Saturday, 24 November 2012

It's revision time!

by Jon Cronshaw

A lot has happened for me in the last ten weeks: I became a dad, and realised how much I’d taken for granted simple things like a good night’s sleep or having clothes free of baby sick; I started going to the gym with the intention of improving my conditioning and core strength; and I went from being utterly rubbish at Judo to being slightly better at Judo after completing the British Judo Association’s Adult Beginners’ Course at Pudsey Judo, Leeds.

On this coming Monday, I have my first grading, and looking through the requirements, I have come to realise that I am confident with the throws and techniques demanded, but I’m going to have to teach myself some of the Japanese terminology and hopefully make it stick.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always been rubbish with learning languages. It’s not that I’m particularly stupid, or even have trouble remembering things. In fact, I’m quite an educated guy. There’s just something about trying to learn foreign words in an abstract way that doesn’t seem to work for me. I’m hoping that by writing about them, something will start to stick.

The first grading in Judo is known as the 6th Kyu, and will see my white belt being replaced with a red one. The assessment is divided into four key sections: Fundamental Skills, Tachi-waza, Performance Skills, and Terminology.

Fundamental Skills

I’m confident with performing the Fundamental Skills, which are essentially the different varieties of break-fall:

Ushiro Ukemi – or backwards break-fall.

Yoko Ukemi – or sidewards break-fall.

Mae Mawari Ukemi – or forward rolling break-fall.

I’m can perform all three Ukemi without issue so long as I remain relaxed (which nine times out of ten I do).


Tachi-waza, or standing techniques, refers to throws and sweeps performed from a standing position. For our first grading we have to choose two out of the three possible techniques to demonstrate. Luckily, we’ve done these moves quite a few times now, so I’ll be happy doing any of them.

Osoto-Otoshi (or large outer drop) – this takes me back to my first weeks of Judo, before starting the ABC. This move is very simple, but very effective for getting a partner down onto the mat. From a sleeve and collar grip, you simply side-step parallel with your partner, put your right leg behind theirs and sweep your foot backwards so as to bring them down onto the mat. There are quite a few transition options for this move which I hope to expand upon in the future.

Deashi-barai (or Forward Foot Sweep) – this is one of those moves that make you realise that Judo is as much about rhythm as it is mechanics. It’s a quick and easy way to take your opponent to the mat, but requires quite precise timing. In practice we have performed the move after a two step build up, though I imagine that this is impractical in a competition setting. The technique requires you to perform a quick skip, and sweep the outer leg of your partner, whilst simultaneously helping them along with a twist of the collar and a pull of the sleeve.

Uki-Goshi (or Floating Hip) – this is a technique that we spent almost an entire session learning, having to throw one person after another in quick succession onto a crash mat. The drill-like aspect of the teaching really hammered the technique home, and I feel really confident with this one. It’s a great move to take someone down the mat who is much taller than you, but equally requires a lot more effort when working with a shorter person as your hips need to act as a pivot below theirs.

Performance Techniques

As well as demonstrating two of the Tachi-waza, we also have to choose two out of three Osaekomi-waza, which are essentially pinning techniques. Again, I feel confident demonstrating these moves, and can even remember the Japanese names for them. Kesa-Gatame (or Scarf Hold) – This is quite a simple ground hold where you have to lean back into your partner’s armpit and grip around the back of their neck with both hands while keeping your legs at right angles to ensure a secure hold. This is an easy move to transition into, but seems to be quite easy to reverse.
We must demonstrate the Leg Wrap escape for this move, which isn’t strictly an escape, but it will cause the referee in competition to order a break.
We must also transition from an Osoto-Otoshi into the Kesa-Gatame, which is something that I now find myself instinctively moving for.

Mune-Gatame (or Chest Hold) – this move is devastating if you can lock it in. Your partner is essentially immobilised between your knees and clasped hands. This is a move that I want to keep improving upon, as I can see it being an excellent weapon in competition.
The escape for the Mune-Gatame I’ve found rather difficult to do. Though in theory I can do the Bridge Roll movement, I think that I’ve only successfully utilised it once. Hopefully my partner on the day of grading will allow me to demonstrate the technique without fighting too much against it.
We must also demonstrate the transition from the Deashi-Barai into the Mune-Gatame. I’m fine with this, but I need to get quicker at getting into the correct position and locking it in before my partner can attempt an escape.

Kazure-Kesa-Gatame (or Broken Scarf Hold) – this is a variation of the Kesa-Gatame, and for me seems like a more adaptable move than the original. It is very similar in execution to the Kesa-Gatame, except in that you pull in at your partners opposite shoulder to create a similar trapping predicament as the Mune-Gatame.
The Sit Up reversal escape for this move is the one that I find easiest – it is simply a case of rotating your body so that it’s parallel with your partner, and the simply sitting up and reversing the move.
Again, we must demonstrate how to use this move from a throw. In this instance it is the transition from the Uki-Goshi to the Kazure-Kesa-Gatame that we are required to demonstrate.


