Nage No Kata + Katame No Kata + Ju No Kata + Latin Spice = This Weird, Majestic... Thing

That headline has to bring you in, right? A friend shared this with me today. I'm not sure what it is, but I like it.

I think my favorite is the climbing juji. Or the slow-mo climbing yoko guruma.


The Greatest Judo Training Camp on Earth: June 23-25

I just wanted to give some quick love for The Greatest Judo Training Camp on Earth.  This camp, which will run from June 23-25, is consistantly an awesome experience.  For just $225, you get 3 packed days of great Judo training - and FOOD!  The only other thing you pay for is lodging!  Some of my favorites that I see on the confirmed list have been Igor Yakimov (with his *nasty* good Judo, as well as effective and sneaky BJJ/Sambo techniques) and Nick Lowe, an world-class competitor from the UK, and a great instructor as well.  I also see that Stan Wentz is on the "invited" list - if you go, and he is there, he has some great stuff on gripping and "weird" throws.  Also on the confirmed list is Jimmy Pedro, Sr.  I've never met him, but I have met Jimmy, Jr., who has done okay for himself, what with his Olympic medals and what-not.  I've also got to go to a couple of clinics from other students of his, like Ronda Rousey and Rick Hawn, and they aren't weren't too shabby, either.  So I imagine that whatever he says, it should be solid gold.  My guess from my interactions with his students is that your gripping will be 1000% better when he's done with you. 

I am unfortunately not going to be able to make it this year because I stupidly forgot to block the time in my calendar early enough, but I am sending a few Akari Judoka.  If you get the chance, go.  It's the most bang for your buck you can get, you'll meet a ton of great people and get to learn from a ton of great instructors.  Seriously... just $225, which includes food?  You can tell what their motivation is in putting this together, and it isn't to get rich from Judo camps.  I can't speak highly enough of these folks.  I hope you can go, and if you can, please post some videos and let me know what you learn.


The Purpose of Competition?

OK...  Not to beat this rules thing to death, but I have some stuff in my brain that I want to get out before moving on...  I think that the Freestyle Judo rules are a great improvement over the IJF, but not perfect.  Gerry Lafon also has some interesting thoughts on the subject, but I'm not 100% sold on his brand either.  So... how would I design the rules?

Let's start with some statement of purpose:  something to set out what we want to accomplish with judo competition that we can true back to when going through this process.  Let's see...

    Self-Improvement:  Competition provides a forum for the competitor to test and hone their skills, hopefully compete with people outside their dojo, and observe the techniques of others.  There's something missing here, something missing about what one gains from competing beyond just technique, but I'll go on...
    Innovation:  Competition should be the breeding ground for the Art.  As one killer technique is introduced, the seed for it's killer counter is planted.  Any reasonably safe techniques should be allowed, even if they are "un-Judo-like" - it is the responsibility of the Art to figure out a "Judo-like" counter such techniques.
    Community:  Tournaments, as they bring different dojos together, are a great place to foster relationships and comradery within the Judo community, and should be used as such.
    Publicity (not quite the word I want, but...): Tournaments provide an opportunity for visibility to the non-Judo community, and they should make the best of this opportunity (particularly in light of the state of Judo in the US)
    Principles:  I haven't fleshed this out at all, but the rules of a competition should ban/penalize unsafe practices, but should also ban/penalize actions which go against any underlying principles of the Art - both in its role as a combat art as well as the "Do" (way) that Dr. Kano envisioned.  What I am thinking about here is the encouragement of bad habits as a side-effect of some rules.  For instance, defenseless turtling - you shouldn't do that in a fight, but a judo player might do that from force of habit.  Or unsafe attempts at avoiding a throw - like posting.  I *think* that even in a fight, it may be better to take a safe fall than risk breaking your arm to avoid the fall... Additionally, some principles may need encouragement - things like Jita Kyoei (mutual benefit and welfare) and Seiryoku Zenyo (maximum efficiency, minimum effort).  One must be cautious here, as I think the primary place for teaching this is in the dojo, not a tournament - nonetheless we should keep an eye towards encouraging these principles where feasible.  And one last note on principles - I think the underlying concept of the shiai is to simulate a fight, within the confines of the Do, so we need to keep that in mind.
Not terribly concise, and it still needs work, but it's a start.  What do you guys think?  What is missing?  One off-shoot of having a clear statement of purpose as the basis for our competitions (rather than just a hodge-podge of various regulation) is that we could create different rule sets to increase focus on different aspects of the purpose.  For instance, if you really want to focus on development, maybe you implement something like Lafon's rules where all matches must go the full time-limit, or if you want to encourage people to learn to fight different sized-folks, then you get rid of weight classes, and have the heaviest fight their way down the group, then the next-heaviest, and so on.  And maybe you start over or fight your way back up once you reach the end.  Whoever has the most wins at the end wins the tourney!  But I digress...  My point is we need not be one-size-fits-all...

