Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Halfway there!

In my last post, I shared my thoughts about preparing for my green belt (3rd Kyu). I mentioned that we were a group of five who were working our way towards green belt and also that I wondered how many of us would be there at the end. Just as I thought would be the case, the group didn't quite stay in tact. There was a period of time where I couldn't attend class on a regular basis. At one point I was absent for about three weeks and when I returned, three out of our group of five were wearing brand new green belts. I obviously missed out and the fifth person also disappeared. In fact, I haven't seen him since I returned to class. I was very happy for my colleagues and congratulated them, but I was also surprised that I would be one of the people who "broke up" the group, considering the fact that I was the one who wondered how many will be there at the end...
I won't say that I was disappointed though. After all, if you don't attend class you're not going to progress. Simple as that.
I knew that I would have to work hard to catch up, so I just worked on my required techniques as much as possible. Whenever we did uchikomi, randori or just drilling throws, I would only do techniques I needed to perform for my grading and I felt that I was improving.
However, I was worried about the ne waza techniques. I just struggle with it and I can't figure out why. I know what I need to do and I can even visualise myself doing it, but then it all falls apart when I physically need to do it. It is very frustrating! But like everything else, I just kept working on it and I still do.
Eventually D-Day arrived and, wearing my very nice Mizuno gi, I did my grading and was awarded my green belt. Naturally I was happy about it and I was also glad that our group was now in tact again, although the fifth person is still MIA. I guess we are a group of four now...
(I did the grading about three months ago now, I just haven't posted about it yet.)

This was also the first time I actually reflected on my progress. Quite often I get frustrated with myself, because I feel that I'm stagnating and not progressing fast enough. However, when I go back to the beginning, walking onto the tatami as a beginner and compare to my current self, I'm actually pleased with what I've learnt. In all honesty, when I started Judo, I was very keen, but I also had doubts in the back of my mind about weather I would see it through. It is quite surreal actually. I remember going to class as a white belt, looking at the blue belt guys and wondering if I would even make it that far, yet here I am, blue belt being my next target!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Things are getting interesting (and tough!)

Up until now, Judo has been a lot of fun and excitement. I was always able to learn techniques quickly, especially throws. I am sure the reason for that is my wrestling experience, because the main area I always have to work on is Ne-Waza. There are no submission holds in wrestling, so that was completely new to me and it is still an ongoing "achilles heel".
I was awarded my 4th Kyu (orange belt) in March and at the time I felt a mixture of happiness, for what I achieved, and fear, for what lies ahead. I'm still having fun in training, but it is as if things have become a bit more intense now. It is like someone is telling you that playtime is over and you need to start pulling up your socks now!
We have been working on the 3rd Kyu (green belt) syllabus for about a month and a half now and I don't even feel close to ready for the grading. Fortunately, there is no set date for it. We will be graded when we are ready to do so. It also helps that we are a group of 5 who are doing the same grade, so practising the techniques is no problem.
I think the main reason for us feeling nervous about it is because the techniques are getting more and they are also getting more difficult. Added to that, you always hear the stories of how the higher grades stop taking it easy on you when you get your green belt, so as far as they are concerned, as soon as you have a green belt wrapped around your waist, you are fair game! It is obviously not as serious as that and it is more of a light hearted thing, but it still plays on your mind. Although some might be happy just to do Judo and see where it takes them, I am sure most of us have a set goal and that is to get a Dan grade. For my 4 fellow orange belts and I, it is still a long road ahead and I think we just had a bit of a wake up call in realising that the hard work really starts now and that it is only going to get more difficult. It will be interesting to see how many of us are there at the end...

If you're interested to see our current syllabus, you can find it here.


Juji-gatame - sit back entry
                  - roll over entry
                  - over the shoulder entry
                  - entry from beneath

Demonstration of attacking, defence, avoidance and continuous attacking performance skills in Tachi-Waza and Ne-Waza in randori with a co-operative partner.

Personal Choice:
Select and demonstrate four techniques from the BJA Syllabus and demonstrate them individually and then as a series of combinations and counters.
Demonstrations must include two combinations, two counters and two transitions into Ne-Waza.
(Note: the above techniques are all compulsory for this grade and the techniques used for personal choice can be any of the techniques above or any other technique in the BJA Grading Syllabus.)

