Brown Belt Test

The test went well. I think I’m now a brown belt in judo. It was very long (I think after setting the mats up and stuff it was 3 hours to go through everything, and then class after). Everything is bruised and everything hurts. I had forgotten what it was like to be an uke for hours on end and be constantly thrown.

It was a good day.

Sunday is the brown belt test in judo. I’m trying to cram information about the US Olympic team and remember all of my Japanese. I’m doing suprisingly well going through the practice exams and looking up forgotten knowledge (like the old chui and keikoku penalty levels which are on the exam, but haven’t been used since before I started judo).

With a bit of luck, on Tuesday there will be quite a few brown belts.

For those wondering – no, my ankle is not healed, and yes, I do still struggle on the ground. There’s an upcoming wrestling seminar at Fight Prime that I’d love to be able to go to, but I’m just not sure if I can handle it.

Dear Judo, quit killing yourself

Any judoka classified in the « IJF ranking list » is not authorized to take part in an international competition of any combat sport, other than judo, unless specific authorization by the IJF.

In view of the IJF authorization request deadlines, this rule shall apply starting from the 1stof January 2015.

That was the message I got from USA Judo last night. As of January 1, 2015, any judo competitor who competes on the international level (such that they are on the IJF ranking list) needs specific authorization by the IJF to compete in any other combat sport at the international level. My understanding of this is that it would prevent judoka from competing in Sambo, wrestling, BJJ, or MMA.

GracieMag ran a brief article on this. It will be interesting to see what happens with Travis Stevens. He’s pretty much the poster boy for cross training as he’s so accomplished in both. Likewise, I’m sure Gokor is not the only grappler to have achieved status in both judo and Sambo.

Let’s discuss some possible reasons and impacts from the decision:

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Test Prep

We’re starting to go over new throws each week in preparation for the test. The USJA test is pretty open in terms of which techniques you do. To be honest, by the time you take the test you likely know everything you’ll need to without prep. The hardest part is knowing what they want the technique to be called. Unlike Thales’ BJJ test where you just do four armbars, for the USJA test you indicate which techniques you’ll do from a checklist and they will announce them in Japanese (where appropriate) and English (always).

The good news is, there’s literally a text book on Judo. Kodokan Judo: The Essential Guide to Judo by Its Founder Jigoro Kano enumerates all the techniques and kata. And, if you don’t really like Kano’s book, two other text book style books exist: The Canon of Judo: Classic Teachings on Principles and Techniques and Kodokan Judo Throwing Techniques. All three books are by men who were at one point the head of the Kodokan. The terminology, for the techniques at least, is universal. You’ll never have to worry if someone calls it “RNC” or “mata leão” because it’s just “hadaka jime” universally. Unfortunately, descriptions of the counters, combinations, and self-defense techniques are not so enumerated. They don’t have names – just descriptions in English which means you may do something that it describes, but not the technique it’s looking for. Luckily, almost every category has an “Other” option for you to do what you know even if you don’t know the term.

Testing is two weeks from Sunday. I’m confident in my throws and groundwork. It’s the English descriptions and remembering petty details like “what year was judo first introduced to the summer games?” or “who was the first American to medal at the World Championships and what place did he get?” which don’t have any bearing on my skill as a judoka, but rather my knowledge as a sportsman. Not having competed in a long time or really caring about the sport as a sport after the rules changes, I don’t really remember a lot of the stuff that’s not core to the art. I guess it’s time to start cramming.

Updated Blogroll and Big Thanks

I’ve added OkKimonos Blog to the blogroll. I’m not sure why the store is Ok! Kimonos and the blog is styled as OkKimonos. I admittedly know nothing about branding outside picking fonts.

As I alluded to sometime last week, I’ve felt like I’ve fallen away from the community and I wanted to thank everyone who’s been keeping up with BJJ blogging because reading through the posts helped me feel like I was picking up as though I never left. Special thanks to these guys (sorry for not knowing everyone’s real names…):

  • Brendan (Ok! Kimonos). You’ve been awesome sharing posts on Twitter that I keep feeling are targeted toward me and your emails help me feel a part of the community.
  • Can (Slideyfoot). I love your blog. Being able to read through what you’ve been teaching helps me feel a bit better about missing classes.
  • Chelsea (TAP TAP TAP). You’re probably one of the most awesome people to write a blog. I love the perspective. You definitely make me feel like a wimp for not pushing myself harder.
  • Jezus. Knowing that you’ve been reading pushes me to keep writing which in turn forces me to keep up with the community.
  • bjjmindset. Your comments are one of the reasons I got back in rather than just quitting. Thank you. I’ll probably hit you up for leg lock defenses once I can get back on the ground more freely.

