Friday, 27 April 2012

Sasae-tsurikomi-ashi – Yoshin Ryu

Although my club is now open again, with the change of our training night from a Thursday to a Tuesday it means I am able to make the Randori evening at Yoshin Ryu whenever I want to. Unfortunately my usual sidekick, Oli, is unable to make it on Thursdays at present but Big Stewart is now attending on a regular basis so I met him there.

After we were warmed up we were told to practice do some uchi-komi with Ko-soto-gari. I paired up with a blue belt and we did 20 on each side before the sensei told us to change to Tai-otoshi, which was the technique we focused on on Tuesday at Dorking. After another 40 reps Sensei showed us a Tai-otoshi faint to set up Ko-soto-gari. The point of the faint is to make Uke move backwards as they attempt to avoid being thrown forward with Tai-otoshi. When they make the move backwards you immediately switch to Ko-soto-gari. We practiced this a number of times before sensei then had us replace Ko-soto-gari with Tani-otoshi, which worked just as well. As there are so many Dan grades present at this club it’s very easy to ask one of them for further help if the technique isn’t feeling quite right.

We finished up by practicing Tai-otoshi on its own but oddly enough all the work I had put in to trying to perfect this throw on Tuesday seemed to have been forgotten as I found it hard to get my footwork right.

On to Newaza and I stayed with the blue belt I was already with who incidentally I had written about when I trained here in October last year. Back then he dominated me in Newaza with cross collar chokes and various pins and then proceeded to throw me around in randori. Tonight however I was able to submit him twice, first with a nice San-gaku-jime and then a downward facing Juji-gatame. I was particularly pleased with the San-gaku-jime as I had been having a bit of trouble finishing these lately. Black belt Stewart at Dorking told me on Tuesday that I should attempt to roll them over to my left when I secured this and it seemed to work a treat.

My next two rolls were with a couple of Dan grades and they were able to handle me pretty easily. One of them had ENG on the back of his gi and he must have subbed me or pinned me about eight times in 5 minutes. Doing Newaza against him was very similar to how I felt when I rolled with Ricardo at Nova Forca, I.e. totally helpless but I never gave up and oddly enough I enjoyed the beating.

A roll with a white belt proceeded this and so did another San-gaku-jime and another Juji-gatame but I was feeling totally gassed at this point. My last roll was against one of the sensei’s, a 3rd dan. His style of newaza against me was very methodical. He did one thing at a time and moved slowly and yet I could do nothing to stop him. When he moved he left no gaps, nothing for me to exploit. It felt like I had two bags of cement on top of me, crushing my ribs and squeezing the air out of my lungs. Even when I started on top he just tied me up and slowly rolled me over before moving in to a pin where he would stay until he let me try and escape and then would submit me with whatever technique he fancied. Again, as demoralising as some people might find this I actually find it inspiring. It gives me something to aim for. If, a few years down the line, I am able to hold my own against him then I’ll know I’ve made progress, just like I felt when rolling with the blue belt earlier who only 5 months previously had easily bested me.

Following a water break we did a couple of rounds of randori. My first was against a black belt, who I found out later was celebrating his 60th birthday. He certainly doesn’t move like a normal 60 year old though as he threw me a couple o f times before I managed to throw him with Sasae-tsurikomi-ashi.

Next up was the blue belt who I was partnered with earlier and we had a pretty good tussle. He’s a similar height to me so we both favored high grips and kind of neutralised each other out. One of my favourite throws is Uchi-mata but every time I came in for this he tried to counter with Te-guruma and nearly caught me a couple of times. This put me off trying this throw again so I tried the Tai-otoshi/O-uchi-gari combination but he was wise to this. With about 30 seconds left I managed another Sasae-tsurikomi-ashi, not quite as clean as the one I got earlier but nonetheless it worked. I’m having some success with this throw so will look at better ways of setting this up although both of my successes with this throw were as a first attack so maybe I don’t need to at the moment.

