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Monday, February 11, 2008

Judo, Week Twenty-One: In the Moment

This was an interesting week in Tohoku Judo.

Tuesday had all of the makings of a horror-show: when someone (I think Sensei Vic, but I might have misread that) decided to go to Jimmy Pedro’s dojo in Wakefield to practice. Now, I can understand why Vic would do that (since there is really no one who can seriously push him at Tohoku that I’ve noticed), but Sensei did not take it well, at all. There was a lot of shouting and swearing, not all of it in English, while students crept around and traded worried glances, like children who know that dad is pissed off, and are trying not to make it worse.

To all of our surprises, practice was not terribly brutal. There was the usual combination of warm ups, uchikomi, and throwing practice. And a lot of footsweeps practice. A LOT of footsweep practice. I think we probably spent about half an hour moving up and down the mat, just working on that single technique with a little bit of movement. Having gotten the short shrift on technical practice in the past, it was nice to get to just drill one movement for a while. Not necessarily terrifically stimulating, but definitely useful.

Thursday started off much like last Thursday: lots of intensity. Just as I was dreading another long practice of horrific muscle fatigue, Sensei relented and had us start working throws instead of pushups. Ippon Seionage has finally started to click for me, and I actually felt like I was getting the hang of how and where I need to pull to make it work. That feeling was vindicated during randori, when I finally actually managed to toss John with that throw.

In some ways, that is what this is all about—that one perfect moment, when, after weeks of frustration, failure, and struggle, everything suddenly clicks. For that split second, there was nothing in the world but that one, singular movement—me pulling something over my shoulder, but not straining, not struggling, just moving the way the world was meant to move. Absolutely, completely, and totally within the moment.

Of course, then reality kicks back in, and I was self-analyzing and over-thinking again. But hey, this is how we learn.

Randori that day was fun for a lot of reasons: the successful Ippon Seionage. A couple of other successful throws, some of which were made possible by creative use of some of the skills I’ve learn in Muay Thai (mostly manipulating the head and neck), and of course, the fact that Tim got to randori for the first time. Naturally, we had to go at it, and go at it we did. Tim actually startled me by a) being much more aggressive than the average beginner, and b) remembering a bunch of techniques from his youth which, while not textbook perfect, were good enough to put me on my back.

Naturally, I returned the favor, and a good time was had by all.

Sadly, tomorrow I need to go get some minor hand surgery (removal of a wart-like object), which means I probably won’t get to Judo. I’m going to assume that it will probably prevent me from training, so that I can be pleasantly surprised if I’m wrong.


Dan said...

Question - why would your sensei care if someone trains somewhere else? Getting different takes on techniques, training routines, etc. is what its all about, IMVHO. Everytime I've trained at a different (dojo, school, training gym, kwoon, etc.), every good (instructor, sensei, sifu, coach, etc.) has congratulated me and been genuinely interested in what I learned. Your post does not speak well for Tohoku.

Jake said...


First, understand that I am extrapolating. I may have misinterpreted who was taking the trip to Jimmy’s. I didn’t ask directly because, frankly, it seemed impolite.

However, assuming I interpreted things correctly…

1. The person in question usually helps teach on Tuesday and Thursday nights. So Sensei may have been understandably frustrated that his teaching assistant was bailing on him. There are, theoretically, three other weekdays where this person is not at Tohoku, and he could go train elsewhere.

2. The person in question is family. Ergo, there are potentially other issues at work.

3. It should be fairly obvious, based on the fact that I train at Sityodtong and Tohoku, that my Sensei has no problem with people training at other schools. I know from his stories that Jimmy Pedro has, in times past, come to train at Tohoku. I suspect this is neither the first, nor the last time that the inverse has been true also (i.e., someone went from Tohoku to Pedro’s for a day). Again, I think it was the timing of things that set Sensei off, not the concept.

4. Anyone who has trained in a martial art that includes a combat sport component (as Judo does) knows that tensions, by default, will always exist between schools that produce competing students. At the end of the day, Tohoku students and Pedro students are likely, at some point, to meet on the mat. That produces a certain degree of tension that is not found in schools where competition does not exist.

5. Who knows? Maybe Sensei was already in a bad mood. People overreact sometimes.

6. Tohoku is a club consisting of dozens, if not hundreds of people. Judging “Tohoku” by the actions of single individual, on a single evening, is just silly.

Again, please understand that I may be misreading the situation. This is just what I’ve extrapolated, not what I’ve been told.