your Judo and beyond.
  • Different People:  There is a huge benefit to exposing yourself to different people (no... not that way).  I mean testing your Judo skills against folks that you don't normally see.  You're sure to see some new techniques, and get different responses than what you are used to.  Great learning.
  • Calibration:  Closely related to the last point - Whether you are the best at your dojo, the worst, or somewhere in the middle, this still doesn't tell you if you are any good...  Some dojos may be great, such that the 10th best in the club may be the 20th best in the world.  In other places, it may be such that the best in the club can't ever win a match...  So in getting out in the world, you can see how you stack up outside of your own pond. 
I'll be honest... reading this, it doesn't even come close to getting across what I feel is the true value of competition.  Judo was meant to be tested, and a competition is a great place to execute that test...even in a loss, you walk away with so much (perhaps more than in a win)...  And if you have the ability to compete with any regularity, then you can really use the time between your competitions to put some specific goals on your training (which then, I think, improves the quality of your training)...  Anyhoo... Compete.  It's good for your soul.

Lots of people have written good stuff on the topic.  Here's one article I found on JudoInfo.com (the best Judo website out there):


Throwing Principles: Shoulders Forward

Haven't been around in a while... Work and family have been keeping me away... And should be keeping me away right now, but I wanted to get something posted.  So here goes:

So, you've heeded my last post, and you are staying on the balls of your feet, but you still find yourself getting thrown backwards? Well... there's more: 

Another of the really basic throwing principles is that your shoulders should darn near always stay in front of your hips.  Said differently, you should almost never lean backwards.  The simple reason for this is that it is just too easy to be thrown to your rear once your shoulders are behind your hips.  Your body simply wasn't built to be in this position... There are a lot of normal activities that involve bending forward and standing back upright - even with a load -  but there aren't many that involve bending yourself backwards.

"Well, Chad... shouldn't I just stand up straight?"  If you aren't tethered to someone that wants to put you on your butt, standing perfectly upright is fine.  But there is someone nearby that wants to put you in the ground, if you stand up perfectly straight, then it will be too easy for the bad guy to make you lean backwards... and we've already covered what happens then.

Lastly, just to be clear, I'm not saying that you should bend 90 degrees at the waist.  A slight bend forward will do the trick.  If you bend too far forward, your opponent will be able to snap you down to the ground and face-drag you, or at least be able to keep you from standing up, taking away most of your attack options.

I most commonly see people bend backwards when setting in for a throw.  As they raise their leg for the osoto gari, as they get their grip for their ogoshi, or as they spin in for their ippon seoi nage...  Keep your eye out for these trouble spots, and you should have more success in your randori.


Groundwork Principles: Limit Your Scope

Control requires letting go...
***A quick note before I start:  This is not a fully-formed thought... I hope to start a discussion with this post, and I'll update the post occsasionally as warranted.  So please, if you think I got something wrong or missed something, let me know. ***

Control is a huge part of groundwork...  Gaining control over your opponent, and preventing them from getting control over you.  But too often, I see people try to exert absolute control over their opponents,  trying to prevent any part of them from moving an inch.  I can manage this pretty well against my 2 year old son, but not against another 170-pounder... 

Don't think about controlling "your opponent" - think about controlling parts of your opponent.  Sensei Virgil Bowles, may he rest in peace, used to demonstrate the two-finger hold down:  with his victim laying on his or her back, he would put one finger on the wrist of the victim's oustretched right arm, and another finger on  the victim's jaw bone, forcing them to face left.  This proved to be quite effective at keeping the bad guy down - and even more effective at illustrating his point:  If you control the right pieces, you don't need to control that much.
When you focus on one part, you can apply all of your weight/strength to that part.  Or maybe you can apply 70% to one part and 30% to another...  But the more parts you add, the less of yourself you can apply, and the easier it will be to overcome your control at each of the points...

What are some useful things to control?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Head Direction:  If you can make his head look one way, you can bet he won't twist the other way.  People tend to try to avoid twisting their heads off.  And you get to fight against relatively weak muscles.
  • *A* Shoulder:  Most of the time, its a waste to try to control both of them...  Focus on one.  Don't let it up (too far, anyhoo), and don't let them pull it away from you. 
  • The Hips - A Hip, maybe?:  Not as good as the shoulders, but a person can't turn over to their stomachs with their hips facing the ceiling...  Though I have seen some Gumby-esque kids who have come close.
  • A Floating Rib:  Maybe a half-rack?  My original thinking here was about controlling the side... but that's too generic, and too large of a target.  If you can focus on pinning the floating ribs down, that will make it hard to breath and difficult to turn away.  Turning in is still a risk, though.
  • The Neck:  Generally, you would use this to prevent the bad guy from rotating, or from sitting up.  But beware that wrapping your arm under the neck can trap your arm if bad guy presses his head down.
  • An Arm (Part):  The arm is too big of a part as well, but I didn't want to list all of them.  Trapping a wrist or controlling above the elbow (that is, on the humorous) are two good candidates.  Similar to how opponents like to keep their heads screwed on, they also like to keep their arms in socket.  A lot of arm control will be a part of shoulder control, though.
  • A Leg:  Legs are probably my least favorite.  They are big and strong, and can be a terrible waste of energy.  But there are times when the legs will ... present themselves as useful tools.  Similar to the arm:shoulder relationship, I think control of the legs (from a pinning perspective) should generally be aimed at controlling the hips.  For instance, if you can press the legs down and make the hips face one way, that will prevent the bad guy from turning the other way.  You just need to be extra-careful about them turning towards their legs.


Throwing Principles: The Balls

You'd be amazed at a man's strength when he stands on his own balls!

Balls of your feet, weirdos.

So here's another pretty basic throwing principle:  stay on the balls of your feet.  All the time.  Have you ever found yourself turning in for a throw only to find that you are off-balanced backward once you get there?  And am I guessing right when I say that your heels were on the ground, and your toes weren't touching the mat?  Well, there are several things you could do to correct it, but the easiest thing you can do is to make sure that you stay on the balls of your feet.  I'm not saying that you need to tippie-toe all day long, but if you can keep your heel one millimeter off the ground, you'll do all right.

So here is a brief run-down of the benefits of staying on your balls:

  • Balance: See above.  Basically, it's harder (but not impossible) to be off-balanced to your rear if you are on the balls of your feet.
  • Power:  If you are doing a throw that involves driving your body forwards, backwards, or to the side - or to any of the corners - then you can generate more power for that throw by driving off the balls of your feet.  I really can't think of many throws where flat feet are preferred, and can't think of any where you should be on your heels...
  • Mobility:  You will be more mobile on the balls of your feet - able to respond quicker and more nimbly to what is happening.  Partly because once you are put on your heels, your life gets much harder.  But there is more to it.
  • Height:  Ladies love tall men.  And for the ladies:  now you don't need those high-heels.  No real judo benefits on this one.  But don't forget those rockin' calves.
There it is.  And this applies not just to when you are throwing, but moving, as well.  Think...80/20 on your weight distribution as you tsugi ashi...


The Poison of Skipping Class

Just wanted to get a quick note out on that bane of all coaches of everything, everywhere:  people skipping class.  After a long absence, it's recently been rearing it's ugly head again.  Of course, as coaches - particularly martial arts coaches - we dream that our students will feel this internal obligation to attend their classes.  In my experience, that happens for the rare few, but honestly, we can't expect that from most of our students.  It's on us as coaches to make our classes engaging and interesting.  I certainly try, and I can certainly do better...