When matte was finally called on the class I was totally knackered but I felt really good about myself, especially as I could see a measured improvement since last November. My intention is to train here as often as possible from now on but that will probably be every other week for now

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Tai-otoshi Masterclass

Generally speaking my daughter Florence is a good sleeper; however on Monday night I was awakened by a blood curdling scream. Now this wasn’t the normal “baby crying at night” noise, this was more akin to a “help there is a monster in my wardrobe” scream. Now midway through her blood curdling scream she started making these “mama” noises, which I knew would mean my wife would go and attend to the wardrobe monster, which she duly did. Unfortunately when, an hour later, she let out a similar scream I knew I would have to rise from my nice warm bed and the elbow in to the ribs from my wife confirmed that it was indeed my turn. Now why am I writing about my sleeping habits, well all the above meant that come Tuesday evening I was feeling pretty tired and lethargic and not really up for Judo. In addition to feeling tired my beloved Chelsea were playing Barcelona in the Champions League semi final, second leg. Now, even though they had a one goal lead no one really gave them a chance, including me. Fearing the worse I decided I would rather not watch them get annihilated so rather begrudgingly I trudged off to Judo.

On arrival I noticed there were not many people present, in fact only Big Stewart and Black belt Stewart were in attendance. Peter had to leave early due to work commitments which meant there were only 3 of us. At this point I wished I had stayed at home, with my feet up and watched some footie. Then, rather unexpectedly Oli turned up. The reason this was unexpected was because Oli has work commitments on a Tuesday evening but, as he soon explained, he will be free for the next couple of Tuesdays at least.

Once we were warmed up Big Stewart showed us a nice turnover in to Juji-gatame. With Uke in turtle and tori on his left side, tori grabs the nearside collar with his left hand and gets his left leg hook in. The Tori rolls over Uke, towards his right shoulder, and as Uke is turned over Tori hooks his left leg under Uke’s chin. Then, whilst keeping hold of Uke’s collar, Tori uses his other arm to secure the juji-gatame.
I liked this turnover, it was a lot quicker than the other Juji-gatame turnovers that I know and because you keep hold of Uke’s collar you are kept really close and therefore the armbar is really tight.

We did 3 rounds of Newaza after this, all taking turns against each other and the rounds were quite long as well which meant we were able to secure submissions or pins a couple of times in each round. I managed two Juji-gatame’s, both whilst attacking from the bottom. I also, after a couple of weeks of head scratching, secured a San-gaku-jime, although Oli did manage to escape the first one that I put on him.

In response to a question asked by Boris on whether I was pulling down on Uke’s head when doing the San-gaku, I asked Big Stewart if this was legal in Judo and he confirmed it was, providing that I didn’t put too much pressure on Uke’s neck as the ref might consider this to be a spine lock, which is illegal in Judo but not in BJJ competition.

Following the Newaza Big Stuart had us practice Tai-otoshi from a kneeling position. This was basically so we could practice the hand movement only and means you can practice the throw multiple times without having to continually take a fall.

We then proceeded to practice this throw against someone with a high stiff grip. So if they are gripping you with their right hand high on your left collar, you grip them with your left hand under their armpit and your right hand under their elbow on their left arm. Then you bump their right hand up and turn in for a left sided Tai-otoshi. It was very effective and there was really nothing you could do once the person doing the throw had turned in.

We then went on to practice a couple of Tai-otoshi combinations, first as a set up for O-uchi-gari and then we used Ko-soto-gari to set up the Tai-otoshi..

The class finished with about 10 minutes of Randori and I left buzzing with excitement and was really glad that I had decided to turn up despite my tiredness and my desire to watch the football. On the drive home I found out that, against all odds, my beloved Chelsea had, despite having a man sent off, managed to get a 2-2 draw against Barcelona and thus secure a place in the Champions League final.

Friday, 20 April 2012

1st class at New Venue

Tuesday saw the return to Dorking Judo club after the Easter break and it also saw our first class in our new venue. Our previous venue was a little long and narrow and also the lighting wasn’t great. Added to that was the problem of some rather low beams which meant randori could only be performed on certain parts of the matted area. Our new venue however has none of these problems. We have more mat space, which is plenty wide enough and the ceiling and lighting is perfect. Spectators are also easily able to see all the action on the mats as there is amble seating available.

I arrived a little early for class and sat and watched the juniors finish their session with some randori. I was very impressed with the technique some of these juniors were showing and silently wished that I had continued with the Judo that I started when I was only 7 years old. If these juniors continue with Judo in to their late teens/early twenties, they will be become almost unplayable for older seniors like myself. You can usually spot a senior that has done Judo as a junior. They don’t seem to have the fear that normal seniors have when they first practice Judo. Even now, two years in to Judo, I don’t feel 100% comfortable with being thrown and this is usually reflected when two seniors practice randori and then proceed to avoid being thrown at all costs whereas these juniors that I were watching were trying lots of different throws and had no fear of taking that fall if their throws failed.

