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!