Teacher Or Competitor? What Are You Training For?

I can still recall my sensei’s words: “I’m teaching you to be Judo instructors, not competitors”… yet we did surprisingly well in competition. Our small high school club could boast several competitors who successfully competed at the national level.

Yet I still remember my amazement, all these years later, at a fellow Judoka sitting next to me at the High School Nationals in Chicago of 1974. We were both brown belts, and we had just witnessed a nice Kani Basami attempt that garnered a waza-ari on the mat in front of us. The guy turned to me, and exclaimed “What was that!”. I was dumbfounded that a brown belt would be ignorant of such a technique… but it appeared to merely be my sensei’s words coming back: “I’m teaching you to be Judo instructors, not competitors”.

My sensei demanded that we know the entirety of Judo, not just the few techniques that are so powerful in shiai. He was indeed, training us to pass on Judo as a traditional martial art, and not merely a few sport moves…

I’ve tried, down through the years, to emulate my sensei, George Hamm, who sadly passed on not long ago. I keep in mind that just because a technique is rare, difficult to use in competition, or simply difficult to do - doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t introduce it to the class.

Just for the fun of it, a few weeks ago I introduced Hanegoshi to a class of largely adult white belts, most with no more than a few months of Judo - and I told them it would be a difficult throw, and wasn’t generally introduced so early. Yet not only did many of them manage it in uchikomi, I continue to see several of the white belts trying it in practice.

It’s never safe to assume that a given technique is ‘too difficult’… and if your Judo class spends all of it’s time on Seoinage, Tai Otoshi, Osotogari, and Ouchigari… you’re going to miss out on the rich variety of Judo throws and skills.