Thursday, 30 January 2014

Getting Black Belt Fit

I remember reading about one of the workouts that chuck Liddell used to do when he was still competing in the UFC. It involved him rowing 1000 metres and then immediately wrestling for 5 minutes before taking a 60 second rest and repeating another 5 times.

Unfortunately I’m not able to Wrestle or do randori in the gym at my work and rowing 1000m 5 times would probably give me a heart attack at the moment so I devised the following high intensity workout which I hope will help with my cardio and recovery especially when/if I get a line up at a dan grading event.

500 Metre Row
20 Squats
20 Press Ups

1 minute rest then repeat for 5 sets.

The rowing is done at a moderate pace and takes me around 1 min 45 to row the 500m. The squats and press-ups are purely bodyweight but after doing that rowing my legs were burning up and lungs were breathing fire. I’ll aim to reduce the rest period to 30 seconds over the coming months and maybe add another exercise as well.

Of course this isn’t the only exercise I do it’s just one specific workout but I might start doing this a couple of times a week along with my normal weight training, running and of course Judo.

I’ll report back and let you know if it’s made any difference.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Expectations and Pressure

Last night was my first class since receiving my brown belt and as I am now the highest kyu grade at the club I feel like there is an added pressure to be able to perform all the techniques better than anyone else. This pressure doesn’t come from anyone other than myself, but I would assume that lower grades might start to look to me for advice and guidance when the instructor wasn’t immediately available.

This got me thinking back to when I first started teaching Kung Fu. I felt like I had to be the fittest, strongest and best in the club and in the end I stopped enjoying my training and ultimately quit altogether. Now I’m not teaching Judo so I haven’t got that added pressure but it certainly got me thinking of how I would feel if/when I got my black belt.

In randori last night I got thrown cleanly on my back by a green belt. This green belt was bigger and heavier than me but I still felt like I should be good enough to handle someone of a lower grade despite the disparity in weight, not that I’m small by any stretch of the imagination. I then went on to throw David, a black belt, with a tani-otoshi. I wonder if he was sitting at home last night wondering how he got thrown by a brown belt. Maybe he was. Maybe this feeling never goes away. So for those of you who are black belts, how do you deal with the added pressure of everyone expecting you to be an “expert”?

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Brown Belt 1st Kyu

So after studying the Nage-no-kata video all week I was able to pull it off to a reasonable enough standard to finish off my grading and be awarded with my brown belt last night. Although I’ve always looked at my Judo journey as a marathon and not a sprint and collecting belts was secondary to improving and enjoying what I was doing, I do now feel that I want to progress to black belt as soon as possible as I know that, at 41, it’s not going to get any easier for me. With that in mind I will likely enter my first point scoring competition at the end of February where I will have to compete against other brown belts for the first time. This will be a good litmus test of my actual level as a brown belt but having just received it I will probably struggle at first.

I wore an elbow strap all through the class yesterday which seems to have made a difference to the way my elbow is or isn’t aching the day after. What I need to do between now and the end of February is to improve my fitness levels and stay injury free. Assuming I don’t have any setbacks with my leg I plan to start running next week. Then I’ll do some circuits which will include 1000m rows supersetted with press ups. I figure that will take me about 5 minutes, which is the length of a Judo match in shiai. If I then repeat this 3 times with only a small rest it should hopefully replicate what getting a line up in a dan grading will feel like.

Other than Kata we did plenty of randori in yesterday’s class and I managed to stay on continuously and spar with 6 of the guys. I managed to pull of yoko tomoe nage on 3 different people so this is fast becoming one of my favourite throws. I think I favour the yoko version over the more traditional version as I don’t have to get between ukes legs to pull it off. One of the young orange belts I spared with last night really stood out amongst the class. Even though he is considerably smaller than me he was actually out gripping me and, with his speed and movement, he almost had me a couple of times. I don’t think it will be too long until he is giving me a real problem in randori so I hope he keeps himself motivated to keep training hard.

At the end of the class I was duly presented with my Brown belt by Graeme so I took the opportunity to snap a couple of photos.

I've also added one of Andrew as he recently received his yellow belt (see I told you i'd make you famous Andrew :))

Friday, 17 January 2014

My Return to Training.

