The journey toward self-discovery is life’s greatest adventure. As humans, we aspire to evolve on many levels, even if our thirst takes us to unfamiliar territory to acquire it. Martial Arts is an endless adventure like no other.
This combat art form has a variety of disciplines under its branch, each with their own package in making the experience beneficial for the participant. Apart of the Martial Arts family tree is the world-renowned practice known as Judo.
Judo, also known as “The Gentle Way” was created in 1882, in Japan, by Jigoro Kano. Ranked as the number 2 most practiced sport in the world, Judo is one of the most influential Modern Martial Arts created, which has been used in self-defense and sport practice at the highest level.
Judo’s fight system focuses on using leverage to off-balance the opposing figure. This can be accomplished by using a variety of grappling throws and takedowns to send your opponent crashing to the canvas.
However, it doesn’t stop there because the battle continues on the ground. During this stage, another set of techniques will be used which involves the use of pins, chokes, and arm joint locks to subdue the attacking opposition.
Continuing this read, you are probably wondering, why take Judo? What could you possibly gain from it? Whether you are enrolling your four year old child, you’re a brass young teen, or you’re a 42 year old businessman, anyone is capable of learning and growing in Judo.
From a physical standpoint, it assists with providing a healthy living as you will work on increasing speed, agility, strength endurance, and other motor functions that are not tapped into in your daily routine.
From a mental aspect, the lessons in Judo are life changing, as the challenges you encounter on the mats are transferable in dealing with everyday life situations off the mat.
All of this information has obviously caught your interest, as you are now ready to embark on your Judo Journey.
The Adventure Begins
Ahhh, how time flies. I still remember the day walking into my first Judo class, as an eighteen year old college student. Many thoughts spun around in my head, as my Sensei gave us new entrants an introductory lesson of what we were about to experience. Hearing all of this, one of the biggest things that stood out was; what was going to happen to me when I got on the mats? You may find yourself pondering the same.
However, fear not, because this sense of anxiousness is a good thing that is totally normal for anyone going into an unfamiliar situation. If you find yourself feeling this way, look at it as a positive, as it shows your exciting interest in Judo.
Everyone is now lined up for the introductory bowing ceremony to begin class.
Being totally stoked about the new adventure, you probably already watch countless Youtube videos, hoping to be a step ahead of everyone. However, don’t get too ahead of yourself, because it isn’t as easy as it looks. To unlock the essence, one must master the fundamentals elements. The first thing a student must learn is the art of falling, commonly known as the Break fall.
The “Break Fall” in Judo is the most important skill one must master, before doing anything else. In an art which finds your body flying, crashing to the mats, break falling is everything. A lot of hazards can come from not mastering this skill, which infractions include being a bad training partner, regression as a practitioner, and getting seriously injured. Now knowing this, I take it you don’t want any of these things to happen.
A regular routine you will find yourself doing at the beginning of each class is a lot break falls. In our class, my Sensei had students performing over 30 reps of rolls, tumbling, and falling in the exact placement on the left and right side. Some of the issues one may encounter learning this is the proper placement of the hands and legs, especially when starting the roll from standing.
To perfect this, it’s all comes down to constant repetition and slowly performing the roll, even after class. The more you do it, the more you will understand it, and before you know it you will be able to take any standing takedown/throw, and land safely with no injury.
It seems like you got break falling down, now let’s get into learning some Judo moves.
Learning Judo techniques is the most influential component of your journey that will forever be with you. In this stage you will acquire, learn, build, and refine your skills through a vast selection of grappling takedown techniques.
First and foremost, when your instructor is demonstrating a technique, it is important to pay close attention to what is being taught. Most moves in Judo have anywhere between three to four steps, just to execute one throw. For example, when performing an Ippon Seio Nage (One Arm Shoulder throw) the step by step count would be……
- Grip your opponent with one arm gripping the sleeve and the other gripping the shoulder portion of the lapel.
- Pull your opponent to off-balance their posture.
- With your arm that’s gripping the lapel, swing across, attaching it under your opponent’s armpit.
- Step in with your body parallel to your opponent, facing forward.
- Squat slightly in the seated position, while loading your opponent to your back.
- Finally, rise up slightly, while turning your body to execute the throw.
Like taking notes for a college exam or remembering instructions for a special job project, one missed step derails everything. The best course of action is to make mental notes, creating your own step by step process in understanding how the technique works.
As you begin to master the techniques, another question that may arise is should you master all the moves or a just selected few? It is important to be familiar with all of the techniques in Judo for two reasons. Number one, knowing the techniques are a major requirement in reaching the rank of black belt, especially when taking the Naga No Kata exam.
Secondly, one day you may find yourself as an instructor, answering student’s questions about a certain technique, which I’m sure you want to be a great assistance to them.
Although it is important to be an encyclopedia of Judo information, using all these moves isn’t necessary in training sessions and competing. Some of the best Judo fighters in the world know many moves, but when you see them compete they only use at most four throws, which combination may include two foot sweeps, a one arm shoulder throw, and a hip throw.
Cycle through the moves which best fits your style and weight class. Also, be sure to consult your Sensei, as they will guide you through this process.
Speaking of training sessions, let’s now touch on that part of your adventure. You now have your set of moves and know the safety procedures of break falling, now it’s time to put all that to good use. Commonly known as Randori, sparring sessions are designed to practice and perfect techniques in a live simulation with a fellow training partner. When sparring, it is important to remember that your training partner is not your opponent or enemy, as they are simply helping you to become a better Judo fighter.
If it is your first time sparring, it is recommended on starting sparring light. Focus on your movement and footwork, in working on your entries in applying throw you want to execute. This method will assist you in building your own fighting style.
Once you feel comfortable with that, going into each sparring session make an attempt to match your training partner’s speed and intensity. Controlled Chaos as I like to call it, benefits both parties, because it ensures not only a good workout, but also allows both practitioners to reflect on what areas in their game they need to work on.
All of the previously mention components prepares one for the most challenging part of the journey, Competing.
Competing is when practitioners from various dojos gather together in one setting to test their skills against each other in a highly competitive match.
Every person has their own views on competing, based on their personal experience. The biggest fears that prevent a new Judoka from competing are getting injured, fighting someone they don’t know, losing, and other concerns. All of these fears are completely understandable; however let’s not predict a grim future for ourselves just yet. Contrary to the dark picture that is painted, there are many positives that come from competition.
In life, we find ourselves facing various challenges, whether it’s making new friends, obtaining a new job, or climbing a mountain. Competing in Judo is a reflection of these things, which motivates us to take on the challenges life throws at us. It empowers us, as we build confidence, uncovering strengths within ourselves we never knew existed.
If you are considering or going into a Judo competition, take a moment to create a positive goal you want to accomplish, which will overwrite the fears in your head. It can be as simple as looking to execute a particular throw or the intention of giving 100 % in all your fights. Having these types of goals will keep you inspired to compete, as new goals will arise that may one day lead you to competing in the Olympics.
Through all of this, always remember, whether you win or lose, the main goal in Judo is to always learn and grow from every experience.
Look at you now! From the stumbling missteps of learning to break your fall to becoming a fierce competitor, you have evolved on so many levels in your Judo journey.
My time in Judo has made a profound impact on my life, which has shaped me into the man I am today. As you continue your adventure, always remember whatever you put into it is what you will get out of it. Making the best of your time on the mat, in everything you do with a positive attitude.
Remain humble, stay inspired, and enjoy the endless ride!