But it seems like there are times when a chunk of folks suddenly stop showing up.  This then causes a bit of a death spiral - the fewer people that show up to class, the less enjoyable classes are for the folks that do show up... so maybe they stop showing up, too.  And when you don't have many people in your class to start with, it can be harder to attract new students.  Never mind how frustrating it is when you plan your class to help out brown belt X or yellow belt Y, and they don't show up...

So:  Coaches - how do you deal with this?  Any tips on heading it off (other than "be better")?
Students - What causes you to skip class?  How can we keep you engaged?
My students - Any specific feedback you have? 


Congrats to Claude

Just wanted to give a quick shout-out to Claude Ranson for getting his Rokkyu this morning!  The ukemi looked good, the throws looked good, the groundwork looked good.   Good work!
Leo gave some good advice to Claude (and to anyone else who may be testing soon):

  • Tell your uke what you want him/her to do... How to grip, stand, move, etc.  Help them set you up for success.
  • Accentuate key points of the throw.  Demonstrate control, off-balance, etc.  Point your toe and draw the "C" when you do Ouchi Gari... things like that.
Again, congratulations to Claude.  Who's next?


More on Cross-Training

Forget the past?

In response to my unfortunately long-winded post about cross-training BJJ, one of my old Judo friends made this comment:

    "...I agree, under the caveat that the instructors are qualified to instruct (which isn't always the case) and the student enters into each different art to learn that art.
    I've seen similar benefits from cross training between judo and amateur wrestling, judo and aikido, etc. Other than qualified instruction, I think the key component is an open mind and an approach to learn what there is to learn from the art or sport in which you cross train. All too often, I've seen the approach, "I'm going to go in there and show them why judo/wrestling/aikido/bjj/​tiddlywinks is better." That closes the mind and takes away the educational benefit of cross training. A similar problem is when a person can't "let go" of their "first" art and keeps trying to apply it in the new class. An example is when I was teaching judo I'd often have high school wrestlers join the class. The problem is they would come to judo and wrestle instead of do judo. Once a foundation and a level of understanding is developed in BOTH arts one can start to figure and learn how to merge the two or adapt aspects of the one you consider the cross training."
I tend to agree with this...  Certainly, you shouldn't go in to things looking to prove why what you already know is superior...  It's a waste of your time, and won't prove anything anyway.  If that is your goal, just enter tournaments. 

I do have a question mark, though, around "letting go" of your first art.  I'm not sure if I would say let it go, but I do support trying to apply the things that are taught in class, and working to achieve the goal of the art.  For instance, for a Judoka doing BJJ, don't settle for pinning your opponent - work to submit them.  For a wrestler doing Judo, try to nail the minimum effort/maximum efficiency part...

What do you guys think?  How should you approach cross training?  Do you need to let go of your outside experience?  Is that even possible? 


Congrats to "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey

Just a quick shout-out to US judoka "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey for winning her Strikeforce debut.  And in under 30 seconds.  Unfortunately, it wasn't without controversy, but screaming during a submission attempt is generally seen as submission.  "I didn't say 'tap'!  I said 'AAAAAAAH'!"

Check out the full fight on her blog.

And check out this interview from a few weeks ago.


Cross-Training: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu

Not sure if there will be a "cross training" series, but I wanted to get some thoughts out of my head about the good and bad side of BJJ from a Judoka's perspective.  This isn't one of those "Judo is soooo much better than BJJ" type articles.  I enjoy both, and practice both.  I'm not one of those guys that think that BJJ stands for "Basically Just Judo" either.  They are siblings...  fraternal twins, maybe.  They have the same genetic base, but they look and act differently.  Obviously, there is a huge overlap in the technique base, but the contest rule differences, both in terms of permissible techniques and encouraged/discouraged behaviors leads to make them cultivate different techniques and behaviors, and makes them distinct arts.

So, with no further ado, here are my thoughts on what a Judoka should and shouldn't take from BJJ, and vice versa.

Good things that Judo can take from BJJ:
  • Ground Defense:  You will generally see a broader range of attacks when rolling in BJJ than in Judo randori, and you'll get more groundwork in than your typical Judo class. Together, this allows you to really build a great "Spidey Sense" in your groundwork.  "Wait, Chad.  You meant groundwork in general, right?"  Well, yes, but read on... 
  • Ground Offense... ish:  To be sure, there is a wide world of offense in BJJ.  And despite what some "Judo is best at everything" people may say, the BJJ community does have a better-developed ground game than the Judo community.  But the Judoka must be selective here, because if something takes too long to develop, it may not be allowed to develop (you'll get stood back up), and therefore shouldn't be at the top of your list.  
  • Exposure:  While it won't all be directly applicable to your Judo, it will augment your martial skills, and can expose some holes in an area where you may feel very confident.  Leg locks and other joint locks and nobody to stand you back up... you'll see different stuff than in your average Judo class.
Good things BJJ can take from Judo:
  • Decisiveness:  There is certainly decisiveness in BJJ...  Lord knows I have been on the receiving end of some decisive chokes and arm-bars.  But if you are a BJJer that finds yourself consistently taking the long road to victory (or long road to defeat), Judo will force you to be snappy, both standing and on the ground.  That, to me, is the good side of getting stood up if you don't make constant progress on the ground (though I still don't like it).
  • Standing game:  Given that most of your time in BJJ is going to be spent doing groundwork (and in some places, more than 99% of the time is spent on the ground), Judo will help you develop a standing game.  But just like Judoka need to be selective about what ground techniques and habits they pick up from BJJ, BJJers need to be selective about what standing techniques and habits they pick up from Judo.  Because a Judo match can end with one good throw, Judoka can develop throws that don't leave them in a good position for groundwork.  So don't let that be you.
  • Position before submission:  In Judo, you can win with a 25-second pin.  This generally leads one in Judo to secure a sound pin as a first concern, and seek a submission secondarily.  This can have a down-side, of course, but I think it is generally a good practice to secure control of your opponent before attempting to tap the sucker.  Nothing really revolutionary there.
  • Safe falling:  Yeah, yeah... "Falling is not a reason to do Judo."  Blah blah blah.  If you are training to win the Olympics, sure.  Fine.  But I think it is one of the most useful self-defense techniques you will learn.  Most folks won't get in to a physical confrontation that really requires self-defense, but most folks will fall multiple times in their life.  And for the BJJer, you can take the stun-factor out of the big throws - that could lead to a loss - if you have been dumped a few thousand times...  =:>
But there are bad habits, too...  Bad habits that Judo can take from BJJ:
  • Reliance on slow-to-develop techniques:  As mentioned, you need to be decisive in Judo, and, especially when you are on the ground, you need to constantly make progress.  Accordingly, you need to pick which clubs are in your bag, so to speak - and make sure your go-tos are the ones that have a high chance of working, and working quickly.
  • Reliance on illegal techniques:  Leg locks, hands to the face, etc...  All quite useful, but, if you are planning to compete in Judo, you need to be mindful that these techniques aren't a linchpin in your game.  You'll likely hesitate, or worse, move forward with the technique and get penalized or kicked out, entirely.
  • Allowing roll-overs:  BJJ is A-OK with allowing a mounted opponent to roll over.  Because then you can take the back (getting more points), and have an easier time tapping them.  But in Judo, you may have just gone from a likely win (having pinned your opponent), to a situation where you will likely have to stand up.  I'm not the best in the world.  Lots of people can eventually submit me if they take my back.  But I haven't come across many folks that can tap me in a time frame that Judo would allow.  So fight for your pin, and don't let the bad guy roll.
Bad habits that BJJ can take from Judo:
  • Turtling:  It's related to my previous point.  Judoka are generally more worried about a pin than a submission, and so rolling over and turtling is a common "defense."  Personally, I would like to see this penalized in Judo, because it is an absolutely terrible habit from a self-defense perspective.  But it does make sense with the common Judo rule set.  So don't let yourself adopt this particular bad habit.  You'll get your back taken.
  • Throws that don't end well:  If a Judoka gets an Ippon (winning throw) in a contest, then it doesn't matter what happens next:  the guy who was just thrown could roll him over, pin him, and choke him out in less than a second - but the thrower still won.  And because tournament rules tend to dictate training behavior, many Judoka tend to train this way.  But you can't win just from a throw in BJJ, so you'd better make sure that you are positioned well for groundwork at the end of your throw.
  • Overcommitment:  Similar to the last point, but applied to the ground.  The Judoka is encouraged to take more risks than the BJJer  (BJJka?), because if he gets into trouble, he only needs to stop progress for a short time to get bailed out - stood back up by the ref.  In BJJ, if you get into trouble... you're in trouble.
  • Settling for a pin:  As mentioned, you can win with a pin in Judo, but not in BJJ.  Well, you can, sort of... if you are ahead in points, you could ride things out with your opponent.   And I am a big fan of not forcing things... let your opponent make the mistake in his attempt to escape your pin.  Just be ready to snatch that submission...
So... what did I miss?


