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The Judo You Do vs The Judo You Need

By June 20, 2024No Comments

Judo is, like any martial art, has infinite variations. Every person has their own style.

Powerful judo, beautiful judo, aggressive judo, fluid judo, surprising judo, deceptive judo.

Judo means different things to every practitioner.

I’ve struggled with randori for a long time, and gone back to the drawing board many times to figure out just what I need to focus on to improve. And the list is endless. There are infinite things you can do to get “better” at Judo.

But let’s dissect that goal once again. What do I really mean by getting “better” at Judo?

The honest answer is a straightforward one: To throw more people, and get thrown less.

No matter how much you tell yourself that randori is about practice and not a competition, nobody likes to “lose.”

The reason we train is to throw with a higher percentage. We train to win, not to lose.

But recently another thing dawned on me: why is it important for me to “win”? What am I really trying to get out of my Judo journey?

I didn’t start Judo because I wanted to get good at technique, or to become more graceful in movement, or to learn to defend myself, or even to get stronger.

I got into Judo to overcome my fear and insecurity about being “weak.”

I wanted to be reborn from the timid kid I was growing up. I wanted to become the kind of person who would face danger head-on — like the superheroes I saw in the comics as a kid.

I started Judo to get better at offense, not defense.

But my approach to Judo training has been completely at odds with this inner goal. I’ve been so focused on protecting my ego in randori (don’t want to get thrown, want to throw the other person), that I forgot to practice the very thing I signed up to Judo for: being able to engage fearlessly with a man of any size or strength.

And the way I train on the tatami should reflect that.

Specifically, it means that when I’m doing randori, I have to confront my fears. This means, going for the attack not in spite of the possibility of being countered and getting smashed to the ground, but precisely because of it.

Like Roger Federer said: he would purposely try to engage with his opponents’ strengths, to push himself to be better. If someone had a dangerous forehand, he would purposefully aim for their forehand and try to beat their forehand.

If what I’m scared of is to be countered and get humiliated, then I have to purposefully aim for such a deep, strong, committed attack that I willingly OPEN myself up to being countered and humiliated.

It all ties into what my sensei told me the very first time I asked him for feedback on what I should focus on: “waza wo kakeru” (apply the techniques).

The most important next step of training in Judo is to go and face my fears in randori.

If I keep training the way I’ve been doing right now, even if I get “better,” I will still be same person I was before I started.

To be honest, now that I think about it, I couldn’t care less about winning in Judo. I don’t care about being the terror of the mats who throws everyone.

What I really want is to feel like a peer of the tough guys on the mat — to have the confidence and character to challenge anyone, and to do brave, courageous Judo that is fearless and demands respect.

So, what is my Judo?

It isn’t strong Judo, or beautiful Judo, or smart Judo.

My Judo is brave, fearless Judo.

So the next time I do randori, I will tell myself that the reason I’m there isn’t to win. It is to live fearlessly and assert myself. And to do that, I must attack — deep, consecutive, powerful attacks that convey that hunger to rebirth myself from the timid boy I was to the fearless man I want to be.

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