The impossible tennis lesson

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

October 28th, 2012

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

Hudson Cup

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

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.

Wojdan Shaherkani – follow-up

August 4th, 2012

A few notes following up on my post about Wojdan Shaherkani.

The universality clause

There's a special rule that made it possible for Shaherkani and the other Saudi woman, a runner named Sarah Attar, to compete:

A second International Olympic Committee spokeswoman, who declined to give her name, said both Saudi athletes were accepted under the Olympics’ “universality” clause. It allows athletes who didn’t meet qualifying times to compete when their participation is deemed important for reasons of equality.

The clause was invoked most memorably for Eric “the Eel” Moussambani, a swimmer from Equatorial Guinea, in the 2000 Olympics.

Attar's first Olympic race will be on Wednesday, August 8.

Double elimination

I notice Shaherkani did not fight again. No reason has been given that I know of, nor does there need to be as far as I'm concerned. [Update: A correction from Yonah: "The olympics are not double-elimination, they are modified single elimination. Only those that make it to the round of 8 are given a shot at a medal. Of the last 8, the first 4 to lose can only win bronze."]

Head covering

I can't imagine the head covering that Shaherkani wore will work as a long-term solution. It would surely come off in any serious matwork. I've seen matches where one player had a bandaged head, but if that bandage came off it was "only" an injury being aggravated, not a strict religious rule being violated.

Maybe someone could design a head covering similar to the headgear wrestlers wear to protect their ears? Could it be adjusted to allow for legitimate attempts at choking without injuring the opponent? What about sports hijabs like this and this — could they be modified to work for grapplers?

I thought it odd that fear of choking was one initial objection to allowing headscarves in judo:

judo officials claimed a headscarf could cause choking, in a sport that involves grabbing and throwing.

I'd imagine the more serious issue would be an adjustment to the rules so that the headwear may not be used to inflict a choke, as one may do with parts of one's own or the opponent's uniform.


I disagree with this description at

Before the fight, some other judo fighters worried that Shaherkani wasn't qualified to compete and suggested it could be dangerous for her to square off against Olympic athletes in the violent sport.

Those concerns faded quickly when the bout got under way. Shaherkani used a defensive strategy, trying to deflect Mojica's advances. She succeeded a few times before Mojica grabbed hold of her and swung her to the ground.

That's not how I saw it at all. I didn't see a "defensive strategy" succeeding a few times. I saw Mojica being extremely kind to an awkward and terrified teenager. Mojica was gentle with gripfighting and gentle with the throw, just as any experienced player with a shred of decency would treat a beginner in the dojo. Maybe I'm imagining this, but to me she made a point of finishing the match without hurting or humiliating her opponent. I was touched by that, and by her respectful bow as she shook Shaherkani's hand.

Wojdan Shaherkani

August 3rd, 2012

On Friday, August 3, 2012, a 16-year-old judoka named Wojdan Shaherkani became the first Saudi Arabian woman to compete in the Olympics.

I'm glad the precedent has been set, but seeing Shaherkani's judo, and reading that she's not terribly experienced and has never competed nationally, makes this weird for me. What I expected to see was an athlete sick of cultural obstacles and hungry to fight. What I saw was a girl who was in way over her head and could have gotten hurt. As I watched the match, one thing I liked very much was that her opponent was kind to her. [Update: The video at is no longer available. The only other video I've found of the match is here.]

I was surprised at her uniform. Her country couldn't provide her with one that fit? Or was the loose fit needed because of Sharia law? I know sleeves that are too short are not allowed; I thought there was a similar rule for sleeves that are too long. Was an exception made for her?

I have a feeling I'm missing the point, and her goal was never to fight so much as to break a barrier. It's not her fault if I made up some image of her in my head. If she does want to fight, I hope her country will let her train properly for 2016. And regardless of her future in judo, I hope she's duly proud of what she did today. You could argue that precisely because she isn't a seasoned competitor, it was that much braver.

