Archive for May, 2007

More important than rank

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

When I was writing the post on Sensei Williams, I wanted to get my facts right, so I asked a couple of people what rank he held. This morning Steve Friedman replied, and what he said was so beautiful I asked his permission to quote him:

As far as I know Sensei Williams is one of those grounded individuals (like Larry Yakata and Parnel Legros) who do not make rank into an icon. He achieved the rank of nidan many years ago and that was enough for him.

We are truly blessed to have Sensei Oishi at the helm who in turn attracts such gifted teachers like Sensei Williams and Sensei Pernambuco. Mr. Oishi is the kind of Sensei who is always teaching in each moment, with every interaction, and always with a smile.

I have nothing to add.

Raise the tatami, part 2

Monday, May 28th, 2007

We finish taking up the mats. We do some packing. We find some old artifacts.

Click below for full-size photos, with captions.

click for full-size photos

Raise the tatami

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

After our final class at the old location, we start taking up the mats.

Click below for full-size photos.

click for full-size photos

Motivation for situps

Sunday, May 27th, 2007

Sensei Williams reminds us what it's all about.

Sensei Williams

Saturday, May 26th, 2007

Thursday night I stopped by the dojo because Sensei Williams was teaching his last class there before we move to Greenwich St., and I wanted to get a photo.

I'll get to that photo in a moment, but first, here is a photo of me. This was taken at a dojo tournament in the late 70's, probably 1979, back when Oishi Judo was at 415 West Broadway. I'm the skinny kid on the right:

click to see at full size in a new window(click to see at full size)

See that other skinny kid, the one on the left? His name is Chris, and he has a younger brother Marc. Chris and Marc's parents are Dave and Anne Williams.

Soon after that photo was taken, Dave and Anne took up judo themselves. Dave in particular applied himself with great enthusiasm. I remember his ability to squat deep and come in low for morote-seoi-nage. I remember his quest for flexibility, and his excitement over a gadget he'd found that stretched his legs farther and farther apart with the turn of a crank.

Fast-forward twenty-seven years, and Dave Williams is now Sensei Williams. He is a nidan (second degree black belt) and has been teaching Tuesday and Thursday nights as long as anyone can remember. He is an intense motivator and always gives every student a grueling workout. He is known for his clear explanations of judo principles and techniques — you marvel not only at how clear things are in his own mind, but how transparent he makes them for you.

Sensei Williams also referees quite frequently. You can see him in many of my YouTube videos.

The Dave Williams of 2007 — the sensei, the referee, and not only the father of that skinny kid but now a grandfather — that Dave Williams is the gentleman in this photo, front row center:

click to see at full size in a new window(click to see at full size)

That's Anne in the second row, second from the right.

I mention all this because the dojo move has made me nostalgic, and because some of you who don't take his class may not know Sensei Williams. He sometimes drops by on nights he doesn't teach. If you see him in class, say hi to him, and definitely play him if you possibly can.

Lance Lameyse and Seabiscuit

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

Here comes something you don't see often on judo blogs: an interspecies analogy.

When I saw this article about Lance Lameyse and Sandro's role in resurrecting his career, I was reminded of Seabiscuit. That's right, the horse. The one they made a movie about, with Spider-Man as his jockey.

Like Lameyse, Seabiscuit was a great athlete who almost drifted into obscurity but was rescued by men who sensed his raw talent: owner Charles Howard, trainer Tom Smith, and jockey Red Pollard. These men saw that to bring out the horse's full potential they not only had to train his body; they had to work on his mind.

Like the Seabiscuit story, the Lameyse story has a class angle. The racing establishment looked down on Seabiscuit, who looked distinctly unaristocratic and whose owner didn't come from old money. Likewise, Lameyse is no stranger to scorn; he was a "Graton Boy," from the wrong side of the tracks.

Of course, there are differences. In Lameyse's case there were two men, not three. And whereas Lameyse has fought in the 100 kg and open divisions, Seabiscuit was small — so small he looked more like a cow pony than a champion racehorse. Furthermore, he was old to be competing, he was lazy, he liked to sleep all day, and if they didn't watch his diet he'd gladly eat all day as well. Frankly, he sounds more like me than Lameyse.

