Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Humbling Experience, in a Good Way


We had another fabulous Sunday clinic today at the USJA/ USJF West Coast Judo Training Center. Hayward Nishioka and Kenji Osugi taught foot techniques and I learned an enormous amount.

These two men are a living example of a simple fact that many of us forget, it takes a long time to get really good at judo.

Neil Adams, a world champion and two-time Olympic silver medalist from Great Britain made this exact same point in an interview recently. Far too often we are focused on Olympic medals and try to rush development. He attributes his success to the fact that his father did not let that happen with him.

Kenji and Hayward talked very little about competing today. Like Jake last week, they talked a lot about technique, about the little things, getting your foot right, having your hips thrust forward, pulling your hand toward your ear like you are hitch-hiking.

Kenji covered every little detail about foot sweeps, which was really cool.



As Hayward put it,

"Be proud of your belly-button! Thrust it forward on your foot sweeps."


Hayward showed a foot sweep but he also showed a wide variety of other techniques. So, while Kenji's presentation was deep, Hayward's was broad.


We practice o soto gari to ko soto gari, o soto gari to sasae tsurikomi ashi, okuri ashi barai to ko soto gari.

If you don't know what those words mean, you probably are part of the "looking for a short cut" crowd. Sorry, but it is true. If you do things like go to three hours of practice on Sunday you have time to learn the words for techniques and to learn how to do lots of different combinations.


It made me humble, proud, happy and sad all at the same time. I was humble because I have known both of these men for a long time and I never realized how much they both know. I knew they knew a lot of judo but it was even more than I thought. I was proud because I think part of the reason they did such a good job teaching today as that our team and those visiting were such good learners. I recognized in Hayward and Kenji something I see in myself also. If you really do know a lot about judo, you don't feel the need to prove it. If, as so often happens, someone, usually a teenager or young adult comes to the dojo with an attitude of superiority,

"What can you teach me, old person? Look what I won!",

you just don't bother to waste your time. As the old saying goes, you can't teach Calculus to a horse. It just wastes your time and it irritates the horse. I was proud of all of those who attended the clinic today because they came seriously intending to learn. They were attentive and respectful, as well as being good judo players and good athletes. They were all the type of students who are a delight to teach.

It made me sad because all of those players who don't realize what they are missing. There was SO much knowledge in the room today. The best thing I learned was the opposite side o soto gari to sasae. You step in on the left as if you are going to do o soto but you don't use your left leg. You step with your right and get the opponent to lean forward to stop your throw. Then, you turn, block their ankle with your left foot and throw with right-sided sasae. And, if you don't know what I am talking about now you see why I said you should have learned the words for throws.

And, finally, I felt happy to be there, happy to be having this opportunity to learn more judo, happy to have given this opportunity to our players. When we started the USJA/ USJF West Coast Judo Training Center, one of the hopes we had was that players from clubs around the area would be given the opportunity to learn more and develop their judo. None of us knows as much as all of us.

When I started judo, my instructor was a first degree black belt who had learned judo in the air force. He did a great job inspiring kids to want to learn more judo. In fact, at least three of his students, me, Randall Rhodes in Missouri and Tim Schultheiss in Illinois are teaching judo today. He did not, however, have the experience of someone like Hayward, who has been in judo over 50 years, competed, refereed and coached at the world level. I never had the opportunity to learn foot techniques from someone who was best in the world at them and by the time I was winning national medals I felt like I had to train and focus on winning. I didn't have the time to start something new that would take years to get the timing right.

Today, we had 16 people from 8 different clubs on the mat - San Gabriel, Sawtelle, Pasadena, Los Angeles City College, Tenri, Discover, Guerreros and Hayastan.

I was happy to be there, happy to be doing what I was doing and happy to be doing it with the people I was with. Afterwards, I went for ice cream with all of the youngest players. They had a lot of comments about the clinic.

"I never knew that guy Hayward was so funny. He was great."
"Yeah, that story about how he almost threw the girl with the footsweep when he was dancing with her was funny. He had a lot of funny stories."
"Kenji was funny, too. I can't believe he said that about where ken-ken o soto gari came from. In front of the parents, too!"
"That was gross - but in a funny way!"
"That o soto gari was great. I think I am going to do that."
"I liked that o soto to ko soto, too."




They were great. Even if you were over twelve. (And man, am I EVER over 12 years old!) We are going to have them back. Don't miss it.

============ JUDO TIP ======================

As if those weren't enough... another thing I was happy about. I tried to think about what Ronda had in her development that other people did not. She went to Tenri, she went to Hayastan, she ran, she lifted weights. I think one big advantage she had is a lot of days just like today. We went to San Shi and she threw me on the crash pad with Jake saying, "Pull this hand up, turn your head". We went to Ogden's where she would throw me on the crash pads more with Brian Marks saying, "Push with this hand more. Turn your hip that way." We went to Los Angeles City College where Hayward said, "Try this grip. Now try it like this." We did thousands of repetitions on the mat with me saying, "Lock the arm against your body. You armbar somebody with your hips, not your arms. Arch."