Update: I heard the cheers when Shaherkani stepped on the mat, but I didn't see this part after the match:

For Shaherkani, stepping down from the mat after her contest to a standing ovation, it all got a little too much. She walked into the arms of her father, a judo referee who is also her trainer, and broke down in tears.

A very short post

July 28th, 2012

I'm behind on blogging as usual. For now, I'll just quickly mention that I need to get back to basics in my judo. At least, that's how I feel.

One of those good nights

July 12th, 2012

Did you ever feel crappy — not sick, not overtrained, not seriously injured, just kind of crappy — and make yourself go to judo practice anyway, and end up feeling great afterwards? I had one of those nights tonight.

Today I was sleep-deprived and had trouble staying awake. I had a nasty pain below my right shoulder blade — maybe I'd pulled the trapezius muscle on Monday? — which made it hard to take a deep breath. I was in the middle of a big pile of work that needed to be done soon. I was making good progress, which made the work a tempting excuse to skip judo.

I went anyway, and I'm glad I did. We had a good crowd tonight, including several folks I hadn't seen in months or in some cases years. There's something about seeing judo friends that's cheering.

I enjoyed getting clobbered as usual in newaza. I really enjoyed my randoris. To my relief, the shoulder felt fine once I warmed up. By the time Sensei told me to do an exercise after class, I'd actually forgotten all about the earlier pain. We'll see how it feels in the morning when the endorphins and the Aleve I took earlier wear off. Regardless: I'm happy I went to practice, and I know I'd have felt even worse if I'd skipped it.

[Update: It's the day after, and the shoulder feels fine. I suspect I didn't really pull a muscle. More likely I pinched a nerve which is now unpinched.]

Black belt promotions, Spring 2012

June 29th, 2012

Belated congratulations to Alex, Lou (front row left), and J.C. (next to Lou) for passing their shodan exams, and to Bob for advancing to nidan. Arthur and Jeff were ukes. [Update: As mentioned in comments, Matt was there too, as an alternate uke.]

New shodans2

The Fleshy Way

May 24th, 2012

Recently during nagekomi I got painfully whacked in the shin by a fellow doing sasae-tsurikomi-ashi. Of course the pain was not intentional, just a moment of sloppiness on his part. Who among us has never been sloppy, right? But it did remind me very vividly of the distinction between hard and soft parts of the leg — the bony and fleshy parts, if you like. Judo always uses the fleshy parts.

A sample of ashi-waza techniques illustrates what I mean:

  • In ashi-barai, sasae-tsurikomi-ashi, and hiza-guruma, you catch uke with the arch of your foot.
  • In ouchi-gari, you reap with your calf.
  • In osoto-gari, you reap with your hamstring.
  • In uchi-mata, you lift with your thigh.

In the various ashi-waza you might attack a hard part of your opponent, like the ankle or knee, but always with a soft part of yourself.

I feel this is representative of a fundamental difference between judo and the striking martial arts, where bony parts such as heels, knees, and shins are the primary weapons.

I can't think of many judo techniques where you apply force to your opponent with a hard part of your body. The best example that comes to mind is hadaka-jime, where the edge of your wrist presses painfully against uke's throat. There's also a choke whose name I don't know, where you slide your hands like knives along both sides of uke's neck. Maybe you could count tai-otoshi, where the knuckles of your lapel hand can press against the side of uke's face. Also maybe tomoe-nage, where the bottom of your foot supports your opponent's whole body for a moment.

This is just a handful of techniques out of the whole body of judo.

I'm ignoring atemi-waza, since it isn't relevant to how judo is practiced by anyone I know or know of.

There are some small tactical moves that use "hard parts". In newaza, pressing with a fist or elbow can be used to create discomfort in the opponent, or the side of the wrist can be wedged in like a crowbar to get an opponent's chin off their chest. In grip fighting, the edge of the wrist can be used to help strip the opponent's hand from a lapel. In high-level competition, fighters have been known to "accidentally" punch or bludgeon each other in the head while ostensibly reaching for a grip. I'm sure "accidental" shin-kicking happens too. But these moves are not full-blown textbook techniques. They're just tricks to gain a bit of advantage.