Finally, and this is the part I think that I’ll have most trouble with, we have a series of Japanese terms that we must know in order to pass our grading:

Dojo – Judo Hall

Judogi – Judo Suit

Zori – Flip Flop

Hajime – Begin

Matte – Break

Osaekomi – Holding

Rei – Bow

Toketa – Hold Broken

Randori – Free Practice

Of these terms, I already know Dojo, JudoGi, Hajime, Matte, Rei and Randori. This means I’ve only got to remember the names of the break-falls and the three remaining terms. Finally, we have to show that we know how to dress ourselves and be able to name the founder and country of origin of Judo (Kano and Japan respectively). Luckily for me, I’m fine with dressing myself and learning about history.

Bring on the grading!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Adult Beginners' Course - second session

by Jon Cronshaw

Last night we attended the second session of the Judo Adult Beginners’ Course. We began by recapping what we had been over the week before including back rolling break-falls. After a warm-up we repeated the exercise from last week where a person is called up on the mat, you then sit on their back and drop backwards into a back rolling break-fall. I felt much more confident with this move than last week, and rolled through each time comfortably.

We went over the movement for the Osoto Otoshi. This is the move I wrote about last time where you step around the side of your opponent, put your leg behind theirs, and twist them down. We had learnt this move in our previous classes before starting the ABC, so I felt confident with this, and when I worked with different partners I could help keep them right (though I did get kicked in the shin and have my toe stood on a couple of times!). Once confident with this, we were shown how to take three steps while gripping your partner and then performing the move. This was quite challenging at first, mainly because I was over-thinking the motion. If I had just felt it rather than tried to rationalise the steps, I would have probably got it sooner.

We went over some basic groundwork including the theory behind pinning an opponent and how to perform a Kese-Gatame (scarf hold). I was paired with someone quite a bit shorter and lighter than me, and I was quite surprised at how effective the hold was. To perform the move, your partner lies on their back and you sit up into their armpits. You then have to take hold of the back of the collar and pull their arm into you. You then tuck your head down, which puts all of your weight across their chest and levers their arm so that they can’t sit up. One locked in, you have to move your legs so that your right leg is pointing out straight, parallel with your partner’s collar bone, and the left leg is bent as to provide extra leverage if needed.

Once we had the Kese-Gatame technique down it was time to link all we had learnt. We had to transition from the Osoto Otoshi into the Kese-Gatame in one fluid motion. I didn’t actually have time to do this, as by the time we had gone through the move for my partner, ‘Matte’ was called and the exercise was over.

Finally, we did some free-grappling exercises with a couple of different partners. This involved starting in a back-to-back position, before facing each other whilst kneeling, with the objective being to pin the other person. Firstly, I was against Colin, and we tried to take each other down, but to no avail – a dead heat. I was then partnered with someone else who tried to pull me down, but I pulled him down using the direction of his bodyweight and pinned him using the Kese-Gatame. After squirming for a few moments, and trying to escape the hold by using his legs, he submitted.

Overall, this was a fun session. I especially enjoyed the free-grappling at the end. This gave me the opportunity to put into practice the moves that I had learnt during the session, and get a feel of how to control and counter an opponent.

I spoke to the Chairman of the club briefly about what we had talked about the previous week regarding the Paralympics, and he advised me to work on my fitness and conditioning. He suggested going running, but with my eyesight I’m not confident with running. I think I will continue swimming, do squats and sit-ups, and build up stamina by doing more miles on my exercise bike.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Judo - Why am I doing this to myself?

by Colin Cox

As this is my first post on here, I thought that I would explain why I've decided to pay good money to get ritualistically beaten up on a weekly basis.

I've been meaning to do it for a while, but being a master procrastinator, I've had a million excuses to not do it, each more feeble than the last, probably.

It came to a head recently when I failed a medical examination to become a bus driver because I have a history of depression and because I am too heavy (because in order to drive a bus you need to be a fucking Adonis).  This was a severe knock because I have a failing business and ever spiralling debts.

After talking to Jon Cronshaw, he insisted that now is the time and that I have no more excuses - how right he was.

So off we went to Pudsey Judo Club. We turned up on a Tuesday evening, four weeks ago and at first I honestly thought I'd made a mistake when I saw a large group of people who were clearly very advanced at the sport.  Thankfully, after talking to one of the coaches (Martin Baum), I was made to feel very welcome and at ease knowing that I was only there to do my best and not to go nuts.

