Shodan × 2

Two of my judo stu­dents/­co-instruc­tors grad­ed today for their 1st degree black belts (or shodan). They did just fine.

It was an odd expe­ri­ence for me. They were the first two that I’ve shep­herd­ed that far. It felt like a test-by-proxy for me, as well as a test for them.

Con­grat­u­la­tions to Neal and Joe. Wel­come to the dan ranks.


Judo Cana­da has rat­i­fied it, so it’s offi­cial: I have my san­dan rank. In Eng­lish, I have my 3rd degree black belt in judo.

For this one, I had to learn (or per­haps re-learn is a bet­ter way to put it) the katame-no-kata, aka the ground­work kata. I quite like it, and hope to sharp­en it up for pos­si­ble competition.

Thanks to all who have sup­port­ed me along the way.

You learn something new every day (II)

Part I (almost entire­ly unrelated).

Some­how I’ve man­aged to go my entire judo career — 17+ years — with­out try­ing to use Sil­vio’s famous1 hip-throw grip (ie, grab­bing the gi at the hip, just above the belt) to per­form hane-goshi2, which is my favourite hip throw, if not my favourite judo tech­nique3 bar none.


Tonight I tried it, and the world, sud­den­ly, was my oys­ter. At least as far as hane-goshi was concerned.

My judo friends will know what I’m talk­ing about. (Espe­cial­ly the ones that knew Sil­vio. Have a drink in his mem­o­ry tonight, if you’re so inclined. I intend to.)

  1. Or infa­mous. 
  2. “Spring­ing hip” throw. 
  3. ie, tokui waza

Judo: shiai and book

I went into the city this past week­end to ref­er­ee at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Man­i­to­ba’s annu­al shi­ai 1. Con­sid­er­ing I had­n’t ref­er­eed since the begin­ning of April, I feel I did fair­ly well. I got a com­pli­ment on the way out for catch­ing a cou­ple of “false attack” penal­ties — appar­ent­ly they get missed fair­ly fre­quent­ly — so I felt pret­ty good about that.

Next day, on the way out of town, I stopped in at McNal­ly Robin­son, one of my favourite book­stores, and end­ed up find­ing The Way of Judo on the shelf. It’s a biog­ra­phy of Jig­oro Kano, aka Kano-sen­sei, the founder of Judo. I waf­fled for a moment, but only for a moment; then I picked it up. I haven’t start­ed it yet, but I’m look­ing for­ward to it, for sure.

  1. Tour­na­ment or con­test, in Japan­ese. (Judo ter­mi­nol­o­gy is gen­er­al­ly giv­en in Japan­ese.) 

Community Service

My award

So this happened.

In mid-April , one of the admin assis­tants from the Pres­i­den­t’s office caught up with me at cof­fee time and said, “You’ve been select­ed as this year’s recip­i­ent of the Board of Gov­er­nors’ com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice award.”

I said, “Huh?”  I had­n’t even know I was nom­i­nat­ed.  (I still don’t know who nom­i­nat­ed me; it’s a pri­vate, con­fi­den­tial deal.  But I do thank who­ev­er it might have been.)

I was told I could have up to six guests attend the Uni­ver­si­ty’s con­vo­ca­tion, if I want­ed.  Unfor­tu­nate­ly, my wife was unavoid­ably out of town on the date of the cer­e­mo­ny.  My moth­er made the trip from the big city, though, and X, my so-called “judo wife”, came along as well.

Sev­er­al peo­ple asked me if I’d be mak­ing a speech; I told them that I had­n’t been informed one way or the oth­er if a speech was expect­ed, so I had­n’t pre­pared any­thing.  I was ready to ad-lib some­thing short, though, if the need arose.  My boss end­ed up in the seat beside me on the stage, in the sec­ond row of the plat­form par­ty.  As the grads were fil­ing across the stage to get their sheep­skins, he leaned over and whis­pered, “So how long is your speech?”

I replied, “I real­ly won’t know till I’m done.”  He laughed soft­ly and sat back up.

As it turned out, I did­n’t need to say any­thing; I just stood next to the Pres­i­dent, look­ing pret­ty, while she read off the bio I’d sub­mit­ted.  Then she hand­ed me the framed cer­tifi­cate, the pho­tog­ra­ph­er (a friend of mine, as luck would have it) snapped some pho­tos, the crowd went wild, and I sat down.

After the cer­e­mo­ny was com­plete, we stuck around for some fur­ther pho­tos.  X talked me into let­ting her do the kata-guru­ma lift for the cam­era.  In our fan­cy clothes.

(If you don’t know what kata-guru­ma is, check the video below.  Note that X put me back down on my feet, as we did­n’t have any mats backstage.)

And that’s how my week­end went. How was yours?

Notes from judo class tonight

  • I may need to order some belts before the next grading.
  • Bas­ket­ball prac­tice down­stairs is loud enough with­out the stereo.
  • It’s real­ly nice to hear some­one tell you they appre­ci­ate all the years you’ve been volunteering.
  • It nev­er occurred to me that instruct­ing at judo is vol­un­teer­ing, but of course it is.
  • Since when is Europe’s “The Final Count­down” a big hit again?
  • Half an hour of ne-waza ran­dori is lots, thanks.