Terminology and supplementary knowledge:
Know the English translations and meaning of all Japanese terminology used and discuss with the examiner the reasons for your choice of technique, grip etc.

We have covered all the techniques above and we are able to perform them, but we are still working on performing them well. Hopefully we will get there soon.
What doesn't help is the fact that my class attendance has been hit and miss recently, but I should be able to get back on track now.

This all reminds me of a great quote from a film:

"Everything will work out in the end. If it doesn't work out, it is not the end"

Monday, 24 February 2014

Sometimes you're the pigeon, sometimes you're the statue.

South Coast Senior Kyu & Dan Split Grade Open - Worthing, UK

Yesterday I took part in my second competition. It was the same competition I took part in last year (First Competition!) , but the outcome couldn't have been any different!

It was an early start, as I had to leave at 7am to get to Worthing for the weigh-inns, which started at 8:45 am. I arrived with about 15 minutes to spare, so I just took a seat until the weigh-inns started. After that, I took a seat again and waited some more....and more.... I did some warm ups to loosen up and then waited some more....
This is a nice competition to enter, especially for novice Judoka who want to just "dip a toe", so to speak, in the competition side of Judo. The categories are Novice-6th Kyu; 5th-4th Kyu, 3rd-2nd Kyu and 1st Kyu. This means you are guaranteed to face opponents who are at your own level, which is not normally the case, because in most competitions the lowest category is Novice -3rd Kyu.
However, the general organisation/communication on the day leaves a lot to be desired...
There is no way of knowing when and who you will be fighting until roughly 5 minutes before you are due to fight. You just have to wait until you hear your name called and go to the mat you were told to go to. Even when you get there, you still don't even know how many times you will be fighting. The only way to get this information is to actually ask the person who has the sheets with all the information.
I understand that it is impossible for the organisers to give exact times, but I'm sure they can at least put up some information, for instance, all the weight and grade categories and the order which they will be contested in. This way, you would know roughly if it will be 20 minutes or 2 hours for your category to start.

Why did you enter the competition if the organisation is so bad, you might ask?
The answer is that, when I went last year, I didn't really know about it, because my category was the first one to be contested on the day. In fact, I was due to contest the very first fight of the day!
To be honest, bad organisation or not, I still think it is a nice competition to go to and I'm sure I will go again.

My name was called eventually and when I arrived at the mat we were told to wait, as the fight schedule has not arrived yet. The person eventually came back and said that there was a bit of a mix up, so we had to take our seats again until we are called. I waited for another 20-30 minutes until we were called again. Luckily everything was fine this time and I would finally get to fight. There was a bit of dampener put on proceedings though, as we were told that one person in our group is actually a 2nd Kyu! Unfortunately, he had no one else in his category, so they included him in ours. It takes the wind out of your sails a bit, but I soon got over it. I just thought, the guy came all this way to fight and it is not his fault that he hasn't got anyone in his category. So with that mind, I just decided that ,higher grade or not, I'll give it a go!

So after all that, we finally got started!

Fight 1
My opponent was much bigger than me and very strong. He immediately grabbed hold my sleeve and collar and tried to throw me, but I was able to prevent his attacks. However, I was just not able to do anything and I was soon given a Shido for not attacking. It was not long before I got a second Shido for the same thing. I thought that was it, the fight is over, because I just could not do anything against this guy. It was then that I realised he was getting tired. Every time we were restarted, he kept standing on the edge of the fight area and waiting for me to come to him. I would go forward and grip up, but then we would end up outside the area soon after. Because of this, he also got two Shidos in quick succession. The fight came to an end and there was no score and we both had two Shidos each, so the fight went to 'golden score', which means the first person to get any score wins the fight. By this time, he was basically out on his feet and hardly moving, so when the ref called Hajime, I just went forward, gripped up and attempted an attack, which again put us outside the fighting area. This was repeated 2 or 3 times until he was eventually given a Shido, which meant that I won. By that stage, I was just happy for the fight to be over! I was obviously glad to get the win, but it did feel hollow. I didn't do anything except 'going forward'. Moreover, I know what it feels like to lose like that, as that is exactly what happened to me last year (On that day, the Shido was the difference between silver and gold)

