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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Judo, Day Ten: Dazed and Confused

There seems to be some confusion about where I stand in the Judo club at the moment. I mean that semi-literally, since the other white belts are frequently sectioned out away from the rest of the group during certain drills. After last session, I appear to have been integrated into the main body of the group, though whether or not I should be was the subject of some discussion. Eventually the discussion came down in favor of me jumping back in.

In some ways, this is gratifying. I can’t deny there’s a certain bit of an ego boost that comes with Sensei saying, “Yeah, he can work in”. It means that he thinks I’m doing a competent enough job to hang with some of the higher ranks and at least not die, which is a pretty good sign for a guy who is two weeks into his training. Randori, Koka drills, and mat work are all challenging and fun to boot. I do feel like I’m learning a lot about myself, how I move, and where my weak points are.

It isn’t all fun and glorious ego boosting, however. First of all, whatever ego boost might be gained by being allowed to work in is quickly lost when a one hundred and twenty pound green belt launches me head-over-heels into the mat. Secondly, while I’m getting a lot of sparring in, I’m no longer getting much instruction or practice in specific techniques, which is a little confusing. At this point, I’ve actually been formally taught two Judo throws. I’m able to improvise a third by trying to translate some of my Muay Thai skills over, and sometimes manage a couple of others on sheer biomechanical improvisation alone. But while improvisation is all well and good, at some point, I know I’m basically reinventing the wheel, and it would really help to actually know what I was trying to do.

Similarly, I’m totally clueless about the mat work. Not that I don’t have any idea what I’m doing—I have enough of a background in Brazilian jiu-jitsu to be able to at least try doing things—but I don’t know what I’m trying to do. That was actually the most frustrating moment of last night’s practice, because I really felt lost. I didn’t know if I should be going for pins, chokes, joint locks, everything. There was no real explanation given, just “one person is in guard. Ok, go.” As I said, I faked it, but I think I would have gotten much more out of the drill had known exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

Finally, it is a little sad to no longer be drilling with Tim. Aside from the lack of technical instruction, I came to Judo to train with a friend, and now I’m not getting to. I know I will again one way or the other, but it’s a little disappointing at the moment.

In fairness, I did get some good informal coaching from a few of the other players. They were generally very encouraging, which was cool. And I know there’s a competition coming up this weekend, so I think the lack of instruction may have been born out of a need for bodies to train on. Once the comp is passed, I suspect things may slow down slightly. Or not.

General observations about my performance from the various drills.

  • My grip endurance really needs work. My forearms and hands were absolutely blasted by the end of class. My fingers are still stiff.
  • I have a tendency to work for bicep control out of instinct, but while that’s a great position in Muay Thai, it’s damn near useless in Judo. The different objectives, and the presence of the gi, make the position impossible to do anything effective from.
  • I really need to work on my grappling claustrophobia more, though it does seem to be getting slightly better.

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