Friday, 28 October 2011

Crushed – Yoshin Ryu Judo Club

As my club was closed for the half term holidays I decided to pay another visit to Yoshin Ryu Judo Club in Coulsdon and as is the norm I was accompanied by Oli.

On arrival we made ourselves know to the instructor Neil and were again made to feel very welcome. The changing rooms are located on the other side of mats so you have to take your shoes off before you can reach them.

As before the class started with a game of football between the kyu grades and the Dan grades and just as before they managed to beat us by a single goal. As my toe still isn’t right after I broke it at the end of July, football probably isn’t the best sport for me to play, especially in bare feet, so I was very conscious not to go hard in to any tackles.

After the game we lined up and something I noticed which was different from last time was the number of kyu grades present. Whereas in August the Dan grades outnumbered the kyu grades, this time there were about 15 kyu grades, from white belt all the way up to brown.

I paired up with a fairly stocky brown belt and we did a further warm up which consisted of sit ups & press ups etc. Following that we drilled our first technique. I went in to the turtle position and uke grabbed my arm and I simply rolled him over the top of me. We drilled this for 10 goes on each side before Neil showed us a counter to this move. If the person in the turtle position rolls you over by grabbing your left arm you should, as you start to roll, take a high collar grip with your right hand so that after the roll you can grab the lapel of uke with your left hand thus enabling you to choke your opponent with OKURI-ERI-JIME. We did this for a number of repetitions before matte was finally called and we were told to start Newaza.

We stayed with the same partners and as Newaza was started from kneeling and my opponent was larger than me I decided against knee wrestling and pulled guard instead. From this position I tried a number of times to get a Juji-gatame but each time he was able to resist. I then grabbed his right wrist with my left hand pushed it between my legs and secured a san-gaku-jime. However as I started to pull his right arm across my body he managed to stand up, which meant I had to let go and start again. I pulled guard and figured I was just attack constantly from my back and I did a pretty good job in keeping him preoccupied enough with my attacked so that he couldn’t mount any of his own. Matte was called with none of us able to get a pin or a submission.

Next up was a complete beginner who was taking his first class, so I just showed him a few basics. He was a big lad and mentioned that he had started training MMA so when I explained the techniques to him I also gave him the BJJ/MMA equivalent, for example I mentioned side control when describing mune-gatame and spoke about passing the guard. I showed him the basics of passing the guard and the importance of the guard so hopefully he learnt something from it.

Next up was a blue belt who I had trained with previously. This is where it all started to go wrong for me. He was constantly looking for cross collar chokes from within my guard. I’ve read on a number of forums, like the judo forum, that this is just an invitation to be juji-gatame’d, so I tried just that but every time I did he managed to get out and pass my guard and secure either a Mune-gatame or kesa-gatame of which I was unable to escape from.

My next opponent was a rather stocky black belt and again I favored pulling guard to knee wrestling and as per my previous roll he was able to pass my guard and secure a pin of his choice by baiting me in to trying either a juji-gatame or san-gaku-jime. I wasn’t successful with either of these subs and neither was I able to get anyone near sweeping him. Now I know all these guys outrank me and maybe I am being a little too hard on myself but I always thought I had quite good Newaza skills for my rank.

We had a quick water break and despite sweating profusely I was a little less gassed than when I last trained here. My first opponent was yet another black belt and he was kind enough to point out that my arms were too stiff and that he could feel everything I was attempting to do before I even moved. This has been highlighted to me on numerous occasions before but where I am able to relax at my own club now, against people I know who allow me get my grips, against strangers who fight for grips I felt a little lost. This was to be highlighted in my next match against a fellow orange belt.

As there were so many people present we couldn’t all take to the mats at the same time when we did Randori so we all took turns in sitting out a match. It was whilst I was sitting out after my first match against the black belt that I asked the guy next to me if he wanted to spar next. As he was a fellow orange belt I commented that it would be nice to actually train with someone of similar skill and he agreed.
When the fight started we fought for grips and as I mentioned previously, I was totally dominated by his grips. He was able to control me and move me where he wanted to every time he took hold of me whereas I was just holding on for dear life. He then proceeded to throw me not once, not twice but four times for ippon and that doesn’t include the couple of times where I didn’t quite land flat on my back. The instructor, Neil, was watching us closely and told me to take a higher grip on his collar or around his back but at that point it didn’t make much of a difference. I was glad when matte was finally called and slumped down in the corner feeling totally demoralized.