So... again... what do you guys think?


Interview with Author and Freestyle Judo Founder, Steve Scott

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have come across AAU-backed "Freestyle Judo" as an alternative to the absurd rules of the IJF.  I tracked down Steve Scott, the founder of Freestyle Judo, for a brief interview (my first, so bear with me).

For some quick background on Steve Scott, he started judo in 1965, and has been involved with Sambo and Shingitai Jujitsu for decades, as well.  Sensei Scott is the head coach of the Welcome Mat Judo, Jujitsu and Sambo Club in Kansas City, Missouri - for those of you who remember Josh Henges visiting the club a few times, he studied under Scott, and Josh had some pretty wicked Judo.  Scott is also the author of several books, including Winning on the Mat
, The Grappler's Book of Strangles and Chokes
, Drills for Grapplers
 (which I left at the dojo, I think/hope), and about a bajillion others.  And of course, he is the founder of Freestyle Judo.

On to the Interview:

ChadLet me start by asking what, to you, is Freestyle Judo?  By that I mean, is it simply a different rule set?  Is it a movement?  Is it an organization?  A system? 
Steve Scott:  There is only one judo and that is the Kodokan Judo of Jigoro Kano. Freestyle judo is an attempt to bring back the original intent of judo as a combat sport. Today's judo rules as established by the IJF have, in my opinion, watered down the sport of judo and limited the skills and tactics athletes and coaches can use. We developed the freestyle judo rules so that athletes can use all the skills of judo, both throwing and groundfighting, to the best of their abilities. The freestyle judo rules also take out much of the subjectivity that are in the IJF judo rules and allow the athletes more opportunity to control the outcome of the match.

CM:  In the 2 years that FJ has been around, what have you guys accomplished, and what goals do you have outstanding?
SS:  We held our first AAU Freestyle Nationals in November, 2009. Our goal is to provide another avenue for anyone who is interested in competing in judo and developing their skills. I was one of the people in 1994 who got the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) interested in doing judo again. The goal of AAU Judo since that time (and continues to be) is to provide competitive opportunities and develop judo talent in the United States. I developed the freestyle rules as part of our overall AAU Judo program and believe it will provide more competitive opportunities for a lot of athletes and coaches.

CM:  Have you found that the FJ rule set has been more inviting to other arts (e.g., wrestling, BJJ, MMA, etc)?  Who has been the most responsive?
SS:  We've seen some interest from BJJ athletes and coaches, but have had more interest from many people in the judo community who are pretty well fed up with the restrictive rules of the IJF.

CM:  I think there are a number of us who have been frustrated/infuriated with the powers-that-be regulating judo into irrelevance.  So what drove you to start Freestyle Judo?  Was there a straw that broke the camel's back?
SS:  I've been involved with judo for a long time and served in several capacities in USJI (now USA Judo) and the USJA. Actually, in 1994, I simply got tired of dealing with the politics and got the AAU interested in promoting judo on the national level again. I've always been interested in developing a set of contest rules that take much of the subjective element from refereeing and judging in judo. The freestyle rules are an outgrowth of some of the work I did with my friend John Saylor in his Shingitai Jujitsu Association for the grappling rules of that organization. The real "straw that broke the camel's back" was simply my on-going observation that judo is being watered down as a viable combat sport and I wanted to do something about it. Like a lot of other people, I griped a lot about what was happening to judo, so I simply decided to stick my neck out and do something positive about it by offering freestyle judo as a viable alternative.
     One more comment; One of my pet peaves about the IJF rules is that a soft or rolling Ippon is scored. In freestyle judo, our referees look for control, force and if the athlete is thrown onto his back or back side, just like we did in judo prior to recent rule changes in the IJF that allowed for soft Ippons. We designed the rules so that the athletes decide who wins or loses, not the referee.