    Interview With USJA President Gary Goltz (Part 2 of 2)

    Here's part 2 of the interview with Gary Goltz, the current President of the USJA.  In this part, we get a bit more in to what's going on with Judo in the US vs. the rest of the world, and how it can be grown...  If you didn't catch it, you can find part 1 here.

    CM:  I recall that you mentioned that there were ~25,000 registered judoka in the US. About how many of those 25,000 are registered with the USJA?
    GG: We have about 9,000 active members and about 20,000 life members - though many of those are inactive. The USJF and USA Judo have about the same in terms of active members.  There are many people who are members in more than one organization, which is how we arrived at the 25,000 total amount. If you count some of the other groups that aren't recognized by the NGB there may be about 30,000.

    CM: When did US Judo participation peak, and how many folks were practicing at that point?
    GG:  Right after WWII during the 50's and early 60's, judo was at an all-time high in this country perhaps twice the current amount.
    CM:  So while we've seen the US population almost double, we've seen judo participation cut in half.
    GG:  Exactly. During the 50's and 60's, we were the martial art. There wasn't that much karate, tae kwon do, aikido, kung fu, or any Brazilian jiu jitsu. You know, when I started judo in 1965, I watched the Green Hornet with Bruce Lee and I said to my dad I want to learn how to do that stuff... The next thing I know, I'm at my local Y enrolled in a 10 week judo class as that was all they had back then!

    CM:  Do you think that the competition from other martial arts has pushed Judo to the background, or is it something that we in the Judo community have done to ourselves?
    GG:  I think the judo community can take much of the credit. In the early days of judo, there was an aversion to anyone trying to do it professionally or trying to make money.  Some great players like Gene LeBell were ostracized and banned from tournaments.
    Karate schools on the other hand spread like wild flowers into the strip malls and many successful businesses were born. Stars like Chuck Norris and the striking arts got more popular while judo moved to the back-burner.
    Since we never got connected to high schools like wrestling, we really had nowhere to go. Judo wasn't expanding commercially or non-commercially.

    CM:  It's true... there are a ton of clubs - I'll even include myself in this - that just aren't trying to make any money.  You don't seem to see that in other arts.  Where did this sentiment come from?
    GG:  The old AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) as I understand it was based on the notion that only amateurs could compete in events like the Olympics.  And they used to govern judo along with the JBBF (now the USJF).

    CM: Do you have any sense for what is going on with Judo in other countries... France, Japan, Brazil?  Have they been growing, shrinking, or holding steady?
    GG:  I'd say that judo is still growing. It's very popular in those countries, and in the former Soviet Republics - Russia, Georgia, etc., it's obviously popular in Asian as well as Central and South America, even in Africa judo is gaining ground.

    CM:  So why is judo growing in these places and shrinking here?
    GG:  I think we may have bottomed out and are starting to come back. One of the things that we're seeing is mixed martial arts schools and Brazilian jiu jitsu academies have begun embracing judo. In the USJA, we're trying to broaden our appeal too promoting judo as a great way to stay in shape while and learning self-defense skills.

    CM:  So why do you think that Judo is so much more popular in France (and most of the rest of the world) than it is here?  Can it all be explained by cultural factors, or are there things that we should learn from their Judo community to apply here in the States?  And if so, what?
    GG:  There are several reasons: They have national organizations that are supported by their governments in terms of money and authority. They have a single national standard (the judo that you learn over there is much more consistent). Their tournaments are televised and they've had a lot of success at the Olympics. Another thing that the French and the British did was from the beginning they took what they learned from the Japanese and interpreted in a manner oriented towards Westerners. For something to succeed in America, it has to be American... we have to make it a part of the American culture. If you look at Karate, they have done a great job of that. Also in other countries competition is geared towards teenagers and young adults. Here in the states we tend to push judo like a Pop Warner football league on kids. We need to be smarter in our marketing approach understanding that people come to judo for different reasons and that not everyone wants to be an Olympic champion.

    CM:  Changing gears a bit - or maybe not - what is your personal opinion of the IJF rules, particularly the latest leg-grab changes? 
    GG:  After these rules went into effect, I became much more serious about refereeing. I didn't want to be teaching my students something that would get them disqualified in a tournament. I have mixed feelings about the new rules. I like them in some ways - the quality of judo that you see in tournaments is better overall. You really are seeing more quality throws. On the other hand, I think that leg grabs are important. When I started judo, I did it for self-defense. Well, people grab your legs in a fight and you need to know how to handle that situation. There has to be some moderation where you encourage good stand-up judo, but you don't take so much out of it that it becomes unrealistic. Another thing for people to realize is that there are now many grappling and no gi tournaments outside of the main stream of judo which provide opportunities to still use these leg grabs, pick-ups, and even some striking techniques.
    CM:  That's true, but like you said, people are going to end up teaching what is legal in a tournament, and most coaches are only sending people to IJF-rules judo tournaments.  So tournament-legal judo is all they are being taught, and that, then, doesn't work well in these other competitions...
    GG:  You can always teach your students based on what tournament they are going to. Versatile instructors should be able to make the adjustments to fit each situation.

    CM:  So if you could design the rules, how would you do it?  What would the Gary Goltz judo rules be?
    GG:  Instead of hansokumake [immediate disqualification] for the leg grabs, I'd make it a shido [a lesser penalty]. It’s pretty devastating to hansokumake somebody because they got excited and grabbed a leg. It's too extreme and shido should be used as a warning to put the rule back in their head and let them continue with the match.

    CM:  Does the USJA sanction tournaments that don't use IJF rules?
    GG:  It depends on the situation. If they just want to use just ippon and wazari like in the olden days sure, we'll sanction it. However, if somebody wants to allow kawazu gake [leg entanglement, a dangerous banned technique] then we won't sanction it. It really depends on whether we can in good consciousness support it and provide liability insurance.
    CM:  But it's not a matter of "If it's not IJF, we won't sanction it"...  But if it's safe and reasonable...
    GG:  Almost all tournaments deviate from the IJF standards in one way or another. For example, the IJF requires a huge mat area for the Olympics, but at most local events they use smaller mat areas. So there are almost always some modifications.  Bottom-line is if it's dangerous regardless of the IJF rules, we won't sanction it.