Despite the differences, I stand by my analogy. It even gets a little support from Sandro himself. He tells me that like Seabiscuit, Lameyse is incredibly strong and could be incredibly stubborn.

By the way, to really appreciate Seabiscuit, I don't recommend the movie. I recommend the excellent book by Laura Hillenbrand.

Help wanted — dojo move on Memorial Day

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

seven dwarves

Jeff tells me Sensei is planning the move for Memorial Day. That's Monday, May 28, 2007. Work will continue on the two days after that. Helping hands would be appreciated.

I'll post an update when I find out more, or of course you can call the dojo.


It's for real, folks. Saturday will be our last class at 79 Leonard St. Those of us helping Monday will show up at 10:00. Work will continue for the next few days, so if you can volunteer let Sensei or Barbara know.

There will be a cocktail party on June 6 at 7:00 at the new location, 547 Greenwich St. (Here's a map.) Our first class there will be Monday, June 11. Unfortunately I'll have to miss class that week, because I'll be out of town.

Hudson Promotionals, May 2007

Sunday, May 20th, 2007

after throw

Oishi Judo had a good turnout for the Hudson Promotionals yesterday. Congratulations on quite a few strong performances.

I've posted YouTube videos of all the Oishi matches I was able to get, along with the ever-popular highlights reel. I have questions about two of the matches — see my notes next to the links below. If you have an opinion or a clarification, I'd appreciate a note in the blog comments below, or in an email.

The highlights reel has become something of a tradition. It started when I put together three ippons by Milton from the promotionals last October. Then in February Sensei suggested I put together highlights from the dojo tournament we had. Folks responded positively to that video, especially folks who couldn't be there for the tournament, and it's been a tradition ever since. In fact, for the Liberty Bell I posted only highlights.

Okay, here are yesterday's matches:

And here's the highlights reel:

Thanks to Sandro for the ride to North Bergen, and thanks to Dan for the ride back.

Assorted photos, 2007-05-09

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

A dozen photos from the past few weeks:

  • Mihai's birthday party
  • work in progress at the new dojo
  • Bob Henry's Kodokan certificate
  • artwork by Sensei

Click below to see the photos in a new browser window:

click to go to Flickr

Discussion thread on ukemi

Tuesday, May 8th, 2007

I came across this discussion over at Falling: Judo vs. Wrestling. The thread was started by Tom Kagan, a fellow I've met at the dojo a few times but haven't seen in a while.

Questions are raised about how wrestlers fall as compared to judo players, about why both thrower and throwee are told to hold on to each other's gis, and about whether it really matters if you slap the mat.

Somebody who goes by "AFS" says:

There is a study where they measured Uke's impact on the ground when being thrown. They did that ( german sports science study if I remember correctly ) to investigate if it is the arm which absorbs most of the impact . The conclusion was that the impact is absorbed by the body's core with body tension being the most important factor.

This result was quite an eye-opener – cause when you learn your ukemi a lot of coaches teach the importance of that arm " 45 degrees to the body, a loud noise equalling a good breakfall"

Although I'm not familiar with the study, and I'm no expert in sports physiology, it makes sense to me that tensing your core in a slightly scrunched position, stabilizing the neck and spine, would be the most important factor in absorbing the total shock of the fall. Imagine falling the completely opposite way, with a loose upper body and the back slightly arched. Your head and tailbone would hit the floor first, and your spine could be whipped in a random direction. Tensing the torso also prepares you for the possibility of tori landing on you upon completing the throw.

That said, I feel like slapping the mat protects one particular point of impact, and that is the shoulder. I think it could cause some pain or injury to land hard on the corner of my shoulder or even flat on my scapula. Slapping the mat gives me some protection from that, even if the main brunt of the fall is absorbed by the rest of my body.

At one point in the discussion, Tom mentions he consulted Oishi Sensei on the subject, which makes sense, since Sensei was a national champion in both judo and wrestling. Tom passes along the answers he got. I thought these two were the most interesting:

  • Traditional Judo Tatame is not very forgiving. Falling safely was historically more significant.
  • Wrestling is an art historically meant for the young practitioner. Judo was meant to be practiced into old age when knowing how to fall properly becomes very important.

What do you think?