Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Balance Games

Last night was a small class but lots of fun. While Coach Blaine worked with the adult players, Coach Stefan teamed up with brown-belt Naomi to teach the kids some balance games. There was Indian Wrestling where the kids had to keep their feet on a belt laid flat on the floor while trying to push their opponent off the belt. Then they played Sumo Wrestling. All the belts were formed into a circle on the floor. The object of the game was to either make your opponent step outside the circle or make them touch the floor with anything other than their feet. And finally, the kids played Plate and Jello. One person is the 'plate' and has to knock the other person, the 'Jello', off of them while the 'Jello' tries to stay on the 'plate'. This groundplay game teaches excellent balance and useful pinning skills. The kids had a great time! 

Coach Stefan and Bella play Sumo Wrestling

Cody tries to out-sumo wrestle Coach Stefan

Sumo Wrestling game

Lily and Coach Stefan learning balance with sumo wrestling

Cody and Lily try to make the other step outside the sumo wrestling circle

The girls practice their foot sweeps

The kids try to keep their feet on the belt while pushing their opponent off

Learning balance and judo by playing at sumo wrestling

Mom and son practice some sumo wrestling

Cody takes on Coach Stefan

Learning balance the fun way :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Looking Back - North/South 2013

Jumping back in time a little to 2013's North/South Judo Tournament.

This is one of Stefan Habsburg's matches. So much fun to look back at old videos and see how much everyone has progressed!

And here are Coach George Weers and Renee Corder demonstrating Kata. Currently, both are recovering from surgery. We look forward to having them both back on the mat.

Monday, May 18, 2015


I was wondering. What do they do with used body bags? Think about it, there's major money making potential here. All you'd have to do is rinse them out after each use and you'd be ready for the next customer. I mean, who's going to know? It's not like the occupants are going to notice and I seriously doubt that the next of kin will take the time to inspect the receptacle.

You wouldn't have to worry about contagion either. Your customers are dead! Even if they died from, to quote Dickens, "something catchin’" the next inhabitant is beyond catching anything.

Admittedly, the messy ones could pose a challenge. Let's face it they'd have the potential to stain or otherwise soil the containers. Not a problem! Turn the repository inside out. That way the next inmate will encounter a clean surface. While the surfaces are inverted you could thoroughly clean the exposed side and let it dry.

I do realize that there might be some local ordinance with which to deal. There's bound to be ways around that. We could develop an inter-state exchange program between mortuaries, law enforcement agencies and crematoria. After passing through enough hands nobody would know the origin of a specific vessel.

We could even develop a secondary market. The boy scouts, hunters and survivalist types would be thrilled to have an inexpensive waterproof sleeping bag. I mean, that's what these hampers were designed for in the first place. Right? It's nothing more than a personalized space for repose. The down side is that they're not very well insulated. Let's face it, warmth was not an original design factor. We can get around that by advertising them as "summer weight" product. There's even an added benefit. In the case of untimely demise, recreational users would have their own body bag right there. Now there's convenience for you.

I really think that I'm on to something here. We have a previously untapped resource that could be worth millions. This is also an environmentally sound endeavor. Body bags are currently used two, three times, tops. My proposal could recycle limited resources indefinitely.

We need to act on this! If we don't someone else is going to jump on it and get rich. Are you in?

North/South Tournament 2015

Tyler Kuhns and Natalie Habsburg represented our team at the North/South Judo Tournament this past weekend. Stefan Habsburg did an excellent job coaching. Tyler competed twice against some very skilled opponents and did an excellent job fulfilling his goal of keeping the elbows in tight. Natalie had three matches, taking home silver by winning her second match with a choke. Excited to see these two judoka progressing so much! Way to go team!

Natalie's Silver Medal Match Video

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Family That Throws Each Other...

...stays together :) Yay for families doing judo together! Jim and his two kids, Aiden and Emmett are a welcome addition to our team. They've been working hard and it was exciting as Coach Blaine and Coach Stefan presented them each with a yellow belt. Congrats! 

Emmett's belt was a little long so he got creative with the knots

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Blaine Duhs Wins at 2015 Nationals

Our very own Blaine Duhs competed at the Nationals May 2-3. He played in the -100kg and Open Divisions. He finished in 5th place at -100kg and captured the Silver Medal in Open Division. This weekends’ Silver gives Blaine a full set of Gold Silver and Bronze medals in Senior National Championship events.

