Home > Challenges, competition, Judo, Learning > Stepping it up and slowing it down.

Stepping it up and slowing it down.

I want to preface this post by informing you that this is strictly about judo and I’m not even going to attempt to tie it into some universal theme. So if reading about judo bores you, feel free to skip. And if you enjoy reading about judo, this post will likely be long, so feel free to skim.

OK, so I am visiting my friend, Kristin, who also practices judo. Since she had practice last night, we thought it would be fun if I went to her club with her. I was really excited because a) I would get a night of training with Kristin, who is not only a friend, but a highly skilled black belt, b) I would have the double bonus of being on vacation while still being able to get in a practice, and c) I would have the chance to experience a new club with new training buddies.  Kristin’s club has an excellent reputation so I was pumped to see what it was all about, but I was also nervous about jumping into a practice that would be different than what I’m used to.

Oh, gosh. I barely know where to begin. I guess I’ll start by saying that Kristin’s dojo is pretty bare bones, indicating that you don’t need a fancy facility to hold great training and make great players. Also, the entire practice was complete role reversal for me. At my club, I’m one of the youngest members there and probably considered  high energy. At Kristin’s club, I played the part of the old, injured judoka lurching on the sidelines. The majority of Kristin’s teammates are high school age or younger, which makes for a completely different atmosphere and a completely different practice.  And there are so many of them! They have a huge membership–last night I think think there were close to 30 students, as opposed to my club’s 8-12.  So a practice full of young athletes felt half like a circus, and half like boot camp. Kristin’s club is gearing up for the Junior Nationals, so maybe that is another reason why the intensity level felt so electric to me.

Seeing a club with so many young students and a club that is focused on competition was amazing for me to watch.  It was so awesome to see how focused the kids are and how the older students serve as role models for the younger ones. Their coach definitely rules with tough love and allows for a lot of independence, which makes the kids step up to their challenges.  For example, when the coach yelled out to the class, “OK, who’s going to run the warm-up tonight?”, it only took a few seconds for a little purple belt to take charge.  And, man, what a feeling to be a part of that warm-up! I felt like I was in an army of judoka. It was great. I did get a little anxious when they started doing front hand springs since I really don’t know if I can do one. Nine year-old me would have jumped right in, but 29 year-old me thought, “Am I going to hurt myself?” Kristin, who is also recovering from an injury, told me it was OK to skip those. Phew. (Although I sort of want to practice them in secret…)

After the warm-up, we moved into moving uchikomis, throwing and moving right into the pin, and some tokui waza. Then it was time for randori. I was glad to see that Kristin’s club has several girls who are all around my size, ensuring I would get some good rounds.  I went with some really, really good players and it was almost as exciting just watch everyone else.  Even the six and seven year- olds had these incredibly fierce game faces! It was unbelievable. But as soon as practice was officially over, the death looks came off and everyone was goofing around and picking on each other, just as they should. I could really tell how much each person in the club meant to one another–so just as they push each other during training, they are there to break the tension afterwords and show support by helping each other wind down. And because judo people are awesome, they wasted no time making fun of me while ending the night with hugs.

Experiencing Kristin’s club was completely eye-opening for me and brought forth a revelation:

I kind of suck.

I’m not saying that in a “Oh, please, tell me how good I really am at judo” kind of way. This is me stepping outside of myself and looking at how I fit in with a club that trains to compete. I don’t really fit in. I could throw out excuses for last night, like my injury or the fact that I have a slight cold and I was not quite tip-top, but I feel certain that even if I was feeling my best physically, my technique still wouldn’t hold up. I also get too wrapped in trying to figure out what the other person is going to do and trying to feel out their game instead of attacking first. And while I expect brown belts to toss me around,  struggling unsuccessfully against orange and yellow belts is forcing me to acknowledge how I’ve felt about my judo over the last few months. I’m missing something, and I think what I’m missing are the basics.  I’ve been making a little list of very specific, very small, very short-term judo goals for me I get back home:

1. Keep my sleeve hand active.

2. Maintain my posture.

3. Keep my balance forward when executing forward techniques.

I left practice last night feeling disappointed in myself, but the overarching sense was pure awe and pure inspiration. I felt like I was seeing judo for the first time. At a club like Kristin’s, natural talent wouldn’t mean anything because the training demands you work your absolute hardest. If you’re not willing to do that, you can’t get anywhere. I felt like I was seeing real commitment and real team spirit last night. I’m going to hold on to that as best I can apply it to my little list.

Oh, and I have one long-term goal:

1. Relax <– –> Be confident.




  1. July 19, 2011 at 17:45

    As a side note: I have to make an effort to go to other clubs at home to work with more women. I really have no good plan when it comes to fighting girls. Women are a whole different ball game and I need to get used to fighting girls my size.

  2. kristin
    July 20, 2011 at 09:58

    lori – you are doing all the right things. everyone is at a point where they feel like they ‘kind of suck’. just keep making little lists of goals to conquer and before you know it those feats will be accomplished, then it will be onto bigger and better goals. your heart and mind are all in the right spot to really grow as a judoka. just keep pushing yourself, as you have been, and i know you will see improvements in the areas you are looking! i cant wait to train with you some again when i am in philadelphia this fall <3.

  3. July 20, 2011 at 11:01

    Krissy, the logical part of me knows that you’re right.I guess with judo, you can’t ever really think you’re great or you might stop working hard. We have to believe we suck a little bit at all time so we have something to strive for, I think. At the same time, a little confidence probably goes a long way.

    And I, too, look forward to our next training session!

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