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Never Give Up

After several years on hiatus from training in judo, I recently decided to start training again.  If you’re interested, the full background on my decision can be found here.  An update to that story is that on June 1st I was promoted from a blue belt to a brown belt, so the end goal of one day earning my black belt is slowly becoming a reality.

The last 3 months has passed fairly quickly and I’m surprised at how fast I was able to progress to a brown belt.  Is the judo club I attend then just a belt factory?  No, it isn’t.   I was already close to getting my brown belt years ago but never graded for it before I stopped training, so essentially I just needed to get my timing and speed back up to par and dust off some of the techniques.  I’m still not where I want to be, but in the instructors’ eyes I must be good enough to rate my brown belt.

It was not easy to get back into judo.  It is a very physical sport that requires you to get thrown a lot, and when you’re doing randori (sparring) your partner is providing full resistance, and so the techniques you execute have to be proficient enough to catch them off guard.  Not an easy thing to do when they’re trying to do the same thing to you.  Many nights I didn’t feel like going to class but I knew that if I allowed myself not to, it was a slippery slope and there would be nothing to prevent me from not attending the next class, and the one following that.  So I went, and afterwards I would feel very good about myself not just physically but also mentally.

Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with training.  I know some people love it and that’s all they want to spend their spare time doing.  Not me.  I work full-time, have the regular demands put on me from my wife and two young girls, and train in Krav Maga twice a week.  Throw in the judo classes (no pun intended) and my week is pretty well full up and there’s not much time to relax.  Then it’s just rinse-repeat the cycle each week, and maybe every so often a holiday breaks up the pattern.  So while I know that staying in shape is important and healthy, most nights when I get home from work I just want to kick back for the evening and relax watching TV or reading.  That’s when it’s most difficult to get myself up off the couch and go to the dojo, or to Krav Maga class on a Sunday afternoon.  However, forcing yourself to do something when it’s the most mentally difficult is what will define you as someone who is determined and perseveres, as opposed to someone who doesn’t succeed at something and thinks the world is against them.

Jimmy Pedro is an American  judo competitor and coach, 3 time World medalist and 2 time Olympic bronze medalist.  One of his famous quotes is “Every champion wants to quit… At 19, I lost at the Kano Cup, went 0-2. I remember sitting on the steps of the Budokan, thinking to myself: I hate this sport, I just want to quit, this stinks.  People see champions as winners, but they don’t see those dark days, the days when they struggled or they lost or they failed or the day in training when they got their butt whooped or those tournaments where they fought miserably. We all go through it. Nobody goes undefeated.”  So if even a world class champion can get discouraged in trying to attain a goal, then it’s completely understandable that for us common folk it can be even harder.

jimmyolympic

Before my daughter Christine joined judo it was inconceivable to me that I would re-join judo and continue progressing towards a black belt.  It was absolutely out of the question, especially given my age (51).  But now that I’ve been training for a few months and have my brown belt, it’s not only conceivable but also inevitable given I put in enough time.  And while I’m happy that I got my brown belt I now think that it’s “no big deal”.  My point is that from the outside it can seem like a real achievement to somebody looking in, because if they were in the same position I was in, they would probably think “I could never do it”, but being on the inside it’s truly not a big deal.  Now multiply that by 100 fold throughout a person’s lifetime where many people face major challenges, but put their heads down and grind through it anyway, and soon you have a huge gap between the people who have achieved things throughout their life (and think it’s no big deal) and those who feel they could never do it and think they’ll never amount to much (but only because they’ve never tried).  “Fear” is a great inhibitor and it gets less and less scary the more you do things out of your comfort zone and more and more scary to those who give up even before they try, just because they think they can’t do it.  Challenges are incremental and are less intimidating when you take them small bites at a time.

If you have doubts about whether you can do something, then the greatest mistake is that you don’t try anyway.  Yes, you have to weigh the pros/cons, benefits/risks, etc., but if it’s only fear holding you back then that’s the perfect opportunity to face it and know that you’ve tried your very best.  In the end, trying something and failing at it is better than not trying at all.  In my case if, for some reason, I don’t earn my black belt in judo then I won’t have any regrets because I’m now much further ahead than I thought I would ever be.  So think about something that you’ve wanted to do but have just been held back because of fear, acknowledge it, and then go ahead and do it anyway.  In the end, you’ll be proud of yourself, the next challenge will come along, and you’ll overcome that as well.

And if you ever feel like quitting, think about another one of Jimmy Pedro’s quotes:  “I’ve never been broken in a judo match. I’ve never quit. I’ve fought some guys who were tough as nails. I’ve had to fight for my life. But I’ve never backed down. I might’ve been beaten, but I went out fighting.”

Warrens Brown Bet Cert

By: Warren Chow

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My Daughter and I decided to have a little Krav Maga fun on our recent trip to California.

Warren and Christine Chow with a wax terminator Terminator ain't got nothing on this  Christine and Goofy

hasta la vista baby

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.

Judo Randori

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