Mum judo: ideas from a pool hustler and Mister Rogers

Chef Brockett[Photo credit: Family Communications]

Last night at the end of class Sensei reminded us not to yak too much during class. His remarks reminded me of a book I once read about the world of pool hustling. The book was Playing Off the Rail: A Pool Hustler's Journey, by David Mccumber. The blurb on Amazon says:

The author is a reporter who hooks up with a pool player and agrees to put up the money to travel the country while gambling his finances on the hustler's skills.

I was reminded of one particular moment, when the pool hustler teaches Mccumber a way of playing called "mum pool." I don't have the book any more, so I might not be remembering it exactly right, but the basic idea is not to speak during the game. There's no commentary, no trash-talking, no "pass me the chalk," not a word. I think the idea is to improve focus and concentration — to remove internal chatter by resisting the temptation of external chatter.

This idea might translate well to judo. Some days I come to class feeling chatty, and I get into extraneous conversations, not only when I'm on the sidelines, but while I'm practicing. There is a strong social element at our club, so in a way that's natural. But I do feel it's something I should be more conscious of. Besides being a matter of etiquette it's potentially a matter of safety if I'm not paying attention to what I should be paying attention to.

From time to time it might be worth making a conscious decision not to speak during uchikomi or randori. I'd be like Chef Brockett, the baker on Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, who insisted on absolute quiet when he was working. I think it was partly so he could concentrate and partly out of reverence for his craft.

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