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My First Shiai

By May 29, 2024June 17th, 2024No Comments

Yesterday, I took my 3rd kyu test at the Kodokan. It comprised of two things:

  1. A quick demonstration of mae-mawari ukemi (forward rolls).
  2. A shiai (competition) with classmates (2 rounds)

Here’s what happened:

I got my ass handed to me — twice — in a children’s tiffin box.

I lost my composure as soon as both shiais opened, in a panicky “throw as soon as you touch them or they’ll throw you” mode. And that’s what happened — I attacked single-mindedly, and lost both bouts within 10 seconds. Mine were the quickest shiais among everyone who took the test.

I didn’t take any time to think. Forgot to get into position, to watch my opponent, to move, and to breathe.

I don’t even know which throw I got hit with. I have no memories of what happened or how it happened.

All I remember is that I went for a big pull, then pushed into a quick fake kouchi (which failed to get any sort of reaction because I was too far from the opponent), and then pulled again into a seoi nage that again failed because I was in a bad position with bad grips.

After the failed attacks, I switched into regroup mode and don’t remember what happened next, just that I played into whatever judo my opponents were doing.

But it wasn’t all a disaster. There were some good parts:

  1. Didn’t get injured (my worst fear). I did very good ukemi on both my falls, and sprang back up.
  2. My mae-mawari ukemi was the best I’ve ever done (another big fear I had). I’d been working on my technique for the last several weeks, to be able to do it painlessly and beautifully — and it happened to come together yesterday. Still needs improvements, but it’s pretty good.
  3. I didn’t feel like I got “outclassed” — I know that I’m much better than my performance yesterday, which means that luck was not a deciding factor. Yesterday’s humiliation has ignited a voracious hunger in me to fix the mistakes I made and come back next time much stronger.
  4. Before the test, I helped a couple other people remember the names of throws. I feel good that they performed better because of it.
  5. I was well-nourished and hydrated, and properly warmed up before the test.

The next month: turning my judo around

  1. Randori, randori, and more randori. Get as much real mat time as I can. At the end of next month, being anything less than feeling completely present and rational in randori, properly observing my opponent and attacking with confidence, is unacceptable to me.
  2. Breathe, relax, and get in close. Work on creating the right space for different attacks — close enough for kouchi and kosoto, and low enough for seoi and others.
  3. Have a very good posture and get comfortable in the knowledge that you won’t get thrown so easily. It’s better to feel safe and slightly overconfident and be able to do your judo, than to feel paranoid and get paralyzed.


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