Judo Blog: Noisy Dojo

Judo Class
Gary Goltz

Adult randori session at my Dojo this past Winter

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.

Richard Riehele

Richard Riehle

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

And grapple

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

And now

As octogenarians

As septuagenarians

We find the pleasures

Of simple Randori

Without the care of wins and losses

And understand

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

September - 2022

October – 2022

December - 2022

I’m always looking for new subjects to write about regarding judo as well as contributions from my readers. Please send them to gary@garygoltz.com, thanks.

Gary Goltz

Gary Goltz

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