The Whole Thing

As I do every morning, I was listening to National Public Radio's Morning Edition on the way into work, and they presented an article about a failed educational experiment. The program was called the "whole language approach to reading". The premise of the whole language approach was that children were taught to read by teaching them individual words. No phonetics, no clues as to how to decipher new words, just whole words.

One of the proponents of the whole language approach was interviewed. This person claimed that people could learn to read if they were told what each word meant and then read it enough times. Isn't that analogous to saying that children can learn not to play in traffic if you allow them to get run over frequently?

This whole language concept boggles the mind. I mean, it leaves no room for spontaneous perception or creativity. In a whole language world everybody would have to rely on someone else to explain what new words mean. Think about it. If you were taught through the whole language process, every time you encountered a new word you'd have to find someone that knew what the word was. Sooner or later, we would reach the point where no one knew the words and language would atrophy.

Fortunately, the inadequacies of the whole language approach revealed themselves in short order.

On the other hand, do we really recognize the futility of the whole language approach? Think about it. How do we teach Judo? Most Judo is taught through a "whole skill approach". In other words, most of the time we see Judo techniques taught as isolated incidents. Coaches simply get in front of the group and show Seoinage or Osotoagri without demonstrating how the throw is related to the process of gripping, or footwork or newaza.

Worse yet, we almost never explain the building blocks of skills. The building blocks of ALL Judo skills lie in the mechanical actions that you use to execute a maneuver. Everybody knows about Mechanical Actions. They’re the way you move and arrange your arms and legs. It’s how you get yourself into the best possible position to push the opponent's back toward the mat.

The Mechanical Actions of Judo are parallel to the phonetics of language. When a young person is taught phonetics he, or she, is able to "sound-out" new words and spontaneously expand his/her vocabulary. When a Judoka understands the Mechanical Principles and Actions, required to execute skills he, or she, can learn any throw, hold-down, arm-lock, strangle or sankaku. More importantly, when a person understands the Mechanical Principles and Actions he, or she, can expand his/her Technical Vocabulary spontaneously.

"Those who forget the past are condemned to relive it." The whole language fiasco has provided ample evidence that development is based in a strong foundation of basic principles. Can't we see that the same standard applies to learning Judo?

Hasn't the "whole skill" approach gone on long enough? Can't we see that the whole skill approach to Judo does nothing to further our sport?

Your players must be taught how to build their own skills. Your players must be taught the relationship between the various aspects of Judo play. Your players must be allowed to experiment and make mistakes and ultimately create their own new Judo. If you deny your players the basic building blocks then you doom them to the fate of the whole language experimental group, which is fundamental illiteracy.

It's your choice. You can provide your players with the tools to build Judo or you can leave them dependent on the limited knowledge of others. I opt for creative Judo.

The Winng Edge; Getting It and Keeping It

Back in 1959 a man by the name of Walter Tevis wrote the finest book on sport motivation yet to be printed.  Now, it's not so surprising that a person might endeavor to write on the subject of competitive motivation.  Nor is it surprising that the book might get published.  What is surprising is that the man was an English teacher and he wrote about the game of Pool!  That's right, the fifteen ball, back alley, smoky room variety.

Walter Tevis did not write just any book about pool.  He wrote about the highest possible levels of the game, the games where the players don't miss; The games where vast amounts of money ride on the most difficult of shots; The games where control was the most important factor.  Control, physical and mental.  Walter Tevis wrote a book called "The Hustler".  It became a movie and was nominated for academy awards for the fine performances of Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason and George C. Scott.

Undoubtedly, the reader is asking what a pool player could have to do with Judo?  What does a novel have to do with real life?  What could an English teacher show me about teaching Judo?  Bear with me, while I explain.

The pertinent point of the story centered around the inability of the lead character, Fast Eddie, to maintain a winning attitude. It fell to the Hairy Legs Burt (pool room parlance for, what might be considered, today's coach), to educate Eddie on the finer points of winning.  Burt had to teach Eddie that winning, in-and-of itself, is easy.  The person who prepares properly wins!  It's that simple.  What is not so simple is overcoming the desire to lose.

Who on earth would want to lose?  Everybody wants to lose!  The question is, why?