CM:  When you decided what you wanted to do, how did you go about it?  Did you try to work with any organizations outside of the AAU?
SS:  As I said earlier, I've worked within the "mainstream" of American judo for many years, and the initial step was getting the AAU, as a viable national sports organization, to get involved with judo again. The history of judo in the United States is one that is filled with a lot of politics and at one time the AAU was the governing body for all amateur sports in the United States. The Presidential Sprorts Act of 1978 changed that and gave the U.S. Olympic Committee the autonomy and authority to develop governing bodies foe each of the Olympic sports, including judo. The people who were in charge of the AAU in those years simply changed to the USJI (now USA Judo). The AAU was no longer involved in judo. When I appraoched the AAU in 1994, I promised the leaders of that organization that we would pursue judo strictly as a sport, and we have been good on our word. I served as the AAU Judo Chairman from 1994-1998 and my friend Norm Miller has served as the Chairman from 1998 to present. The AAU offers competiton in both our standard AAU judo rules (we use waza-ari, yuko, etc. and by the way, allow leg grabs, kata guruma, te guruma and all the throws and techniques that were legal in the IJF before thier drastic rule changes) and in freestyle judo.
     I like working with the AAU as we have a solid organization for judo. We're small, but growing. Our approach to judo is similar to what amateur wrestling's approach is...we offer quality tournaments with fair referees and try to provde a fun, fair and safe atmosphere at all our AAU tournaments. The attitude at an AAU judo tournament is very different than that of many judo tournaments in that our referees are "approachable." Many people who first attend one of our tournaments immediately see the difference in how we appraoch judo.
     We know, in AAU Judo, and especially in freestyle judo, that we are a development program and want to include as many people as possible. We make no claims that our tournaments are tougher than USA Judo tournaments or that our athletes are better than anyone else's athletes. Our goal is to be part of a positive approach to the devleopment of judo in the United States.

CM:  Do you feel like the Freestyle Judo rules are still a work in progress, or are they pretty much set now?
SS:  In the early stages of formulating the rules for freestlye judo, we initially looked at including leglocks, but dismissed the idea as not many judo clubs practice leglocks, although in the very early rules of Kodokan Judo, leglocks were included.  We hope to make freestyle judo a positive asset to the mainstream judo community and including leglocks was an interesting idea, but not one that would (in my opinion) be something that the judo community would embrace.
     From the comments received from people who have competed or attended a freestyle judo tournament, the rules allow for a wide and full range of technical skill to be used. I've received only a couple of negative comments. One negative comment concerned the awarding of Ippon for a throw. Just like in days of past, an Ippon for a throw is scored by throwing an opponent onto his back or back side with force and control. If any part of that is not present, a lesser score will be awarded. Some people who are used to getting a soft Ippon or rolling Ippon don't like having to actually throw someone for the score. Also, one young man told me that he didn't like "so much newaza" but then again, his idea of groundfighting in the freestyle judo tournament he entered was to lay flat on his face and try to crawl out of bounds. He was actually upset with the referee that he was not allowed to crawl out of bounds to avoid his opponent. I replied to him that if he were standing up and tried to run or walk out of bounds to avoid engaging his opponent, he would receive a penalty for that as well. And, as judo is a combat sport, I posed the question to him that if he were in a real fight, would an assailant allow him to lay on this face and try to crawl away?  So, there will be some people who may not like freestyle judo, and if that's the case, there are plenty of other competitive outlets for them to choose.
     And, if freestyle judo has popular interest and continues to grow, I am sure there will be some changes in the rules from time to time. However, it's my hope that any future rule changes only enhance athletes ability to use thier full range of technical skills and keep the officials from gaining too much subjective control of the match.

