Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How to become a judo empty jacket

Perhaps it's human nature to discount things from the past as being inferior to modern marvels. I've heard this story (perhaps it even rises to the level of a judo legend) that someone once said Jigoro Kano was "a great judo teacher but not really a very good competitor," and that an eyewitness corrected them, saying, "Trying to fight with Kano was like trying to fight with an empty jacket!"
What does that mean, "fighting an empty jacket?" Maybe its hard to imagine unless you've been fortunate enough to lay your hands on the right judo masters. There are people that are so good at judo... they move with you so well... using so little effort or strength... that you just cannot feel them. You are thrown with such pure, maximally efficient skill that it is unfathomable magic. To me, this feeling is like grabbing a tissue and trying to move it around violently - there is so little resistance to your strength that you can hurt yourself if you are not careful trying to muscle it around. I also liken it to the way a gnat is blown out of the way by the air preceeding a slap.
Such empty jackets are few and far between in the judo world, but they are not mythical beasts. In 20 some-odd years of judo I've only laid hands on two Empty Jackets, and one more guy that is nearly that good.
A couple of weeks ago I had the extreme pleasure and fortune to not only be able to move around with an Empty Jacket, but to ask him a pointed question... "How do you progress from being 'pretty good' at judo to becoming an Empty Jacket?"
Here are some of the main points that I got that day - should be enough to keep me occupied for years.
  • My hands move only me - never push/pull with the intent of moving the other guy. Only use your hands to help you move your own center into position for your throw. I think that he was saying that tori's hands only do tsukuri - not kuzushi or kake!
  • Never stop moving long enough to execute a technique! (same advice and Henry Copeland gave me regarding Jodo!)
  • Pay more attention to rise and fall in newaza - just like you do in tachiwaza
  • Do more newaza escapes from static, resistive positions instead of pulling the trigger before uke gets set - learn to get yourself out of worst case scenarios
WOW! I've got a long way to go! Any of those points would probably be worth a decade of study and effort.
Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282 木
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