Why you should train in more than one Judo club occasionally

My Judo club closed for the summer. This was a massive bummer for me since I’d only been to 5 sessions before Covid, then the club was at the mercy of Public Health England who would then determine when gym openings could take place. Even then it was a case of solo drilling. Now that full contact is permitted again my club is closed for the summer.

I decided to go further afield and train at another Judo club: the Ray Stevens Academy (RSA). Some disciplines like BJJ are renowned for a fixation on loyalty and insist that you don’t train elsewhere without discussing it with your coach. I did actually ask my coach about his thoughts on the RSA so I wouldn’t cause potential offence and he seemed fine with it.

Training in a different place is daunting at first. We’re dealing with an aggressive combat sport that relies on a certain level of trust among the participants, not knowing your partners adds risk. You don’t know the surroundings, you don’t know the people, how things are done, it requires a bit of boldness.

Friendships and Predictability

Training with the same people week in week out has the benefit of camaraderie, a shared pursuit and hobby, a shared history even. The minor downside is that training with the same people means they get used to your gameplan. They get used to your movements. I distinctly recall my Oxford Brookes University judo days in the ’90s where the club was undersubscribed and I would face the same 3-4 people twice a week, consisting of all belt colours. By the end of my 1st year we all knew each other’s moves and we all had some pretty predictable randori sessions. There was no Youtube back then, no Instagram and I wasn’t as motivated to search out mail order VHS instructional tapes of the day. A source for new moves and ideas just wasn’t as easily available as it is today.

New people give you that excitement of testing your latest move that you’ve been working on. When they’re a similar belt level they give you that extra motivation to try that little bit harder (yes, it’s ego but this kind of challenge is a good thing when it’s within reason!). You then start to familiarise yourself with who’s going to attempt graceful throws in randori and who just doesn’t care about injury rates and wants to bury you into the mat. The best signifier of a good uke in my book is the one who’s relaxed when uke-ing during uchi-komi. If they are happy to go with the kuzushi while you’re practising your technique then a) they care enough for you to practice technique in the best way possible and b) they have mastered their initial fears of being thrown.

Let’s also not forget how great it is to make new friends.. Getting older means having more responsibilities, work and family commitments, you’re essentially more time poor than when you were younger and carefree with your time. Going to a new club provides opportunity to cultivate friendships that you wouldn’t get from say going to a bar or cafe.

Breaking the monotony by exploring infinity

Judo is deceptively simple: there are only so many moves. Those moves however can be interpreted in countless ways based on an endless factors. Each coach will interpret the moves in their own way and there lie some great opportunities for growth. To give an example about language learning: if you were learning Greek and you only had one Greek speaker to converse with, your Greek would be limited to that speaker’s nuances, vocabulary, literacy levels and other factors. It would certainly be more advanced than if you were to learn it from a book. But if you had access to another Greek speaker your progression would advance much more.

To further support this point, I’ve had some epiphanies while training at the RSA, one recent callout I had was about my seoi nage technique: by default I would turn into the throw and lean over a bit too quickly for the finish before I’d even had the chance to establish that all important body contact. My seoi nage throw would work on the rare occasion but not necessarily that efficiently. This was a fantastic eye-opener for me (although not one I’ve mastered fully).

Judo Mastery

On the point about mastery, there is so much to learn about Judo that one could spend a lifetime learning it and still not cover it all. You learn a lot by regularly showing up to your club, practising your craft, following the guidance of your trusted coach. I’m a big fan of this kind of routine, in fact any success in my life I can attribute to the simple act of showing up on time, predictably, at routine intervals to practice. This can be enough. However if opportunity enables it then try visiting (and supporting) another club. See how they do things. Work with new people. We’ll all be better for it.

I hope you enjoyed my judo rant for today. If you did, please consider subscribing to this blog (link at the bottom right of this page) so you can be emailed when I come up with something new.

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