CM:  Why eliminate the victory by osae komi?  Doesn't that take a major tool out of the ground player's arsenal?
SS:  The idea is to bring back the original concept that "osaekomi" is an immobilization until the attacker (tori) can secure a finishing hold such as a submission technique. This is also used in sambo and with good effect. Doing this allows the athletes to pursue submission techniques more aggressively. However, if there is one aspect of the freestyle rules that is subject to change, it is this one. At the end of the 2011 season, our AAU judo committee will discuss any changes that may be made, but we won't do it until we get some input from athletes and coaches.

CM:  I want to compete!  Where can I find a Freestyle Judo tournament?  For that matter, how could I start my own?  Is this strictly an American phenomenon, or can FJ be found outside the US?
SS:  We want you to compete as well and encourage everyone who reads this to go to our web site at http://www.freestylejudo.org/ to see the rules of freestyle judo as well as a lot of other information on what we are doing. We encourage people to join AAU Judo by going to http://www.aaujudo.org/ to sign up as members.
     The best way to get involved is to host a local or club tournament using the freestyle judo rules. If you read them carefully, you will see how we devised them so that all aspect of judo skill can be used. You can get a good look at some freestyle judo matches on our web site or by typing in freestyle judo on YouTube. My YouTube account is welcomematstevescott and I have a lot of freestyle judo stuff there.
     The AAU is a volunteer organization. I'm a volunteer and our referees and coaches are volunteers as well. The other national judo groups are volunteer as well.  I mention this because if anyone wants me or any of our freestyle judo referees or coaches to come to do a clinic or help run a freestyle judo tournament, you can contact me at stevescottjudo@yahoo.com. We are willing to come and help anyone as long as our expenses are paid. Tom McGuire and Matt Marcinek are hosting a freestyle judo tournament this Summer in Scranton, Pennsylvania and information can be found on our web site.
     Also, freestyle judo has gone to Australia and the first freestyle judo tournament outside for the United States was held last April and hosted by Terry Williams. He plans to host another one in late July as well.
     I am working on getting some more international contacts and we hope to have a viable international championship for freestyle judo by 2012.
     As I said before, I encourage everyone who reads this to host a club or local freestyle judo tournament. By the way, the AAU provides excellent (I think the best) membership benefits for athletes, coaches and referees as well as club membership insurance benefits. I'm convinced that the AAU offers the best membership service possible. If you host and sanction an AAU judo tournament, you can also purchase some of the best-looking medals on the market at really cheap prices.

CM:  What else do people need to know about Freestyle Judo?
SS:  I'm sure as freestyle judo gains in popularity, there will be those who enjoy doing that more than competing in tournaments that use the IJF rules. We don't encourage anyone to stop doing IJF judo, but at the same time know that freeestyle judo will catch on simply because it makes sense.  If you want a serious look at freestyle judo, I encourage people to read my book WINNING ON THE MAT, published by Turtle Press. I'm not trayhing to peddle books but this book offers and in-depth look at the functional skills of sport judo and especially freestyle judo. Go to http://www.turtlepress.com/ to find out more about it.
     If anyone wants to receive my free monthly e-mail newsletter (called Welcome Mat Online Newsletter), please e-mail me at stevescottjudo@yahoo.com and I'll be glad to add your name to the mailing list.
     Again, I encourage everyone to get involved in freestyle judo. As my good friend John Saylor said; "It's the way judo ought to be."

CM:  Thanks for the interview.  This was great.


Freestyle Judo

In a recent post, I lamented how the rules handed down by the International Judo Federation (IJF, the official governing body of world judo) were working to change judo from an adaptable, effective martial art to an isolated, fragile sport.  After reading around in the internet, I found out about Freestyle Judo, which uses a different rule set for competitions that helps get judo back to what it should be.  It is found as a part of AAU Judo, which also sanctions IJF-rules tourneys.

