Gokyu (Part 2)

The weather was the nicest it’s been in months, so last night’s judo attendance was low. Besides me, the instructor and an older black belt were the only ones on the mat when we bowed in. Sensei didn’t have a lesson plan on hand with so few people: the black belts had been chatting about dogs for about ten minutes before the start of class (He said to me: “Now that you live in Ohio, you’re going to have to get a pickup truck and a second car that you put up on blocks in the driveway. That, and a pit bull out in the backyard.”) so it looked like it was going to be a fairly easy-going class.

We did ne-waza turn-overs, where uke is in a turtle position or flat on his stomach. He showed me three: from the side, grab uke’s far arm and pull in while pushing on uke’s torso with your shoulder; from the side, grab uke’s belt with one hand and push down his head with the other, to force a butt-over-head flip as you move past uke’s head; if uke is flat on his stomach, from the side, grab the far leg from underneath the near leg with one hand, grab the near shoulder with the other and pull-push. The idea behind first and last techniques is to twist uke at the waist so that the top of his body isn’t aligned with the legs (attacking the top or the bottom, respectively). The second technique is more a pain compliance one. A variation is to do a nelson on the near arm to get pain compliance on the back of uke’s head. There are possibly Japanese names for all these that likely use metaphors of rolling boulders or crashing waves, but no one mentioned them to me.

At this point, one of the bigger brown belts (a nikkyu?) shows up. Yay! Randori! I took a break while the brown belt warmed up. I asked sensei if I could dry run through my upcoming test. Sensei asks if I’ve filled out the written questions yet. Nope. He asks me which throws am I supposed to do off the yonkyu list in addition to the gokyu ones. Ippon seionage and the put-your-stomach-on-uke’s-face pin. OK, kamishiho-gatame.

After everyone was warm, we bowed in, and sensei says that we might as well do the test now. So, sensei calls off hiza-guruma, de-ashi-barai and ogoshi. For ippon seionage, do the throw and then go immediately into kesa-gatame. Since you’re on the ground, show me kata-gatame and then kamishiho-gatame. OK, what year was judo invented? Uh, late 19th Century? Hmm, 1882. What’s the name of the founder of judo? Uh, Kano. What’s his first name? I don’t know (Google tells me Jigaro). How long do you plan on doing judo? Until I can’t do it anymore? OK, that’s the right answer: you passed. Bring in your general knowledge part of the written test as well as this form for the USJF and the $10 testing fee; I’ll get your green belt later.

The whole test took about five minutes. It was just like that part at the end of Eizan-ryu tests where sensei decides that she hasn’t seen enough judo throws and has the testee do a bunch of called out throws. Except the testee isn’t battered and exhausted. And gets to fit in once before each throw. The other kyu tests are more or less the same, except with a more extensive technique list, as well as showing that you can do the throws with progressively more motion.

I did ne-waza randori with the brown belt for the rest of the class while the black belts chatted (I didn’t hear what they chatted about: possible more about dogs). The turn-overs I saw at the beginning of class didn’t really work at all: he’s outweighs me by about fifty pounds, all of which are muscles (I was told by a sankyu who was sick and just watching the class that he had the nikkyu in kesa-gatame and the nikkyu more or less just got up to break the hold, even though the sankyu weighed over 200lbs at the time). He did show me a few more roll-overs including one where you hook uke’s arm with one of your legs, fall back and put uke into a scissors thing with your legs. Also, it’s permissible to push uke’s head to one side with your elbow and body weight to get a hand in on uke’s collar to start a choke. No turnover necessary for that.

I’m told that a post-test tradition is to give the new kyu rank a red belly: the testee lies face up on the mat while the rest of the class take turns slapping him in the stomach. Fortunately, there weren’t enough people on hand to make this worthwhile.

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