Struggling With Superman

As I’ve gotten older I’ve had to face a terrible reality: I am not Superman.

In the last two years I’ve felt myself slowing down a lot. I’m not pushing it hard in rolls when I do them, and I haven’t been for awhile. If someone’s much more athletic and wants to just do circles around me, whatever. I’m not that guy any more. I used to be, but I’m not. It’s not a belt thing. It’s not that higher belts go slower. I’ve seen plenty of higher belts go all out when they roll. It’s not an age thing. I’ve seen plenty of guys older than myself go much harder than I do. It’s just a thing that’s happened from a lot of injuries and taking breaks when work was too stressful and prioritizing other things over the roll.

It’s been really bugging me lately that I’m not back to where I was. I mean, I invested years in working out and building techniques and I feel like a lot of that investment has been lost. I can tell you how to do a textbook yama arashi, but when I try it on someone it’s like my hands and my feet just don’t know what the other is doing any more. I feel like that guy who everyone suspects of having an honorary belt. I know the move. I know the setup. Come execution, flop.

It’s actually really hard for me to acknowledge that. It bothers me that I can’t follow the advice I could give people. I could tell them how and why their throw is failing, but for myself it’s like the knowledge is just gone. It’s embarrassing. It’s not something I want to readily admit. Having said that, if you’re feeling like this after a break from an injury or life getting in the way or anything else – you’re not alone. I’m right here with you. We’re going to be okay though.

We’re going to be okay.

Book Report: Where Meat Comes From

Chuck Palahniuk – yeah, the Fight Club guy – has a book which is a series of short stories called “Stranger Than Fiction”. The second chapter is titled “Where Meat Comes From”. It’s not long, only 19 pages, but it’s incredibly accurate. The story is summed up best by Palahniuk himself after he describes cauliflower ear:

“At best, this is a postcard from a hot, dry weekend in Waterloo, Iowa. Where meat comes from. From the Northern Regional Olympic Trials, the first step, where for twenty dollars any man can compete for a chance on the US Olympic Wrestling Team.”

It’s a story about what we love. It’s a story that made me sad, smile, and even laugh aloud on the plane a couple times.

Each part of the story is like a miniature conversation about wrestling, and to me each one was complete. Cauliflower ear, why the sport seems to be dying, cutting weight, the instant camaraderie when you recognize another wrestler, missing pain when you take a week off, the injuries, the brotherhood with your training partners, the shift toward MMA, having to quit after the major injury… I’ve never wrestled the way these guys have wrestled, but the experience seems to be universal to grappling.

I found myself thinking back to my own injuries and my own versions of each story. How Beth hates when I’m cranky, starved, and thirstier than I think I’ve ever been on the drive up for weigh-ins. The judo tournament where I was 0.2 lbs over after spending all morning running in the gym with my parka over my gi over my sweats, and forcing myself to finally make weight by sitting in the car with the heat cranked until a fifth of a pound of sweat was caked into my clothing. The feeling I get every time I see someone with cauliflower ear and I get this smirk as I ask “So, how long have you wrestled?” and they inevitably ask “How could you tell?” and I just point at my ear and I’ve never had anyone do anything but laugh and say something along the lines of “Yeah, that’s a dead giveaway isn’t it?” Being in my doctor’s office talking about how I really need to quit, but that I won’t. Any time where either I’ve accidentally injured a training partner whom I was close with or a close training partner has accidentally injured me and we just laugh about it because we know it wasn’t recklessness, but just the way the chips fall sometimes when you go hard.

It’s an incredible summary of the sport to me. I wish I could carry it around and when someone asks why I wrestle give it to them to read. I can’t really explain why I love what I love, but somehow the social proof is there when I’m not the one explaining why after umpteen broken bones, two heel hooks, and a couple of back injuries I’m still on the mat. When someone else explains for you, it makes loving what you do seem less insane because that guy loves it too.