    CM:  What is the significance of IJF rules to most US Judoka?  That is, should we pay any attention to them, given that most of us will never compete in an international tournament? 
    GG:  Well, they are relevant because most tournaments in the US use those rules. But like we said most competitors don’t think about competing in the Olympics and world championships. They compete within their local area and that's it. These are the people the USJA needs to focus on. To this end, the USJA and USJF formed its Grassroots Judo alliance with the goal of fostering participation in all aspects of judo. 

    CM:  When I started Judo in the 90s, it seemed that the 3 big Judo organizations were constantly competing with one another, likely to the detriment of Judo.  I know nowadays, I can at least compete in a USJF-sanctioned tournament with my USJA membership, so it seems that there is at least some level of cooperation.  Are the other examples of such cooperation?  What, if anything, should we expect in the future?
    GG:  Absolutely. The USJA and USJF the Grassroots Judo alliance now encompasses our joint Junior Nationals, Winter Nationals, and several other events. Another thing we’re doing is the USJA, USJF, along with USA Judo are communicating regularly to improve the brand of judo and we're working on a joint marketing initiative. The best part is that now if we have a problem with each other we feel comfortable picking up the phone and calling one of our counterparts to work it out.
    CM:  That's great.  Are there any other examples?
    GG:  Yes. Last year we issued a Triad Positioning Statement, where we said that our goal was to grow judo in the US. We no longer see pilfering members from each other’s organizations as a real growth strategy. We now defined "growing judo" as getting more (new) feet on the mat.

    CM:  Is there a need for 3(+) organizations?  Do any of them serve a unique role, other than USA Judo and it's affiliation with the Olympics?  Is it better for the US to have many organizations tocan compete and hopefully innovate, or do you feel that we could get more done under one big umbrella?
    GG:  The American Way is that we American's like choices. When you go to buy a car, you can look at Ford, at a Chevy, and many others. The USJA and USJF are working well together now and learning from each other. We each have different areas of expertise. I think that having the USJA and the USJF focused on growing Grassroots Judo™ with USA Judo focused on taking our best athletes to prepare them for the Olympics and the world championships as a viable plan. It would probably be cheaper if there was a single organization as there would be less overhead. But we're only going to get there by taking baby steps, building trust and letting nature take its course.

    CM:  Thanks a ton for your time, Gary.  I really appreciate it.


    Throwing Principles: The Following Foot, or How Big is Your Butt?

    "How big is your butt?"

    Anybody who has come to at least 2 classes has heard me ask this question.  The ladies in the class really appreciate it.  But it's because, as we are doing some drill that involves positioning yourself for a throw, I often instruct folks that you want to target having one foot under each butt cheek.  This helps you check that your feet are lined up right and are about at the right distance apart from each other.  But then I'll see someone damned near doing the splits try to load someone with Ogoshi...  Not impossible, to be sure, but not what you want to train for.  So, "How big is your butt?" reminds them to put their feet under those cheeks!

    This brings me to my point:  Why are they so frequently standing so wide?  Because when they set in for their throw, they only took one step when they should have taken two! 

    But let me back up again... First, the case on why you want your feet somewhat close together:

    • Your lifting ability comes primarily from the straigtening of your legs.
    • By widening your feet you reduce the max height of your lift.  That is, the wider your feet, the lower your hips.  In fact, I think the reason that people like their wide feet is because it makes it "easier" to get lower.
    • By widening your feet, you greatly reduce the upward force that you can generate.  If you were to draw a line between the ball of your foot and your hip socket, that is the direction that your leg is applying force.  With normal feet, you have two parallel lines pointing up (and forward).  With wide feet, you have perpindicular lines that have much less "up" to them (and the crossing shows that they cancel out each other's power).
    • You are more mobile from a normal stance (which I am defining as "feet are less than shoulder-width apart").  Test it out: it is easier to move (and therefore generate power) in just about any direction from a normal stance.
    • A wide stance is much easier to sweep. A normal stance is harder.  But don't go too narrow;  I can't think of a situation where you would want your feet touching each other.
    • There are probably other advantages.  (I'm hoping that you are convinced already, because I realize this last one may not push many folks over the line).
    Ok.  So now that you are all geeked to put your feet closer together (but not too close), let's look a  mechanism for that.  We call it "Tsugi Ashi" - "the following foot."  In normal walking, you put one foot in front of the other.  In Tsugi Ashi, after you step forward with the first foot, the second one slides forward to close the distance, but doesn't pass the first foot (and usually will stay slightly behind the lead foot).  Kind of like how they teach you to walk down the isle at a wedding - but slide your feet, if that helps.  We use it a lot in Judo... I've never actually done a study, but I would guess that the vast majority of body movement in shiai is done with some form of Tsugi Ashi.

    Most people end up with wide feet for their throw because they are just taking one giant step in their set-in.  How many times have you seen this:
    1. Noob has a waist grip on his opponent, and he's standing on their left side, facing their right side (perpindicular).  
    2. He wants to throw Ogoshi, so Noob steps with his right foot to the opponents right side.  
    3. His feet are maybe double shoulder-width apart, and he tries to throw. 
    4. And fails. 
    5. And he probably got swept before he got to the "try to throw" part anyhoo. 
    What he should have done is:
    1. Starting from the same position...
    2. He steps with his left foot to his opponent's right side (I'll do another post on why I like that better).
    3. His feet are, for an instant, maybe double shoulder-width, but he immediately slides his right foot to be in line with his left foot (probably still facing perpendicularish).
    4. He throws.
    5. His opponent lands on the mat.  And explodes, due to the awesomeness just applied to him.
    Now, there are other ways to get butt-cheek feet other than Tsugi Ashi.  My guess is that the top folks will "hop" both of their feet into place more than we mere mortals.  But it is easier to learn with Tsugi Ashi.  And not every throw requires butt-cheek feet.  But most do.

    By the way, a quick disclaimer:  If I haven't said these already, these "principles" aren't in any particular order, and aren't necessarily gospel, either (as another FYI - nothing I say/write is gospel... in fact, I make most stuff up on the spot, so always question me).


    Interview with USJA President Gary Goltz (Part 1 of 2)

    When USJA President Gary Goltz paid us a visit, he agreed to an interview for the blog.  He's been really awesome, as I have had a ton of questions for him over the course of several phone calls.  I've been working on transcribing this interview in my weekly 30 minutes of free time, and it is taking a while, so I figured I would go ahead and post what I have (as it has some pretty good stuff to digest), and then I'll post the next part when I wrap it up.  Enjoy!  (Editor's note - there were some revisions added after the initial posting, as Gary wanted to add a bit more detail to some areas.  And you can find part 2 here.)

    CM: Let me start with an easy one: What does the USJA do, exactly? What happens to my $45/year? I know about the insurance, but what else?
    GG: We are a national accreditation body that provides sanctions as well as insurance for events. The insurance cost is around $20+ and is definitely the largest part of the $45, the remainder of the money goes towards overhead; we have an office, and executive director, a full time staff, equipment, postage, taxes, a website, and a database that we need to maintain, and lots of phones!  So in short, every penny of that $45 goes towards running the USJA.

