Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Pairing in judo and in programming

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

These kids are practicing tomoe nage, one of the many judo techniques I never got the hang of:

[Facebook post by Miki Simoyama]

Watching this, I realized there's a relevance here to my life as a computer programmer: judo is inherently a "pairing" activity. You work with a partner for all the most important stuff. As my Sensei says: "Good for me, good for you."

It's important to learn how to be a good judo partner, which includes adjusting for the different types of people you partner with: different skill levels, different goals, different sizes, shapes, and so on. In a drill like the one these girls are doing, both parties should participate mindfully — not just the person practicing the technique (tori) but the person it's being practiced on (uke).

Anybody can be a good uke. If you are less advanced than tori, you can still do the basics correctly like not being too stiff or too limp, adjusting your movements per their requests, and knowing how to do a proper breakfall if needed. Meanwhile, you can pay attention to what tori is doing and learn what it is they are practicing to accomplish, how they are trying to disrupt your balance. It is valuable to learn this from uke's perspective, to engage mentally and not be a passive practice dummy. You shouldn't think too hard — "think" is probably the wrong word anyway — you just have to stay aware and open and you'll learn a lot by osmosis. At least that's my theory. Think of that quote about Ginger Rogers: she did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in high heels. When you are a mindful uke you are sort of practicing judo backwards and in high heels.

If you are more advanced than tori, and understand what they are practicing well enough, you might provide verbal reminders and cues — "Pull the sleeve," "Don't bend over," "Hips need to be lower," and so on. Sometimes, though, silence is better and it's more important to let tori keep trying what they're trying. You can also adjust your own movements to help tori with the intricacies of the technique they're practicing. For example, if tori is working on the timing of a foot sweep it's uke's job to move naturally while knowingly being vulnerable. It takes practice to do this, because you must pretend, over and over, that you have zero anticipation that your balance is about to be disrupted. Any anticipation will come through as tension in your body that tori will be able to sense, and this will be counterproductive. To use another movie analogy, think of that blooper in North by Northwest when a kid covers his ears because he knows there's about to be a loud bang. Being able to relax that anticipation can be tricky; it's hard not to be that kid. The feeling of being tripped is quite unsettling, and here you are helping tori get better at doing that to you.

Back when I was playing judo I think I was pretty decent at "pairing" in terms of adjusting to the person, being aware of safety for both parties, and so on. As a programmer I think my "pairing" abilities could use improvement, which will only happen if I practice as diligently as these two little girls.

Rafaela Silva's gold medal throw

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

[A note about pronunciation: if I believe the NBC commentator, Dorjsuren's name is pronounced "dor-CHOOR-in sa-MAI-a". Silva is Brazilian, so the "R" in "Rafaela" is pronounced like an "H".]

Some friends were wondering whether Rafaela Silva's winning throw in the gold medal match might reasonably have been ruled hansoku-make (disqualification), since she seemed to grab the leg of her opponent, Dorjsuren Sumiya from Mongolia.

It's a little hard to tell watching at full speed, but I went through it frame by frame and I'd say it was definitely not hansoku-make. If anything I wonder if it should have been ippon (full point, end of match).

Although it may not be immediately obvious, Silva was countering, not attacking, which I believe is an exception to the rule against leg grabs. I'm pretty sure that alone is enough to settle the matter. Even if that weren't the case, page 23 of this IJF document says that "it is possible to touch the leg of Uke if Tori has both hands in a real Kumi-Kata." The video shows that Silva was indeed gripping with a "real Kumi-Kata" throughout her counter-attack.

Here's my analysis, in four screenshots.

Screenshot 1. It's Dorjsuren (in the white uniform) who initiates the action by going in for hiza-guruma, which begins by planting one foot between the opponent's feet.

Silva Dorjsuren 1

Screenshot 2. To continue hiza-guruma, you block the opponent's shin with the flat of your other foot, and you rotate them like a steering wheel, with that foot at the center of the wheel. At least, that's the ideal. The problem is that the opponent's body must already have a little momentum in the direction you are trying to rotate them, or the throw doesn't work, or at least is much more difficult. You can see that although Silva is bent at the waist, her center of gravity is stable and well supported by her legs. Dorjsuren doesn't have the kuzushi she needs.

By doing the steering wheel motion, Dorjsuren has brought Silva's armpit toward her own knee. What happens next is that Silva continues the motion Dorjsuren started and traps Dorjsuren's leg with her right elbow. At the same time, Silva pushes with her left arm. She takes control of the rotation that Dorjsuren started and uses it against her.

Silva Dorjsuren 2

Screenshot 3. Silva's counter-throw is well beyond the point of no return. You can see that her right hand has been holding onto Dorjsuren's sleeve for the duration of the throw. Both her hands are in a "real Kumi-Kata". You can also see that Dorjsuren's body is a good foot off the ground, traveling at full speed.

