Friday, June 26, 2015

Blaine Duhs in Peoria Journal Star

Peoria Journal Star article (HERE) on our very own Blaine Duhs! Way to go Blaine and Coach George Weers!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sacrifice Throws, Elbows and Hanging Weight

This Thursday was an particularly exceptional class. With some of our best black belts on the mat to teach, there was a lot of progress made despite the heat. Below are some videos to give you an idea of a typical judo class here at Hollis Park Judo Club. We hope you come join us and discover judo!

Elite PLayers and the Use of Ashi Barai

Definition of Elite Judo Players

What makes an Elite Judo player elite?  Surely winning cannot be the measure of an elite player. Winning is nothing more an incidental by-product of being an elite player.

Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines elite as; "a powerful minority group"
I define Elite Judo players as the players in regular contention for the medal positions at the highest levels of competition.

Elite Traits
Research has shown that elite Judo players use gripping skills to control their opponents. When coming to grips Elite players take any small purchase that their opponent will allow and then improve on it. Research has also suggested that another trait of elite Judo players is knowing when and, more importantly, when not to engage the opponent in Ground Play.
The Research

In performing the research for the report "1992 Olympic Judo Newaza Analysis" I began the review of competition with the Men's 78kg and Women's 61kg divisions video tape. In my observations I admired the high level of skill and Tactical application with which Jason Morris used his Minor Foot Techniques, or Ashi Barai. As the competition progressed into the repechage I realized that;

1) Certainly, no other player used his Ashi Barai to the effect of Jason Morris.
2) Not all players used Ashi Barai.

I wanted to know who used Ashi Barai!

Unfortunately, I was too far into the competition of the 78kg and 61kg divisions to establish any trend of the use of Ashi Barai in these divisions. I was however able to ascertain that;

1) All medallist in the Men's 78kg division used Ashi Barai as a part of their personal attack systems.

2) None of the medallists in the Women's 61kg used Ashi Barai.

Divisions remaining to be reviewed were Women's 48kg, 52kg, 56kg and 66kg as-well-as Men's 60kg, 65kg, 71kg and 86kg. For the remaining review of the video tapes of the 1992 Olympic Judo Competition I recorded which players used Ashi Barai. The following table illustrates the players using Ashi Barai as a part of their Personal Attack Systems.

The Medalists column lists the medal winning players that used Ashi Barai. i.e. 1, 3, 3 would indicate that the Gold, Bronze and Bronze medallists used Ashi Barai. The 5th-7th and Over 7th columns indicates the total number of players, finishing at this place, to use Ashi Barai in their Personal Attack Systems.

Ashi Barai Users
5th - 7th
Over 7th

The, above, table demonstrates that 72.5% of medallists used Ashi Barai. 56% of 1st through 7th place finishers used Ashi Barai.
A Demonstrated Trend

If you accept the definition of Elite players as being the players in regular contention for the medal positions at the highest levels of competition then this research shows a positive trend in the use of Ashi Barai by Elite players.

It is important to note that, in the Women's divisions, three (3) former World Champions (Briggs, Schreiber and Arnaut) failed to earn medals. All three, however, were strong Ashi Barai users. Similarly, in the Men's divisions several strong Ashi Barai users, all past World Medallists, failed to earn a medal. I feel that this evidence supports the definition of Elite players as being in regular contention for the medals. These athletes may not have earned a medal in this particular competition but they were fighting into the late rounds and they will be forces to reckoned with in future World level events.

An aberration?
The Women's 56kg and Men's 71kg had ten (10) and fifteen (15) players using Ashi Barai, respectively. Why there should be such a high number of Ashi Barai users, as compared to an average of seven (7) female players using Ashi Barai and eight (8) male players using Ashi Barai per division, I don't know. I do know that these division were the hardest fought of the Men's and Women's competition.

To date research has indicated evidence of three traits of Elite players.
1) The use of aggressive grips.

