Rough and Tumble

by Jinryu

It is now Saturday evening in Australia, and my body is quite sore.  I went to play badminton with [CM] and some acquaintances.  As always, it’s fun to hit some birds around, and the level was easy enough that I didn’t have to work too hard.  All day though my whole body has been sore from judo and I couldn’t quite figure out why–  I know I can handle four classes a week without much more than average fatigue on Friday, but usually by Saturday I’m fine.

I thought about it a bit more and figured out what I did differently that set me like this.

Some of the people who I was doing technical practice with don’t yet know how to throw properly.

This amounts to unnecessary rougness– for example, getting headbutt (and people ask me why I wear a mouthguard…)

One of the interesting things about training technique for a judo throw is that the more you hesitate while executing a throw, the harder the landing is for your victim.  As in, if you try to slow down a throw, usually you’ll end up dropping your opponent in a weird way that actually makes it significantly harder for them to break their fall.  If you do a throw correctly, it should be relatively easy for your opponent to break fall without any damage.  Mind you, you can modify a throw to up the power level so that you can turn any throw into a painful thing by design, but for the most part, in technical partnered training, we’re trying to throw with efficiency rather than to damage.  At the early levels, people generally tend to throw as if they’re lifting you up and dropping you– which, really, is as painful as it sounds.

One of my partners was so uncoordinated and hesitant that his shoulder throws were constantly resulting in my torso dropping laterally on his knee.  As in… my body is dropping from his throw, but somehow, the lack of follow through results in me getting landing full-weight on his knee.  Usually a sign of bad footwork and not enough “pull up” after execution.  They’re learning, so I don’t hold it against them– but my ribs wish they would learn faster.

Everyone I fought on Thursday was heavier than me.

This used to be the case all the time, but lately, because I’ve been going to different classes, I’ve often been working with girls who are slightly lighter than me or my weight.  Also, because I’ve been on the injured roster until this week, I haven’t been doing much in the way of head-to-head sparring– I’ve only been doing technical practice.

On Thursday, we had to do a bit of speed and power training– lots of repetition, which if you want to think of it in terms of resistence training ,is like doing lots of full clean deadlifts.  That’s what repeated throwing is like– just lifting your opponent up and chucking him somewhere.  Technique or not, it does take effort to mobilise yourself and to mobilise your opponent– and the bigger they are, the more work you have to do.

Every white belt that I sparred with was stronger than me.

Which is fine– I like it that way, because it’s a chance for me to really focus on technique.  To my credit, despite size differences of at least 15 kilograms, I was able to control both tachiwaza (standup fighting) and newaza (ground fighting) situations against all of my larger white belt opponents, except for one who has previous experience doing some sort of BJJ.

That meant that for every technique I tried, I encountered more resistance, and for every technique tried against me, I had to work harder to counter or defend.  The interesting thing about fighting against white belts is that there’s a certain amount of stress that comes with fighting a white belt who is stronger than you– there’s always the constant danger that they will hurt you.

It’s a unique scenario.  Bigger, more experienced judoka have power, speed, and smarts, but generally in friendly sparring they will make sure you don’t get hurt.  They have enough ability to contain the situation and make sure that everyone comes out mostly unscathed.

If you fight smaller, less experienced judoka, they do unpredictable things, but generally there’s what I call a “power lag” that gives you extra time to deffend yourself.  By power lag, I mean that if I’m against someone who is 10 kilograms lighter than me, they have to work harder to move me the same amount of distance through space, compared to someone who is the same weight as me.  The extra work means that it generally takes the lighter opponent more time to put me in the same position as someone who is the same weight as me– just imagine how it takes a small person longer to push a car compared to a heavier person.  The power lag means that despite a smaller opponent trying perhaps riskier or unsafe moves (often illegal ones, actually), the extra time I get just by virtue of my weight gives me time to steer the situation into something safer.

Heavier white belts though are a very interesting challenge. And really, it’s not restricted to white belts– just anyone who is more inexperienced than you, or alternative, even people more experienced than you who have less regard for safety than you do.  With more muscle mass, power lag works against my deffenses.

That means that when I face a white belt who is taller and heavier than me, the size difference often adds effectiveness to any of their throws, and automatically makes it more difficult for me to contain the situation.  Weight, aside from equating generally with power, also means that there’s a bigger person falling on you in the tangle.

On the whole, this means that the dangers represented by inexperience and greater size place also a significant amount of added mental stress to the situation– you need to be extra careful.  Mental stress generally becomes extra muscle antagonistic muscle tension, reducing efficiency overall.

End result: sparring with bigger white belts is fun, but depending on the difference, may take no less work than fighting experienced people.


I was sparring with [R-Sensei]

Which is pretty much another extreme scenario.  R-Sensei is not only about 30 kilos heavier than me– he’s also the dojo’s master, so he’s got shitloads more experience than me.  Whenever I’m fighting him, I feel like I’m either wrestling with a telephone post or an empty jacket.  Although I might be more agile than him, he is more flexible, stronger, and more powerful (able to generate more force over time than me).

Coupled with his decades of experience, that means that he gets to mess with me in any number of ways.

Because of the power lag, it takes me a lot of energy to get his body moving– and he has time to steer me into counters.  He’s also got much better intuition obviously, and a better sense of balance on the whole that allows him to relax and naturally redirect my momentum, wheras for me, it’s a mental stressor to think up plans and moves in advance.  He just does it naturally.  On the whole, I’m burning energy at maybe triple or quadruple his rate of expenditure.


End result?

Yeah, I guess it makes sense that I’m sore then.