Friday, September 09, 2011

Metaphors and stuff

You know, there's like, metaphors and all sorts of other smart-sounding stuff in judo.  Judo is a microcosm of life. 
In judo we do randori (sort of like sparring), which is a competitive testing of the ideas and skills we've been working on.  Sure, we're all about mutual benefit and "you and me going forward together," but we're also about effectiveness and honesty and Truth (with a capital-T).  That is why we have to do randori. 
If you only do co-operative, give-and-take type exercises, then you never get to learn to deal with someone who wants to take-and-take (and take and take and take...) - and that is the most primal element of what martial arts are about.
There are martial arts clubs (and, believe it or not, there are a lot of them), that have remove all competitive exercises from their curricula.  I mean no sparring, no randori, no face-to-face with other students.  Now I know some of you guys are starting to moan that age-old grunt about those hippie aikido guys and their lack of competition, but they're not the ones I'm talking about.  I'm actually talking about some commercial karate and TKD clubs.
On one hand, it makes sense to remove the competitive elements...
  • We want to keep classes a positive experience for the student, so that they get a self-esteem boost and leave class telling the parents, "I LOVE judo."
  • We want to keep our injury rates low, and most all the injuries in class happen during competitive exercises.
  • We want to avoid having students get frustrated and quit, and zero-sum (one winner and one loser) games are a fast route to frustrating half of your students at a time.
But you still can't do martial arts (at least not well) without a competitive element.  It goes back to that microcosm thing...
  • There are going to be times in your life that you are going to want to reach some goal but someone is out to stifle that ambition.  You learn through randori to improvise, adapt, and overcome.
  • There are going to be times in your life that you are going to need to stifle someones ambitions and randori teaches you that if you jump on it and smother it right at the beginning its usually easier than letting it go for a while then trying to slow its momentum.

It's a fine balancing act, and it is the nightmare of all martial arts instructors (at least the ones with any sense) because you have to go for the right balance of co-operative and competitive, frustration and building the student up.

Patrick Parker
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