In addition to Krav Maga I now train in judo. Truth be told, I first started training in judo in my youth and reached blue belt level before I took a hiatus for years. A couple of months ago I decided to start training again with the objective of one day earning my brown belt, then eventually my black belt. I attend at least two 1.5 hr classes a week and slowly I’ve been getting my speed and timing back up to par, and have been scraping the rust off my techniques. After being away from judo for so long it’s interesting to get back into it and see how the body holds up, because my mind knows what it wants to do, but the body doesn’t want to cooperate. All in good time.
The dojo I train at is at a community center so the training is less intense than at a dedicated judo club, and this suits me just fine because I’m not looking to enter any tournaments for the foreseeable future. Not many of the other people who train there are competitive, and in general it’s a good group of people. However, there’s one person in specific who’s worth mentioning because lessons can be learned from his actions. He is a green belt, early 20s, and average height and weight for a Caucasian, although he weighs about 35 lbs more than me.
The other week I was doing randori (judo sparring) with him and it became clear that my technique was better than his. I’m more controlled and fluid as opposed to his judo being tainted by the assumption that being younger and stronger equates to domination over his opponent. The judo rules have changed over the years and one can no longer grab the leg of the opponent, because it was being noticed that many judokas with a wrestling background would immediately dive in for a leg takedown and the fight would be over. So the international judo federation decided that instead of adapting to this move, they would just ban it outright. Not that I agree with this approach but I don’t sit on that panel.
While we were doing randori his leg came up and I inadvertently grabbed it, because back in my judo youth days I could do that and habits are hard to break. It was an instinctive reaction but as soon as I grabbed it, I knew it was no longer allowed so I began to release it. He, however, immediately shouted out “Hey, that’s not allowed!”. I apologized and said I realized that and it came out of habit, but inside I was thinking that he was too quick to pull the foul card. Alternatively, he could have used it as an opportunity to test his judo techniques to see if he could counter it and then tell me about the rule change afterwards.
Another time we did randori I was able to trip him up several times and performed a sloppy throw on him, but in his mind he wanted to dominate me. After all, I’m much older and much lighter than him. However, when he tried a throw my experience took over and I was able to shift my weight enough to make him collapse on his stomach, with me landing on his back. I started to throw an arm around his neck to apply a rear naked choke but stopped because we were only doing stand-up randori. There were a couple of students sitting on the side watching us and they complimented my counter. For some reason this made the guy angry, and after we got up to start again he completely lost control and charged at me. He had completely forgotten his technique and was just trying to overpower me with his strength and energy, but in judo that doesn’t work. I defended against his aggression and after he saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere he settled down, to which I then said with a slight smile, “What was that?”. I talked with my daughter about him because he helps teach the kids class, and she says he’s very annoying. He will strut around the room watching the kids and then when he tries to show them what they’re doing wrong, he’ll get confused and then ask the instructor to come over and clarify the move.
In my opinion, this person is not a martial artist, and I highly doubt he would be able to protect himself in a real-life fighting scenario. In the first instance, I performed an action (grabbing his leg) that not only went against his expectations, but also against his ability to defend against it. Yes, I was not supposed to do that and I was in the process of letting his leg go, but his only defense against it was to protest. In the street you can’t say “That’s not fair.” You deal with it first, then you put the pieces together after. In the second instance, he clearly lost control. By doing so, his technique fell by the wayside and he became clouded by his anger and frustration. In the street, losing your cool will get you killed. And his attitude in teaching my daughter’s class demonstrates to me his overconfidence and arrogance in his technical knowledge which, again, can have disastrous consequences on the street. I’m sure he loves judo and that’s why he was frustrated that his skill, when put to the test against someone who, in his mind he should dominate, failed miserably. However, he should use his learnings to decide if he wants to be a judoka, or an effective martial artist who can adapt to the unexpected and survive on the street if the situation arose.
Ask yourself this: Do you want to survive on the street? Then expect the unexpected and learn to adapt.
Written by: Warren Chow