    CM: And here is another one: other than touring the country teaching fantastic clinics, what does a USJA president do? What are your responsibilities/duties/superpowers?
    GG:   First and foremost, I’m a member of the board of directors - as such; it's my responsibility to promote the goals and mission of the USJA. Beyond that, a big part of the president's job as I see it is public relations. Having come into the position after being the Chief Operating Officer for 4 years, I had a lot of knowledge of what our operation entails. In addition I'm pretty much the untitled Chief Fundraising Officer, working to bring in new donors and nurturing our existing donors as well. By the way did I mention that when I went from COO to President my salary was doubled!  All kidding aside my approach towards leadership in the USJA is based on this credo -

    • Honorably serving our members with communication founded on reality based information, positive, productive and ethical thinking
    • Following judo’s core principles of maximum efficiency with minimum effort and mutual welfare and benefit with the goal of developing good character
    • Remembering the spirit of our founders; Jim Bregman, the late George Harris, Karl Geis, and others in terms of the high standards they strived for
    CM: Can you tell me more about the fundraising? Who are the big donors, and where does this money go?
    GG:  We have companies like GTMA, Judo Unlimited, and Black Belt Magazine where the USJA gets some revenue. We have member donors like Andy Connelly our club leader in Texas who gives a donation of $100 every month on his Visa card, Dr. James Lally who is a board member has been our donor of the year for over 5 years, and there are countless others. Every donation helps defray our membership fees.
    CM: I'm sure that's a big help to the organization...
    GG: If we just went off of the $45, we wouldn't have enough money to run. We haven't had a price increase in years; that's where the donations come into play.

    CM: Looking at this post, can you tell me what where you come out on some of the issues raised?
      Technology Resources:
      GG: Our Coaches Portal was the result of a complete make over of our entire database. It is now interactive so our club leaders can look up promotion information and membership expirations online.
      Help for Fledgling Clubs:
      GG: Beyond providing liability insurance for clubs, through our supplier partnerships our clubs can receive discounts on tatamis and gis. Another thing we've done do for our members is instituted background screening not only for coaches but for all black belts. And we’re in the process of developing a marketing manual for USJA clubs. As for your Mat Co-op Exchange idea, you're not the first person to think of that. We could definitely do something along those lines. We just need someone to take the initiative and get it going. We are always looking for volunteers.
      Help to Start Tournaments:
      GG: We offer sanctions for $25 and have a referee as well as a technical officials committee to help support tournaments. Our IT (volunteer) Director, John Moe developed a free Scoreboard Program for running matches. We use this at the Winter Nationals and all my club’s events.  It’s excellent, easy to use, and always up to date.   
      Setting Promotion Standards:
      GG: The USJA promotion system has always been one of our selling points. We're more up-front with what you have to do and more objective. If somebody meets those criteria, it's generally a done deal. Along the same lines, we try to keep our standards current. We're in the process of updating them as we speak. Sid Kelly, the creator Kelly's Capers and head of our promotion board, has revised our senior promotion system. I've had a chance to go through it and it looks a lot like the modern approaches taken by countries where judo is really proliferating. Hal Sharp, who wrote The Sport of Judo and many other books, is doing the same with our junior promotion system and junior manual. Our goal is to have these rolled out by the 1st quarter of 2012. It's been a big undertaking and those guys are doing a great job.
      Term Limits for Any Positions of Influence:
      GG: The USJA board adopted them a few years ago. I was one of the people who raised this as an issue. Now board members can only serve two terms then they have to sit out for 2 terms before they can run again. The terms are four years. This is my first term as president, so I would be eligible to come back and serve again then I'd have to bow out. You know we have a quality team of board members and Katrina Davis is an outstanding Executive Director with 20 years’ experience. They are intelligent and have common sense. While there will always be some disagreements, every one of them is committed to the USJA and making good decisions
      Spreading Knowledge:
      GG: Our online magazine, Growing Judo is one of the greatest support arms to the membership.  Joan Love our Vice President, who is its editor, puts her heart and soul into each issue. I've seen the publications that the USJA has put out for the last 40 years, as well as the ones from other national and even international organizations and can say that "Growing Judo" is among the best judo publications ever. We cover the entire geography of the USJA. There's a section on new clubs, promotions, human interest stories, articles on how to grow your club, etc.  Among the clinics we offer are coach certification, referee certification, kata certification, Kelly’s Capers, and just about anything you want to learn we try to find someone within a stone's throw of our clubs who could come in and teach.
    OK, so that's our ballgame for part one. I hope you enjoyed it, and stay tuned for part 2...  It gets even better!


    Interview with "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey

    Ronda "Rowdy" Rousey, World Championships silver medalist and the first-ever US woman to medal at the Olympics - not to mention undefeated MMA wrecking ball, was kind enough to grant me an interview.  Read on...

    Chad:  First question: Is the "Rou" in Rousey pronounced like the "row" in rowdy, or the "roo" in rooster? I am embarrased to say that I have been to one of your clinics (in Fredericksburg, VA), and while I did come away with some awesome drills and techniques, I still thought your name was pronounced like ROO-see. Go figure.
    Ronda Rousey:  It's pronounce ROW as in ROWDY - but I don't mind the ROO pronunciation, it sounds more exotic :):)
    Chad:  Ronda "The Exotic Rooster" Rousey - I can definitely see an apparrel line or something coming from that... 

    CM:  I know that you and other top level Judoka focus a lot on the gripping in Judo. Has the lack of a gi altered how you approach applying Judo in an MMA setting? Does your approach change over the course of a match?
    RR:  The lack of a gi threw me off a little at first. But once I got the hang of working with no gi, I had developed a more unorthodox style. In mma people are mostly used to dealing with wrestling/bjj style grappling, so I feel that gives me an edge.

    CM:  What do you like about Judo in MMA? What do you not like? Or perhaps I should say, what has worked and not worked?
    RR:  Well since people don't have handles on them anymore I can't do some of my favorite throws that involved exposing my back. But then I was able to improve a lot on foot sweeps and other techniques that I wasn't particularly good at in competitive judo. Also judo is one of the few grappling arts that enforces good posture, so one with a judo background doesn't telegraph wether they're going to strike or come in to clinch in the way wrestlers do - cause they don't have to change levels before going for a takedown.

    CM:  Were there any surprises in your transition over to MMA? Was anything easier or more difficult than you expected? Had you done much kicking and punching before?
    RR:  No I hadn't done any striking before, but that also meant I didn't have any bad habits and I've been able to learn things the right way since the beginning. I was surprised that I could take a punch so well, and I was surprised about how much I don't know. There's so much I have to learn, it can be a bit daunting, but the process of learning an entirely new sport has been an amazing and fun experience.

    CM:  How do we make Judo more attractive to the MMA crowd? Specifically, for a guy who is teaching Judo in an MMA gym, do you have any advice for me?
    RR:  Teach judo throws with the gi and with no gi. People often ask me what's the difference between wrestling and no-gi judo. I define the difference as all the throws that take a lot of strength to pull off are wrestling, the effortless ones are judo.

    CM:  What is the future of Women's MMA, especially with the UFC having purchased Strikeforce? I think I saw that you just signed a deal with them - do you think they will keep Strikeforce around as a separate entity? Will they introduce women's divisions into the UFC?
    RR:  I think they eventually will introduce women into the UFC, we'll know more two years from now when strikeforce's contract with showtime runs out. I'm doing all I can to try and make WMMA seem more profitable, I just have to perform well and look good while I'm at it. But I dunno, it's possible Zuffa will keep strikeforce around as kind of a "feeder" organization for the UFC. Like minor and major league baseball.

