Friday, 28 October 2011

Crushed – Yoshin Ryu Judo Club

As my club was closed for the half term holidays I decided to pay another visit to Yoshin Ryu Judo Club in Coulsdon and as is the norm I was accompanied by Oli.

On arrival we made ourselves know to the instructor Neil and were again made to feel very welcome. The changing rooms are located on the other side of mats so you have to take your shoes off before you can reach them.

As before the class started with a game of football between the kyu grades and the Dan grades and just as before they managed to beat us by a single goal. As my toe still isn’t right after I broke it at the end of July, football probably isn’t the best sport for me to play, especially in bare feet, so I was very conscious not to go hard in to any tackles.

After the game we lined up and something I noticed which was different from last time was the number of kyu grades present. Whereas in August the Dan grades outnumbered the kyu grades, this time there were about 15 kyu grades, from white belt all the way up to brown.

I paired up with a fairly stocky brown belt and we did a further warm up which consisted of sit ups & press ups etc. Following that we drilled our first technique. I went in to the turtle position and uke grabbed my arm and I simply rolled him over the top of me. We drilled this for 10 goes on each side before Neil showed us a counter to this move. If the person in the turtle position rolls you over by grabbing your left arm you should, as you start to roll, take a high collar grip with your right hand so that after the roll you can grab the lapel of uke with your left hand thus enabling you to choke your opponent with OKURI-ERI-JIME. We did this for a number of repetitions before matte was finally called and we were told to start Newaza.

We stayed with the same partners and as Newaza was started from kneeling and my opponent was larger than me I decided against knee wrestling and pulled guard instead. From this position I tried a number of times to get a Juji-gatame but each time he was able to resist. I then grabbed his right wrist with my left hand pushed it between my legs and secured a san-gaku-jime. However as I started to pull his right arm across my body he managed to stand up, which meant I had to let go and start again. I pulled guard and figured I was just attack constantly from my back and I did a pretty good job in keeping him preoccupied enough with my attacked so that he couldn’t mount any of his own. Matte was called with none of us able to get a pin or a submission.

Next up was a complete beginner who was taking his first class, so I just showed him a few basics. He was a big lad and mentioned that he had started training MMA so when I explained the techniques to him I also gave him the BJJ/MMA equivalent, for example I mentioned side control when describing mune-gatame and spoke about passing the guard. I showed him the basics of passing the guard and the importance of the guard so hopefully he learnt something from it.

Next up was a blue belt who I had trained with previously. This is where it all started to go wrong for me. He was constantly looking for cross collar chokes from within my guard. I’ve read on a number of forums, like the judo forum, that this is just an invitation to be juji-gatame’d, so I tried just that but every time I did he managed to get out and pass my guard and secure either a Mune-gatame or kesa-gatame of which I was unable to escape from.

My next opponent was a rather stocky black belt and again I favored pulling guard to knee wrestling and as per my previous roll he was able to pass my guard and secure a pin of his choice by baiting me in to trying either a juji-gatame or san-gaku-jime. I wasn’t successful with either of these subs and neither was I able to get anyone near sweeping him. Now I know all these guys outrank me and maybe I am being a little too hard on myself but I always thought I had quite good Newaza skills for my rank.

We had a quick water break and despite sweating profusely I was a little less gassed than when I last trained here. My first opponent was yet another black belt and he was kind enough to point out that my arms were too stiff and that he could feel everything I was attempting to do before I even moved. This has been highlighted to me on numerous occasions before but where I am able to relax at my own club now, against people I know who allow me get my grips, against strangers who fight for grips I felt a little lost. This was to be highlighted in my next match against a fellow orange belt.

As there were so many people present we couldn’t all take to the mats at the same time when we did Randori so we all took turns in sitting out a match. It was whilst I was sitting out after my first match against the black belt that I asked the guy next to me if he wanted to spar next. As he was a fellow orange belt I commented that it would be nice to actually train with someone of similar skill and he agreed.
When the fight started we fought for grips and as I mentioned previously, I was totally dominated by his grips. He was able to control me and move me where he wanted to every time he took hold of me whereas I was just holding on for dear life. He then proceeded to throw me not once, not twice but four times for ippon and that doesn’t include the couple of times where I didn’t quite land flat on my back. The instructor, Neil, was watching us closely and told me to take a higher grip on his collar or around his back but at that point it didn’t make much of a difference. I was glad when matte was finally called and slumped down in the corner feeling totally demoralized.

I’ve been dominated before by higher grades and that’s to be expected but this guy was the same belt as me and what made it even worse was the fact that he told me he had only been training for 8 months. If I could have snuck out back to my car and driven home at this point, I would have. Lots of thoughts were going through my head the main one being that I wasn’t actually any good for an orange belt and yet last week I was talking about grading for my green belt soon. But how could this be that I’m not good at Judo. Where sport is concerned I usually pick things up pretty quickly and have gone on to excel at a number of them. Hell my first Judo competition in April of last year, when I had only been training for two months, I managed to finish third, so where did this all go wrong.

I didn’t have too long to reflect on this as my next opponent was the blue belt who I had rolled with earlier. Yet again I struggled with the grip and he scored 3 Ippon’s against me, with the highlight being a perfect Tomoe-nage. I did however manage a throw of my own, which was following a failed Harai-goshi, which I turned in to an Uchi-mata. What was really annoying is that I had planned to try out Harai-goshi & Uchi-mata tonight but I never got the chance to mount any attacks because I was dominated in the grips.

My match against the blue belt was the last of the evening and Neil told us to find a space on the mat. He then proceeded to work us some more with a number of sit ups, press ups, squat thrusts and star jumps before we finally finished with a light stretch. At the end of the lesson I was eager to leave as I still felt totally demoralised and I wanted to confide in Oli on the car journey home. Oli reasoned that maybe this orange belt had trained Judo in his youth or that just maybe he was exceptional. Still this is the lowest point I have felt so far in my Judo journey and I would be lying if the idea of quitting hadn’t crossed my mind.

The day after and although I feel like I have been hit by a truck, I have had time to reflect and I certainly won’t be quitting. What I will need to do is tell my instructor how I was dominated and that I feel I need to work on my grips. I’m sure I will go back to Yoshin Ryu again in the near future and hopefully I can show an improvement. I would also like to thank everyone at the club for making both myself and Oli feel very welcome yet again.


  1. Stuart, I am a yellow belt who has been doing judo for a year. I find it very difficult to pull off throws in randori when I train, even against new members. It can feel demoralising and frustrating. It is important however not to measure your abality against others. This other orange belt may compete on a regular basis, or his club may be more competition orientated meaning his focus is on winning rather that perfect technique? You must measure your ability against yourself. I am sure you have not achieved 4th Kyu through learning nothing and making no progression. Keep your head up, an focus on the positive aspects of what you have achieved so far in judo. Speak to your coach, like you said. This will give you an objective to look farward to. :-)

  2. Thanks for the positive comments, all taken on board :)