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dress up – judo

March 24, 2008

Twice a week I have Judo class with my kids (except for the next two weeks, it’s spring break). In America they’d be Sophomores in high school or in Japan 1st grade senior high school students. At my school, they’re 4th grade secondary students. Long story.

Anyway, this is my outfit. My free-welcome-to-Japan Judogi. I had two gis actually. The other I didn’t bother keeping because it was ripping at the seams. This one I kept.

Wow, look at how Judo serious I am

I started Judo about 9 months into my first year in Japan. My school had a Judo club and I knew my stand up sucked so I joined. The Judo kids loved it. I like to think they dug the fact I was getting my ass thrown on a daily basis.

My Judo instructor, Akita sensei, (the second tallest and second largest teacher in school at the time, the Principle was literally the big man on campus) took Kosen Judo in college and had a brief stint entering (and winning) a few Judo tournaments in Japan. He’d politely chuckle and say that it was much of nothing whenever I started asking questions about his competition days.

He loved the fact I took BJJ before Judo. And I think because of that he included more newaza randori sessions, and taught funky Kosen throws that left uke (the guy you throw) more exposed to a submission. Rather than the obvious Seoinage or Ipponseoinage (shoulder throw) chaining to a juji gatame (armbar), some of the Kosen throws were sneaky and complicated. Probably why I don’t remember most of them.

I did roll with him once. It was not pretty.

Notice the large open sleeves, the large circle-4 on the lapel (so I know my size) and the absurdly non-threatening look

Two years fly by and eventually, as is custom here in Japan, Akita sensei left my school to teach somewhere else. Teachers in Japan basically have a one year contract and are informed at the end of the school year whether they will be recontracted or not. Akita sensei was a “not”. It was sad to see him go. He was one of those teachers who loved what he did. I never saw a larger, more brighter smile on his face than when he wore his gi and taught Judo.

And because he left, and a new Judo sensei was never hired, the Judo club closed down. So why am I still going to Judo class?

Apparently, it is a requirement (Japanese law I think) that students during their first grade of senior high school be educated in Japanese culture, just for one year. This is why there are Shodo, Sado, Kendo, Kyudo, and Judo clubs. My school only has Sado and Kendo clubs. Those that aren’t part of those two clubs take a seperate specialized class on Shodo (calligraphy) or Judo.

This is what the Fastantic Four would have worn if they were Japanese

So I throw, or get thrown by, my kids twice a week. It’s fun but it wasn’t as challenging as Judo club. There is only one black belt in Judo class, and that’s not the sensei. And there’s no randori.

Usually class goes like this: we review a technique, learn a technique, do lots of drills, and that’s it.

All the boys and the sensei know that I’m the guy to watch out for, both in tachiwaza and newaza. The rest of the boys urge the black belt to throw me, and he usually does. There’s that young pup/old dog rivalry between me and him. I like it, I think it’s funny. Sometimes the black belt has that way too serious look in his eyes and then I have to ankle pick him and show him this old dog has a lot of tricks left in him.

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