    CM:  Have you ever gotten tired of Judo? And I don't just mean were there certain training sessions that you would have rather skipped, but have you ever just wanted to take a break from Judo? For that matter, are you taking a break from Judo now?
    RR:  I'm never going to compete in judo again. Frankly I'm over that whole lifestyle of competing internationally. Towards the end I no longer enjoyed training and felt I had no say over my own career. Now I have several coaches and a manager and we all make decisions together. I feel like they really respect and listen to any input I have and we try our best to work together and make it work. I don't have to deal with anyone treating me like a child or deal with a national governing body that can't stand me. I don't have to scrape and beg for funding or deal with drama caused by living with my teammates either. All I have to worry about is fighting, and my staff takes care of everything else. Moving over to MMA is the best decision I ever made.

    CM:  Do you plan to make a go at the 2012 Olympics, or is MMA the sole focus right now? And if not 2012, do you foresee maybe making a go of the 2016 games?
    RR:  I did plan on going to 2012 just because I didn't know what else to do with myself besides compete in judo. It was the only real skill I had (besides bartending). I knew I didn't like it, but felt I didn't have any other options. I'm so happy with my current career now, and don't feel the slightest inclination to go back to judo. I love doing judo and teaching it, but competing is not for me anymore. That said I'm going to both the 2012 and 2016 games to cheer for team USA and party my butt off, but that's about it.

    CM:  Was your mom your first Judo coach, or did she outsource it? When did you start working with Jimmy Pedro, Sr.? What other coaches have had a major impact on you, both from Judo and MMA?
    RR:  My mom always volunteered to take a backseat in my training. She taught me all she could but never insisted on being my head coach. And I'm glad she did because I really needed a Mom, someone I could cry and complain to when training was over. You have to hate you coach some days, that's their job, and I didn't want to hate my mother. I started working with the Pedros when I was 16, they kicked me out and invited me back several times between 2003-2009 when I finally quit and left on my own. I've had dozens of coaches help me for shorter periods during my career, including the Cohens, Numerous coaches from Nanka (SoCal), and Isreal Hernandez who traveled with me and sat in my chair from 07-08, but I had the longest relationship with the Pedros.
    In MMA Gokor Chivichyan (grappling), Edmond Taverdyan (striking), and Leo Frincu (wrestling/conditioning) are my main corners. I also receive help from Gene Lebell(grappling), Anthony Hardonk (striking) and Henry Akins (BJJ).

    CM:  Along those lines, you started judo fairly late in life compared to most Olympians. How on earth did you get so good so quickly?
    RR:  My first judo tournament was on my 11th birthday, my mother started when she was 12. I don't know how I made my first Olympic team in only 6 years... I guess fighting is just part of who I am and comes naturally.

    CM:  How do you pay the bills? And how do you balance the need to pay bills with the need to train? Is that now easier as an MMA athlete than strictly a Judo athlete?
    RR:  It is soooooo much easier making ends meet in MMA. At first it was difficult, as switching careers always is regardless of what you do. But now that I'm signed with strikeforce and have Darin Harvey, possibly the best manager on God's green Earth, I have nothing to worry about beside winning.


    Throwing Principles: Getting the Tempo

    Judo is easier when you are a move ahead...

    In chess, there's this concept of the "tempo," where you are effectively one (or more) moves ahead.  That makes winning a lot easier.  The way you get the tempo is to move in such a way that a) your opponent must respond to what you just did, and b) you are left in a better place even after your opponent's response.

    The same thing exists in Judo, more or less.  It's very easy to find yourself in a situation where you attack, your opponent stops your attack, and then you are both back at square one.  If you are better conditioned than your opponent, this isn't a terrible event; otherwise, though, you really don't want to waste your energy.  So you want to create a tempo and improve your position.

    There are several ways to do this (and better Judoka will know more and better ways, I am sure).  Here are a couple that I like:

    • Be the inside of the circle:  Those who have been working with me for any length of time know my love for the "whirling" approaches.  You step to the opponent's front corner (typically when they step forward with their right foot, you step towards their right side with your left foot), pointing your toes in towards the opponent, then slide your  other foot into place as you pull your opponent in a circle around you (I'll try to add a video, in case my explanation isn't doing it for you).  Because your are at the center of the circle and your and your opponent is on the outside edge, he or she will have to travel farther.  Assuming that you are both about the same speed, you'll be recovered from your step and able to launch an attack as they recover from theirs.  You can do a ton of hip throws, sweeps, and other throws off of this approach.
    • Help your opponent overcompensate:  Another simple approach is to "help" your opponent.  If they want to step forward, you "help" them step forward even further than they meant to.  They then have to recover their balance, and if you are already set, you can take advantage during this recovery.  A great example is when you pull your opponent forward and down as they step forward:  they'll have to recover, either by taking another step forward, or driving themselves backwards.  Either way, there are a plethora of throws you'll have at your disposal.  And then you can bust up a plethora of piñatas at your victory celebration.  (Three Amigos, anyone?)
    Like I said, I'll try to add videos to this post later, in case this doesn't make much sense.  What are some other good ways to create a tempo?


    Recent Blog Postings I Like

    I don't read a ton of blogs (you can see the ones that I do read on the right side of the page), but here are a few (mostly) recent postings that I like:

    Dr. Ann Maria DeMars: 

    Pat Parker:
    Gerry Lafon:
    • Stretching (not recent, and I am not yet sold, but it has me thinking)
    • Turnouts (not sold on this either, but again, good to noodle)


    One Thing At a Time

    I recently got this question from Ward:  "I often wonder if I should do set-ins thinking about only one thing, say footwork 5x, then hips 5x, then hands 5x. Ultimately you have to put them all together, but I think you have to develop the muscle memory one step at a time. What do you think?"

    Well, tying back to my post on multitasking, I would say that this is a great idea, though I would bump up the number of reps.  If you've come to my class more than twice, you've probably heard me say "You can [mess] everything else up, just get your feet right!"  I think Sensei Goltz's drills from his clinic have it right, too:  the first habits to build are footwork and body positioning.  I also like that he stresses that you shouldn't grip - in doing this, he avoids a pitfall of this approach:  namely, if you are focusing on building a good habit in one area, you may simultaneously be building bad habits in other areas that aren't receiving your focus.  So he just takes those out of the mix. 

    So if you are having trouble with a drill, try focusing on the components, and see if that helps.  Heck, even if you are feeling pretty good about a drill, you should, from time to time, be mindful of how you are performing the different components.



    Recap of Gary Goltz's Clinic

    Sensei Gary Goltz paid us a visit on his whistle-stop tour of the East Coast .  His clinic started with a demonstration of some simple, effective drills to teach footwork and body positioning for throws to the uke's rear, focusing on the three main entries for rear throws.  He demonstrates the culmination here:

    Note that he does not grip his uke's gi - the drill is aimed at focusing on footwork and body positioning.  One note on the O Soto portion - be cautious not to let your shoulders get behind your hips as you bring your leg up - it's a good way to end up on your butt.

    He then demonstrated similar drills focusing on two main entries for forward throws.  The "regular entry":

    And the "irregular" entry:

    He then gave a simple and effective version of Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi - As a side note, I really like how he executes this Sasae, starting by destroying uke's posture and making him hop to stay alive...  I think I will start teaching it this way:

    We then looked at how to combo into Sasae, using Osoto Gari as a lead-in:

    Not coincidentally, this combination is reversible!  You can just as easily go Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi to Osoto Gari! 