When you get down to it losing is the way to go.  When you lose you get a lot of extra attention.  The loser doesn't stand-out, he doesn't have any pressure or responsibilities.  He just has to go out and lose a match, probably would have lost anyway, right?  So why bother?  On the other hand, to win and keep on winning you have to work, you have to maintain your concentration.  You have to accept responsibility.  After all, the winner has the responsibility of setting an example by which the loser lives vicariously.

Everybody consoles the loser. Everybody lets him know that they know just how he feels. Everybody tries to make him feel better.  What they are doing is letting the loser know that he is one of them, that he belongs.  Isn't that one of our deepest and most basic needs, to belong?  So why mess it up by all that fuss about winning?  Just go out and make it look good.  But not too good, don't forget, the other guy is trying to lose too.

Winners are treated differently!  The winner is congratulated, put on a pedestal, kept at a distance.  After all, a winner is different.  Common participants don't know how to relate to the winner.  They resent the fact that the winner has the unmitigated gall to be better, to strive for a higher level, to disturb the calm surface of every day mediocrity.  But then, we can't treat the Winners too harshly!  Who are we going to get to defeat the losers?  Where else can we get our vicarious thrills?  The Winner serves his purpose, so keep him around.  Still, deep inside, there is the spark of greatness, the will to win is in all of us.  The problem is overcoming the fear of breaking away from the loser's syndrome.

Burt tried to explain this to Eddie in simple terms.  Tried to impress upon Eddie that the most difficult opponent is yourself.  Yes, yourself!  Every time you realize you’re beginning to pull away from the loser's attitude there’s a moment of panic.  A moment when you realize that to stay on course will be a step in the direction of forfeiting the approval of the other losers, a step in the direction of becoming an individual.

Fortunately these moments are easily recognized.  They come hard on the heels of a compliment from a spectator or another player.  It's the moment when someone says to you "nice move" or "good attack" and you say to yourself "yes it was".  At this point a little voice lets you know that you've gone far enough!  You've impressed the other losers, don't carry things too far.  Everybody knows you're good, if they think you're too good you can't be one of them.  This is the enemy!  The voice of mediocrity is imploring you to stay with the fold.  It's warm and safe here, there's no need to risk your nice safe position.  This is the voice that the winner must silence time and again.

Because we're third party observers to Fast Eddie's thoughts we could see these things going on.  We see the struggle and the pitfalls but wonder if this is applicable to ourselves.  When you stop and think about it, there's not a player or coach who can't recall an incident that meets these circumstances.  At some time or other each of us has had the upper hand and backed off.  Perhaps you didn't realize what had happened, or why ,but Burt knew and he made Eddie a winner by making Eddie understand.

Applying this to Judo is the same as applying it to pool.  We need to understand that the normal tendency is to lose.  After-all winning is hard work with dubious rewards. 

If winning is, indeed, foreign, then our objective should not be to win.  We need to learn to concentrate on specific objectives. Work to accomplish a certain goal.  Cut the variables to a minimum by working toward small advantages.  Keep your objectives in mind!  If you are occupied with specific goals it is difficult to be distracted by the voice of mediocrity.

Above all, you must accept that it is right to strive to fulfill your potential! Remember, no one else will ever know if you back off at the crucial moment. No one, that is, except you and the other losers, and that's what they want.

Movement Paterns of Competitve Judo

            A study was conducted to investigate the Movement Patterns employed in Judo competition.[1] A total of 148 international matches were observed to investigate the possibility of determining Movement Patterns used by top level players. Video taped footage of the 1983, 1985, and 1989, World Championships as well as the 1990 and 1991 All Japan Open Judo Championship was used as the analysis material. Through careful observation a total of five distinct Movement Patterns were determined.
Free Movement

Pattern Description:
            Free Movement is the first Movement Pattern used by players when coming into contact with their opponent. Free Movement is accomplished in large random steps. The Space between the players is at a maximum. The movement usually occurs with only one hand on the opponent. Free Movement is frequently in a circular, or semi-circular path around the opponent. Free Movement is done on the toes with an erect posture and quick, light, bouncy movements.
During the Free Movement Pattern players keep themselves at arms length, with their feet directly below their shoulders and their shoulders squared to the opponent. The players keep the Vertical Space, between themselves, constant and withdraw at the slightest advance of the opponent. This is a Square Mobile Posture.
Tactical Value:
            The primary Tactical value of Free Movement appears to be psychological. Free Movement affords safe initial contact for both players. i.e. It allows one hand contact and full mobility yet denies the opponent any control. 
Wide Step Lateral Movement