2) Selective, offensive, engagement against the Hands and Knees Ground Play Position.
3) The ability to use Ashi Barai as a part of the player's Personal Attack System.

All of these traits are areas that are directly influenced by Coaching. If we want to develop Elite players we must know what traits Elite players have and train our players to use those same abilities.
Are Elite Judo players possessed of other special traits?   Most definitely, YES!  What those traits are will have to be discovered through careful research. It will take time but for now we can train our players to use the skills of the Elite as we know them.

Transitional Control

Why is it that sometimes the thrower is in control when the players hit the mat, sometimes the defender is in control when the players hit the mat and sometimes nobody is in control when the players hit the mat? Inquiring minds what to know. I wanted to know.
What we're talking about is the action of getting from a throwing attack to ground play. In other words, making a transition from nagewaza to newaza. What happens during a transition? Who controls transitions? What gives a person control over the situation?
In an effort to find the answer to these questions I reviewed selected matches from the 1983 Moscow World Judo Championships. During the matches 178 incidents of throwing attacks, with the players going to the mat, occurred.

Which player controlled the situation, when the competitors got to the mat, was decided simply by which of the players was in position to make a newaza attack (basically the person on top). Of the 178 incidents of transitions; 54 of the incidents were controlled by the person that attempted to throw and fifty-one incidents were controlled by the defender. Seventy-three incidents ended with neither player being in control.

Statistically, 30.3% of attacks ended with the thrower in charge of the newaza situation. Situations where the attacker maintains control are 'positive transitions'. Negative transitions are a situation where one players attacks with a throw but the other player is in control to begin newaza. Negative transitions occurred 28.7% of the time. Neutral transitions, where neither player had a newaza advantage occurred 41% of the time.

What makes the difference in who controls the newaza exchange? Initially I thought that the key may lie in the mechanical actions of the attacker. What was it that the thrower was doing during one incident but not doing another time that might maintain or lose control of the attack?

As I observed incidents of attack and transition to newaza I could see that positive transitions were controlled by the attacker closing the attacking space. In other words, the attacker got in tight against the defender's body. After the thrower had closed the attacking space he would keep pushing into the defenders body until both players hit the mat. There were two discrete areas of the opponent's bodies that the attackers drove into. Attackers pressed into the opponent's armpits or against the inner thigh. Which area, the attacker drove against, was determined by the type of attack being employed. Statistically, attackers drove into the upper body at a rate 81.5% over 18.5% of attacks going against the lower extremities.

Negative transitions were controlled in much the same manner as positive transitions. Instead of the thrower driving against the defender it was the defender that took the initiative and closed the attacking space before the attacker could take control. In other words, the defender was making an effort to counter attack. Successful defender's closed the space at the shoulders or the hips, with a closely divided 51% at the shoulders and 49% at the hips. Neither maneuver appeared to offer a difference in control over the situation.

Neutral transitions are, from one perspective, the opposite of a positive of negative transition. Neutral transitions occur when the defender forces the attacking space open. You must realize what is being said here. The attacker gets his throw started, and starts closing the attacking space. The defender, recognizing his perilous position, then forces the space open. The space is forced open at the hips or shoulders. Interestingly, forcing the space open at the shoulders appears to occur because the defender recognized the pending attack early and was able to take evasive action. Forcing the space open at the hips appeared to be a last second survival maneuver. Forcing space at the shoulders and hips was almost equal with 50.7% and 49.3% occurrence, respectively.
What conclusions can we draw from this research?

Obviously we need to practice transitions. We need to take the time to explain to our players that controlling your throwing attack all the way into newaza does not just happen. You have to get enough control to make a throw and then you have to apply constant pressure to keep the control that you've worked so hard to get.
Conversely, we need to practice the defensive side of transitions. This research has shown that taking control away from the attacker happens almost as frequently as the attacker can control the situation (30.3% positive transitions vs. 28.7% negative transitions) So practice, practice, practice your defensive skills and learn to take control. Even if you don't take control you have a good chance of neutralizing the situation.

