Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The ippon ideal vs. sufficient proficiency

A lot of judoka that I've met struggle for months or even years, beating their heads against various techniques without feeling like they are becoming sufficiently proficient. Judo, the gentle way, is supposed to be simple but sometimes simple just ain’t easy. Nearly all judoka go through their entire career with at least a handful of throws that never reach that level of efficient ease.
Part of this distress may come from our preaching the ippon ideal. That is, we preach that we want to throw uke 1) mostly on his back, 2) with appreciable force and speed, and 3) with the thrower in obvious control of the action. These are good criteria and the competition rules are set up to reward this type of action. One perfect throw (ippon) wins the match instantly. A throw lacking any one of these qualities should be considered waza-ari (not quite a technique) and two waza-ari constitute an ippon. Throws lacking two or three of these qualities receive lesser recognition and no amount of these accidental or clumsy throws are considered to add up to a waza-ari or ippon.
This ideal is a good thing. It promotes improvement. But blind devotion to the ippon ideal is the same thing as perfectionism, which I’ve mentioned before as being the enemy of self-improvement. To prevent this perfectionism from growing within your judo, you must seek a dynamic balance between the ippon ideal and a second ideal – typified by the expression…

A sufficient response right now is better than a perfect response sometime later

So, I think it is a good thing to strive for the ippon ideal (as in classical judo) as well as the sufficient proficiency ideal typified by yuko (small throw) judo or Kosen (university) judo or BJJ.

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