Monday, January 8, 2018

Week 1: Sankaku-Gatame & Rear Counters

We had our first training session of the year last Sunday (Jan 7, 2018). The turnout was good. Many people who had been away from some time were back on the mat, most notably Eric Chung, one of the early members of our club who had been very busy with work and had just returned from an overseas trip; Jovenn, who was back in her hometown during her university break; and Nigel, who had gotten injured at the Penang Fescom tournament and is now fast on the mend.

We also had two new members: Ryan, a British expat who has been following the KL Judo blog for some time and has now decided to give judo a try; and Akmal, a judo enthusiast who visited our club once, some time back. Seems like he's now ready to commit himself to regular training in judo.

Last year was a period of experimentation, to try to find the best way to grow our club. Through trial and error we have managed to figure out some best practices and we are putting in place policies that will benefit our members.

For our players to do well, they need to have a structured program where they progressively learn something new every week. In order to do that, we can't afford to have "parachute judokas" who drop in as and when they feel like it. We need players who will attend training sessions regularly.

Some judo techniques are quite complex and need to be taught over a span of two or three sessions. Take something like the rolling juji-gatame. I would not attempt to teach that move within on session but would rather spread it over three sessions, with the first being about the roll itself, the second about the arm lever (used to straighten it) and finally, the third session about the Ecky-Gatame finishing.

Imagine if a player misses the first session and pops in for the second one. Everyone else would have already known how to do the roll into the juji-gatame position except for this particular player. If we just proceed with the arm lever, this player would have no idea how to get into a position to do the arm lever in the first place. So, we have to assign someone to teach him what everyone else had already learned the previous week. Not only that, this player would also need a training partner who will have to bear with re-hashing what was already taught previously. Such a player drains resources in the form of instructors and training partners. Now, imagine if this player had not shown up for the first and second sessions and just came for the third one. That would be even worse. We would have to invest time and resources into teaching them both the roll (from the first session) and the arm lever (from the second session) before they can join the rest in doing the Ecky-Gatame. Again, this takes up valuable time from the instructor and the training partner.

Judo techniques are also often very related to one another. Let's say we want to teach "action-reaction" techniques like ippon-seoi-nage and ippon-osoto (osoto-gari done from a seoi-nage grip). The first is a throw to the front, the second a throw to the back. They are very related. It's the threat of the first that allows the second to happen. Imagine if we had spent the first session on ippon-seoi-nage and a parachute player decides to drop in on the second session when we are teaching the ippon-osoto. Everyone else would have already known how to do ippon-seoi except this player.

There's no doubting that parachute judokas hamper a club's ability to forge ahead in training up its members so we are doing away with per session fees, which encourages this parachute approach to training. If someone wants to train at our club they have to become a member and pay monthly fees. This policy will allow us to steadily build up a team of players who will grow and improve together through the course of the year.

First Hour
As usual, we started out with groundwork. Let's face it, many judo players tend to prefer standing over groundwork and some actually hate groundwork. At KL Judo we consider groundwork to be equally important to standing. Someone once told me doing standing without groundwork is like eating a meal with only a spoon, without a fork. You need both a spoon and a fork to get your meal properly. And so it is with judo. To fight well, you need both standing and groundwork. So, we start with groundwork when everyone is still fresh. If you start off with standing, by the time the second hour comes along and people are already a bit tired, they don't have the mindset to do groundwork properly anymore. In contrast, even if they are already a bit tired they will be keen to do standing (because judo players naturally like standing techniques). So, it's always groundwork first, standing second and randori last (that's the bit everyone likes the most, so we save it for last).

The technique we worked on was yoko-sankaku, which I will spread over at least two weeks. Part 1 was this week, where we worked on sankaku-gatame, the hold down from sankaku. Below is a clip of our sankaku training. Nigel, Shen and Alvinc helped with the instruction and guidance. They did a great job!

Second Hour

In judo, you have forward throws (like ippon-seoi-nage, uchimata, tai-otoshi) and backward throws (osoto-gari, ouchi-gari, kosoto-gari). You also have sacrifice techniques (like tomoe-nage, sumi-gaeshi, yoko-otoshi). There is a fourth type of throw which are counters. We focused on two of them, tani-otoshi and ura-nage.

Tani-otoshi was one of the first counters I learned when I was starting out. It's not a difficult technique to learn. As an "otoshi" it is a takedown rather than a throw (that involves lift). The most important thing is that the person doing it twists on the way down so that they land on top of their partner in order to get the score.

Ura-nage is sort of a related technique in that is also a counter technique to the back. In fact, its name means "rear throw" and yes, it is a throw that involves a lifting action. To assist in the lift, many judo players like to use their legs to propel their opponent upwards. This move can feel a bit awkward as you can't really balance well when you are standing on one leg only so it's important to arch your back and throw your opponent to the rear once you have lift-off.  As with tani-otoshi, you have to make a twist so that you land on your front except this time, the twisting motion has to be done mid-air. You can see why ura-nage is a lot harder to do than tani-otoshi.

Below is a clip of our tani-otoshi and ura-nage training. Nigel and Shen helped to teach the players this pair of rear counters.

Third Hour
For randori, we split it in half with the first 30 minutes devoted to newaza randori and the second half with tachi-waza randori. Our dojo is big enough to accommodate everybody so everyone was on the mat for both newaza and tachi-waza randoris. Shen, who is still recovering from a collar bone injury did some randori. Even Nigel, who is also recovering from a rib injury did some light randori. Here's a clip of our exciting randori session:

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