Those of you who have read our biographies, real and fake, found elsewhere on this website, will know that Dave, Chris, Mike and I have been at judo for years. I am the novice at just under seventeen years; Chris and Dave joined our old judo club over twenty-one years ago. Mike joined the club a couple of years after Dave and Chris. Our personalities are quite different from one another. What we have in common is learning, and working at, judo.
Dave learns techniques by watching them. He then practices them until they become muscle memory. I envy this ability. I have to practice, read, read some more, and practice many more times before the techniques become ingrained. Judo lends itself to both ways of learning, whether the techniques are throws, joint locks, ground holds, or chokes. The common denominator in both methods of learning is the practicing. In order to have a throw happen fluidly and spontaneously, or a ground technique easily contribute to a win, you have to do the technique many, many times.
We have some of our MMA no gi videos on YouTube. Some of the comments have stated that no one would ever do that technique or put himself in the position where this technique could be applied. The purpose of the videos and learning any technique is to have that technique, whatever it is, available to you when you are in a match, in your club or in a tournament. After practicing something, a difficult throw or choke, over and over, next when you are next fighting someone, that throw, that choke, whatever, is available to you without thought or hesitation. You’ve already done it in practice dozens (hundreds?) of times; you don’t have to think about it – it’s just there.
A perfect example of this is kakato jime, with judogi, and without . (Check out our own version of this choke for something a little different! kakure kakato jime) Looking at this statically, you might consider this an impossible position to get in: your opponent wouldn’t let this ever happen to him. In fact, we had a comment asking what stops uke from getting up to his knees. Granted Dave is showing the choke and his uke is letting the choke be applied. In reality, last Sunday, Dave was doing groundwork with Mike and managed to get a tap out using this very choke. He said they rolled around and around with Dave’s fighting to finish with juji gatame, and suddenly, the opportunity presented itself. Mike was fighting the arm grip and forgot about Dave’s legs. Dave had his legs in the correct position, and he was then in perfect kakato jime position. Dave didn’t have to think about what to do with Mike’s arm, with his own legs; he knew instinctively what to do.
When learning throws, the white belts learn the basics. All other belts, though, do the same throws. They are refined and applied in conjunction with other throws, but they are the same throws. The difference between the white belts and experienced judoka is the practicing and refining, understanding what your body is doing, or needs to do, what uke’s body needs to do, in order to accomplish a beautiful throw. After having thrown your fellow judoka hundreds and thousands of times with throws and variations of those throws, the throws become available to you when you need them. Those foot sweeps are a surprise both to you and your opponent, they happen so easily; the kneeling ippon seoi nage is successful because you are under uke so quickly that he has nowhere to go but over your back. None of this would have been possible without the practice sessions.
Practicing techniques day after day, week after week, is hard work. The white belts sometimes complain that they have already learned that technique. Those of us who have been around a while know that judo is a lifetime’s learning, with always more to learn, another technique to practice and refine. Having a technique which is unusual, such as the kakato jime, or the kneeling seoi nage, or one of my favourites, yoko wakare, come to you as you are fighting in randori or ne waza, is a great feeling, a moment of perfection, that “Wow!” moment, which makes all those practice sessions worthwhile and helps to explain why we come back to practice yet again.