    Following that, if you didn't quite complete your Sasae, your opponent should be in a great position for O Guruma, Harai Goshi, or a number of other throws:

    Finally, we did some randori, but with a twist:  At first, only the high rank could attack.  The lower rank was only to respond to the throw, by either a) avoiding it, b) countering it, or c) just taking the fall.  After a few minutes, the attacker and "responder" would change.  I really liked this flavor of randori, especially when you have some lower ranks on the mat, because it simplifies the action somewhat, and allows more focus on sub-components on randori (see my post on multitasking for more on why I would like this).

    Just before bowing out, Sensei Goltz shared some great news with us:  our very own Leo Valdes (a.k.a. "KodokanJudo" for anyone who has been reading the comments on this blog) received his promotion to Yodan!  Big congratulations to Leo on that.  Definitely well-deserved.

    In addition to Sensei Goltz, we also had Senseis Bernie Gill (Richmond, Godan) and Hamdi Hawash (Richmond/Egypt, Godan) who added another 100+ years of Judo experience to the mix.  In all, it was a great clinic that everyone, whether experienced or novice, could take away from and add to their own Judo.  Sensei Goltz's focus on the simple and effective provided drills and combinations that hammer home some core principles of Judo in a very easy-to-grasp manner.  We at Akari Judo really appreciate him taking the time to work with us, and will definitely be integrating his drills and techniques into our practice.

    And congratulations again to Leo!


    What I Want From a National Organization

    In honor of our upcoming visit by USJA President Gary Goltz (7/16/11), I wanted to go ahead and get this post out that has been lingering in my brain since I started this blog, and I'll see what I can find out from Sensei Goltz about what the USJA does, and what on this list they may be willing to consider.

    Let me preface this by saying that I don't honestly know what the USJA, the USJF, or USA Judo actually do... they may do some of this, all of it, or none of it (well, I am pretty sure that they all do at least some). 

    What I Want (in no particular order):

    • Technology Resources:  Web site templates designed for a judo club, templates designed for tourney hosts (including the ability for participants to register and pay), easy online forms (like registration, promotion, etc), and probably some other stuff.  And of course, a decent web site - that doesn't advertise stamp collections.
    • Help for Fledgling Clubs:  Some sort of mat lend/lease program to help people get a few mats for practice (and I'd be willing to bet that there are plenty of established clubs that could donate some old mats to such a program - because how easy would it be for folks to start garage dojos at that point, which could then grow to be larger clubs), the aforementioned web site template, sample liability release forms, a "things to consider" checklist when you are starting up a club...
    • Help to Start Tournaments:  As before, some sort of matt lend/lease program, though this may not be feasible since the number of mats needed would be much greater, and the duration of the need much shorter.  But perhaps in some regions, a common pool of tourney mats could be purchased, and you would just need to pay a wear and tear fee to use them when you hosted a tourney.  Also the technology stuff mentioned before.  I'd want options for the rule applicable rule set/tourney format (as described here and here) to provide standards, but also allow flexibility and creativity to meet the goals of the tourney host and participants.  And, as with starting a club, tips on how to get started would be awfully helpful.
    • Setting (Flexible) Promotion Standards:  I don't think that all green belts should know exactly the same thing, but I do find it helpful to know what a standard green belt should look like.  Said differently, while I don't want an organization mandating a specific list of skills for each promotion, I do like having guidelines.  There is also a matter of quality control, particularly at higher ranks, but I am not clear on how to really achieve this.  After all, you can't really set objective criteria for what a 6th Dan should look like... at least, I don't think you can.  It starts to get esoteric after a certain point.  And you also have the clique effect that tends to over-promote some and under-promote others.  Read on for more on that point.
    • Term Limits for Any Positions of Influence:  I'm not a political insider - so I honestly don't know what the state of affairs is within the USJA or any other organization, so I'm certainly not pointing fingers.  But I do know that there is a tendency for cliques to form in any organization, and when the cliques form, you start to have an environment where the clique tends to look out for its own interests at the expense of those outside the clique.  When those cliques then get in positions of power within the organization, the effect is worse.  This could manifest itself in promotions being given more frequently to insiders, or in the suppression of any "rebels" who try to affect change.  Term limits would help prevent any cliques from becoming too entrenched.  That said, it may also be that there is a shortage of folks who actually want to serve in these positions, and if that's the case, then forget the term limit idea.
    • Insurance:  As far as I know, every organization provides this.  Not sure if they have pooled together yet, though, which could save us a few bucks...
    • Spreading Knowledge:  Having exposure to instructors other than your "regular" one is crucial, so having an opportunity to attend clinics and camps is huge.  The national organizations should subsidize clinics, at least to a point.  Maybe if remote club X can get at least Y attendees, then the national org will fly someone out there once every other year, or something like that.  I recognize that you can't do too much of this on a limited budget, so it's more of a nice-to-have.  I think the Kelley's Capers series is a great idea that kind of gets at what I am talking about.  And while I am talking about spreading knowledge, I want to give a quick shout-out to Chuck Wall in Fredericksburg.  He's been awesome about bringing people in from all over, and I just want to say that I really appreciate it.  I've either had my kids' birthday parties or injuries during the last couple of clinics, but I'll be back up there next time.  And a big thanks to Leo Valdes for setting up our upcoming visit by Gary Goltz.
    What I Don't Want (again, in no particular order, and I'll be honest, many of these are directed at the USJA):
    • To have to fill out my life's history on a promotion form... I paid good money for *you* to record when I got promoted to Nikyu so that I wouldn't have to remember.
    • To have to pay $150 for a stinking promotion.  That's just silly.
    • A 30-page document detailing promotion requirements including such marvels as "Demonstrate Seiza."
    • Too much concern about international competition.  Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled to see our folks medal in the various world championships, and I realize that it takes support to get there.  But I think right now, given the state of Judo in the US, my membership dollar would be better spent on growing the judo population (by doing things like helping fledgling clubs) and improving the quality.  Having more and better competitors will naturally lead to better international competitors, I think.  And of course, when the IJF makes some arbitrary rule change, our national organizations shouldn't then go an ram that down our throats.
    • Maintaining a training center.  I think, back when I started in the 90's, the USJA had some training center in Colorado...  I'm sure it was cool, but I never could get out there.  Neither could probably 95% of the other members.  So don't take our money to pay for a training center that the vast majority will not use.  Maybe when we get our membership up to such levels that the national org has oodles of discretionary income, then we can build a "Kodokan of the US"  - but not until then.
    • Competing with other national orgs.  It is silly to me that there are 3 big national judo organizations.  And sillier still that they should sometimes be working at cross-purposes.  It seems that a lot of this is getting straightened out (now a USJF member can compete in a USJA tourney, for instance), but I suspect that there is still room to improve.  Just fold them all together.  Or at least fold in the JA and JF, if USA Judo has to be separate for Olympic reasons...
    So those are the things I want, and some that I don't.  What did I miss?  And where did I miss the mark?  And are there any insiders out there who can shed light on what is already being done?


    Upcoming Events! We're hosting the President!

    Just wanted to give a quick heads up to anyone in the area that USJA President Gary Goltz will be at our club on July 16th.  I'm honestly not sure what he'll be showing us, but I'm sure it will be awesome.  No admission, and visitors are certainly welcome:  class starts at 9:00.  Be there!

    Also, on August 20 at noon, Revolution BJJ will be hosting Tarek Monier (Judo Olympian) and Dennis Hayes
    (Pedro Sauer BJJ Black Belt).  Admission is $45.  Contact Trey Martin at 804-657-7461 or email Andrew Smith at andrew@usgrappling.us to reserve your spot.

