Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Judo in Arizona

"Those who are skilled in combat do not become angered. Those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid. Thus the wise win before the fight, while the ignorant fight to win." - O Sensei Ueshiba
This lady use to scare some of the men in the jujutsu
classes at the University of Wyoming with her
 powerful technique.
Many of us visualize judo as two sweaty people wearing heavy, white uniforms grabbing at each other’s uniform to foot sweep or throw in a dazzling display of the art. Judo reminded me of wrestling when I was young, but with different rules and a different uniform. It was suppose to be a self-defense, but I was a bit confused in my youth because it looked more like a sport or contest than self-defense.

Some judo was taught in the US military for combat even though that which was taught, had little practical application.

Judo (柔道) translates as ‘gentle way’. Based on history, judo is a relatively new martial art compared to most traditional arts and most varieties of judo are practiced as a combat sport: only a few traditional judo clubs focus on judo as self-defense (the way it was intended) rather than sport. And is a soft art? Far from it! It is brutal and requires incredible endurance.
Demonstration of yubi waza (thumb throw) on Brett Philbrick
at the University of Wyoming Campus Shorin-Ryu Karate club.
Judo had origins in Japan in the late 19th century. Its most distinctive characteristic is the majority of practitioners compete. Judo was introduced as an Olympic sport in Tokyo in 1964, and at that time, competitors were separated into 4 weight classes. The object of the contest was to throw, immobilize, subdue an opponent through grappling, or to force an opponent to submit by applying joint locks, or execute a choke restraint to get your opponent to submit.

Although most are familiar with throwing and grappling in judo; judo also includes self-defense applications such as hand strikes, kicks and even weapons. But the strikes in the sport are used only in kata and are not part of competition or randori (judo free sparing) which has a tendency to lessen the value of Judo as a self-defense. However, the practice of randori is beneficial in providing practitioners a method for building timing and reflexes and to teach to react to attacks, rather than think about the attack. If judo practitioners provided equal time to randori and self-defense applications, judo would be an excellent self-defense – but the majority of judo practitioners focus on competition and little time on self-defense.

As a young adult, the creator of judo, Jigoro Kano did not weigh more than a hundred pounds; thus he was bullied and decided to pursue jujutsu at the age of 17. At Tokyo Imperial University, he studied martial arts and literature and eventually received a referral to study Tenjin Shin'yō-Ryu: a jujutsu style that emphasized technique over formal exercise.

The early history of judo cannot be separated from its founder: Jigoro Kano (1860–1938). Kano was born into a well-to-do Japanese family: his father was a Shinto priest. Kano initiated a major reformation of jujutsu and included techniques that emphasized development of the body, mind and character. At 22, he began studying jujutsu at the Eisho-ji Buddhist temple in Kamakura. This became known as the Kodokan, or "place for teaching the way". Today, the Kodokan Institute for Judo is in Tokyo and is the official headquarters of the judo world that was established in 1882 by Kano.
The primary focus on Judo is throwing (nage-waza) and groundwork (ne-waza). Sparring in judo known as randori means ‘free practice’. Randori involves two practitioners who continuously attack one other with any judo throw or grappling technique in their arsenal. Striking techniques (atemi-waza) such as kicking and punching, along with knife and sword techniques are retained in judo kata but not in randori. For reasons of safety, chokeholds, joint locking and sacrifice techniques are subject to age and rank restrictions.
Kano saw jujutsu as a group of disconnected tricks and he wanted to connect these, eliminate useless techniques, and make his art flow like water. His reformation of jujutsu discarded techniques that relied solely on superior strength and adapted techniques that redirected an opponent's force to make use of superior leverage. Judo was originally called Kano Jiu-Jitsu and later called Kodokan Jiu-Do or simply Judo. The word ‘judo’ shares the same Chinese root ideogram as "jujutsu": "jū" (). This kanji refers to ‘gentle’, ‘soft’, or ‘supple’ depending on context. The use of jū is an explicit reference to the martial arts principle of the ‘soft method’, characterized by the indirect application of force to defeat an opponent. It is the principle of using an attacker’s strength against himself.

 The second Chinese character used for judo and jujutsu differ. In jujutsu (柔術), this means "art" or "science" of softness. In judo (柔道), it means ‘the way’, ‘road’ or ‘path’, which has philosophical overtones which was Kano’s intent. This is the same kanji also used to distinguish budō from bujutsu and karatedo from karatejutsu. Use of do was a deliberate departure from the ancient combat martial arts, whose sole purpose was for killing. Kano saw judo as a means for governing and improving oneself physically, mentally, emotionally and morally.

