Olympic Judo Media Coverage

Every four years, our beloved art gets a few minutes of media coverage.  Was it just the perfect storm that this year, most of the coverage was terrible?

So, if any of you have been on the look-out, you've seen lots more Judo coverage than normal in the American press - or, said differently, you've seen *some* coverage of Judo in the American press, which is lots more than normal...  What are the stories that you would have seen?

Wodjan Shaherkhani - A great story about the first Saudi woman to ever compete in the Olympics.  Of course, the assholes in the IJF being assholes, they didn't want to let a good story about judo get out.. they required some IOC arm-twisting before they would let her compete while wearing her Hijab.  This despite the fact that there are numerous tournaments in Asia which allow the Hijab to be worn.  Pricks.

Nick Delpopolo - Played well for team USA.  Seemed very relaxed.  And inexplicably hungry.  Because he ate a pot brownie.  Are you F*$king kidding me?  The OLYMPICS!  AND YOU EAT A POT BROWNIE?!?! 

Kayla Harrison - She won gold, steamrolled some world-class athletes, and was frigging awesome.  Of course pretty much every article that highlighted her win also highlighted the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her coach.  That piece of shit.

As a side note - Sheryl Swoopes - not a Judoka; rather, the former WNBA player - is the the definition of vapid, referring to sexual abuse as "things not going your way":  http://www.shape.com/blogs/london-2012-summer-olympics/kayla-harrisons-journey-ends-gold-medal  -  Again:  Are you F*$king kidding me?


Book Review: Juji Gatame Encyclopedia by Steve Scott

Steve Scott again shows his talent for naming books (and writing them) in this phenomenal work that includes more mentions of the word "crotch" than you're likely to find anywhere else.  Four Stars (out of Four)
Juji Gatame Encyclopedia

The Upshot:
As I mentioned in a previous post, this is what the Judo Masterclass books should be.  It contains a wealth of knowledge with a narrow focus. He categorizes different types of Juji Gatame (spinning, head roll, hip roll, back roll, and belly down/miscellaneous), and then looks at several variations of each. He also considers transitions/combinations, defenses, and tips on levering your opponent's arm. Additionally, lots of great drill ideas are provided. There are 422 pages in this tome, with plenty of pictures and helpful descriptions. This is a must-have book that is bound to show even the most experienced player one or two new entries (or one or two hundred), and will open players' minds to the world of possibilities in Juji Gatame.  I was about 10% of the way through this book when I felt that I had gotten my money's worth*, and things just got better from there.

What's In It, and How It's Organized:

  • Introduction
  • Drills
  • Core Skills: Examines some skills that are common to almost all Juji Gatame applications
  • Four Basic Entries:  Introduces the spinning Juji, the head roll Juji, the back roll Juji, and the hip roll Juji
  • Spinning Juji Gatame
  • Back roll Juji Gatame
  • Head roll Juji Gatame
  • Hip roll Juji Gatame
  • Traps and levers
  • Juji Gatame combinations
  • Transitions
  • Belly down and other miscellaneous Juji's
  • Defense and escapes
The Good:
First, the book provides a great framework for thinking about Juji Gatame. I have certainly seen several different entries for Juji Gatame, but I had never thought about classifying them.  This systematic approach is very useful to me, particularly as an instructor, as it gives me a nice basis for grouping techniques and teaching subtle differences.  As you may well guess from a book that is over 400 pages about a single move, it also provides numerous Juji Gatame entries I'd never even considered before - so that's obviously useful. I particularly appreciate the focus on levers – I guess I'm not alone in having trouble with this area of applying my Juji. And the chapter on drills, though brief for my taste, is a huge help.  As he also had in Winning on the Mat, there are history and language insights scattered throughout the book, and I really appreciate those additions - understanding the origin of a technique or concept can be invaluable to internalizing it.  And Scott also added some nice flavor by sprinkling in some great quotes... one that I particularly liked was "Sometimes you have to play for a long time to be able to play like yourself,"– Miles Davis.

Could Have Been Better:
The biggest complaint I have with this book is that while it shows a million variations, it often fails to provide a good explanation of why you should do that particular variation. That is, what is the opponent doing differently that makes you choose one version over the other? And a small matter of personal preference, but I like the pictures to be shown in a series together with the accompanying text grouped together, as in Kodakan Judo Throwing Techniques. Some of the picture sequences are disjointed, or the description doesn't match the picture, but this is pretty rare.

