Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Judo vs. MMA: An old-timey view

Perhaps the night before I leave for judo camp isn't the best time to contrast judo and MMA. Or maybe it is. Or maybe I don't care because I'm going to do it anyway.

Having decided to take a break from work for a couple of hours, I went to Hayastan Martial Arts Academy to watch Ronda at practice. One of the first things I noticed was Manny's new car with the license plate UFCANVIL, which I am pretty sure he paid for with the money he earned from MMA and not judo. I don't know anything about cars, so don't ask me what kind it was. It was white, that's what kind it was.

I was impressed with Manny's training, and I told him so. I've known him since he was just a kid and I don't know if it was maturity, that he is getting paid or that MMA just clicked with him but he looked better than I ever saw him at judo practice. I told him, and I sincerely mean it, that if our judo players all trained like he did tonight we'd be winning a lot more medals. He went with one partner after another after another. What was different from most judo practices is that there wasn't a coach telling him to do it. This is the point where people email me and tell me that THEIR club is different, that their players go one round after another in randori without anyone telling them to do it. No, actually, they don't. I have been to a lot of judo clubs and seen a lot of people fooling themselves about how hard they work. Even when they do go round after round, there is a lot of coasting going on.

This isn't to say there weren't the usual wall-clingers at Hayastan, too. There were, and that's not all bad either. I'm 52 years old and I don't do matwork 45 minutes non-stop any more, and that's okay.

There were also coaches at Hayastan - Gene Lebell, Gokor Chivichyan and someone I didn't know were all three on the mat while I was there. The difference is that they were monitoring the practice, not interfering with it. The coaches took turns teaching the less experienced students, both in a group and individually. This is different from a lot of judo practices I have seen where practice repeatedly gets interrupted by an instructor who wants to teach something.  Teaching is perfectly fine, it's great, but don't stop someone in the middle of the match. Do it afterward or before, but not during.

Not sure this is as much a comparison of MMA versus judo as good coaching versus mediocre coaching.

Three times tonight I was asked, by three people who had been in judo even longer ago than me (yes, and they're not dead, amazing, huh?) what I thought of judo versus MMA. We discussed it and agreed that we see more similarities between judo back in our day and MMA than between judo then and judo now. Essentially, MMA is old time judo with punching thrown in. (There may have been a few punches thrown back in our day. We all plead the fifth. )

Judo now disallows throws where you grab the leg, so it is possible to pick someone four feet off the mat, slam her, and lose the match. That's just stupid. There is a crazy amount of time spent having people go back to the tape and adjust their gis, which makes about as much sense and is about as interesting as if you stopped football players every 10 yards and had them adjust their jockstraps. (I am assuming they wear jockstraps and I am NOT interested in any details about it so if you know, just keep that to yourself.) There is a lot of time spent flailing around to get a grip and then walking around.

None of this is to say that there aren't fabulous judo players out there who are exciting to watch. However, if we really wanted to turn judo into a sport that people want to watch, it would seem a good plan to make it resemble MORE the things that people watch, like wrestling, MMA or even the National Spelling Bee, than less so. (Okay, I don't really know how we can make it resemble the National Spelling Bee but I do know that they get a whole lot more air time than judo which is kind of depressing. Maybe we could have the players name each technique in Japanese and then spell it after performing it. Just an idea.)

Judo in my era (Paleozoic, I think it was), was more like a fight in a bar. Now it is more like a fight after Christmas dinner where your Grandpa comes in and lectures you in the middle of it and makes you sit down on the sofa. Then, when his back is turned, you start fighting again.

If you think I am saying judo is wimpy now, you have never witnessed a fight in my house.

This isn't to say I am completely convinced that MMA isn't about as intellectual as biting rocks in half. One aspect that has really UNimpressed me is the number of times Ronda has had fights set up and then the competition has backed out at the last minute. Gokor thinks that is an unfair comparison and he asked me how many local and regional judo tournaments Ronda had entered where she had no one to compete against. Fair point.

In conclusion, it reminds me of the time many years ago when we had just come back from MacWorld Expo and we (me, my husband and the president of the Mac Hackers User Group) overheard my daughter, The Perfect Jennifer, on the phone:

"No, I just got back in town. I was at a computer show with my mom and step-dad."


"It didn't suck nearly as bad as I expected."

The user group president laughed and said he was going to suggest that as their advertising slogan for the trip next year.


Stephen said...

Judo in my era (Paleozoic, I think it was), was more like a fight in a bar. Now it is more like a fight after Christmas dinner where your Grandpa comes in and lectures you in the middle of it and makes you sit down on the sofa.

I liked that.

Now in my old college Judo club (back in the 1970s) it would never have occurred to me to have randori without someone telling me to.

They just lined us up and we went at it. Time, and we all switched partners and went at it some more.

But I noticed it was like wrestling. The people who were motivated, who wanted to win, just kept going at it. Much less coasting than you see with some groups.

Perhaps there isn't enough real desire to win.

Stephen said...

THEIR club is different, that their players go one round after another in randori without anyone telling them to do it.

I admit, I'd have been very leery of just going after it in randori without an instructor giving the ok. Just to be completely clear, I don't recall ever just going after it without anyone telling me to do it (at least in a formal workout setting. What we did on our own was a different story, but it wasn't part of a club).

I'm impressed. If I ever get my rotator cuffs working right again, I'm going to have to find one of those clubs.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

I think it depends what the usual practice is at your club. Obviously you aren't going to do randori while someone is teaching UNLESS (as at Hayastan) you have a really big mat area where you won't accidentally land on someone.

I used to have randori all the time without anyone telling me to do it, but again, I think space is a factor.