In closing, I have drawn three, very important, conclusions from this research.
            1) When you open space you neutralize your situation. 

            2) When you close space you take control of the situation.
            3) The person that controls the throwing space controls the ensuing newaza exchange.

Skill Range of the Elite

            What is the skill range of the elite Judo player? In other words, how many different skills do the best players use during competition?

            Through the magic of video I observed thirty nine World and/or Olympic Champions. I wanted to observe the best and most frequently used skills of the best players against the best opponents.

            Throws are very easy to count. The range of throwing skills varied from just three throwing techniques, by super heavyweight World Champion Masaki, to nine different throws from middleweight Olympic Champion Yoshida. Newaza on the other hand presents a different situation. Should we count a switch from kesa-gatame to kuzure-keas-gatame as two osae-waza or is the Champion using a generic skill of holding an opponent so that he/she can't get away? I chose to record newaza skills under the generic headings of osaekomi, shime-waza, kansetsu-waza and sankaku-waza. Use of newaza skills ranged from three types of newaza, used by Fairbrother, Kosorotv, Solodukin and Saito, to no newaza skills used by lightweight Olympic Champion Goussainov. (I spent extra time on Goussainov to verify that he did not pursue newaza. In fact there was one incident that he threw an opponent for yuko, fell right into a hold down and walked away. The man does not pursue newaza!)

            Clearly, the Champions in this research choose to specialize their newaza skills just as they do their throwing skills. We as Coaches need to recognize that a player’s choice of newaza skills is subject to the same type of idiosyncrasies as their choice of throwing skills. We also need to learn how to help our players choose the newaza skills best for their personal integrated attack systems.

            As I watched the competition I catalogued the skills being used. A catalog of championship skills provides an opportunity to analyze frequently used skills at the World/Olympic Championship level. Interestingly, the most frequently used throwing skill was Kouchigari. Kouchigari was used by 72% of the Champions and was observed being used in all weight divisions.

            Another important skills being used by 56% of the Champions are Twist Downs. Twist downs are competitive versions of Uki Otoshi and Sumi Otoshi. Twist downs are very simple counter throwing maneuvers where the defender gets out of the way of an attack and pushes the attacker into the mat using nothing but his/her (the defender's) upper body and the attacker's momentum. Kouchigari and Twist Downs were observed in all Championships reviewed from 1983 to 1995 as well as the 1992 Olympic Judo competition. Pick-ups, competitive versions of Teguruma, Kuchiki Taoshi, Morote Gari etc., etc., showed wide spread use. However, Pick-ups appear to be a recent development in competitive Judo and could indicate a passing fad or developing trend.

            Distribution of newaza skills was surprising on two points. First, I was surprised to realize that the elite players would forego the opportunity to use one newaza skill in favor of something else. i.e. Pass-up a hold down to work for an arm lock. This should not be surprising! Players seek their favorite throws in spite of the opportunity for another throwing skill on a regular basis. Why shouldn't a player prefer one type of newaza over another? Obviously, each individual must stick with the skills that he feels most comfortable with.

It was also interesting to discover that Kansetsuwaza and Shimewaza share nearly equal popularity among the elite. Forty-nine percent of the Champions used kansetsu-waza and 46% were using shimewaza.

            So, what is the technical range of an elite player? A world or Olympic Champion is possessed of a technical range of six throws and two newaza skills. One of the throwing skills is likely to be kouchigari and one of the newaza skills is probably osaekomi. All of the skills in a Champion's technical range, his/her personal integrated attack system, have been chosen to fit the personal talents and propensities of the Champion.

            I also found that none of the champions were using exotic maneuvers that caught everybody off guard. The skills being used by the World and Olympic Champions are the same skills that you and I practice and teach our players every day. Since they're using the same skills it seems to me that each person has an equal chance to get to the elite level. It could be that the only difference between them and everybody else is a little talent and a lot of hard work. What do you think?