Jon and I were then introduced to Robert Taylor (I think, it may possibly have been his twin brother, David) who showed us some basics such as how to fall backwards and forwards and some basic throws and pins which I do not remember the names of.

Week one was now in the books, the hardest step on a journey is apparently the first, and thankfully that was out of the way.

We've been back twice more and signed up to the beginners' course provided by the British Judo Association, £60 for a Judo Gi (suit), diary, grading and ten one hour beginner lessons which concentrate on technique.  This was both a bargain and exceedingly useful as going back to basics has shown me a couple of flaws that I need to correct (back break-fall especially).

Since I have been attending Judo classes, I have lost nearly a stone, started eating better, exercising more and generally being more energetic.  I've also rather painfully discovered muscles that I never knew I had.

I really would love to see how far I can take myself in Judo and Pudsey Judo club has shown me the way forward.

How far can I progress?  Who knows - but it's going to be fun finding out. 

Adult Beginners' Course - first session

by Jon Cronshaw

My friend Colin and I have decided to take up Judo. I’m visually impaired and have been looking for a martial art that I can partake in that does not require peripheral vision. This was no easy task; over the years I’ve looked at Karate, Aikido, Kick Boxing and Wing Chun – all of them require peripheral vision and all of them I have eventually given up on. Looking around the martial arts landscape of Leeds, I decided that Judo might just work: it’s a martial art about movement and feeling, and doesn’t seem to be about dodging kicks or ducking punches.

We decided to start going to the Judo class run by Pudsey Judo Club on a Tuesday evening. In the class they took us through some basic throws and grappling techniques, and I’ve really enjoyed myself so far. I was impressed by the fact that some of the tutors at the club have had experience with the visually impaired, with one having worked with the Japanese Paralympic team. They have made me feel welcome and confident, and this can often be the first, and deciding factor as to whether to continue.

I’ve found over the years that there can be a lot of machismo and ego involved in martial arts classes – I’ve always ended up getting paired with a guy who thinks he’s in a fight, whose there to prove how much of a bad-ass he is rather than wanting to learn the techniques. This is why Colin is such a good training partner: we trust each other, and we are both there to learn and become technicians of the sport. And the people at Pudsey Judo are all very friendly and encouraging – there doesn’t seem to be this ego thing, but rather a commitment to improvement.

After four weeks of attending these sessions, we enrolled on the British Judo Association’s Adult Beginners’ Course (ABC) at a bargain price of £60 for ten lessons, a Judo-gi (a Judo suit), a log-book, first grading and membership to the BJA, and last night we had our first session.

After a warm-up with stretches and some cardio exercises to get the heart rate going, the session was very much back-to-basics, and gave us the opportunity to hone our technique before moving onto more advanced moves. We went over back break-falls and back rolling break-falls. I’m quite confident with break-falls, and feel happy taking bumps on the mat. There was one exercise where we had to take a back rolling break-fall from a sitting position, tipping backwards over someone else’s back. Colin did one of these and didn’t manage to curl his neck in or use his arms to spread the force of the impact: it looked quite painful, and I think that’s an area to focus on before anything else. I don’t want him tapping out too soon!

We then went over the basic collar and sleeve grip, and spent a while moving around with a partner controlling their movement and trying to make them step on a plastic cone. We swapped partners a few times, and it was pretty knackering after about 10-15 minutes of doing this. If I don’t manage to pick up the technical aspects of the sport as well as I’d like to, I think that the benefits to my fitness and conditioning will make it worthwhile.

We then did some basic exercises which were about reaction and balance. In the first we had to face a partner, and as they side-stepped left and right, we had to keep in line with them. In the second, we had to stand side-by-side with a partner with a wide stance, facing opposite directions. We then had to shake hands, and try to make the other person move their feet by only pulling at their hands– this gave us a real sense of our bodies’ centre of balance, and how we can use direction rather than strength to take someone off balance.

Finally, we learnt the technique to perform an outer-leg sweep take down, whereby you move to your opponent’s side and take them down by kneeling into the back of their knee. It’s very simple and very effective. We had learnt this move a few weeks prior, and so felt confident with the sweep action, as well the step into the move (the other beginners just did the final part).

At the end of the session, we were shown a demonstration of some of the showier moves in Judo by some of the black belts such as a Tominagi, which I recognised as one of Ken’s throws from Street Fighter II. It was good to see how fluid and fast the moves can be when not done by beginners.

After the session was over, the Chairman of the club came and spoke to me. He asked me my age, then added four years to it: “hmm – that’s not so bad”. I wondered what he was calculating and lo and behold, he brought up the 2016 Paralympics, saying that he thought it was a perfectly reasonable time frame. Madness!

Can I really become an elite athlete in four years? We shall see.