Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Judo - Self defence's Cinderalla

I find that most Judoka have self-image problem when it comes to self-defence - and it is utterly refreshing

At times during practice, some will say to me that they have absolutely no idea if someone came up to them and punched them. Let alone if the assailant was carrying a weapon of some sort. The others will admit to knowing one of two really questionable moves taught to them by some 'Uncle' who claimed to be have trained under some ' hush-hush secret sifu' but will readily admit that those said moves were about as useful as more sweat glands under your armpit

It's a welcome change from the self professed 'expert's who claim to know this and that. You know these people. In the gym, in the pub over a beer, they will tell you that they 'know stuff' and then suddenly look distantly into the distance with a glazed look as if they were remeniscing about the days where they were fighting hand-to-hand in the rice paddies of Vietnam with the Viet Cong. Forget the fact that they weren't even born when the last chopper took off from the U.S Embassy in Saigon back in 1975.

Why is this? Blame the Olympics to some extent. The sportification of Judo has meant that the emphasis shifted to ruthless efficiency in taking someone down and winning a medal. Somewhere along the line, the only self defence kata - Goshin-no-kata fell somewhere beween the small spaces between the tatami mats.

The traditionalists decried this but I'm more sanguine. Why? The positive aspect of this shift to sports has meant that instead of being wrapped in airy-fairy mysticism of what works (and by the way, early Judo had already done away with a lot of the B.S content) and what doesn't - we know what works against a fit, atheletic and resisting opponent. So if I can launch my local club player with a tai-o-toshi while he's trying to rip my arms out and kill me, this should work against Joe nasi-kandar should the need arise

Does this mean that Judo is the be all and end all of Self-defence? Or course not. The study of self defence is an area all by itself and it is complex. And Judo as it is done these days leaves a lot wholes to be plugged for the self-defence aspect to come truly alive. But the building blocks are there; I just wish my poor training partners could see that and not look down on the perceived effectiveness of what they do

Years ago, I was sparring in early version of the UFC with a friend in a University hall. We had no mats so we laid some crude stretching mats on the floor and did our throwing there. One day, he launched me with a shoulder throw....off the mats

I landed on the wooden floor and it felt as though I was hit by a semi-trailer. Honestly, I had visions of being paraylsed and for 4 minutes I couldn't move an ince from that floor because of the shock and the pain. If that had been an assiailant instead of my friend, he could have done a version of Riverdance over my face, and other nastier stuff in that time. And this was wood - not concrete.

It cemented the notion that this 'gentle art' was not so gentle in the first place. And that there are hidden gems in this much underrated legacy that Kano left us. I wish my friends at the dojo would see this. I would love them to understand while we get down and dirty like swine on the mat (ever see a Judo randori? :-) ), there be pearls lurking in there somwhere


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