Side note: Dorjsuren has moved her left foot from Silva's shin to her inner thigh, presumably hoping for a counter-counter into sumi-gaeshi. It doesn't work; again, momentum and position are not on Dorjsuren's side, and Silva uses her body weight to squash the attempted counter-counter.

Silva Dorjsuren 3

Screenshot 4. You can see Dorjsuren lands about as flat on her back as you can get. That's why I think maybe it should have been an ippon.

Well, okay, Neil Adams said it was waza-ari, but what does he know?

Silva Dorjsuren 4

What changed your life? (guest post)

Friday, March 27th, 2015

[My friend Max Fortun posted the following on Facebook. It's about how much judo has come to mean to him, thanks to Sensei's smiling personality and the nurturing environment Sensei has created at Oishi Judo. I loved what Max wrote and asked if I could copy it here. He kindly agreed.]

I have been learning judo for a few years now. Not very aggressively either. About 2 classes a week when I can make it. A year off here. Half a year off there. I made it to the first brown belt and my rank is sankyu. Here is my layman's understanding of what judo has done for me so far.

When I came to my first class I told sensei Oishi that I was not sure why I was there, I had no endurance, and my soles were very sensitive and even a walk on a sandy beach caused blisters. Sensei Oishi told me that endurance will come with time but as far as my soft soles were concerned, “Don’t worry, we’ll take care of that”, he said and smiled. That smile, his continued humour and easy going demeanor is what kept me in the dojo and made me want to learn more.

Before I continue about my current judo here is a little bit about my background. I did do some judo back in the USSR when I was about 6 years old. Only for a few months. That country allowed you to do any sport for free as long as you were olympic material. I was not olympic material for a number of sports that I tried. Judo, water polo, gymnastics, and a few others… Was expelled from all of them due to lack of balance or grace or perseverance, or the party line understanding. I lingered and managed to get ahead in karting racing. But that seemed to be a non starter when I got to the US. So here I found acrobatics and skydiving. Acrobatics lasted until I figured out how to link a back handspring into a back tuck. Skydiving hasn’t really left its hold of me, but that is a weekend thing.

I did need to apply myself to something else and for a few years I was at loss to what. I tried Greco-Roman wrestling, but a young, and as it turned out overzealous, instructor assistant broke my ribs in the intro class so that did not work out too well. I ended up with difficulty breathing and spent 5 months healing.

Then I met Sensei Oishi. Somehow this gentleman managed to take away my fear of the unknown, performance anxiety, and softened the lack of confidence. He took away everything that was blocking the will to learn. There was just acceptance and nurture. Sensei Oishi created such a non-threatening environment in a martial art class that a guy with blistering soles and confidence issues had no chance but to try and stick around long enough to figure out what is what. Sensei accepted every path to learn and nurtured it until it became self sufficient.

I must admit, if it was not for this one specific individual I may have felt too threatened to even start the learning. He took all of the oppression out and created a fun and accepting atmosphere instead. At this point I am surrounded by extremely interesting individuals from his dojo who have so much to share I can’t keep up with them and the knowledge they are offering. Every class is like a drink of water for someone who is very thirsty.

And speaking of thirst. I have always been a bigot about my vices. I had my scotch neat. I had my wine grapes unmixed. And yes, I liked my highs undiluted and pure. And then came judo. As I have learned, after a class of judo I can drink such things as PBR and other light beers. But what did judo actually give me other than acceptance of bad beers?

It gave me a will. A will to push through obstacles. A will to try new things with unknown results. A will not to give up. Judo is a marvelous philosophy that teaches through empirical experience. It teaches to experiment and try and keep going. It also teaches to let things go. If you are pushed into a corner, let it go and see where the things end up. I do not know if judo is unique in its way. But it opened my eyes to a number of ways of facing challenges. It has formed my current outlook on things. And being a rabbi by education, software engineer by day, adrenalin junkie through and through, I have one thing to say: the philosophy of judo is pure and flexible and does open one up to continuing learning. I am glad that my friends and my life circumstance brought me to this point where I can appreciate it and make this type of learning possible.

Oh, and as far as my endurance, it went from 15 minutes to 2 hours. So Sensei was right, it was just a matter of time. And my confidence. It was not small to begin with, but now it has something to plant its roots in. I would definitely classify judo as a life altering and affirming experience. Judo changed my life. What changed yours?

New IJF rule breakdown; question about false ashiwaza

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

I'm not clear on why false ashiwaza warrants a shido.

Do people use false ashiwaza to try to ward off a non-combativity penalty? If so, why not just ignore it as if it was a non-attack? Then, when however many seconds go by, award a shido for non-combativity?

