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Feeling “stuck” in Judo as a beginner: It’s not technique. It’s COURAGE.

By April 18, 2024May 3rd, 2024No Comments

Yesterday, I told Makishi-sensei — head coach at the Kodokan — that I feel very frustrated with my speed of improvement in randori (free sparring), and that I need some small goals / things to focus on when I show up to training everyday.

I needed lead measures, not just lag measures.

He has been observing me for a while, so I knew he’d give me personalized advice.

His response was simple and yet profound. I’ll never forget what he said: ”技を掛ける” (waza wo kakeru).

Apply the techniques.

As beginners, a lot of us don’t attempt real throws in randori — we tend to play it safe, waiting for the right timing and what not, kick people in their shins for lack of better ideas, and do everything except the very things that we came here to learn in the first place.

It’s understandable — committing to a Judo throw is scary as hell. It takes every ounce of courage you have to really go for it, knowing that you could get countered and slammed right back into the floor, even snapping a limb or two.

We’re learning Judo, but not doing any Judo, and then we wonder why we’re not getting better. WOW!!!

If you want to get better at Judo, then do Judo. This means actually attempting throws in randori — with the same commitment as in practice — and learning from THAT experience. Courage is a muscle, and we need to train it more.

Imagine two people: one who has attempted the osoto-gari in randori with a variety of partners from a variety of positions, 500 times — and learning from each of them. And take another who has attempted it only 50 times in randori.

Who will have a better intuition about applying it in a competitive shiai setting, where you don’t even have time to think?

The amazing thing about sparring is that feedback is built-in (you either get the throw, or you don’t, or you get countered), which means it’s an extremely valuable method for practicing throws. You know exactly what mistakes you’re making.

After hundreds of attempts, some successful and some not, you will get an instinctive sense of what works and what doesn’t. Reps really add up, if only you perform them.

Here’s how I’m going to apply this to my training by setting a measurable goal:

I will attempt a real Judo throw every 3 seconds in randori.

1 – 2 – 3 – go! – 1 – 2 – 3 – go!

You don’t have to overthink which throw you’ll go for — repetition will build the intuition better than any thinking-on-the-spot.

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