Pattern Description:
            Wide Step Lateral Movement falls into the lower range of rapid travel. In other words the player's movements are quick but not fast. The players usually have both hands on the opponent but neither player has a Power Hand "set". Player Space is quite wide but not, necessarily, at the maximum possible space.
The players maintain a Square Mobile Posture but the movements are not as wide as in Free Movement. The Wide Step Lateral Movement Pattern sees players moving from oblique, right or left, travel to describing slight, right or left, arcs in front of the opponent.
Tactical Value:
           The Tactical Value of a Wide Step Lateral Movement Pattern lies in a high security factor. Wide Step Lateral Movement allows players to maneuver for positions of advantage without allowing the opponent time to mount an attack.
2-3 Step Hesitant

Pattern Description:
            The 2-3 Step Hesitant Movement Pattern uses two, or three, steps in quartering left or right, diagonal, directions, towards the opponent's side. The players are beginning to develop Attacking Power and testing for any possible weaknesses in the opponent's stance. During 2-3 Step Hesitant Movement players do not commit full power. Players appear to be testing the opponent's position with 60 to 75% power.
            2-3 Step Hesitant Movement is, usually, undertaken by one player at a time. Players frequently take turns at 2-3 Step Hesitant Movement. The first player will take 2-3 Steps and Hesitate for the opponent's reaction and then the opponent takes his 2-3 steps to bring the Vertical Space back to neutral.
During 2-3 Step Hesitant Movement the moving player has a Power Hand "set" or is trying to get into position to set a Power Hand. The opponent will also have a Power Hand in position and is resisting any force from the moving player. 2-3 Step Hesitant is the first stage of getting the Driving Leg into place. The players are probing the opponent for weakness but still reserving an escape route in case of attack.
            This movement pattern might well be analogized to a pair of young bull moose trying to push each other around just to see what mischief might be perpetrated.

Tactical Value:
            2-3 Step Hesitant Movement takes the players out of the safety of Square Mobile Posture and sees them begin to establish a Driving Leg. This Movement Pattern is also employed as an attempt to induce the opponent to commit to a specific line of movement.

One Step Weight Shuffle

Pattern Description:
            The One Step Weight Shuffle is where the opponent's are seriously seeking opportunity for attack. The Power Hand is "set" the Driving Leg is back and near a position of attack. The aggressor's chest is open and 80 to 90% of available power is applied to influencing the opponent. With his Driving Leg at or Near the position from which to launch an attack the players shift weight rhythmically from one foot to the other searching for weakness.
Tactical Value:
            The One Step Weight Shuffle is the stage just prior to attack. The Weight Shuffle is an attempt to coerce the opponent into position for attack. It is test of strength and nerves. If the opponent allows himself to be pushed too far an attack is imminent. If the opponent does not resist with sufficient force, and allows his/her movement to be dictated, the result will be an attack.
During the One Step Weight Shuffle the role of attacker and defender is clearly defined. The attacker has his Hips and Chest open and turned away from the opponent, the Driving Leg is set back, the Power Hand is in position and the Locking Hand is trying to break down the defender's outside shoulder. Conversely, the objective of the defender is to remain as mobile as possible and maintain a Square Mobile Posture.

The Stutter Step

Pattern Description:
            The Stutter Step Movement Pattern is an integral part of a successful attack. The Stutter Step moves the attacker away from the defender and then immediately back to the defender for the attack. The Stutter Step is that little dance, a twitch of the hips and beating of the feet that we see, so often, from strong players, as prelude to attack. The Stutter Step is a set pattern of quick steps that move the attacker away from the opponent, which creates the space through which one must travel to accomplish attack configuration, and then quickly closes into the attacking configuration.
            The Stutter Step Pattern effectively opens the necessary Attacking Space, the area between the players that is needed for the attacker to travel through to get his body into attacking position, and then takes the attacker back into the Throwing Space, the proper amount of area that should be between the players for the attack. The Stutter Step provides plyometric action, a coiling and uncoiling of the attacker's legs and body, for an explosive action.
Tactical Value:
            The Stutter Step is a Footwork Pattern that must be used as attack preparation. During this research, there were no incidents of a defender conceding a score, or even needing to, vigorously, defend an attack, if the Stutter Step was not used.  In other words without a Stutter Step there is no effective attack! 
Need of the Stutter Step was also evident in Counter Throws as well as during initial attacking actions. In preparation to Counter Attack, the Defender needed to open an Attacking Space, through quick Stutter Step Footwork, and then close into the Throwing Space in order to have effective countering maneuvers. In other words, the defender would get out of the way of the attacker's initial maneuver, with the first steps of the Stutter Step, and then bomb back in with his counter attack.
            Scoring throws were usually preceded by a period of One Step Weight Shuffle prior to the Stutter Step. Some exceptions were observed but the higher the throwing effort the more need for the sequential progression of Weight Shift, to Stutter Step, to attack was evident.

