Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Stuff is Ugly but it Works

Within the span of two weeks, I have seen two separate people, both good coaches, former outstanding competitors, demonstrate a technique that I have never seen work in competition. They looked really good doing it, though. Both of these coaches, I saw compete on many occasions "back in the day" and never once did I see them even attempt the technique being demonstrated.

One of the coaches trained at many of the same practices with me when we were young. I might have seen him do the technique he demonstrated once or twice on someone half his size or a new white belt.

Often, whether at a clinic or when visiting a practice, when coaches are asked to demonstrate several techniques an odd thing happens. First, they show the techniques they do best, the ones they have won matches with. Most of those techniques are pretty basic - throws like o soto gari . Everyone has seen o soto gari. It's not fancy and shiny new but it wins one hell of a lot of matches.
After that, the instructor seems to feel that he or she should do something "impressive", so then they move on to "let me show you this trick".

I feel a little funny watching these demonstrations because, quite the opposite of the perfect posture and exotic techniques that many people show, I don't look like a textbook at all. For example, in the transition from a shoulder throw to a pin I showed on this blog the other day, I have terrible technique. My knees are not bent and my back is, the exact opposite of the way seoi nage is taught. Of course, as I explained, I do it that way because my knees don't bend.

So, what should I do, show the technique the way it appears in the textbooks? Or the way I actually do it?

In the end, I decided to go with the way I actually threw people in competition and then went into the arm bar, not the way the books SAY you are supposed to have done it. I am sure some people will look at the book and say, "That's not the way you're supposed to do it."

Maybe I don't look pretty doing my techniques. Maybe I don't have the best-looking, most impressive clinics. I've heard people comment sometimes after clinics,

"That guy looked a lot more impressive and taught a lot more techniques. His looked a lot better than hers. I thought she was supposed to be good. I wonder how she ever won that much."

One reason, I guess, is that I was only worried about winning, in any way the rules allowed, and not at all about looking good.

The question that still puzzles me, though, is WHY people who really do know judo, who were legitimate competitors, who should know better, still demonstrate techniques that I've never seen be effective in competition, whether done by them or anyone else.

These are the kinds of questions I'd usually discuss with Jim as we are working on The Book but since he is in Japan for the next couple of weeks coaching, if anyone else has any opinions, please feel free to jump in.


Jorge Almeida said...

I think that people should demonstrate and train the techniques the best way they can. The textbook form. Not because it is the textbook, but because the textbook has the best demonstration of the technique where the center of gravity is the most efficient, where the grips are the best and so on.
For example: I doubt that you do your seio nage as you showed on the photos. I assume that you do not stop to look at the camera, that you hip on photo 3 is further out and that you most of the times roll into a makikomi rather than standing up holding the sleeve. The grip that you have with your right hand also seems weak.
This said, a lot of throws are done as you have shown because in competition the Uke is not there smiling. He is pulling, pushing and moving. However, this does not mean that we should do uchikomi and practice throws already half badly done. We should aim for the perfect form in the training so that we do half a good throw in competition. At the same time, you see a lot of throws in the competition done as the one by the book.

On another point, a lot of fancy throws and tricks that do not work in competition can help your other techniques by focusing on something that you had not thought about. The fancy throws and tricks can also just be a fun period during a training session. Not everything has to be hard and dry. Sometimes judo is also fun and you never know what can trigger the imagination of someone to try something new that will actually work well for them in competition. It also gives time for you to roll around with the other players and make friends.

Can you give examples of fancy techniques and tricks that people have taught that are not used in competition?
The other day in the club someone was teaching this turnout
and you can see it here being used by Zantaraia in competition
We can discuss how safe it is and how many people have dislocated their elbow and shoulder doing this, but for this one person, this turnout works very well. Should it be taught in clinics? Maybe. Was it fun to try it during a training session? Yes. Am I going to incorporate it in my judo? No.

I see the role of the invited instructor as someone that should teach some of their best techniques and explain why and how they work in competition, but he can also bring something new that he has learnt, that is different and it might be beneficial to some athletes and fun for the rest of the class.

So you do not look like a textbook. You use very practical judo. You use mostly a few throws techniques. You have very strong matwork that you build like a lego and you can armbar from any starting position. This looks like a very impressive repertoire and program for any clinic. However, it would be way less impressive if everyone would be teaching the same.

Anonymous said...

Karlos said:

Koga credits his brother for being strict on the fundamentals for Ippon Seoi Nage (lego base piece). If it wasn't for the fundamentals, he would not have came up with his modified Seoi Nage.