I’ve been dominated before by higher grades and that’s to be expected but this guy was the same belt as me and what made it even worse was the fact that he told me he had only been training for 8 months. If I could have snuck out back to my car and driven home at this point, I would have. Lots of thoughts were going through my head the main one being that I wasn’t actually any good for an orange belt and yet last week I was talking about grading for my green belt soon. But how could this be that I’m not good at Judo. Where sport is concerned I usually pick things up pretty quickly and have gone on to excel at a number of them. Hell my first Judo competition in April of last year, when I had only been training for two months, I managed to finish third, so where did this all go wrong.

I didn’t have too long to reflect on this as my next opponent was the blue belt who I had rolled with earlier. Yet again I struggled with the grip and he scored 3 Ippon’s against me, with the highlight being a perfect Tomoe-nage. I did however manage a throw of my own, which was following a failed Harai-goshi, which I turned in to an Uchi-mata. What was really annoying is that I had planned to try out Harai-goshi & Uchi-mata tonight but I never got the chance to mount any attacks because I was dominated in the grips.

My match against the blue belt was the last of the evening and Neil told us to find a space on the mat. He then proceeded to work us some more with a number of sit ups, press ups, squat thrusts and star jumps before we finally finished with a light stretch. At the end of the lesson I was eager to leave as I still felt totally demoralised and I wanted to confide in Oli on the car journey home. Oli reasoned that maybe this orange belt had trained Judo in his youth or that just maybe he was exceptional. Still this is the lowest point I have felt so far in my Judo journey and I would be lying if the idea of quitting hadn’t crossed my mind.

The day after and although I feel like I have been hit by a truck, I have had time to reflect and I certainly won’t be quitting. What I will need to do is tell my instructor how I was dominated and that I feel I need to work on my grips. I’m sure I will go back to Yoshin Ryu again in the near future and hopefully I can show an improvement. I would also like to thank everyone at the club for making both myself and Oli feel very welcome yet again.

Friday, 21 October 2011


A frozen neck kept me away from doing any training last week so I was eager to get back to class tonight especially following my last lesson, which was basically a one to one private with Ynez. Unfortunately it was bit of strange lesson tonight as, yet again the turnout was pretty bad, in fact I was the only student with Peter, Ynez and black belt Stuart as instructors. I think I’ve worked out why Ryan hasn’t been to Judo since June and that is because his BJJ club now has two dedicated Judo lessons a week so it would make sense if he attended those especially as they precede the actual BJJ classes that he takes. This will be a great loss to our club though, especially as he brought with him some good newaza skills and was similarly matched, skill wise, to myself. I still think it would be a good idea to invite a BJJ club to come and give us a BJJ class as something different to the normal Judo that we have. If nothing else we may get one or two BJJ’ers who maybe live locally that might then start taking Judo.

Back to tonight’s lesson and following on from my lesson two weeks ago, Peter decided I should go over some techniques from the green belt syllabus. We went over all the various entries to Juji-gatame which I feel I have got down pretty well. We then went over Ude-gatame, Waki-gatame and Hiza-gatame, all of which are fairly simple techniques but ones that I haven’t used much before so they do need a little perfecting. Tachi-waza wise I was shown Morote-eri-seoi-nage and I must admit this did not come easy to me. I’d like to think it was because Stuart’s gi is so thick that I couldn’t get a proper grip on it but I’m sure it’s more than that and besides, if I can grip and throw people wearing heavy double weave gi’s then throwing someone wearing a single weave will seem fairly easy in comparison.

As I said at the beginning of this post, tonight lesson was a bit strange and Peter decided to finish 30 minutes early tonight. I guess I can’t complain as again I had effectively had my own private lesson with three black belts. Maybe that’s one of the positives of having such a low turnout in the senior class, that I am getting a lot of personal instruction and if this keeps up I will likely start my green belt grading sooner rather than later.

Friday, 7 October 2011

The Darkness

On approaching the club tonight I thought it looked very dark and once inside I realised that half the lighting was not working due to an electrical fault.
The cupboard that we normally use as a makeshift changing room had no light whatsoever but I found Black Belt Stuart in there and Jamie with only a torch as a means of light.

I hadn’t seen Jamie for a number of months and with the continued absence of Ryan I was glad that he had decided to come back.

Peter got us warmed up with some light Newaza which then progressed in to one of us applying a hold, with the other trying to escape. The person applying the hold then had to move to another hold without losing control. Whilst being held in Kesa-gatame by Stuart I noticed how heavy he felt on me and how much it felt like he was crushing my ribs. Even Ynez, who is half my size, felt like a dead weight when holding me in Kesa-gatame. Ynez said it’s not about using strength or size to hold a person down its more about just making your body feel heavy, and of course using the correct technique.