Chasing Fads

Do you remember hula-hoops, the twist or duck tails? If you're too young you can research these things in the ancient history section of the library. Better yet, go ask your parents.
These were all fads back in the 50's and 60's. A fad is a short lived mania, of no apparent rationale that in retrospect looks pretty silly. Where do fads come from? Are they the results of some primordial need to follow the herd? Is it a desire to be like everybody else? More to the point, is there social value in following fads?
Unfortunately, Judo also has its fads. The worst example that I can think of was the 'Drop Knee Seoinage'. Back in 1971 a young Japanese player won the -78 kilo World Judo Championship by using just one throw. The young man's name was Fujii Shozo and his throw was a very low, driving, seoinage. Fujii repeated his championship in 1973 and 1977 using the same throw.

The prevalent logic seemed to be that if a low seoinage worked so well for Fujii then low seoinage must be THE throw to use. Everybody and their kohei started dropping to their knees, supplicating themselves to the mat gods, and praying for a throw. The problem was that it didn't work! Everywhere you looked players were dropping to their knees and pulling opponents down onto to their own backs or, worse yet, slamming opponent's faces into the mat.
Fujii didn't just drop to his knees and pull! Fujii executed his seoinage in a dynamic manner that utilized HIS unique skills and abilities. The results were that an entire generation spent their Judo careers chasing a fad for which they didn't have the physical ability or the mechanical understanding to execute.
Fortunately the flop and drop seoi days seem to be behind us. It's true, there are still a few players that use a very low seoinage but they're using it because they have the physical abilities to perform the skill.

If you want to follow an example then follow the true example of great champions. Learn, practice and utilize the skills that work best for YOU. That's all that the champions are doing. They're only doing what works best for them. Now, that's a fad that you could live with!

By the way, Maruki Eiji used the low driving seoinage to win the 1967 World Championship when Fujii was a still teenager. Just goes to show you, if you follow the herd too closely you don't even know who the leaders are.

A Visit to Russia

Moscow, Russia: Baby boomers were raised to believe Moscow the very fount of evil. The name engenders visions of Kruschev; shoe in hand, Mayday parades featuring ICBMS amidst a sea of precision troops and Siberia.

To this, Judo playing boomer, the mention of Russia recalls names like Stepanov and Mischenko (the only occidental ever to defeat Okano). The name recalls musty articles describing the unorthodoxy of Russian Judo, the derision, of said unorthodoxy, thinly veiled; the envy of Russian success, clearly obvious.

What is it that made Russian Judo so very different? How did the vaunted Russian unorthodoxy lead to such success? I was going to find out. I was going to Russia!

Six of us; Gregg, Cory, Ryan, Adam, Emmett, and George departed from Davenport, Iowa on a hot June morning. Gregg, our group leader, has a long standing with our hosts. He has taken several training trips to Russia. He also brings them to the US to conduct clinics.

The trip to Moscow is not for the feint of heart or un-calloused posterior. We endured 16 hours of travel. On arrival your body must cope with the disparity of nine time zones and, during the summer, the white nights of Moscow. Notwithstanding, we got there, we were with friends and we were ready to learn Judo.

The training arrangements were, to say the least, fantastic. Our base was Club Boretz, a relatively new, small club, of 900 students. We also trained at Europe’s strongest club, Sambo 70 (1000 resident students, 4000 athletes) and, just for variety we spent a day at the State Academy of Physical Education and Sport.

The credentials of our Coaches were even more impressive. Yuri Alekhin; Merited Coach of Russia, Coach of World Champion Kosorotov: Alexander (Sasha) Yakolev; Merited Master of Sport, former Coach of the Russian World Junior Team: Sergei Lichev; Merited Master of Sport, former Coach of the Russian World Women’s Sambo Team: Sergei Tabakov; Merited Master of Sport, Chief Judo and Sambo Coach, State Academy of Physical Education and Sport and Igor Kourinoy; Merited Master of Sport, 3 time World Sambo Champion, Russian international Judo representative. Even the assistant Coaches were Russian international Judo representatives.