One Thing I Learned:
There were tons of new techniques in here that I had not thought about before – as well as improvements to techniques I already knew – but one that I liked in particular was the "Henges Hanger;" basically a way to choke your opponent while you wait to arm bar them. It's a bit lengthy to explain in detail without pictures, but the upshot is that you figure four the arm that you're trying to lever loose, and then use that to choke your opponent.

While you could certainly go your entire Judo career without ever applying Juji Gatame, that would be an absolute shame. And if you want to get better at Juji Gatame, then this book really is a must-have.  And let's hope that Sensei Scott continues to make more books like this.

* Full disclosure:  Mr. Scott actually provided the copy that I reviewed, so, when I mention getting my money's worth, I mean I felt like I had gotten enough value out of the book to warrant the purchase price.  =:>


Final Thoughts on the Olympics

  • Marti Malloy was phenomenal, but boy did she ever get screwed.  
    • She threw her Russian opponent twice for Ippons that would later be waved off.  And I have no idea how the first one turned in to a Yuko:  the center judge called Ippon, and the corner judge that was in view of the camera called a Waza Ari.  So, even if the other corner judge called no score (which would have been ridiculous), that should have come out to be a Waza Ari, minimum.  
    • Against her Hungarian opponent, I think the Hungarian went for full 4 min. and 50 seconds without making a throw attempt.  How she didn't get penalized is beyond me.
  • Shaherkani was able to become the first Saudi woman to ever compete in the Olympics.  The assholes in charge of the IJF tried to prevent her from competing with a hijab (head covering), but I suspect the IOC twisted their arms until they changed their mind. Here are some fun facts about Shaherkani: she's 16 and she's not a black belt.  That one kind of makes you wonder: issue one of the best female athletes said Saudi Arabia had to offer up, or were they trying to set something else up to show why they shouldn't send women into the Olympics? Anyhoo, she didn't win, but good for her for showing up.
  • Travis Stevens' semifinal match against Bischoff was ridiculous...  He got a small mouse right at the beginning, so they wrapped tape around his head a few times, partially obscuring his vision.  Then he got a scratch on the bridge of his nose, so they wrapped another piece of tape around his head a few more times, further obscuring his vision out of that left eye.  And now he looks like a mummy.  Later in the match, I think he got poked in his one good eye.
    • That match got testy (teste?), too.  I've never seen a ref demand that players shake hands in the middle of a match.
  • Of course, this wasn't the worst tape job of the day: Ugo Legrande had a strip going in between his nose and his lip. Ugo Legrand of France reacts to losing to Hussein Hafiz of Egypt in the men's -73kg Judo
  • American fans really showed up in this games.  There seem to a been a ton of fans there.
  • What's even better, the American team really showed up this year. Our first gold ever, a bronze, and two semifinal appearances. That's phenomenal.  A lot of respect is due to our athletes and to Coach Jimmy Pedro, Jr. for their great work over the last several years.
  • The Japanese, on the other hand, seem to be on the way down. Seven medals, with only one gold – and no golds for the men.  Of course, they had more medals than we had participants, but it's not good by their standards.
  • There were a ton of examples of bad refereeing in this Olympics, but the example that stands out most to me is this one:  Nakai of Japan was thrown for Waza Ari with only the bottom of his butt touching the mat, as he rolled over his opponent (his opponent precluding even a possibility that his back could have touched the mat).  What the hell?
  • I have grown to really hate the music that they play at the start and end of all the matches.
  • Was I just taught the wrong thing when I took my reffing class?  nine times out of 10 when there's a score change, the match is stopped and referees conference.  I thought that when there is a difference of opinion over the score, the procedure was supposed to go like this:
    • Corner judges were to signal their desired score from a seated position.
    • In the event that they both showed the same score, they would stand up to signal to the center referee that they agreed.
    • in the event that they disagreed, they would effectively average the score between their respective scores and the center ref's score, and then rise signalling that average (unless the average was the same as the center ref's original score).  
      • For example, the center ref signals an Ippon, and the two corner refs think it was a Waza Ari.  They signal Waza Ari and stand to let the center ref know that they agree.
      • The center ref signals an Ippon, one corner ref signals a Waza Ari, the other corner of signals a Yuko. The judges average their score to a Waza Ari, and stand to signal this to the ref.
      • The center ref signals a Waza Ari, one corner of signals an Ippon, and the other corner ref signals aYuko.  Since the average is a Waza Ari (the center ref's score), the corner judges drop their signals and do nothing else.
    • When the center ref sees that he's been overruled by the standing corner judges, he waves off his original score and signals the new score that the corner judges show.