Fight 2
My opponent was the 2nd Kyu that I mentioned earlier. He was roughly my size, but I knew who I was up against. I knew that he would attack with Uchi Mata or Harai Goshi, because he was going through his strategies with his coach just behind me before the fight.
Hajime was called and just as I expected, he gripped up and positioned himself for for the Harai Goshi/Uchi Mata. I managed to avoid the throw, so he went for O- Soto-Gake. I was able to counter him with something that I could only say resembled O-Uchi-Gari, as I couldn't sweep or hook his leg, but I still managed to get him on his back. I knew it wasn't text book, but I thought I had the Ippon, so I was quite surprised when Waza-Ari was called. I thought I would just get on with it, because there is no point in complaining. He kept going for the Uchi Mata/Harai Goshi and we ended up on the ground on a couple of occasions with no score, after which we would be stood up again. I eventually got a Shido. This time, the ref said that I was 'bending over too much'. I thought, surely that is an advantage to my opponent then!? Why the Shido? But again, no use in complaining, so just get on with it. I though I could win this if I could just hold on, but unfortunately, I couldn't. We were gripped up standing upright and virtually chest to chest and before I knew it, I was on my back. He got the ippon with the Harai Goshi and the fight was over. In the end, I think I did as well as I could have. Again, I couldn't get any attacks in other than the counter, but after all, he was three grades above me.

Fight 3
My opponent was again much bigger than me, even taller than the first one. When Hajime was called, he just stormed in and grabbed whatever he could and just held on. I attacked with Ippon Seoi Nage, but it didn't work and we ended up on the ground, where he tried to put a choke on me. He got it pretty good and I was about to tap when I thought "NO! I'm not losing again!" I was able to hold on until the ref called Matte. We were stood up and he just kept getting hold of me and preventing me from doing anything. As I expected, I got the Shido, followed by another one. By this time I was getting very frustrated/angry, because I felt like I was being penalised for something my opponent was doing as well. Because of this, I think my concentration just went out the window, because I realised I just wanted it to end, win or lose. Shortly after, my third Shido followed and that was the end of the fight. I think the ref saw the anger on my face and he explained why I got the Shidos, but I wasn't really listening. I just kept looking at him and he asked "Are you OK?". I just shrugged my shoulders, completed all the post fight protocol and got of the mat to get a drink.

After the fights I was feeling quite disappointed, frustrated and also angry. I think what happened in the 3rd fight was just the last straw that broke the camel's back. I was already disappointed and frustrated, only to end up on the receiving end of some questionable (in my opinion of course) calls.
In all of the fights, I was not able to get a single attack in and my only score was a half successful counter. I got a bronze medal, but I'm not proud of it. After I cooled down, I was also a bit dissapointed with my actions towards the ref in the last fight. Eventhough I didn't agree with him, I shouldn't have shown it. He was the ref and I should have respected his calls, weather I agreed with it or not. So I do regret allowing myself to show him how angry I was.
I have a lot of work to do, that much I know. I will try to learn what I can from the experience and move on.
I also realised that I simply have to lose some weight, as I just can't compete with opponents who outweigh me by such a big margin. For this competition I weighed in at 107 Kg and I was definitely the lightest in the group. I need to lose that 7 Kg in order for me to compete in the Under 100 Kg category, which will be much better for me.
So with all that in mind, I have my work cut out for me!

Again, it reminds me of one of my favourite quotes. I've used it before and it is by none other than the founder of Judo himself, Mr Kano.

"The man who is at the peak of his success and the man who has just failed are in exactly the same position. Each must decide what he will do next."

Monday, 27 January 2014


I mentioned quite a while ago that there would be a guest blogger who will be adding his wisdom to this blog and I am delighted to introduce Stuart Rich!
It was actually from Stuart that I got the idea to keep track of my progress by writing a blog.
There is a link to Stuart's blog on here, but if you can't find it, it is Judo Is Only Gentle For The Guy On Top.