Last, but certainly not least, is our most important ally, our interpreter, Linna Moratcheva. In her younger days Linna was a gymnast for Russia. Her duties now include acting as interpreter for Vladimir Putin.

Training was strenuous. We worked-out twice daily; calisthenics, drills and randori with no water breaks. (Our Russian hosts don’t believe in water breaks. Thankfully they looked the other way when the more physiologically minded Americans slipped a sip.)

Training partners were plentiful, helpful, courteous and always friendly. No one was out to prove that Russian Judo/Sambo is stronger than American Judo. We already knew that Russian Judo/Sambo is stronger than American Judo. That’s why we were there! Our hosts only wanted to help us improve. And improve we did!

BUT!! Did I find a big secret to the success of Russian Judo? Coach Alekhin and I discussed the Russian system of training Judo players. Herein lies the difference between Russian and American Judo. The secret to their success is that the Russians have an established development system. The Russians also have a very different attitude about developing Judo players. We trained with five, count-em five, prominent figures in the Russian Judo program. Each of these men told us the same thing. Russia does not have a program specific to Judo! Russians players are trained in Judo, Sambo, Greco-Roman and Free-Style Wrestling. Russians simply “compete to the rules of the day” (Sergei Tabakov; Chief Judo and Sambo Coach, State Academy of Physical Education and Sport). Wow, what a concept, learn all you can about wrestling sports and then apply your knowledge to a wrestling sport.

The Importance of Measuring Progress

The Importance of Measuring Progress
What are the developmental objectives of your Judo program? How are your players progressing toward those objectives? Are your players meeting your expectations? How do you measure progress of your players? More to the point; Do you measure the progress of your players?

“That which is not measured cannot be improved.”

Measurement is really a very simple concept. However, being able to measure effectively requires a few preparatory decisions.

1)     You and your players need to understand WHY you’re measuring.

2)     You need to decide WHAT you’re going measure.

3)     You need to decide HOW you’re going to measure.

4)     You need to decide WHEN, or how often, you’re going to measure.

5)     You need to decide on a method for recording your measurements.

What to Measure -----

As the Coach, you have to decide what to measure based on the needs of your players and your developmental objectives. In my Judo program I focus on two key areas of development;

a)     The Seven Requisite Habits of Competitive Judo

b)    Physical Fitness

Seven Habits of Competitive Judo -----

Research has revealed the seven habits common to elite Judo competitors.

Inside Power Hand: Your power hand must be placed to generate maximum rotational force. The term "power hand" must not be taken literally. In actuality your "power hand" can be any part of your body with which you push the defender's back toward the mat. Maximum rotational force is generated when your "power hand" is placed inside, and toward the outer edges, of the area spanned by the opponent's shoulders, preferably between the sternum and the inside edge of the shoulder. Gripping configurations such as Back Grips, Cross Grips, Over Shoulder Grips etc., are not obvious as regards power hand placement. Many, aggressively dominant, gripping configurations transfer the force with which the defender's back is pushed to the mat via contact through the attacker's chest or side. Irrespective of the form of the attacker's "power hand"; hand, elbow, chest, etc., the most efficient contact point is inside, and toward the outer edges, of the defender's shoulder span.

Feet Never Still: Your first line of attack must be movement. Your first line of defense is always movement. Movement exposes vulnerability in the opponent's position. Movement keeps you out of harms way.

Chest to the Hole: Driving your chest to the "hole", into which you intend to push your opponent, affords maximum commitment to your throwing action. Driving your chest to the "hole", into which your opponent intends to push you, reduces the possibility of your attacker receiving a score. Driving your chest to the "hole", into which your opponent intends to push you, increases the possibility of wresting the initiative of the situation from your attacker.