What's the difference between a false ashiwaza and a feint to try to get a reaction?

Compare this to a false tomoenage. A false tomoenage can be used by a player who does not want to engage in tachiwaza to drag the opponent into newaza. Whether or not one agrees that's a reasonable thing to penalize, it's clear that a false tomoenage does have that effect. What is accomplished by false ashiwaza?

Please support special-needs judoka competing in May

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Sean Rivera posted on Facebook:

hey guys i'm helping coach a special needs judo team that will be playing in an international tournament in Italy this May. We are currently fundraising so any contributions for this project would be greatly appreciated. I'm attaching the flyer with the non for profit info

Here's the info from the flyer:

This year Miranda Carey, Ian Scribner and Gary Naccarato will represent the United States in the "Ravenna Judo Tournament 2013 – XI Edition" (judo tournament for disabled athletes) that will take place from Thursday 9th May 2013 to Sunday 12th May 2013 at Pala De Andrè Sport Place — Ravenna, Itally. Miranda and Ian have both competed in this tournament in 2007 and again in 2008. All three athletes are students at Ulster Budokai, 59 O'Neil St. in Kingston, NY. This is an international level Judo Competition for Special Needs Athletes, drawing as many as 200 competitors from all over the globe. Athletes are pooled by gender, size, and level of ability to create fair and exciting competition.

While the Tournament itself is free, the travel and accommodation expenses are not. We rely on private donations to help give these athletes the ability to engage in true competition, which is not yet available in the U.S. If you would like to help with our expenses we would be most grateful. Any donations to help these athletes may be sent to: W.A. Scribner, 58 Jones Quarry Rd., Woodstock, NY 12498. Donations may also be made payable to the Travis Nissen Memorial Fund and can be mailed to PO Box 3537 Kingston NY — Please put Judo in the Memo.
Please include your contact information so we can reply with a "Thank You", and let you know how well we do. Any questions about the athletes, the tournament, or Special Needs Judo can be sent to Bill Scribner at

Thank you.

USA Ravenna 2013

Gracie Breakdown of Rousey-Carmouche

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

I love these Gracie Breakdowns probably as much as chess fans loved Shelby Lyman breaking down Fischer-Spassky 40 years ago. Replay the moves, consider variations, figure out what made the difference between winning and losing. You don't have to be a grandmaster to appreciate what's being explained. Even a patzer like me gets to enjoy.

I have greater respect for Carmouche's skills and instincts in this fight than for Rousey's previous opponents.

[Update: The whole video is fun, but if you want to skip to the nitty-gritty analysis of how Ronda finished the fight, it starts at about 5:30.]

The impossible tennis lesson

Saturday, November 10th, 2012

In this video, author Tim Gallwey teaches a woman to play a passable game of tennis in 20 minutes. His student is 55 years old, 40 pounds overweight, and badly out of shape. In 1975 Harry Reasoner heard of the guy and visited him intending to expose him as a fake. In 1987 Alan Kay presented this clip in the context of a discussion of user interfaces for computers. It's also fascinating in the context of how to teach and learn judo.

Kay points out Gallwey's approach of "removing interference from the mentality that likes to talk and make comments." This reminded me of my tendency to over-talk (a lot) when explaining judo stuff.

Kay also quotes Gallwey saying "The problem with most theories of teaching is that the parts of the body that you want to have learn don't understand English." This reminded me of something Will said at dinner last night: it's impossible to actually teach something because the person can't know what you're telling them until they've done it themselves.

I'm also reminded of my idea of "mum judo".

Hurricane Sandy

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Due to the impending storm, Oishi Judo will be closed on Monday, October 29th.

Hudson Cup

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Jeff sends this news from Sunday's Hudson Cup:

The first Hudson Cup was contested Sunday September 24, 2012. The tournament was well run, and had about 400 participants. Turn out was greater than expected, so the tournament ran into the night. While this year's tournament was at the Boys and Girls Club of Wayne New Jersey, the plan is for the tournament to be held at Tech Judo for 2013. Billy Martin acted as Tournament Director. Mel Applebaum was the head referee.

The following individuals participated from Oishi Judo.


  • Jeff Summa
  • Naokuni Kuwagata (Medal)
  • J C Islander (Medal)
  • Sean Rivera

Oishi Alumni, now with Jason Morris

  • Mark Hatton
  • Jack Hatton
  • William van den Broeck


  • Bob Henry
  • Paul Virtue


  • David Williams
  • Stephen Friedman
  • Joaquin Gonzalez

Lady Cop's tomoenage

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

The instant I saw the top-left frame I knew tomoenage was coming.


Source: Meet Lady Cop, the most underrated comic book hero of all.