After we warmed up we proceeded on to some Newaza Randori. I tried to attack a lot more than I normally do as I wanted to practice my “top” game rather than what I normally do which is to attack from my back. Big Stewart and I had quite a good tussle and we exchanged positions a few times as we both struggled to get a dominant position. The other Stewart, the one with the Black belt, pulled guard against me and controlled me with his legs as he had a butterfly guard and controlled my posture by pulling on the collar of my gi. I struggled to break free from this position as I was conscious that he was able to attack my neck every time I used my arms to try and break free of the butterfly guard he had on me. I did eventually manage to escape his legs by kicking my legs backwards whilst holding on to his gi bottoms.

Moving on to tachiwaza and we practiced O-uchi-gari. This throw has been getting a lot of air time in the last couple of months. We have practiced it many times at Dorking as well as practicing it at Witley Yamabishi and Yoshin Ryu only last week. I have no issue with going over this throw a lot though as I am starting to have some success with it in randori and it’s a great throw to do in combination with Uchi-mata.

Another good thing about this new venue was the time it took to put the mats away at the end of the class. In our old venue we had to have lots of mats strapped to the walls for safety reasons and the mat cupboard was a fair distance away. There is no such issue now and the putting away of the mats took half the time. I think I’m going to enjoy my Judo here just that little bit more.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Yoshin Ryu – More Randori

Following last week’s excellent lesson both Oli and I made our way back to Yoshin Ryu and we were met by Big Stewart who had also made the journey.

I mentioned that last week was a relatively poor turnout (for this club anyway), well tonight there were 12 Black belts and about the same number of Kyu grades present although only 1 of those was a lower grade than me.

As part of the warm up we paired up and practiced getting good grips on each other. Once one of us had secured a good grip we broke off and started again. This was a good exercise and one that I personally hadn’t done before. We were encouraged not only to work on securing a good grip but also to use our footwork to move in and out of range and get the best angle for our grips.
Following this we moved on to some Uchi-komi working on the Ko in to O-uchi-gari combination. This then progressed in to Ippon-seoi-nage, practiced on the move.
We were then told to work on a 4 move combination, with the throw being completed on the fourth technique. I struggled to come up with anything better than O-uchi/Ko-uchi/O-uchi/Uchi-mata. In the cold light of day I can think of a few more but in the heat of the class when you have seconds to think about it, it was the best I could come up with.

On to Newaza, and about 6 rounds of 5 minutes in duration. The highlights of which were two San-gaku-jime’s that I caught two Black belts with. Again neither of them tapped. I did ask one of them, whom I held for about a minute if it was working and he calmly replied “no, it’s just stopping me from moving” I was conscious that he wasn’t let me adjust my angle on him and that I was a little straight on, so maybe that’s the answer. It is odd because I’ve subbed people in the past with this but for some reason which I need to address urgently it isn’t quite working at the moment.
I did then have a really good technical roll with a female brown belt. I was conscious not to use too much strength so it was an excellent roll as we both went from technique to technique; more akin to a BJJ roll than your typical Judo Newaza.
I also had an excellent tussle with another Black belt where he escaped out of a Juji-gatme but I then managed to get him in an Omoplata which I believe is called ashi garami in Judo? He managed to roll out of the Omoplata in to Yoko-shiho-gatame and at this point I was so gassed I gave up trying to escape and tapped quickly.

A quick water break followed and then on to the Randori. In my last of three matches I was up against a black belt and although I was thrown many times I did manage two successful throws, both of which were Uchi-mata in to O-uchi-gari. I also very nearly scored a throw with Sasai-tsurikomi-ashi, which I’m starting to like.
Other than that I was dominated in the grip fighting again and my arms were totally gassed but this may have something to do with the fact that I done an “arms” weight session at the gym earlier in the day, so maybe I need to work something different when I train.

Next week Dorking opens in its new venue so I’ll be back there but if I am serious about progressing in this sport then I need to be training at Yoshin Ryu as often as I can as well.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Randori – Yoshin Ryu

As I mentioned last week, my club is closed over the Easter holidays so I made a 40 minute drive to Coulsdon to train at Yoshin Ryu Judo Club. I was joined by both Oli and Big Stewart.