Inside Leg Step Around: Movement is always your first line of defense. Inside leg step around is your secondary, and perhaps most important, line of defense. Inside leg step around keeps your chest toward the hole. The inside leg step around fills the "hole", into which your opponent intends to push you, with your leading leg.

Up-Hill Turn: During ground play, the possibility of escape is determined by the defender's initial reaction. If the defender turns down-hill, away from the attacker, he/she (defender) actually exposes him/herself to greater control. Conversely, an up-hill turn reduces your area of exposure and creates space through which to escape.

Knees Off The Mat: Resting on your knees, severely, restricts your mobility. Resting on your knees limits your ability to force your opponent to bear your weight. Get yourself to your feet so you can move where and when you need to move. Knees are for begging. Your feet are for moving!

Position of Control: The first step in any ground play situation is to stop and think. Evaluate the situation and determine your necessary action. Your objective is, of course, to maintain mobility while depriving the opponent's ability to move. If you want to restrict the opponent's movement, place yourself in position to apply immobilizing pressure at an angle of between 45 and 90 degrees across the opponent's torso. Conversely, if you want to maintain or regain your mobility square your shoulders with the opponent.

Monitoring Physical Fitness -----

The Level II USJA Coaching Course recommends measuring stamina, functional strength and flexibility. These traits may be measured through simple trials such as;

Timed distance run

Push-Ups performed in one minute

Sit-Ups performed in one minute

Measured Sit and Reach[1]

Physical fitness trials should be performed at regular intervals. Results should be recorded and used to monitor progress.

Recording Methods -----

Recording methods can be as simple as a sheet of graph paper or as complicated as a specially designed computer application. Your recording method should be easy to use. Your recording method must also allow you to keep records over an extended period of time. Given the ubiquity of computer-based graphics, data management and word processing programs development of a team development system is within reach for all.

Why Measure? -----

Why should you bother to measure your players' progress? After all, it means more paperwork. It means finding time to perform the tests. It means learning to use the information. Besides, you already know how well your players are doing. Right?! No doubt, your players know exactly where they stand in their development. Right?

We had proverb in the quality department. "In God we trust, all others bring data". Until you have proof of your theory you have nothing more than unsubstantiated conjecture and supposition. At the very best you're making an education guess. The development of your players is far too important to trust unsubstantiated conjecture. Measurement at regular interval keeps you informed of exactly where your players are and exactly where they need to go. 

There is one more, extremely important, reason to measure progress. We all seek to reinforce our self-worth through accomplishment and approval of significant figures in our lives. A carefully established and properly administered program of measurement reinforces and rewards the effort put into a hard training program. When we receive positive reinforcement we feel good about ourselves. We when we feel good about ourselves to want to do what makes us feel good even more, in this case hard training for competition. The more we do the better we feel and subsequently the better our Judo becomes. It's a positive spiral set off by your efforts to be a better Coach. Admittedly, measuring a player's progress takes a little extra effort but the benefits far exceed the effort. How do your efforts measure-up?

[1] Physical Fitness tests are described in the USJA Level II Coaching Certification Course manual.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summertime Judo

It's hot outside. It's hot inside. But that doesn't stop our team from suiting up and coming to class. Here's a few pictures from our Tuesday evening judo session last week. Don't forget - YOU'RE INVITED! Come join us from 6:30 to 8:00 every Tuesday and Thursday evening. Hollis Park Rec Center. Great way to get in shape and learn an awesome martial art! 

Natalie and Naomi working on footsweeps

Reuben practicing a foot block on Cody

Coach Blaine demonstrates a throw 

Reuben and his famous cartwheels...

Reuben and Cody

There's that cartwheel again....he's good! 