Stuart started Judo at the age of 37 and decided to start blogging about it after reading "Tapping Like Riverdance", a BJJ blog written by someone who has since become a friend and training partner, Jadon Blade. However, he has been involved with Martial Arts since he was 7 and has practiced and taught, among others, Karate, Wing Chung and Freestyle. When he can't make it to Judo classes he supplements his training with BJJ. 

He recently received his brown belt (1st Kyu) and will start competing for points towards his black belt soon.

To start of with, Stuart thought it might be a good idea to share some things that beginners (like me!) should and shouldn't do. I hope this will be the first of many posts and I hope you enjoy reading.

A Beginners Guide to Judo

1)      Sort your belt out.

If you haven’t done your belt properly you look like a complete chump. No one will ever take you or your Judo seriously if you don’t tie your belt properly.
Like this

Not these

2)      Pick a suitable training partner.
Try and find someone roughly your own size or better still someone a lot lighter than you. That way, even if your technique is bad you can still get them airborne.
Don't pick this guy for Seio nage practise

3)      Breakfall
Drill the shit out of breakfalling. It will save your life one day.

4)      Leave your ego at the door.

Judo is a throwing art which means you are going to get thrown, even if you don’t want to. Now you can either take the fall and practise your breakfalls (see number 3) or try and resist being thrown and end up being dumped on your head and get yourself injured. Honestly no one cares whether you get thrown by a 10 stone weakling. The same goes for tapping to a submission. Don’t be the guy that gets choked unconscious, it’s not cool. In fact it will probably scare your training partner more than you.
5)      Gi
After training for a little while you might want to get yourself a better fitting gi than those baggy Blitz gis that clubs always supply to beginners. Before you spend £150 on a flash new gi ask yourself this. Do you want to have the best gi in the club but also have the worse Judo? Also, resist the temptation to buy a blue gi. It will make you stand out but for all the wrong reasons. Keep your gi white and single weave until you’ve been training a couple of years.
This is fine as a beginner
You're not this guy yet.
6)      Hygiene
Make sure your nails are cut short, both finger and toe. No one wants to train with someone who leaves them covered in little tiny cuts afterwards. Also, clean your teeth before class. If you’re that guy with halitosis holding me in kesa gatame I will do anything possible to get out of it. If you have a minty fresh breath I’ll quite happily lay there for 20 seconds and therefore you’ll win more fights via pins.
7)      Sensei knows best.
Don’t be telling your Sensei that you should be a higher belt than the one you are wearing. The chances are your Sensei has been teaching for many years and knows exactly what level you are at so take his word for it.
8)      Sandbagging
If you’re a BJJ purple belt tell people beforehand, especially before you do newaza randori. Yes you may be able to submit a Judo black belt but remember that when you do tachiwaza randori later he will likely smash you through the ground. If you are doing Newaza with other white belts it’s even more important to tell them of your previous experience as they may feel like they are not progressing as fast as you are. The same goes for those of you who have Wrestling or Sambo experience.
9)      Fitness
I don’t know how many times I’ve read this on various Martial Arts forums. “I’m not fit enough to Judo yet so I’m gonna go to a gym for x amount of months first” You don’t have to be fit to do Judo but doing Judo can get you fit. Therefore if you are not fit get yourself to Judo now. If you have time during the week, go to another Judo class. Only go to the gym on days you cannot train Judo. The gym is not a replacement for Judo it’s a supplement to be taken in addition to Judo.

You don't have to look like this guy to start Judo
10)   Breakfalling
Yes I know it’s a bit of a cop out but learning how to fall is so important to developing your Judo. Being scared of falling can lead to number 4 and ultimately injury.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Long time no write...

I was thinking about this blog a couple of days ago and realised that I haven't written anything in almost 3 months. Time is going by so fast at the moment and it feels like everything is happening at 200 mph. It is mostly due to my new found parenthood and I am enjoying it immensely! My little man is almost 6 months old now and he just seems to get cuter by the day. I couldn't be more proud!

So what has happened in the last 3 months?

