My son and I started judo at the Shidokan on Saturday! It has been something I have been looking forward since moving to Japan in June last year. I visited the dojo shortly after arriving in Japan, but as my son was only two and a half he was too young to start. The minimum age is 4, but the sensei agreed to allow my son to start at 3 if I trained with him. He turned 3 two weeks ago, so we went to watch a class last week. My son said he wanted to do it, so we tried a lesson on Saturday.
|First judo lesson|
It was a long day. On Saturday morning we went to my son`s swimming lesson. After that we had a bite to eat then went to Judo at 3pm for the 1.5 hour kids class. My son didn`t make it to the end. He actually fell asleep on the back of the bike on the way to the dojo. He gave it a good go, got through the warm up conditioning exercises, did a bit of newaza (with me, too shy to wrestle the other kids), but was more interested in gulping water and leg kicking me in the last third of the class, so we left after an hour. Next week we will not have swimming so he might do better.
In the evening I returned to the dojo for the adult class. Everyone looked at me rather curiously. A couple of assistant instructors assessed me while I was sitting seiza and approached me with `you have been training judo for many years, haven’t you?`. All the sensei asked me was `you know ukemi, right?` and `what is your favourite throw?`. I told him I could do ukemi, which he was pleased about, but when I said that I don’t have a favourite throw he looked a little bewildered. I told him I have not done much judo and that if I have a strength it may be my newaza. He later indicated that this meant that he expected me to have `perfect` groundwork.
We did a few minutes of warm ups by ourselves before the class started, then without ceremony (including bowing in) we got straight into uchikomi and nagekomi (partner training with throws). I exchanged throws with a blackbelt of a similar size to me for half an hour. I was already knackered by this stage. Then we moved onto randori (judo sparring) – for a solid hour! I was exhausted, but invigorated and am still feeling the tight muscles two days later.
This was fun, but as I am not interested in sport judo, but rather wish to improve my basics, combinations, counters, newaza and kata as well, I quizzed the sensei afterwards on whether we would learn these. He assured me that I would learn them, but the classes focus on randori. He then gave me some good tips on my technique, and encouraged me by telling me that I was strong and would soon obtain a Kodokan black belt. I didn’t tell him that I am already graded to brown belt (1st kyu) as the standards are different in Japan and I have not trained judo for a while.
|Father and son|
I believe judo is an ideal martial art for children, which is why I am encouraging my son to train. Judo was planned with amazing foresight and initiative. The system teaches good balance and standing and ground skills. Judo develops a great delivery system before actually teaching the more devastating techniques, such as striking and locks, which are only introduced in the dan grades. This gives students the opportunity to develop their character before learning how to hurt people too badly. It is relatively safe and provides students with a reasonably gentle manner to fend off attackers. In fact the throws are designed to plant students on their backs, so as not to injure. Judo also provides a great platform for learning other martial arts. Most judo clubs use training methods that are `better` than most karate clubs. (I will explain that statement later if you wish).
We will only be training on Saturdays, but I am looking forward to next week.