The short version of the differences:
  • First and foremost, they got rid of the crappy "no leg grab" rule
  • Most grips are legal (e.g., belt grips, cross grips, etc) as long as they aren't overly defensive
  • Ippons are harder to come by - no "rolling" ippons
  • For every score less than an ippon, you get various degrees of points; while there is no waza ari, you can still win by getting a 12 point spread on your opponent
  • More time is given for groundwork to develop
  • No ippon for osae komi (hold downs) - the best you can get is 4 points for a 20 second pin
  • You can get a point for passing guard, rollovers, and sweeps
  • You can get penalized for passivity/over defensiveness on the ground (e.g., turtling for too long)
  • Refs will give verbal instructions/warnings before assessing a penalty
With the exception of the no victory by osae komi rule, I like all of these.  It encourages creativity in the standing game, and discourages some of the garbage by-product behaviors that Judo has typically encouraged, like defenseless turtling.  They have also introduced a no-gi division, so there's that, too.

What do you guys think?  Do you like the changes?  Anything give you heartburn?  I may try to get a FSJ-rules tourney going around here (VA)... Anyone interested in competing?

You can learn more about Freestyle Judo at their website:  http://www.freestylejudo.org/


Promotion to Ikkyu

Just wanted to give some quick congratulations to Jesse Claypool for reaching Ikkyu this past week.  He was obviously surprised by the news, but shouldn't have been.  His judo is fantastic... I miss the old days when I was able to throw him with ease (and when I was taller than him)... nowadays it's too much of a fight.  Minimum effort my @$$.  I guess we have some time before Jesse gets his Shodan, so we can still work on what it means to go "50%"...  =:>

Speaking of the shodan... time to get to work on that, Jesse!


Uke has the Hardest (and Most Important) Job

Whenever you are executing a technique, there is a tori (the do-er) and the uke (the one being done unto).
One of the things that I am constantly telling my folks is that in a practice situation, uke has the hardest job - and not just because he is the one getting the beating. 

1)  Because most judo techniques are fairly situation-specific, uke's job is to create the right situation for the throw, combination, transition, etc. E.g., step forward and go for a high grip to allow tori to practice his drop seoi.

Something like this:

Okay... maybe not quite like that.

2)  Given that most judo techniques use uke's actions and reactions, it is really uke's job to dictate the intensity and level of resistance.  If you are working with a brand new student, low intensity and no resistance may be the order of the day as they learn where to put their feet, how to lower their body, etc.  But when you are working with someone who has the hang of all that, start adding a bit of resistance to make them "earn it" - while still providing the right opportunity to execute the technique.  As an uke that can give just the right amount of intensity, you will speed your tori's progress and make class more interesting for both of you.  The intensity, and especially the commitment, can be hard to maintain as the reps increase - it is easy enough just to throw yourself sometimes, and you have to resist that temptation.

3)  Uke has to have the right level of commitment and awareness - and obliviousness. Deashi barai is much more difficult to get cleanly in practice than in randori for many folks, and for just this reason. If I know that my partner is only trying to deashi me, I can easily and subtly (and subconsciously) adjust my step to screw up his timing, or I can avoid committing any weight to that foot and render the sweep impossible. So I have to somewhat blindly take a purposeful step into my own doom in order for my tori to learn the right timing and mechanics for the throw. Same thing with combinations - if your tori is working on a combination based on a specific reaction, it is on you to give that reaction every time, unless Tori is screwing things up and making that reaction unfeasible or unlikely.  And that brings us to...

4)  Uke is the best teacher.  Your instructor can't watch everyone all the time, so it is on you to improve your judo, and your partner's judo.  As uke, you are best positioned to help your tori - "You lost your kuzushi when you turned," "Try bumping instead of pushing," or the classic "It will be easier if you bend your knees more."
All of this, to my mind, is a part of ukemi.  If you and your partners focus more on your uke responsibilities, you will be amazed at how much more quickly you are all improving, and how much more fun class can be.