Quick Thoughts on the Olympics, Thus Far (Round 3 - Kayla Harrison Edition!)

  • Finally!  Ne Waza!  Our girl Kayla Harrison rocked a nice Juji Gatame against her first round Russian opponent, and finished of her Brazilian semifinal opponent with a weird Juji Gatame from the bottom!  And I saw one of the 100kg men (Mongolia's Naidan, perhaps?) *actually pull his leg out of half-guard* to secure a pin!  Miracles!
  • Hungary's Abigel Joo evidently injured herself to the point where she was barely walking towards the end her quarterfinal loss against  the US's Kayla Harrison.  She toughed through it, and hobbled to the repechage round...  Evidently, she just needed to walk it off a bit, because she started moving better with about 30 seconds left, and pulled off a BEAUTIFUL cartwheeling Uchi Mata.  Phat.  
  • As a side note, I thought coach Pedro handled the situation well when Joo was injured.  Instead of saying "SHE'S HURT!  MOVE IN FOR THE KILL!", he simply yelled "LOOK AT HER!" to make sure that Harrison noted the situation.
  • Finally saw a split decision in the women's 78kg repechage.  And, in this one, everyone raised their flag at the same time.
  • Maybe it's just been my luck, but NBC seems to have fixed their randomly-timed commercial breaks during streaming
  • The German coach is doing alright for himself...  He carried Dimitri Peters off after winning the bronze, and Peters is one big Gerry...
  • Another thing that cracks me up is how athletes will look expectantly at a ref after throwing (instead of  locking down their opponent) - our own Kayla Harrison did it in the finals...   Does that mean that I shouldn't get so upset with our juniors when they do it?
  • Anybody else notice that Neil Adams (who had been announcing the contestants and the winners to the crowd) didn't have the mic to announce Harrison's victory?  Conspiracy!
Photo: Kayla Harrison has just become the first American to win Olympic gold in judo. Go Team USA and congrats to Kayla!
  • WAY TO EFFING GO KAYLA!  YOU WERE PHENOMENAL!  You won, and you won in style, really dominating your opponents and demonstrating some great Judo in the process!


Quick Thoughts on the Olympics, Thus Far (Round 2)

 More thoughts... I'm still behind, so I haven't gotten a chance to see the US win any medals yet, but here are some more comments on what I *have* seen.
  • From what I've watched, the Georgians seem to be doing the best Judo...  Lots of great attacks.  What do you guys think? 
  • Rosalba Forciniti of the Italian judo team. Photo / APAnybody know what happened to 52kg Italian bronze-medalist Forciniti's hand?  I don't think it was broken, but I've never seen a wrap like that in a Judo...   
  • Is it just me, or is it weird seeing the Cuban women's coach in a suit?  I'm used to seeing him engulfing a folding chair wearing his sweats.  Definitely an upgrade. 
  • Funny to see that even the best in the world screw up bowing in and bowing out.  Public Service Announcement:  You stand in front of the mark while you wait for the match to be awarded. 
  • The judges' decisions (when they raise their flags at the end to determine a winner) seem suspect.  I haven't yet seen one that isn't unanimous (which seems improbable), and there always seems to be a lag between the first and last flags are raised - as if a judge were waiting to see how the other judges ruled before raising his own flag...  Anyone else notice this? 
  • The refs made it up to Korea's Jun-Ho for screwing him the other day by selecting him as the winner of the bronze medal match against the Spaniard 

  • With the exception of 2 or 3 individuals, I haven't seen anyone even *try* to do groundwork, unless they accidentally had to.  Bah. 
  • Any Judoka/Statisticians (Ann Maria De Mars?), if you're out there:  In case you are running out of ways to fill your spare time, here's an analysis I'd love to see - What is the best predictor of judges' decision - is it just attack frequency?  Is there a recency bias?