I participated in my first Judo tournament yesterday. It was double elimination with 700+ contestants. I lost both of my matches before I even stepped on the mat.
Practice on Wednesday was discouraging. I wasn’t moving right, I couldn’t finish a throw – I was ineffective. I began thinking I would get destroyed on Saturday. I started expecting to get destroyed. I lowered my head and lowered my expectations. Really, I just wanted to not look like a complete fool during the competition. It’s too bad that became my mindset, because I think I could have beaten both of my opponents. The dialogue running through my head was more “don’t fall down, don’t look dumb” instead of “make him fall, make him look dumb”. It may seem like semantics on the page, but I think it made all the difference in the world.
After my first match, Sensei looked a bit baffled and told me that I had my opponent in a perfect O Soto but didn’t execute. All I had to do was follow through with the throw, but instead I yanked my opponent out of the throw and back into a balanced position. Looking back, it seems like I was pretending at Judo. I wanted to not look dumb, so I was more focused on posturing than being effective.
My second match was a little more difficult, but I still feel like I had the upper hand. Had I only attacked a few more times, I think I would have had him. I kept Uke fairly off balance for most of the match, almost got a leg sweep and a Tai Otoshi. I attempted a Yoko Tomoe Nage but it didn’t have enough torque to flip Uke over – I didn’t pull the arm enough. I knew what to fix, but I didn’t try the throw again because I didn’t want to look like I only knew one move. How ridiculous! The brown belt who beat Tom tried a Drop Seo Nage on him at least 6 times.
Sensei told me to stall after I got partial points for the Tai Otoshi, but I made one wrong step and Uke won. (I’ll post the video once I upload it)
What To Fix
I received a few items of advice after the match, as well as identified shortcoming on my own.
- I bend over too much. I need to work on positioning my center of gravity. I’m sure it will be obvious in the footage.
- I am still not light enough on my feet. I plant on my heels and don’t move around enough. I need to be more diligent with my rope training. Perhaps I can use super light feet as part of my style?
- I maintain too much distance from my opponent. This has been a problem since day one, and I really need to get more comfortable keeping Uke tight. Not only will my throws be more effective, but Sensei said I’ll be able to react faster to attacks if I can feel them coming.
- I need to improve my killer instinct. As I mentioned above, I didn’t come into the competition with a winning attitude. I’m also in the habit (from practice) of giving into the throw if it feels like Uke’s got it right. This is bad for competition as I stop defending even if I could escape.
- COMBOS! Yanking Uke around works alright in practice, but not so well for sparring. Some of my reversals are based on this concept as well, but rarely does anyone get pulled 2 or 3 feet. I need to learn how to use a feint or a setup throw to get Uke halfway into position, and then move MY body the rest of the way.
- I am too used to performing throws in a vacuum. There are no perfect setups and I need to start recognizing openings when they present themselves.
It’s a bit odd to me that I’m not MORE disappointed with my performance. I mean, I lost, right? Shouldn’t I be upset at my poor performance? Instead, I’m sort of pleased with myself. I was really anxious about this tournament. I was worrying about it all week, nervous as all hell. Yes, I lost. But I guess that’s not really what I cared about. I could have increased my odds of winning by waiting another 6 months before competing. No doubt. But I forced myself into a situation I wasn’t entirely comfortable with, proved I could handle it, and accelerated my skill as a Judoka in doing so. I don’t think it’s out of line to say that I’ve improved 100% since signing up for the tournament 6 weeks ago. I also think it’s correct to say that this weekend alone improved my skills and focus by 25% or so.
So… when’s the next tournament?