My return from Injury was delayed somewhat as last week’s first class of the new term had to be cancelled due to the recent floods we have experienced in Surrey over the past couple of weeks. So I was back on the tatami after a number of injuries, the last of which was the large mysterious swelling that I had on my lower left leg. Almost 7 weeks on and the large swelling is now just a tiny lump, hardly noticeable to the eye and is no longer painful to touch but I am still taking things slowly at the moment. Another injury I seem to have picked up is tendinitis in my left arm and I was quickly reminded of this when we warmed up with commando crawls across the mats.

There was a new addition to the seniors tonight, a guy called Ray who had done some Judo as a child and was returning after a very long hiatus. He was paired with myself and Jadon at one point and he certainly didn’t look like a beginner as he was quickly able to pick up the throws we were practising.

Most of tonight’s class was geared towards me finishing off my brown belt grading. I must admit that I didn’t expect to go straight in to my grading tonight, especially as this was my first class in almost 2 months, and as such I felt like I muddled my way through rather than galloped.

The class finished with a couple of rounds of Newaza randori and I got to roll with Ray first. He was quite strong but was maybe trying to muscle his way through the techniques a bit too much, however I’m sure he’ll adjust once he get used to it again.

At the end of the class I had completed all my grading apart from the kata which I will need to finish next week. I will be studying the below video vigorously until next week to make sure I gallop through this last part of my grading.

Graeme approached me after the class to reassure me that he felt I was ready to be a brown belt and that it didn’t matter if I had muddled through the grading tonight. He wants me to start competing at dan grading competitions ASAP so that I can at least see how I stack up against other brown belts. I can then work out what areas I need to improve in and work on them accordingly.

Monday, 13 January 2014

BJA Brown Belt Syllabus

Following an earlier post I've scoured Youtube for the best videos of all the throws from the BJA's revised Brown Belt Syllabus.

Sode Tsurikomi Goshi (Sleeve lift pull grip)

Kata Guruma (Shoulder Wheel)

Ryo-Hiza-Seoi-Otoshi (Two Knee Shoulder Drop)
Sumi-Gaeshi (Corner Throw)
Yoko-Gake (Side Hook)

Ko-Uchi-Gake-Maki-Komi (Minor Inner Hook Side Winding)

Ushiro-Goshi (Rear Hip)

Ura-nage (Rear Throw)

Uki-otoshi (Floating Drop)

Koshi-Guruma (Hip Wheel)

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Product Review - Martial Herbs

I mentioned here that I had received some products from a start-up company called Martial Herbs. These were their Strength tablets and also their Recovery oil. I decided to test these products until the samples they had provided me had run out, so approximately 60 days. Unfortunately shortly after taking them I suffered a number of injuries. First a bicep injury, then whiplash caused by a car crash and then finally a burst vein in my leg (Superficial thrombosis). I’m not suggesting for one minute that these tablets were the cause of my injuries by the way, it’s just bad luck that I was not able to push myself hard both in the gym and on the tatami to see what affect Martial Herbs products would have had on my training.

For these reasons I’m not able to give a proper product review so I’ve had to restrict it to the information I received from Sam at Martial Herbs. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you want to give them a try but what I can say is that they were very quick to answer my emails and to send me the agreed products so they get 10 out of 10 for customer service. Their website can be found here

Martial Herbs 'Recovery' is best used as a massage oil after taking muscular knocks at training and shouldn't stain (though like all oils, keep away from expensive shirts!). If you're carrying the injury in to the next day, feel free to rub a small amount into the affected area of your body, it will warm and relax the surrounding muscles after a brief period of application.

Natural Ingredients - Martial Herbs Strength

Martial Herbs Strength contains 100% natural and vegetarian ingredients based on the latest clinical research into the beneficial metabolic effects of adaptogens, antioxidants and other phytochemicals. Key ones include:

• Fulvic acid: aiding detoxification pathways and reducing inflammation for an analgesic (painkilling) effect, essential for when you’re getting those hard knocks during training and competitions

• Essential minerals: replenishing essential minerals is required for proper muscle contraction and relaxation. Mineral loss through sweating can cause cramping, slower reactions and recovery and an overall reduction in the health of cells and tissues.

• Adaptogens: actively support the immune system, fighting fatigue.

• Phosphorus, calcium and magnesium: all combining to help you combat the draining effects of tough workouts and frequent training.

Martial Herbs Strength - Expected Performance Enhancement

Our herbal supplements enhance the effects of a regular fitness regime, and help in achieving a lean, muscular body with improved resistance to injury as well as faster, more effective responses during training and competition.

