I woke up this morning, got out of bed, and hobbled to the shower. It’s been a long time since that heel hook. Most days I’m functional. Some days I’m crippled. Today there is an ache and I feel like I’m not moving how I should be. I stretched out my ankle. I taped it up for the regular day. If I go to judo tonight it will be just for structured practice (drilling, uchi komi, explicitly not randori). The ankle still fatigues after bursts of exertion, especially on the ground. The pain builds up and I have to stop. One or two rounds of standing randori is the best night I can hope for. Some phenomenal days I manage two plus some ground work.

I don’t feel like the ankle is healing. I can do the PT exercises. I can balance on one leg, but the duration doesn’t increase before the pain sets in. 26-years-old and I already feel like I’ve been forced into retirement; that I’m at the point where what I’m limited to is the old man exercises.

Judo has something for this. It’s called kata. I’m aware of an analogue in BJJ. It’s an old concept. Older than judo. In jujitsu you’d do kata for years before doing randori. It’s a predetermined set of movements. Uke moves with a predetermined attack, tori responds with a predetermined defense. You need to know at least one kata (typically Nage No Kata) for a black belt in judo. There are separate kata for throws, the ground, traditional throws, self defense scenarios, you name it.

Back when I competed in judo every tournament would start with older individuals doing a kata competition. They’re judged on how well they execute the predetermined throws from predetermined positions as well as some circumstance around it. You face certain ways to bow. You fix your jacket in a certain manner, and only at certain times. Your uke falls a certain way. It all felt very silly back then, but now I see that it may be the best way to be able to keep doing judo when I can’t even do randori properly without being in pain simply from moving. The guys who do a lot of kata know the throws very well. You have to be crisp and well-rehearsed. It’s very staged, but it doesn’t lessen what it teaches you.

Dear 19-year-old me: It’s not even a full eight years later and you’re now one of those old guys you couldn’t understand.

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:

Continue reading

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.