Observations and Conclusion

            The first four Movement Patterns appear to be a natural extension of the gripping situation. As control of the Power Hand increased, movement, from the players, decreased. This progression is quite logical and is probably gained through experience.
            The Movement Patterns, noted in this research, also progressed by distinct pattern. Movement began with light contact and large activity which was followed by economy of movement as the degree of effort, exerted to control, or attempt, to control the opponent, was increased.
            Movement Patterns did not necessarily begin with Free Movement nor did it go directly into a Weight Shuffle. The movement between players diminished in proportion to the efforts of the players to set their Power Hands and Driving into position for attacking.

            There were no instances of players going, suddenly, from very little movement, with Power Hand and Driving Leg in place to a flurry of movement with no Power Hand or Driving Leg without a break of contact between the players. In other words, players would start with a great deal of movement and work into a Power Position without relinquishing grips but they would not try to move around rapidly once a dominant grip was established without breaking away from the opponent's grips.

            The first four movement patterns were evident in all players and matches observed. The degree to which the large, faster Movement Patterns were employed, appeared to be, inversely proportionate to the player's weight. That is to say the higher the weight category the less the players moved. The presence of the first four movement patterns in all players would suggest that these patterns are natural and do not need to be taught.

The facts that;
a)    the Stutter Step was not evident in all players and

b)    the Stutter Step integral to an effective attack

suggests that the Stutter Step is a learned response. That is to say that, players must be trained in the use of this Movement Pattern.
            The most effective attacks (with a few notable exceptions) progressed from a Weight Shuffle to a Stutter Step. The Stutter Step was also executed from Movement Patterns #2 and #3 but never from pattern #1. Where the Movement Pattern, immediately preceding the Stutter Step, was not a Weight Shuffle the attacker had great difficulty closing to the Throwing Space. Notable exceptions were throws that require a, quite wide, Throwing Space, such as, Fast Tempo Tomoenage. (refer to the Tomoe Nage throws of Hosokawa)
            That Movements Patterns can be discretely cataloged should not be surprising. What might be surprising is that such a small catalog has been defined.
            The most important discovery of this study was that there is a Movement Pattern that appears to be requisite to successful throwing actions. Of further note is the fact that the requisite pattern was not seen in all players. Coaches will need to adjust teaching methods in order to condition a foot work pattern that opens the Attack Space and places the attacker in optimum position to close into the attacking position. In other words every player must develop his, or her, own version of the Stutter Step.

            The Stutter Step may, well, provide another piece of the puzzle that comprises the game of Judo. What we do with the information is in the hands of each individual player and Coach.


[1] This research has been replicated and verified in a European study.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Meet the Team

Here's a few pictures of some of our dedicated coaches and players.

Coach George Weers and Reuben Corder

Stefan Habsburg, Alex Wolfe, Coach George Weers (several years ago)

Troy Draper, Karyn Draper (soon to be Neilson) and Coach George Weers (several years ago)

Coach George Weers and Reuben Corder after 2014's North/South tournament

Coach Mitch Williams - coaches his own dojo in Canton, IL

Karyn Draper and Dave Bleeker

Stefan and Natalie Habsburg

Naomi Markley, Sensei Shepherd (coaches in Chicago area), Renee Corder

Renee and (son) Reuben Corder

National Medalist Blaine Duhs

Welcome to Hollis Park Judo!

We're excited about how much our team is growing in both numbers and skill. Lots of new faces on the mat. It's fun to introduce people to this wonderful thing called judo. 

Lily and Bella got promoted to yellow belts!! Coach George Weers is happy to see them doing so well. 

Cody (top) and Reuben (bottom) enjoy a little groundplay

Sharing judo stories after class

Lily and Julien learn transitions from stand-up to ground-play while Coach George supervises

Coach Stefan teaches how to 'shrimp' out of a bad position