With it being the Thursday before Good Friday the turnout was less than usual with around 7 Dan grades and 4 kyu grades present. This meant that we did not do their usual warm up which, on my previous visits was a game of football between the dan grades and the kyu grades..

As part of an extended warming up period where we practiced breakfalls & Uchi-komi we also practiced turnovers but this was done after we had all run up and down the mat once, with the object being to launch ourselves in to the turnover like one might do in shiai.

Two of the dan grades, who were twins, we asked to show the rest of us one of the turnovers that they were practicing which resulted in them ending up in Kata-gatame. It was a nice technique but it’s one that I will need to find a video of as it was too complex to explain.

It was whilst practicing this with my partner that I did something to my neck which has meant that for the best part of 4 days I haven’t been able to look to my left.

On to Newaza and I stayed with my current partner who was a black belt albeit one who was considerably smaller than myself. Unlike the Newaza we practice at my club, where we are normally given no more than 1 minute for each round, at Yoshin Ryu the rounds last around 5 minutes each, which means that you can really get to work on some techniques. In the process of my first 5 minute round I managed to catch my partner with a left sided San-gaku-jime. I was very pleased that I instinctively locked in the correct leg as previously, doing the technique on the left side has thrown me. Even with my leg locked under correctly and my partner’s arm being pulled across his body, he did not tap. I squeezed a little harder and for a minute I thought he was passing out but he didn’t and he didn’t tap. Eventually, as my legs were tiring I gave up on the San-gaku-jime and we continued but as matte was called none of us had got a submission or a pin. Unfortunately I was pretty tired as holding that San-gaku for so long had gassed my legs.

I was then fortunate enough to do Newaza with the Sensei but this time I was pinned and submitted a number of times. In Particular I was submitted twice with a cross collar choke, once from inside my guard, which according to various posts on the Judoforum should not happen if you know what you are doing, which clearly I don’t. I think the consensus is that you should be able to Juji-gatame the person who is in your guard as they are effectively giving you a straight arm. Maybe this is something I need to work on as with a light soft gi and fairly long neck it’s an obvious choke to try against me. I did manage to catch the Sensei in a San-gaku-jime, this time on the right hand side but he was easily able to turn out of it and in doing so, proceeded to pin me with a version of Yoko-shiho-gatame.

My last Randori was against Oli and both of us were very tired at this point. I think Oli was maybe a little more tired than I was as I managed to submit him with a Juji-gatame, with him face down on the mat.

We were then allowed a quick break for water before the Randori started. Last time I trained here I was dominated by grips by everyone I trained against so I was eager to show that my gripping had improved since then. Unfortunately for me my first partner was a black belt and a big one at that. He favored an over the shoulder grip on me and I spent most of my time trying to fight off his grip rather than actually trying to do any throws. I wasn’t able to do anything to counteract his over the shoulder grip and was thrown about half a dozen times in the 3 minute time slot.

My 2nd and last practice was against another black belt, this time one who was a lot smaller and younger than me. He had GB on the back of his gi so I knew he was going to be pretty good. Despite a huge weight advantage in my favour I was ritually thrown all over the place. My main problem was getting a second grip on him as he was just so fast and nimble. Every time I went for a sleeve grip he was in and throwing me with Drop seoi-nage’s and also fully committed O-uchi-gari’s, the type where one drops on ones knee to perform the throw. Still it was nice to randori with someone who was that good and really showed off the philosophy of Martial Arts/sports, where a skilled little man can beat a less skilled big man.

Whilst I sat out and watched the next round of randori the Sensei explained why I was dominated by the over the shoulder grip in my first fight and what I could do to counter this. I’ll see if this works when I visit next week.

Once the Randori was finished we were made to do some more exercises like squat thrusts, star jumps, sit ups and press ups before time was finally called and we warmed down with stretches.

Another hard but very good session at Yoshin Ryu and I will be back for another next week.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012


With last week’s lesson being the last one before the club not only closes for the Easter holidays but also moves location, it was a shortened class which allowed us all to retire to the Rugby clubs bar for a couple of pints. Most importantly though was the presentation by our clubs president, Richard Anderson, of a rather nice looking black belt to Graeme. Although Graeme knew he was due to receive his black belt he wasn’t quite sure when as his wife kept it a secret from him and made sure everyone was present to see him duly presented with it and suitably embarrassed.

With the club closed now for a few weeks I will be training at Yoshin Ryu and will hopefully be joined by both Oli and Big Stuart