Wrist restraint - any law enforcement agent would do well to train hard and constantly in jujutsu or judo. The public has a strange perception that jujutsu is not as violent as karate. But that's only because they have not seen the throws and restraints used by the greatest living martial artist - Dai Soke Sacharnoski. It is enough to put fear in any person. In this photo, Shihan Dai Kyle Gewecke of Gillette applies wrist restraint on Sensei Brett Philbrick of the Laramie Police Department during a police baton (kioga) clinic at the University of Wyoming.

Judo practitioners traditionally wear heavy, white uniforms called jūdōgi, or ‘judo uniform’. The jūdōgi was created by Kano in 1907 and similar uniforms were later adopted by many martial arts groups. The modern jūdōgi consists of white drawstring pants with a matching white jacket that is fastened by a belt (obi). The jacket is intended to withstand the stress of grappling, and as a result, it is much thicker than a karate uniform (karategi).

Most judo today is sport, thus in randori when an opponent successfully executes a chokehold or joint lock, the other will submit, or ‘tap out’. When this occurs the match is over, the tapping player has lost, and the chokehold or joint lock ceases. Judo is also a self-defense art and uses forms (kata) that are pre-arranged patterns of attack and defense, which in judo are practiced with a partner for the purpose of perfecting technique. Knowledge of various kata is a requirement for the attainment of a higher rank.


Randori assists in tuning reflexes and the ability to respond to attacks without thinking, making this a relatively effective method for self-defense practice. Many forms of jujutsu focused on individual techniques in self-defense applications that were choreographed without randori. But through time, most jujutsu styles have adopted randori into their training regimen.

 Seven judo kata are recognized by the Kodokan. In addition, there are a few kata not officially recognized but practiced by some Judo clubs.

Grandmaster Soke Hausel applies te waza (hand
technique) with foot choke on Shihan-Dai Kyle Gewecke (4th dan)
from Gillette, Wyoming during a self-defense clinic at the
University of Wyoming in Laramie (2004)
Joint locks (kansetsu-waza) are effective combat techniques because they enable a jūdōka to control an opponent through pain, or if necessary, to cause separation of the locked joint. Chokes and strangulations (shime-waza) enable the person applying the choke to force the adversary into unconsciousness. In competition, the jūdōka wins if his opponent submits or becomes unconscious. Rules in judo are intended to avoid injuries and ensure proper etiquette.

Applying wrist lock on Wade Stenger from
Albuquerque at University of Wyoming
class (about 1990).
Judo has three categories of points: ippon, waza-ari and yuko. An ippon means one point and wins a match. An ippon is awarded for (1) a throw that lands the opponent on their back in a controlled manner with speed and force; (2) for a mat hold down (or control) of sufficient duration (25 seconds); or (3) for opponent submission. A waza-ari is awarded for a throw that does not quite have enough power or control to be considered ippon; or for a hold of 20 seconds. A waza-ari is a half-point, and, if two are scored, they constitute the full point needed for a win. Yuko is a lower grade score, and is only considered as a tie-breaker; it is not cumulative with one another. Yuko points are scored for a 15-second hold down. If the person who secured the hold down already has a waza-ari, they only need to control a hold down for 20 seconds to score ippon by way of two waza-ari. Throws lacking the requirements of an ippon or a waza-ari might score a yuko.

Judo has formed the basis for military training around the world. The Japanese police have trained in judo since 1886, when judo (at the time known as Kano Jujitsu) defeated several established schools of jujitsu in a tournament.  Judo's lineage in traditional jujitsu combined with police and military applications, has resulted in kata specifically designed to teach technical principles for self-defense.

Soke Hausel instructs members of the military in self-defense.
 There are several judo clubs listed in Arizona and for those interested in learning judo, it would be recommended to look for a classical judo club (note - MMA is not judo, nor is it a martial art) with has ties to the Kodokan of Japan. Most universities have judo clubs - many are not only open to the student population, but also to staff, faculty and often the general public. Lists of judo clubs in Arizona are found on the web. If you want to get in great shape - try judo.

Check out these judo clubs and links in Arizona
Arizona State Judo
Judo Talk
Scottsdale Judo
Southwest Judo (Mesa)
The Judo Club
Judo Mesa


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