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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Judo, Week Nineteen: Discretion, Valor, Gripping, and Falling

I only made it to call once this week, owing to a minor cold that I decided to try and prevent from becoming a major one. Fortunately, my efforts were successful, and I was able to make Thursday’s class. I wasn’t in top form, but still felt good enough to get something out of the training.

Class followed its usual format of warm-ups, uchikomi, throwing practice, gripping instruction and various sparring drills. The throwing practice was murderous—I ended up sectioned off with the “heavyweights”, which meant that I was working with a line of people who all outweighed me by at least twenty pounds. In theory, if I can throw them, I can throw people my own size, but throwing them is a lot easier in theory than in practice. It was made particularly difficult by one new guy who approached every throw with maximal tension in his entire body. I think he was just nervous, but he was exemplifying the idea that if you’re tight and afraid, the fall could be much worse. In my case, I really just couldn’t budge him well, but I was sort of afraid for him on a couple of falls.

The sparring drills were interesting: two new black belts showed up, one of whom I recognized as the first black belt who taught me something, way back on Day One. The other guy I didn’t recognize, but the other senior members clearly knew who he was. Naturally, I got a chance to spar with both of them. Seth, the day one black belt, was ok to spar with, but I didn’t really get a lot out of it. While he didn’t really thump me, he just kind of took me out in a reasonably quick and decisive fashion. Some later rounds I lasted a bit longer, but I didn’t necessarily feel like I was learning a lot.

Sparring with Woody, by contrast, was both educational and frustrating. It was educational because he really just played with me, let me try shit, countered it, and let me keep playing. It was frustrating because he was laughing quietly (or not so quietly) the whole time. Eventually, it got me laughing too; we both were clearly having a lot of fun, but it wasn’t really good for the ego either.

We also got some gripping instruction in this class, was which was wonderfully, wonderfully helpful. I keep hearing about how gripping matters in Judo, but I didn’t really get it until we started working some grip set ups as drills (instead of just fumbling around for it). While I couldn’t quite make any of the setups that we learned work in sparring, it did inspire me to start experimenting with some different grips, some of which worked wonders for me. I got a lot of use out of a cross-lapel grip in particular, though I also discovered that it’s illegal to hold that position for more than a few seconds. Live and learn.

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