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):