Studying for/Working on Nidan Grading – Part 1
Dave is testing for his nidan in two weeks. By the time we checked the information on JudoOntario’s website, we had only six weeks to prepare, or wait another six months or more for the next grading. Mike is to be Dave’s uke, so Mike had to be proficient in all the curriculum as well. Lots of work to do and not much time.
We’ve been getting together at the Hamilton School of Martial Arts every Saturday afternoon, and Sunday, when possible. Luckily both guys have had Christmas week off, so we’ve been able to go in almost every day. I say “luckily” only in the sense that we’ve had the opportunity to practice everything, but Mike has been thrown hundreds of times for the grading, right after having been thrown thousands of times for this website. I think he needs a break.
For those of you who do not know what’s involved in a judo grading, imagine having to know and perfect all the throws, ground holds, joint locks and chokes, as well as having to learn the kata. For first degree, the kata comprises nine throws, thrown right and left side. For second degree (the grading Dave is doing), the kata is fifteen throws, both sides. Second degree also incudes nineteen additional throws, known as shinmeisho no waza.
The person being tested must have a partner, so his partner must know everything as well. In order for the throws to look good, the partner, uke, has to do good breakfalls. When being tested on ground techniques, uke must know what position to be in, in order for the technique to be applied. In a number of cases, uke initiates the technique. During the kata, uke attacks tori or pushes tori, depending on the throw. In most of the shimmeisho no waza, uke attacks tori and tori retaliates.
As you can see, uke’s role is crucial to the grading. We thought six weeks was perhaps too short a time, but Dave wanted to go for it, and Mike was willing. Since Mike had been involved in almost all the videos for this website, we all felt that we had already spent three months toward studying for the grading.
The grading is now two weeks away, literally. Both guys are exhausted, so today is a day off. They will only be able to get together another half dozen times before the grading, but the major obstacle is surmounted and now we’re on fine points and little errors.
Our most serious problem was, and is, an injury that Mike sustained about a week and a half ago. While being thrown with ura nage, Mike’s arm got trapped under Dave’s back and his body kept sliding. He ended up with a pinched nerve in his shoulder and an understandable fear of this throw. For several sessions, we walked through the throw, or did the kata, and did not throw the ura nage. We had brainstorms: what are we doing wrong with the throw in order for Mike’s arm to be trapped? How do we practice the throw if Mike can’t be thrown? What if Mike’s not better by the day of the grading?
Eventually, two days ago, we came up with making a crash mat (there isn’t one in the club) using very old velcroed mats, piling them up and tying them together with belts (all those sailor knots came in handy). In addition, after some research, we decided that the way we’d been doing the throw over the years was slightly off, more to the back than the side, causing Dave to trap Mike’s arm. So Dave practiced his revised throwing technique and Mike practiced the breakfalls on the new crash mat. By half-way through the second day, we had no need of the crash mat and the guys were doing the throw full force on the normal floor. Mike’s arm is no longer trapped, now that we’re doing the throw from the side, and his injury is not impacted. We’re all relieved.
For the last few sessions, I’ve been videotaping the kata. We’ve all been critiquing it, and for the next couple of practice sessions, Dave and Mike will work on their individual and combined areas of concern. Next weekend we will have two long sessions comprising all the techniques which could be called upon for the nidan grading. There’s still lots to do, but our major problem has been solved.
January 4, 2009
Afterword: We found out when Dave was tested (see Part Three [or Drei for the Germans out there] of this series), that the shinmeisho no waza was NOT required for nidan. We’ll certainly be ready for it next time around! ayjay, Feb., 2009