A Lot to Be Proud of Today

It was a great day at Akari Judo today.
1) If you didn't hear about the arson at Greg Rubio's dojo, the Five Cities Judo Dojo, you can read about it here.  Anyhow, knowing how hard it is to get a club going and how expensive mats are, etc., we at Akari Judo wanted to chip in and help get them back on their feet.  I was blown away by the generosity of our club - we'll be sending them $450 collected from the members of our small club.

2) Kat and JK both graduated from their respective schools, so that's exciting!  And now there are fewer excuses to miss class!

And most importantly:
3)  Our very own Jacob Powell was promoted to Shodan!  After working with him off and on for several years, and especially recently getting to witness his dedication to the art, and his efforts to help out with the VCU club, etc, etc.  His throws are crisp, his groundwork is annoyingly good, his Nage No Kata was a thing of beauty.  He's a fine addition to our yudanshakai.


Judo Rules: A Case Study of How to Neuter a Martial Art

Judo was once an art of experimentation and adaptation, seeking all manner of competition in order to improve both the art and the practitioners.  Now, Judo has devolved to a sport trying to isolate itself from those from outside "The Art" who can nonetheless beat us at our own game.

In the early days of Judo, it was a time of massive experimentation by Dr. Kano and his students to find what worked and what didn't.  Of course, Kano had his own definition of what it meant for a technique to work - something along the lines of maximum efficiency, minimum effort. It had to be repeatable at full strength - that is, you should be able to do it over and over to someone without seriously damaging your partner/opponent. One criterion that is sometimes overlooked (most often, in my experience, by those who purport to teach Judo "the way Kano intended") is the most obvious one - the technique actually had to be able put a fully-resisting bad guy on his ass.  In my non-scholarly opinion, I think that these criteria form the foundation of a good Judo throw.  Notice, however, what I didn't say:  He didn't reject a technique because it wasn't how he was taught, because he hadn't seen it before, or because wasn't sure how to define it - and he certainly didn't reject a technique simply because other folks were kicking his students' asses with it.  Quite the opposite.

We all know the stories... Here's my synopsis: Kano's students with his new training method went out and kicked tail.  Yay!  But some folks noticed that these "judoka" weren't that great once you got them off of their feet, so they exploited that weakness and beat the judoka.  Shoot!  But then, Kano and the gang integrated some of those pesky ground techniques right on into this Judo thing, and gave them more emphasis than before!  What happens next?  Judoka take over Japan!  And then the world (except for the Americas)!  Yay!

If the IJF had been regulating those contests, they would have just banned groundwork outright.  Sissies.  When the Russians came in with their wacky Unjapanesy grips and started dumping Judoka on their butts, Kano might have integrated that into his teaching, and let the judo community learn how to effectively counter it.  The IJF instead outlawed "nontraditional" grips.  When ground specialists came back in and started butt-flopping and submitting their way to victory, Kano may have renewed his students' focus on their groundwork.  Judo refs instead worked to keep people off the ground as much as possible.  When the wrestlers came in and started yanking our legs out from under us, did we take Kano's example and figure out how to beat them?  No, we decided to make these effective attacks basically illegal.

The effect of all this is that instead of becoming a stronger Art that can take on all comers, we have isolated ourselves into irrelevance.  In making leg-grabs illegal, you make the judoka infinitely more susceptible to it in any confrontation that doesn't involve judo rules.  And I don't think that is what Dr. Kano had in mind.

Disclaimer:  I am not a historian, and everything I have said here is based on statements from instructors/colleagues or stuff I have read.  Please correct me if you see anything wrong - and if you can cite a source showing how I am wrong, all the better.


Welcome to the Akari Judo Blog!

Welcome, everyone!  Or no one, as it happens.  Anyhow, I wanted to welcome you to my blog.  My sensei, Pat Parker, has maintained his blog for several years, and it has added considerably to my understanding of the art, and has made it easier for me to maintain a link with him even though I live almost 1000 miles away.  (I googled it, and it is 969 miles from my house to Magnolia, MS)  Anyhow, while I have no expectation of being as insightful as Pat - at least at first, my hope is that I can add to the sphere of judo conversation, and hopefully we can all gain something as a result.  I will always welcome comments, especially those that disagree with me - as long as we can refrain from name calling.  Let the blogging begin!