The most important thing (in terms of Judo) that happened is that I changed clubs.
Reading that sentence again... it seems so cold, like I just decided to leave and look for something better. It was not an easy decision at all!
I love Wokingham Judo Club and all the people and coaches involved with the club. It is where I learned my Judo after almost giving up on it as a beginner (See original post) and it is just a nice place to be. However, there was only one class per week on a Saturday morning. This has never been a problem (if you don't mind not getting a lie-in), but after the birth of my son, my priorities are different and I want to spend as much time with him as possible. That means that weekends are almost sacred to me now! So, with that in mind, I made the decision to move on to pastures new.
I decided to join Windsor Judo Club on a permanent basis. The last time I wrote was about my first visit to WJC (See original post). At the time, I went there just for additional training. I remember driving back home after my 1st class (at WJC) and just being on such a high after a brilliant session. 
(Just to give some background... I was looking for a club where I could have some extra classes and I tried one club, but it didn't really work, so my wife came across WJC and suggested I go and try it out).
After my first class at WJC I was so happy, excited, satisfied, etc. that, on my way home, I actually sent a text/sms to my wife to thank her for the suggestion and that she found a gem! 
Taking all that into account, when the time came for me to make the decision to change, it was only natural for me to join WJC. It obviously has it's downsides. It is a 38 mile round trip twice a week, instead of a 5 mile round trip, but the positives outweighs it though and that is why I decided to go there. I'm as excited as I have ever been about my Judo.

I would also like to take this opportunity to pay my respects to Sensei Don Werner (7th Dan) of Pinewood Judo Club, who passed away on 8 January 2014. I was fortunate enough to meet him and train at Pinewood on a couple of occasions and, although I didn't spend much time with him, I could see that he just lived Judo. If you don't know Sensei Don, please read this obituary, written by Nicola Fairbrother (probably his most famous student). His achievements are just remarkable. May he rest in peace.


Thursday, 31 October 2013

Windsor Judo Club

Due to my change of circumstances, I had to find a different club for my midweek Judo fix. So last night I went to my first class at Windsor.
I was a bit nervous at first, which is normal if it is your first time in a new environment, but I got into the groove pretty quickly.
We did a light warm up, which I was very grateful for at the end of the class, and then went straight into uchikomi.
I found it very effective. For the first 10-15 minutes we had to do 10 uchikomi of your own choice. I concentrated mainly on the 'big 5' we have been working on at Wokingham. After that, the instructor would just shout out "Uchi Mata", which is your cue to do 10 Uchi Mata uchikomi. This was done for about 20 minutes and we covered quite a few techniques. What I found very helpful was the way the session was coached. In contrast with the traditional demonstration of a technique followed by everyone practising it, there was no demonstration. Instead, the instructor would walk around the mat while we were doing uchikomi to see what everyone was doing. He would then call mate and point out some mistakes that are being made and advise how to correct it. We would then continue with uchikomi to incorporate the improvements.
I just thought it was an effective way of practising a technique, because you get to spend more time actually doing it. This would obviously not work in a class where there are new beginners who don't know a lot of techniques. But in last night's class, the lowest grades were two yellow belts (myself included). Other than that, it was mostly brown and black belts.
After the uchikomi, it was on to some randori for the rest of the session. I don't know why, but I just felt like I was up for anything and felt very good. I attacked a lot and although I was not successful most of the time, I didn't feel discouraged, because at least I felt like I was improving. I was also up against very experienced black belts and only one brown belt! One thing that felt particularly good was my counters. I didn't get thrown as much as I thought I would (or maybe they just went easy on the new guy!). I managed to throw two of my partners, one black belt and one brown belt, with Ura Nage on more than one occasion, which I found strange, because I never tried it before. On each occasion, I used it as a counter for Tai Otoshi. It was probably still programmed in my brain from my wrestling days, but it worked and it felt awesome.
We did some Ne Waza randori as well and this was where my roll came to an abrupt end! My ground game is, to say the least, very suspect! Due to my wrestling experience, I can defend and restrict my opponent's movements, but when I get on top or in a controlling position I just freeze and I don't know what to do. The only time I was able to do anything was when I was partnered with the other yellow belt and he was a bit smaller than me as well. But I know that Ne Waza is something that I just need to keep working on.

All in all, it was tough, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I felt absolutely knackered, but still felt good.
I will definitely go back next week. In fact, I can't wait!