Koga's video shows the fundamentals and the way he performs the techniques.

One of my instructors tells us that his judo is ugly and he could less about the big pretty throws. He pushes the fundamentals so we can build our base then shows us other ways of doing the techniques (ugly judo).

You should show both ways in your book.

Euphrates said...

I've seen this in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu seminars as well. Lots of fancy moves. The problem being, most people don't learn anything from it. Maybe the person giving the seminar feels they will get their money's worth from showing the fancy stuff. I take another approach which is "if I didn't learn anything, it wasn't worth my money, time, etc."

I say break it down but in more generic terms. Think about the objective of the throw instead of all the pieces. What are you trying to accomplish in the throw. Let it develop from there. The reason? Because everyone is the same, yet everyone is different. We are the same in that we have two arms, two legs, a head, we stand and walk upright, etc and so forth. However, some of us have longer/shorter arms, legs, necks, some of us stand and walk differently. Some of us are wider, thinner, etc.

As such, there are different things that need to be accomplished because of this (example: a shorter person doesn't have to bend their legs for a hip throw as much as a taller person). Give them an idea of the mechanics but understand that you have to allow some freedom of expression. I think this is where we ALL get caught up at.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Jorge -
I am not going to call out anyone personally or show someone demonstrating something I think would never work. I think that i just rude.

I think you missed the point of my post. I do my seoi nage EXACTLY like that because my knees do not work.

Good point about doing the fancy throws and tricks just for fun, though. There is nothing wrong with that at all.

I see a lot of examples of chokes that don't work in competition. Usually these involve putting all of your weight on a person while he or she just lays still and lets you reach in and get a grip on one or both lapels. My thought is always, "what idiot would let you do that?"

Jorge Almeida said...

Thanks for your comment. I was asking for techniques that are not very useful in competition without naming people that showed them. I realize now that it would be difficult not to connect them with the instructor and as you said, that would be rude. Sorry for the question.

I think chokes are great distractions while you are working on the floor to get the armlocks or pins but they are very difficult to apply in competition. It is more a hit the very narrow window that you can put the choke or forget about it. I was trying to get some statistics about the use of chokes in the olympic games and I have only found the one from atlanta 96
Shime-waza gave the smallest contribution to the wins.
However, I think that shime-waza should be taught in judo but it should also be put in perspective of what works and of what doesn't work if you want to win a gold medal.

This also comes down to what are your expectations of the clinics and of the invited instructors. Are they there to change someone's judo and make them world champions or are they just another pinch of salt on the athletes' training program. I only used the clinics to perfect some of my techniques, sometimes to understand better the dynamics and physic of the throws. However, I think that your coach/coaches/town judo association that gathers the best players for training/national selection has a much bigger impact on your judo than how many clinics you attend. If you speak about judo camps and month training on other countries, I must agree that it brings a considerable benefit to your judo. But the sporadic bimonthly clinic with an invited star will do very little to make someone a world champion.

Steve Scott said...

Maurice Allen told me in 1976 "Make your judo work for you." That statement changed my entire perpesctive of how to do judo, how to train in judo and how to teach judo. Fundamentals are called "fundamentals" for a reason. they are the core skills, movement and strategies of judo (or any other activity). Up to meeting Maurice, I tried to do what I know define as "pretty" judo. While it was fundamentally correct, it wasn't functional. AnnMaria's judo style worked for her and her approach to doing judo works for other people as well. Women judo athletes in the early years when AnnMaria was competing, were looked down upon by many people. The women who fought like AnnMaria, where they stretched opponent's arms, choked them until they passed out or (in other words) did judo that would win for them were not viewed with favor by the judo "establishment." AnnMaria, like a lot of other women (and men for that matter)wanted to win and had less concern for how pretty their judo looked to sports commentators, the audience or to people who never competed in the sport of judo.
Sure, AnnMaria's judo was "ugly" to an untrained eye or someone with a different agenda than winning; but the fact remains that her judo worked for her and her training philosophy works for other people as well (her daughter Ronda is a good example).
I'm looking forward to AnnMaria's adn Jim's book.

dave schaeffer said...

Reminds me of my sons wrestling coach who told him to stop doing Judo throws. I thought, "Yea Josh, why would you want to get a takedown and thus 2 points in a wrestling match, anyway????

dave schaeffer said...

Reminds me of my sons wrestling coach who told him to stop doing Judo throws. I thought, "Yea Josh, why would you want to get a takedown and thus 2 points in a wrestling match, anyway????