All of those hours and attention paid off for her, and now we are doing it for other people's kids. It is paying off. Sammy no longer gets countered. Julia is doing combinations. Erin is doing counters. Amber is throwing lots of people. Crystal is armbarring people.

It's actually worth getting up early in the morning to be there.

3 comments:

B said...

Aloha from Hawaii!

It is a little different for us in Hawaii because we have Judo as a high school sport! I think we are the only state that has high school judo.

There are pros and cons to this, so I will start with the cons.

CONS:
The problem is that there is still a mix of experienced "dojo" competitors and "high school" competitors. While "high school" judo has increased enrollment into various dojos, it is often short-lived as they graduate and move on to college.

Another problem is that some "experienced" competitors who have potential to become world class judokas fall into the trap of having a false sense of security. I have seen it too many times where a once national champion become "too confident" in being "the best" in high school judo, but when they return, they find that they are "not as good as they thought." And as their priorities change towards their career goals, judo is pushed aside without them even giving themselves a chance.

PROS:

I started with the "cons" first because I always like to "finish strong!" hehe.

Anyways, the brighter side of it is that once in a while, we "recruit" new judokas into the martial art/sport of Judo who finds it becoming their passion. These are far and few between, but the effort is worth it, I think. They might not be the national champion or an olympic hopeful, but the lessons they learn from judo always have a positive impact on their lives.

On another note, high school judo always start off with a "blue & white" tournament where those with less than a year of experience are pooled into one category. This "novice" division give those with less than a years experience to compete, gain experience, and experience winning! The high school judo season always starts off with two of these tournaments, the latter having a non-novice division as well, so that the experienced judokas can compete also.

I am not a high school judo coach, but I am a sensei here in Hawaii. I think that it is an excellent idea to have such a tournament for those who "start late" in judo. This will boost their confidence and give them a sense of accomplishment that they can build upon.

However, we have trained students for less than a year who have become national champions. It is not because they are talented, but because their work ethics "paid off." I often find these students to be the one always asking questions and who are always practicing (even before/after class). They put in the extra effort and it pays off.

So my advice to these "older new judokas" is to put in extra time if they can before/after practice... and even when not in the dojo. I often "teach" my students how they can practice at home without a partner (you just have to get creative!) so that they can practice judo anytime. And if all else fails, mental practice (visualizations/affirmations) can be done anytime of the day/night.

Thanks for listening to me ramble on and on.
And thank you for a wonderful blog!

Aloha and Best Wishes!

B said...

Aloha from Hawaii!

It is a little different for us in Hawaii because we have Judo as a high school sport! I think we are the only state that has high school judo.

There are pros and cons to this, so I will start with the cons.

CONS:
The problem is that there is still a mix of experienced "dojo" competitors and "high school" competitors. While "high school" judo has increased enrollment into various dojos, it is often short-lived as they graduate and move on to college.

Another problem is that some "experienced" competitors who have potential to become world class judokas fall into the trap of having a false sense of security. I have seen it too many times where a once national champion become "too confident" in being "the best" in high school judo, but when they return, they find that they are "not as good as they thought." And as their priorities change towards their career goals, judo is pushed aside without them even giving themselves a chance.

PROS:

I started with the "cons" first because I always like to "finish strong!" hehe.

Anyways, the brighter side of it is that once in a while, we "recruit" new judokas into the martial art/sport of Judo who finds it becoming their passion. These are far and few between, but the effort is worth it, I think. They might not be the national champion or an olympic hopeful, but the lessons they learn from judo always have a positive impact on their lives.

On another note, high school judo always start off with a "blue & white" tournament where those with less than a year of experience are pooled into one category. This "novice" division give those with less than a years experience to compete, gain experience, and experience winning! The high school judo season always starts off with two of these tournaments, the latter having a non-novice division as well, so that the experienced judokas can compete also.

I am not a high school judo coach, but I am a sensei here in Hawaii. I think that it is an excellent idea to have such a tournament for those who "start late" in judo. This will boost their confidence and give them a sense of accomplishment that they can build upon.

However, we have trained students for less than a year who have become national champions. It is not because they are talented, but because their work ethics "paid off." I often find these students to be the one always asking questions and who are always practicing (even before/after class). They put in the extra effort and it pays off.

So my advice to these "older new judokas" is to put in extra time if they can before/after practice... and even when not in the dojo. I often "teach" my students how they can practice at home without a partner (you just have to get creative!) so that they can practice judo anytime. And if all else fails, mental practice (visualizations/affirmations) can be done anytime of the day/night.

Thanks for listening to me ramble on and on.
And thank you for a wonderful blog!

Aloha and Best Wishes!

site said...

So, I do not really imagine this is likely to have success.