Following the Newaza and with everyone nicely warmed up and due to the fact that both Graeme and Big Stuart were away with work, Peter decided that he was going to give Jamie the opportunity to start his first grading for Red belt.

As Stuart was to be Jamie’s Uke and Peter would do the examining, Ynez said that she would work with me and Peter suggested that we go over the Green belt syllabus.

As we had already been doing some Newaza we started with the various versions of Juji-gatame that are needed for green belt:

Juji-gatame sit back entry
Juji-gatame roll over entry
Juji-gatame entry from beneath
Juji-gatame over the shoulder entry

It was great to cover so many different variations of the same technique and also to do a number of repetitions of each variation.

The other Newaza techniques in the syllabus that we practised were Ude-gatame, Waki-gatame & finally Hiza-gatame. At some point over the last 18 months I have probably practised all of these but again it was really nice to really go over each one for repetitions.

There are a number of throws needed for green belt and Ynez decided that we should start with Okuri-Ashi-Barai, of which I have previously devoted an entire thread to. I mentioned to Ynez that Graeme called this throw the oomph throw, as that’s the noise that Uke generally makes when he hits the matt as all of his air is knocked out of him. Ynez actually liked being thrown with this technique, providing it’s done right. Her comments were that there was something nice about being thrown by a perfectly executed throw. I’m not sure if I agree with her sentiments entirely but I agree that landing flat on your back is preferable to being dumped on your head.

Having got the timing down for Okuri-ashi-barai we moved on to Harai-goshi. Despite needing quite a bit of hip, and for me to pull this off against Ynez, who is considerably shorter than me, took a lot of knee bending, I still very much enjoyed this throw. Ynez showed me a couple of nice entries and we practised these after the normal static version. The first was literally just a hop in but the second one involved pulling Uke to my right, but instead of following them you stay still and then proceed to hop in with the throw. It seemed so simple but very effective.
With time running out with progressed on to Uchi-mata, a throw we practised before the summer break and one I got the hang of. For some reason this time I kept on muddling this up with Harai-goshi as I was reaping with my leg on the outside rather than in between Uke’s legs.
If you look at the example from the BJA website, Fallon’s left leg just clips the inside of his Uke’s left leg. You can also perform Uchi-mata by clipping the inside of their right leg but this usually required you to hop around until their fall off balance. Ynez said its better to attack the inside of the left leg, Like Fallon’s example, because if they try and manoeuvre out of it you always have the right leg with the hoping technique to fall back on, whereas if you go straight for the right leg and they move out of the way, you have missed your opportunity for this throw.

Looking up at the clock we realised it was and Peter called matte. I had covered a hell of a lot of the green belt syllabus in the last hour and having what was effectively a private 1 hour lesson with Ynez was fantastic and probably rates as the most productive Judo lesson to date. It also made me realise that I’m not that far off of being ready for green belt grading and hopefully I can hit my target of achieving it before the end of this year.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Yoko Tomoe Nage

I found this linked to on the Judo forum, which although its a variation of Tomoe-nage I felt it was useful to keep and share.


There has been a bit of a delay in updating my blog since the last lesson due mainly to the fact that the morning after the lesson I was driving 300 miles to Cornwall for a week’s holiday with my Wife and Baby Daughter. Holidaying in the UK, even in the summer, can be unpredictable where the weather is concerned, but going in late September you are simply asking for wind and rain. Luckily for me the UK was experiencing some of the warmest days ever recorded for September (26-28c) so I needn’t have packed so many jumpers and coats.

Back to last week’s lesson and it was great to see Black Belt Stuart back at the club after a long absence due to a nasty toe injury/infection. Hopefully this is the start of more of the old regulars returning.

As for the finer details of the lesson, I’m afraid after a week’s holiday, where I consumed my own body weight in Cornish pasties, cream teas and Ice Cream, I can remember very little other than the main throw we worked on which was Tomoe-nage. Graeme commented that this was the throw most used in films during the 60’s and 70’s, I can just imagine Roger Moore pulling this one off in a James Bond Film followed by a “Judo Chop”.

We all took turns throwing everyone else in the class and to be honest I wasn’t too shabby at it. When it was my turn to be Uke I noticed that the fall can be a little hard, something to remember should the instructor ask for a volunteer Uke to demonstrate this throw next time.

As I said the rest of the details of the lesson are a little hazy but I should hopefully have a better reports on tomorrow’s lesson on Friday.