Saturday, August 28, 2010

Left-handed training

Traditionally, jiu-jitsu is performed right-handed: "there are no left-handed swordsmen in Japan".  The jiu-jitsu syllabus is large enough that for self-defence purposes ambidextrosity is not required for many techniques: need the left-handed version of a technique?  Use something else instead.

On the other hand(!) judo techniques are often practiced on the non-preferred side -- hidari in Japanese -- thereby developing the body evenly on both sides.

For me, one of the best reasons to practice left-handed is to increase one's focus on what you're doing.  A reasonably well-grooved technique suddenly becomes challenging again.  I find myself changing from side-to-side, engaging in self-observation and self-teaching as I work to transfer the technique to the other side.  And the best thing ... the original migi side inevitably benefits too.

Other reasons to practice left-handed:
  • Injury: sometimes its unsafe to work on the regular side
  • Rehab: I have been working on one of my Chinese boxing weapon sets left-handed to try to stretch and strengthen a shoulder that appears to have sustained a (mild) injury
  • Teaching ploy: One of my students, who had previously been programmed to do a very different (Olympic judo) version of a throw, is learning our version in hidari first, as a stepping stone
In sum, I recommend occasionally training on the non-preferred side, as opposed to: never (traditional), 50-50, or mainly non-preferred (a competition-oriented strategy).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Well done

Congratulations to everyone from Monash Caulfield who presented for the mid-2010 gradings (all successful!): AnthonyLisa, Lejoe, DamianAsh, John, Lizzie, and Soksan.

Almost everyone graded in both jiu-jitsu and judo, and several did multiple grades.  This was by far the biggest group who have graded from Caulfield, and all set a great example through their dedication and hard work.

Well done also to all the other students who graded across our Federation.

 I cannot stress enough how helpful it is to one's progress to be part of a group who are training together.  Cooperative learning and friendly competition are boons in this regard.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lessons in Character

Some excellent writing on courtesy, humility, and example-setting from Charles C. Goodin's Karate Thoughts blog.  Start with these:
  1. Character 1-2-3
  2. Domo arigato sensei
These lessons don't just apply to karate, but (hopefully!) to all martial arts, and to living a good life.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The "Steven Seagal" technique

I recently learned that one of our restraint and control techniques, which officially goes by the (not very descriptive) name of "wristlock technique" has gained an unofficial moniker: the Steven Seagal technique, referring to a scene from the critically panned Under Siege 2.  If someone can send me a link to the requisite bit on YouTube I would be grateful, and will share.

Then last night at training I demonstrated a knife disarm and threw the knife "out of play", apparently with a Seagal-like flourish.  So now we have two Steven Seagal techniques.

Here's a nice demo that Seagal did in 1982 on The Merv Griffin Show:

It includes some weapons self-defence, and kenjitsu at the end.  Note how, after taking the weapon from his assailant, he always indicates "the finish".

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Defending the cows - with judo

A former student -- he may well return! -- sent me a link to a real-life judo in the news story:
Judo-trained dairy owner sees off armed youths

A Levin dairy owner used his judo skills to fend off would-be robbers pointing a pistol at his head.

Playford foodmarket owner Tushar Patel was walking out of his Bledisloe St dairy at 1.25pm on Sunday when he saw four young men, two wearing balaclavas, about to enter.

He managed to dial 111 on his mobile before one of youths snatched his phone and tried to punch him in the face. 

A former judo competitor in India, he deflected the blow, grabbed his phone, and held on to his attacker's wrist.

He saw one of the group rushing towards him pointing what looked like a pistol at his head. "I thought, 'That is a bloody gun he has."'

The gunman threatened to shoot Mr Patel, prompting him to push the man he was holding towards the gunman and yell out to his neighbour to call the police. The group ran off.

"I was yelling loudly. I did not think they wanted to kill me – they wanted to rob me."

His wife, Vanita, praised her husband's bravery. "He is a little bit strong man," she said.

It was the third time the couple have been targeted. Two years ago a man threatened Mr Patel with a vegetable knife and demanded money. Mr Patel showed off a bigger knife he kept behind the counter, and the offender fled.

About two months ago a man in a balaclava, brandishing a screwdriver, demanded money before running off empty-handed.

Mr Patel urged dairy owners to be careful and protect themselves. His wife agreed: "They cannot treat you that way, steal like that, otherwise they do it every day. I am proud of my husband but I am scared now."

Two 16-year-olds had been caught, police said. The gun is thought to have been a BB gun.

Thanks, Steve.  Only in New Zealand!

* * *

Apparently I misunderstood the location of this dramatic confrontation.  Steve explained in an email:

A dairy is what kiwis call a corner store or a milkbar.
I realise in Australia a dairy is a cow farm :)
I was wondering why these NZ-farmers were under almost incessant attack ...

Monday, August 02, 2010

What I look for in gradings

Over the weekend our organization had its winter gradings.   I sat on two grading panels observing and assessing students testing for jiu-jitsu and judo student grades ranging from 12th kyu to 1st kyu.

Formal testing is only part of the assessment.  Other elements include: class hours, seminar attendance, points scored in judo competition, and their sensei's recommendation.

The formal testing itself includes a physical component (demonstration of techniques and self-defence) and an oral component (knowledge and terminology).  Attitude is also assessed.

Assessment is subjective -- which is one of the reasons we typically have three black belts per panel -- but here are some of the things that I look for in grading a physical technique (easily adapted to an oral explanation):
  1. Identification: Was the requested technique demonstrated?
  2. Completeness: Were all the technical elements present?
  3. Correctness: Were there any technical defects?
  4. Control: Was the technique executed safely, or was the partner hurt or at risk of being harmed?
  5. Effectiveness: How well did it work?
  6. Efficiency: Was excessive effort or superfluous movement used?
  7. Improvisation: If the student encountered problems, how well was (s)he able to recover?
  8. Depth: Was non-basic knowledge shown: e.g. variation(s), unusual detail?
  9. Grace: Overall flow, fluidity and grace
* * *

One of the things that I have been able to do at my club has been to prepare students for their first grading with a mock grading.  This familiarises them with the format, and allows me to pick up on glaring defects just-in-time.  Also: When several students have the same issue it points to a common source: their teacher!

Now that the class is growing, I think that next grading season I'll try something that helped me in my early years of learning jiu-jitsu and judo: an in-house mock grading session with the students getting a chance to sit on the panel and assess, as well as to be tested.  It should be good.