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The Fundamentals of Judo
There are hundreds of techniques in judo, but they all fit into three main categories: nage-waza or throwing techniques, ne-waza or groundwork techniques (also known as katame-waza), and atemi-waza or striking techniques. The throws and groundwork techniques are known as randoh-waza because they are freely practiced in a randoricontext, but atemi-waza are only practiced in kata form because of the inevitability of physical injuries if they were to be employed in randori. Atemi-waza are not part of the sport of judo and are not allowed in competition, but are still practiced in clubs where classes in self-defence are given.
The judogi or judo suit is an integral part of the sport and, although it is possible to begin learning judo without one, it really ought to be a priority for all beginners. The gi consists of a Judo jacket and a pair of trousers with a waist cord and a belt. The belt does not hold up the trousers but keeps the jacket fastened, as it has no buttons or zips for safety reasons.
The judoka soon learns that there are a surprising number of ways to use the opponent’s own judo uniform more specifically the jacket, belt and trousers in a judo match. The logic behind the judogi is that if you were ever attacked the likelihood would be that any assailant would be clothed. As ordinary clothes would soon tear with the strain of
repeated training sessions, a specially strengthened, double weave jacket is the norm. The ingenuity of the founders of judo should not be underestimated: the various strangles using the lapels, the different grips and the way in which the belt could be grabbed and used to throw the opponent are quite startling in their cleverness and this is an aspect that continues to evolve, with different methods and techniques coming in and out of fashion.
Judo is a highly structured and hierarchical sport and the grade or level a person achieves is indicated by the belt they wear. Grades are usually competitive, that is they are won by taking grading examinations. These consist of a theory examination where candidates are required to demonstrate techniques and technical knowledge, and by fighting a series of individual contests, usually three.
There are separate grading systems for under sixteens (juniors) and adults. There are eighteen mon or junior grades and for adults there are nine kyu grades, the ninth kyu being the lowest (white belt) and brown belt, or the first kyu, being the highest. Once first kyu level is reached the next belt is the black belt, first dan grade. There are ten dan grades, first dan is the lowest and tenth dan is the highest. Jigoro Kano, as the founder of the system, held the rank of twelfth dan.
Beginners start by wearing a white belt and after completing a beginners’ course can be awarded the yellow belt at the discretion of the instructor. The progression then is to orange, green, blue, brown and black. The rate of progress depends upon the quality of the instruction and the amount of time and energy the trainee invests in the sport. Three
one and a half-hour sessions a week is probably ideal for the beginner who ultimately wants to reach black belt, which ought to be achievable after two and a half to three years. Judo skills are not learned in a matter of weeks, but require continuous practice and refinement, and because there are so many techniques it can be a lifetime’s study. The basic approach, though, is to develop one or two main throws and to build your own judo around them. Of course, the more techniques you know and can do the better, but as a general rule each individual has an aptitude for a particular kind of movement or throw. Part of the instructor’s job is to help them first find it and then build their judo around it. This main throw which almost everyonefinds themselves discovering in the first year or so of training is called the tokui-waza or favourite technique and should be the main focus of early training efforts.
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