About us

Frustrated with the abundance of low quality, untested and weak sports powders, the creators of Martial Herbs took it upon themselves to design natural products that they, themselves, wanted to use. The result is a trio of powerful supplements containing only the purest, natural ingredients that are suitable for vegetarians and manufactured under the supervision of professional herbalists.

Key benefits of Martial Herbs:

● Enhances strength and stamina.
● Optimises recovery after workouts and competitions.
● Relieves pain and promotes healing of musculoskeletal injuries.
● Increases vitality, resilience and motivation.
● Helps shift stubborn fat for a sleeker body

Monday, 6 January 2014

New Year Goal Number 1 - Obtain my brown belt

Obviously my immediate goal on returning to Judo is to finish my brown belt grading of which I've already completed about 50%.
Unfortunately the BJA, in their wisdom, decided that when they changed the kyu grading syllabus it would be a good idea not to update their website with video snippets of all the techniques. Furthermore they also forgot to update the kyu grade pictorial guide so most people I have been speaking to have had to resort to using Youtube to find videos of every technique listed which isn't a particularly quick and easy thing to do.

For ease I have copied and pasted the 2nd to 1st kyu grading syllabus below. Perhaps those not from the UK would care to comment.



• Sode-tsuri-komi-goshi
• Kata-guruma
• Ryo-hiza-seoi-otoshi
• Sumi-gaeshi
• Yoko-gake
• Ko-uchi-gake-maki-komi
• Ushiro-goshi
• Ura-nage
• Uki-otoshi
• Koshi-guruma


• Kata-ha-jime
• Hadaka-jime
• Kata-te-ashi-koshi-jime
• San-gaku-jime


• knowledge of performance forms of selected techniques


• Demonstrate any two variations of Sumi-gaeshi


• San-gaku-gatame – complex entry
• San-gaku-jime – complex entry
• San-gaku-osae-gatame – turnover and hold
• Hadaka-jime – Uke prone position
• Kata-ha-jime – Uke “all fours” position


• demonstration of attacking defence, avoidance, continuous attacking performance skills in Tachi-waza and 
Ne-waza in Randori with a co-operative partner


Candidates are required to:
• select and demonstrate four techniques from the BJA Technical Grading Syllabus and demonstrate them individually and then as a series combinations and counters



• demonstrate any 1 set of the Nage-no-kata or any 1 set of the Katame-no-kata


Candidates are required to:

• know the common English translations and meaning of all Japanese terminology used in this section and must be able to discuss with the Examiner the reasons for their choice of technique, grip etc.

• give three examples of any of the penalties in the competition rules.  


1. During the Randori demonstration the player will be required to demonstrate knowledge of basic
performance skills e.g. Kumi-kata, Renzoku-waza, Renraku-waza and Kaeshi-waza. The duration of the Randori will be approximately four minutes.

2. For the personal choice element, techniques must be demonstrated in an appropriate practical situation that includes attacking opportunity, best grip and appropriate movement. Demonstrations must include two combinations, two counters and two transitions into ne-waza. Combinations and counters can be either tachi-waza or ne-waza or a combination of both. Techniques must be demonstrated in an appropriate practical situation that includes attacking opportunity, best grip and appropriate movement.
It is expected that the player will select appropriate techniques which will allow for the demonstration of the more advanced combinations and counters.

3. Kata demonstrations must be performed in the traditional manner and include the formal opening and closing bowing procedures.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Ronda Rousey and UFC 168

Following Ronda’s recent victory at UFC 168 the BJA Facebook page has had a number of posts regarding Judo’s place in MMA. Some want to distance themselves from “this barbaric sport”. Some want Judo to embrace MMA and start teaching no-gi Judo and relax the current IJF rules to allow leg grabs and leg submissions and some, myself included, want Judo to use MMA as a way or marketing Judo and increasing its membership.

I’m not suggesting that we stop bowing when we enter and leave the dojo. I’m not suggesting that we don’t bow to the Sensei’s at the beginning and end of class. I don’t want Judoka’s to suddenly start wearing red, green and even camo coloured gis or to start adoring their gis with patches and other advertising. I’m not trying to get people to stop using the Japanese names for techniques. It’s Juji-gatame, not armbar. What I am suggesting is that Judo tries to use the success that Ronda has had in the UFC to market itself as a legit form of fighting or self-defence, call it what you will. I don’t want to change Judo, I just want to see more people start Judo so that the sport I love can grow.