Friday, June 6, 2014

What Do You Need to Teach in a Judo Class?

Recently, I read a comment someone made about a post I wrote a while back (and cannot find) where I explained why I take my Gompers Judo students to very few tournaments.

One reason is that I want them to have a great time. These are kids who have few advantages in life, and I want to add to their good experiences. With only one day a week to teach judo (hopefully expanding to two in the fall, with some help from my friends), choices have to be made about what to teach.

My students may know how to do a shoulder throw and an arm bar but not how to tie their belt perfectly. Their judo gis are mostly jiu-jitsu gis donated by the fabulously generous folks at Moya Brand (THANK YOU!) and a few more that my children and their friends outgrew.

Their gis might be too small or not the right color.

We went to an inter-club tournament with Guerreros and the always wonderful Guerreros families made us feel welcome and did not say a word.

We went to an inter-club tournament at Ogden's and Dave Overbury asked one of my students,

Is that a jiu-jitsu gi?

I got ready to fight, because I was NOT going to have anyone make one of my kids feel bad, and then Dave said,

That's really cool. I like the black gi. I have some jiu-jitsu gis myself. They're really comfortable.

Contrast that with the reaction they would have gotten at many tournaments, where they would have been yelled at and disqualified for not having the right color uniform, yelled at for not having their belt tied correctly.

So, to the comment --- someone on a forum had brought this up and asked if I was not even teaching my students to tie their belts or fall correctly how were they going to get along in life, not having learned to attend to the basics, to details.

Let me answer that  ... I've been listening to that bullshit all of my life.

 I definitely don't have the best falls (ukemi) . Partly that is due to bad knees that don't bend and partly due to not practicing it all that much. Nonetheless, I managed to win a world championships, Panamerican championships, the Pacific Rim and Austrian Open.

When I was a kid, the teachers told me that I would never get a good job with terrible handwriting. I have very bad eyesight that wasn't corrected until long after I started school and my handwriting was abysmal - still is. A million points to the Lions Club for the vision screening they fund in schools.

My mom, a very wise woman, had a different take on it,  she told me,
Go to graduate school, because you are going to need a secretary and a housekeeper your whole life, so you better make the money to afford it.

Mom was right. I don't clean house and my handwriting never improved.

My point  -  I think you are absolutely wrong if you think tying your belt and wearing the right color judo gi is the most important thing to teach. Here is what I want my students to gain from judo:

  1. Physical fitness.
  2. Friends who look out for one another.
  3. Self-confidence.
  4. Respect for themselves and their fellow students.
  5. Better grades and higher academic goals.
  6. Adult role models who are successful professionally, academically and personally.
  7. A good time for two hours after school, in a safe place.
  8. Better nutrition.
That's a lot to fit in to 35 lessons in a year. Somehow, belt tying didn't make it as a high priority.


LanceW said...

Hi, as per usual I totally agree with you!

I like your priority list and might cut and paste it the next time I am writing a note to parents.

I run some competitions and attend a few; nothing annoys me more than officials berating players(especially novices) about their suits or not wearing zori (especially not wearing zori when they are wearing running shoes or socks). Or when people take a a pot-shot because we don't have a full 3m safety or that we are blurry with kids weights so that we can put the kids together in the best ways.

Thanks for another great post.

Unknown said...

Bravo (as usual)! I think too many times people pay attention to the little details that in the long run don't really matter. When the kids in my martial arts class have their belts begining to fall off (from not being tied properly) I don't even think about it - I just help them retie it and have taught my adult students to help the kids the same. I've even been known to tell a kid to leave the belt on the floor if it falls off so they could finish the throw or technique. I would rather them have fun and learn the technique than look nice with a great tied belt. There is plenty of time to become more structured in expectations as the kids move into young adulthood or if they show a desire to take it to the next level.

I really like your point of teaching them to have each others backs. One of the lessons I try to teach is that we take care of each other and try to help each other succeed as well as stay out of trouble.

Teaching a kids class myself - I always love hearing you talk about the Gompers program!

Anonymous said...

Off the subject - please forgive me.

Ronda will soundly defeat Alexis Davis. Ronda is much more explosive than Alexis. Alexis is a pretty good striker, but she doesn't possess one punch knock out power. Alexis low kicks sting and the technique is good, but it also lacks power. Alexis is very durable and has very good submissions - proficient ground game. Alexis has a black belt in BJJ. Ronda's striking has improved and she will be able to out muscle Alexis. Ronda should be able to throw her and apply ground and pound. Ronda also could soften up Alexis and submit her with an armbar. The women's division doesn't have a deep talent pool at this time, but that should change in the immediate future.

Anonymous said...

As an aside - so would you be interested gently used gi donations for your program? If so, how should we get it to you?

Anonymous said...

From Blugandalf (a Ronda die-hard fan who reads everything about her - including your blog - almost on a daily basis):

I am not teaching any class.

But I like your principles in life, on work, about raising kids, etc. Wish I had a parent like you!

Anonymous said...

Hi i agree with what is said here, my kid has great seonage and kesagatame, but struggles with his belt and may add it just confuses him more when he notices all the different ways to tie the belt, but one thing that really pissed me off was i took him to gardena judo, just work out he likes training with coaches and kids, he has been at hayastan , Ogden, and they all have been great, bit they gave me such a hard time there. There were a lot of coaches there and were super nice to him and welcomed him but when one of the head coached arrived wow! made such a big deal what school was he from ? what was his usjf card or member id number that he cant train there because blah blah blah, finally one of the other coaches just pretty much told him to lighten up!!! i mean seriously some kids have heart and want to train and if we as teachers and coaches cant embrace that and overlook stupid things like that then why bother teaching?