Coach Stefan and Aaron practice grip fighting

Coach George looks on while Stefan and Reuben demonstrate a throw 

The kids' favorite game - sharks and minnows. Judo style! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Big Day at Tohkon Classic XX Tournament

It was an exciting day for our team members who traveled to Skokie, IL for the Tohkon Classic XX Tournament on Saturday. Coach George Weers was back in action coaching after recovering sufficiently from his shoulder surgery. Coach Stefan Habsburg helped coach his wife, Natalie, while he waits to get back on the mat after months of recovering from knee surgery. 

Our team members who competed fought hard and made us proud. Alex Wolfe had three matches and won Silver in his division. Natalie Habsburg competed twice. She lost both matches to pins. Nana had two matches in her junior division and while she did not win either match, she made us proud with her performance. 

At the end of the day, it was agreed that this had been an excellent opportunity and good experience. We're proud of our teammates for competing at this highly aggressive tournament against very experienced players. Congratulations to Alex on winning Silver and way to go Natalie and Nana! 

There were over 300 competitors competing on 4 mats over the course of the day. Great turnout! 

Coaching his wife, Natalie, is hard work. Stefan had to take a cat nap on the bleachers.

Natalie and Nana 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Innovative Training Ideas

Masahiko Kimura is a Judo legend. At 14 years of age he had attained the rank of Shodan, by the time he was 17 he was a Yodan and at 23, Schichidan. Keep in mind that his rank was earned, primarily, by defeating other candidates for the ranks being sought.

In 1937, at the age of 23, he became All Japan Champion and retained the title for four years, at which point World War II began. The 1950 All Japan Judo Championship, a long and arduous Championship Match, during which neither opponent was able to demonstrate superiority, resulted in Kimura and Masahiko Ishikawa being declared co-Champions. This brought Kimura’s record to, an unprecedented, Five All Japan Titles and spawned the adage “Before Kimura there was no Kimura. After Kimura there will be no Kimura”.  His record of consecutive titles was intact for, over, a quarter century.

During his career Kimura Sensei was also renowned for his Spartan attitude toward training, such as 1000 Push-Ups daily. He also developed unique methods of improving his strength and skills. Mr. Kimura performed Uchi Komi on a pine tree. He tied a rope around the pine and proceeded to attack the tremulous trunk with hundreds of Seoinage, ostensibly, attempting to up-root the poor pine. Legend has it that the pitiful pine perished from Kimura’s abuse.

Mr. Kimura practiced his Osoto Gari in a, no less, dynamic manner. He began by placing a candle on the mat and pantomiming his Osoto Gari action until the force of his sweep extinguished the flame. He then progressed to a candle to his front and one to the rear. Again he practiced until his action extinguished both candles. He, progressively, intensified the challenge until he could extinguish ten candles at a time!

His intensive training earned him the ability to and reputation for rendering opponent’s unconscious with his throws.

Kimura Sensei’s innovation and dedication should be inspiration to all serious Judoka. Through hard work and use of common items he developed his stamina and skills to, unprecedented, levels. He thought outside the box and became a legend.

So what can you do outside the box? All you need is the floor for Push-Ups and everybody should be able to find a piece of rope and a tree, or pole, to perform Uchi Komi. Games like soccer and hop scotch are useful in developing foot work.

What else could we do?

When I was young, we had a dog that liked to play tag. She chase us and try to catch our legs. It became a game of balance and foot work to avoid being ‘tagged’.

I’m certain we could incorporate cats in our unorthodox training. Cats are notorious for winding in and around peoples’ legs. If you’re not careful you can step on, or be tripped by, the cat. We may be on to something here!

Taking a page from Kimura Sensei’s candle progression, we’ll begin with one cat, in a room, and see how long we can last. We can add cats, and/or people, until the room is full and locomotion becomes laborious. For an added challenge we could tie catnip to our ankles! Catnip would, surely, prompt playfulness from our furry friends. Cat food could also be smeared on the ankles but I fear that a feeding frenzy might render the objective fruitless.

There’s your challenge! Think outside the box and develop your own unorthodox training methods.

Right now, my cats are waiting.

Coach George Weers