Shiai ’09

…or, Pat wears a suit.

We held our annu­al judo tour­na­ment (or shi­ai, pro­nounced “shee-eye”) on Sat­ur­day. We had about 60 com­peti­tors show up, in divi­sions from kids’ all the way to seniors (senior being any­one old­er than 16). There were only nine ref­er­ees, which meant that if you came to ref, you were work­ing all day.

This is because judo has three offi­cials on the mat for each match: the ref­er­ee and two cor­ner judges. We had two fight­ing areas run­ning, each one need­ing a min­i­mum of three peo­ple to offi­ci­ate. We wound up with a team of five peo­ple on Mat I and four on Mat II (my mat). What this essen­tial­ly meant, for me, was that I was on the mats for three out of every four bouts.

It was a suc­cess­ful day: the club made some mon­ey, we had a min­i­mum of injured com­peti­tors (the worst injury, by far, was a bro­ken arm), and after­wards we all went out for all-you-can-eat sushi.

Brandon Open shiai
I told you I wore a suit.

Kata weekend in Gimli

This past week­end went like this:

Fri­day: Work, then pack, then go see Moon.

Sat­ur­day: Get up at some unholy hour, before the sun even deigns to rise, go pick up my friend and fel­low judo­ka X, and then hit the road for Gim­li. The town’s named for Odin’s shin­ing hall, and it’s a three-hour dri­ve from my house. X snoozed in the car, and I alter­nat­ed between lis­ten­ing to 90s on 9 and Lithi­um on the satel­lite radio.

We arrived in Gim­li short­ly before the instruc­tor did, so that was good. We got checked in at the hotel, got changed into our heavy cot­ton pants and can­vas jack­ets, and went down to the sem­i­nar room, where they’d already laid out the judo mats. Quick stretch, and a bow-in, and then we cov­ered nage-no-kata for two hours.

Judo kata, for those not famil­iar with the idea, are essen­tial­ly chore­o­graphed, pre-arranged demon­stra­tions of a set of tech­niques. Nage-no-kata means “forms of throw­ing”, and it is a brief sur­vey of some of the tech­niques you would use to take a per­son from a stand­ing posi­tion and put them ever so gen­tly into a more hor­i­zon­tal posi­tion. There are five sets of three throws each, all demon­strat­ed using both the right- and the left-hand­ed tech­niques. First you demon­strate hand tech­niques, then a set of hip throws, foot tech­niques, and final­ly back and side sac­ri­fice throws. For my brown belt, and then for my first-degree black belt, I need­ed to know the first three sets. For my next belt, nidan, I will need to know the entire nage-no-kata. So this was a good learn­ing expe­ri­ence for me.

We broke for lunch at about noon. Lunch was deli­cious: a make-your-own sand­wich bar, with assort­ed raw veg­eta­bles and the like. The room where we ate, Meet­ing Room C, looks out over the beach on Lake Win­nipeg. If I recall cor­rect­ly, Lake Win­nipeg is only out­classed by the Great Lakes and Great Slave Lake for the title of largest lake on the con­ti­nent. This week­end it was pret­ty chop­py — high winds from the north drove waves onto shore. One of the instruc­tors, who comes to Gim­li fair­ly fre­quent­ly, remarked that there’s usu­al­ly about anoth­er hun­dred feet of beach in the summer.

After lunch we returned to the mats for katame-no-kata, the forms of grap­pling. Judo involves a fair­ly sig­nif­i­cant ground game, and this kata works through fif­teen of the things you can do on the ground: five types of hold-down, five stran­gles, and five joint locks. X and I had nev­er done katame-no-kata before, but we both took to it quite read­i­ly. One of the instruc­tors asked us how often we’d done this kata before. When I said “Nev­er,” his eyes got a lit­tle big, and he nod­ded. I took it as a compliment.

Katame-no-kata, which is required for your third-degree black belt, or san­dan, involves a lot — a lot — of kneel­ing. I was glad that, fore­warned, I had pur­chased knee pads. X, who did­n’t have knee pads, end­ed up going out and buy­ing some lin­i­ment. (Horse lin­i­ment, but that’s a sto­ry for anoth­er day.)

After a cou­ple hours of ground­work, we broke for the day. I went for a swim in the pool, then to sup­per — a roast-beef buf­fet, with all the trim­mings. Then X and I hit the hos­pi­tal­i­ty suite for a while, wait­ing for 10 PM, when the kids would get kicked out of the pool. From 10 till 11, we swam, or hung out in the hot tub, or (briefly) baked in the sauna.

Sun­day was more kata — we recon­vened at 10 AM, after a hearty break­fast, to go over nage-no-kata and katame-no-kata again. Every­one was mov­ing a lit­tle slow­er, stiff from the pre­vi­ous day’s work­out. Right around noon we fin­ished up, and helped load the mats into a truck.

Then we got a lit­tle lost, try­ing to find the high­way from Gim­li back down to Win­nipeg — I end­ed up going down #9, when I want­ed high­way #8 — and that cost us about twen­ty min­utes. Once we were back on track, X fell asleep. We had some lunch in Head­in­g­ley, then point­ed the car west and were back home in a cou­ple hours.

And that, ladies and gents, was that.

Next time: The Writ­ers’ Group meeting