    As a side note, I've been noodling a "What Do I Want From My National Organization" post for a while, so I guess I'd better get crackin'.  And hopefully I can get Sensei Goltz to sit down for an interview for the blog.


    Book Review: The Canon of Judo by Kyuzo Mifune

    An excellent, well-rounded book from one of the best of all time.  Four Stars (of Four).
    The Canon of Judo: Classic Teachings on Principles and Techniques

    I thought I would continue my book reviews with another of my favorites...

    The Upshot:
    This is a fantastic book by one of the great Judo masters of all time.  There is some real ninja magic in this book, and you can tell that in addition to being a great practitioner, he was also a great teacher.  Another cool thing is that the author was around from the beginning of Judo, and this was published in 1965, so there is lots of cool stuff in here that has been "lost" over time...  Definitely one of my favorite Judo books.

    What's In It and How It's Organized:
    This book covers standing and ground techniques, as well as defenses, counters, combos, and more.  The chapters are:

    • Intro:  A great section that has lots if Mifune's thoughts on the principles of Judo.
    • Basics (the actual chapter name is "Etiquette" but I think it's a misnomer):  bowing, posture, warm-ups, ukemi, kuzushi, randori and kata, and more.
    • Mifune's Gokyo ("Five Principles"):  Mifune describes the key throws of Judo.  Important to note is that his Gokyo is different than the "official" Gokyo.  Interesting.  Anyhoo, for each throw, there is a general description, step-by-step detail on how to execute it, along with (generally) high quality photos of the man himself in action, and then other notes on the technique, like points to consider, when to execute, etc.  The descriptions are pretty thorough and there are tons of really useful pointers.  This Mifune fellow must have had some teaching experience. 
    • Gatame Waza:  He doesn't spend a ton of time on hold-downs (~10 pages), but there is good detail and it is definitely worth reading, especially to see some of .  The descriptions here and in subsequent chapters are similar to those mentioned above.
    • Shime Waza: About 17 pages devoted to choking, plus a bonus of a poem?  Well, he's a 10th dan, so he can do what he wants, and you'll like it.
    • Counters/Defenses to Holds and Chokes:  Self-explanatory.
    • Kansetsu Waza:  Joint locks, including a couple of leg locks, as well as defenses/counters.
    • Miscellaneous Groundwork ("How to Enter a Mat Technique"):  Guard passes, rollovers, a few more escapes, how to make your victim's life worse, etc.  =:>
    • Counters ("Reverse Techniques"):  Counters to throwing techniques, and there is more Mifune magic in this section.  He covers a number of counters each to several throws.  The detail and photos are a little bit lighter here, but still fairly easy to follow.  He has a rather acrobatic counter to tomoe nage that probably isn't for everyone, but it's cool to see him do it!
    • Other Throws ("Reference Techniques"):  For throws he didn't cover in his gokyo.
    • Mifune's Counter Kata:  A three-set kata (hand, foot, and hip) that looks at countering throw attempts (e.g., uke attempts uki otoshi, tori does tai otoshi).  Interesting...
    • Early 20th Century First Aid ("Kappo"):  Good to have in the early 20th century, but with things like CPR, there have definitely been improvements made since then.
    The Good:
    This is a Mifune book.  It has a lot of unique flair from one of the great masters.  He seems to be doing his own thing, coming up with new names, and doing different types of techniques.  I wouldn't call it comprehensive, but extensive isn't a bad description.  To compare it to Daigo's "Throwing Techniques", Daigo's book is like a well-manicured yard, while "Canon" is a crazy garden.  "Throwing" is an office, while "Canon" is a magician's workshop.  Got it?  =:>  And a side note, this book, like "Throwing Techniques" was well-translated by Francoise White.

    Could Have Been Better:
    Some of the pictures will leave you scratching your head.  Other than that, I wish he would have gone on for another 224 pages.  There is so much good stuff, I didn't want it to end.

    One Thing I Learned:
    This book has lots of stuff that isn't "official" Judo per the Kodokan/IJF.  E.g., Ura Gatame, a kind of crucifix from the bottom... sort of?


    Throwing Principles: The Angles (part 1 - The Feet!)

    It's the feet, stupid!  And the toes...

    We all talk about throws to the rear, throws to the side, etc., as general descriptions for what happens to uke in a throw.  But here's the ninja secret: it's not about which way uke is facing, and not really about where her bellybutton is pointing (assuming she has an outie).  The primary concern when determining the angle of your throw is the feet!

    Let's say you want to do Osoto Gari.  Your uke is standing in normal posture with feet basically side by side, with face, bellybutton, and all 10 toes pointed forward.  It is clear:  You put your left foot beside her right foot (hey, look at that - three feet in a row!) and blast her to her back right corner.  BOOM! 

    Question:  But what happens if she pivots 45 degrees on the balls of her feet?  Now, she's facing a different way...
    Answer:  Doesn't matter!  Do the exact same thing!  Put your foot just where it was before (hey, look at that - we still have 3 feet in a row!) and blast her to her rear corner again!  Now, the angle that she gets thrown - in relation to the way her body was facing - will be much more to the side than to the rear, but in relation to the feet, it's just the same!  Wunderbar!

    Question:  You want to do a right-sided seoi otoshi to your bad guy, who is facing you and is standing in a bit of a front stance, with his left forward.  How much do you need to pivot?  I'll make it multiple choice...

    1. ~180 degrees (so that your body is lined up the same way Uke is facing), because it's a forward throw!
    2. ~135 degrees (so that your body is lined up ~90 degrees to Uke's feet), because you've been reading this post!
    3. ~225 degrees (so that your body is lined up parallel with Uke's feet), because you like adding degrees of difficulty to ineffective throw attempts!
    Answer:  Honestly, it was a trick question, because I didn't say where your feet were (even with Tori, it's about the feet!)  But let's assume that you were standing with your feet side by side, facing Uke.  I'm going with choice #2.

    See?  It's all about the feet!  Here are a couple of foot-related points to help you out when executing your throw
    • Generally, you are going to have the easiest time off-balancing your opponent on the line perpendicular to their feet, and you'll have a harder time off-balancing them on the line parallel with their feet - though this isn't always true (e.g., if their feet are touching, or if their center is over one foot)
    • After accounting for this, you'll generally have an easier time off-balancing your opponent in a direction where their toes can't come in to play.  And the more toe-meat that they can bring in to play, the harder it will be.  So toward the heel is easier than the side, which is easier than the front.  And the pinky toe corner is easier than the big toe corner.  (As a side note, out of curiosity, I wondered if the different individual toes might have different medical names, other than "phalanges" which is the name for the whole set.  As far as I can tell, "pinky toe" is about as scientific as you get for that little guy, and other than "Big Toe", the other toes are screwed.  And I came across this post where a guy attempts to grant some names to the toes.  The names cracked me up.)
    I like the idea of little mats that lay out footsteps (kind of like you may see in dance instruction?) to teach foot placement for throws, but use dots for uke's feet, instead of foot outlines, because you should be less concerned about the direction they are pointing.  The direction of Tori's feet definitely matters, though... But that is for another day.

    Last side note:  Don't search Google Images for "foot" - you'll get a bunch of pictures of jacked up, nasty feet.  And nasty children.  And if you accidentally use Google Images for your "official name for the pinky toe" search, the first result is a picture of Dweezil Zappa.  Who knew?