Richard Riehle recently wrote to me on the essential idea is that senior judoka, instead trying to be rigid and trying to protect themselves, should be taking a lot more falls when engaged in randori (free practice) sparring with less experienced partners. Generosity is an important aspect of Jita Kyoei, mutual welfare and benefit.
It is important in training to incorporate Jita Kyoei into our daily practice, both on the tatami (mats) and off. This applies to both nage-waza standing techniques and ne-waza groundwork. A shodan (1st degree black belt doing randori with a gokyu, yonkyu or sankyu (orange, green or brown) should be taking at least five times more falls than the Sankyu.
According to Richard, we learn a lot of judo just by taking the falls. Here are his own words on this topic.
One of the things I learned from visiting machi (local) dojos in Japan is how noisy the best of them are. You are probably wondering what that means. It means that one hears a lot of slamming arms on the tatami during randori. Everyone is taking falls.
In the US, Randori is too often practiced as a kind of contest. I have heard instructors tell students, “Train the way you would fight.” That is usually not sound advice for Randori, especially at the Kyu level.
During randori, you should be experimenting, taking risks, learning from those risks. In fact, you should be getting thrown more often than you actually throw.
You will learn a lot from your risk-taking.
Randori is not a contest. Too often Sensei and Coaches allow it to be a contest. Rather, it is a time to make mistakes and learn from them. I sometimes overhear the comment such as, “Wow, that brown belt guy is really dominating that guy with a black belt.” This is the comment we would expect from someone who does not understand Judo, and definitely does not understand randori.
As a senior Judoka, you have no need to keep proving yourself. You earned your rank. Instead of proving yourself, you need to be improving yourself. That includes making new kinds of mistakes, taking more risks, and when doing Randori with someone of a lower rank, helping them improve themselves.
Also, randori is not random-dori. It is one of the unique and powerful aspects of Judo training. It is cooperative, not competitive. It is laboratory. It is also pedagogical. It is a time to experiment, take risks, strive for self-improvement, and exercise one’s most exquisite generosity. Although generosity is not a Randori rule, it is an expected practice.
One of the saddest sights in any dojo is watching one of the Black Belt members tossing beginners all evening while never taking any falls himself. He is not educating; he is showing off. When one is a higher rank than one’s partner, we should not be trying to prove ourselves. We certainly need not dominate The Randori period by tossing the lower ranked and less experienced students.
Instead, the higher ranked partner should be taking a lot more falls than the lower ranked partner. Randori should be both educational and fun for the lower ranked partner. The higher ranked partner, instead of resorting to his tokui-waza for the entire session, should be trying new things, taking risks, and helping to educate the less experienced student.
The head instructor or head coach should be encouraging that behavior. This kind of practice will ensure that everyone is becoming better and more skilled. It will also illustrate the importance of both Jita Kyoei and Seiryoku Zenyo.
Of course, when you are with a partner where you are both black belt level, and as you engage Randori partners of the same rank and experience, you can agree to raise the stakes — make the randori a little closer to a contest. That is by agreement.
But generosity toward lower ranked and less experienced Randori partners is the rule, not the exception.
We can all benefit from taking a few more hard falls!
Please enjoy this poem below I wrote on randori.
The Simple Pleasure of Randori
We are older now
Some of us septuagenarians
Some of us octogenarians
They call us Veterans
Sometimes they call us Masters
No label really fits
Except — except old
We still enjoy randori
But no more slamming throws
And still we can take falls
Nobody checked my sleeve length
Before we greeted with a tachi-rei
We gripped each other’s Judogi
In conventional ayotsu grips
No slapping, avoiding, fumbling
Just the simple start of play
The simple pleasure of Randori
As we used to do it long ago
Before the tournament life
When youthful strength
And youthful vigor
As fierce competitors
We won and lost
Sometimes your win
Sometimes my win
We find the pleasures
Of simple Randori
Without the care of wins and losses
Much better than when
We cared about wins and losses
The deeper sense of generosity
We lost when young
When victory was our only goal.
July – 2022
21st Thursday to 24th Sunday – Grassroots Judo Summer Nationals, Ft. Lauderdale, FL28th Thursday to 31st Sunday – U.S. Open, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
3rd to 5th Saturday to Monday – Nanka Shorai Camp with Darcel Yandzi, Baldwin Park, CA11th Sunday – 1st Annual North American Judo Championships, Wayne, NJ17th Saturday – Becerra Judo Challenge, Plano, TX
October – 2022
1st Saturday – Dr. Z Memorial Scrimmage, Claremont, CA27th Thursday & 28th Friday – Nanka’s Hand-On Police Judo Workshop, Santa Clarita, CA
December – 2022
2nd Friday to 4th Sunday – Grassroots Judo Winter Nationals & Clinics, Azusa, CA
I’m always looking for new subjects to write about regarding judo as well as contributions from my readers. Please send them to email@example.com, thanks.
Judo, Randori, Judo blog
Black Belt Magazine
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