The first in­stall­ment of An­to­nio Grace ff o’ s re­flec­tion son prac­tic­ing judo in Asia and the West ran in the De­cem­ber2017/Jan­uary2018 is­sue. He con­tinue store count his ex­pe­ri­ences and ob­ser­va­tions here. —Ed­i­tors


In ´-udo Ran­dori in Five Coun­tries, Part 2,” An­to­nio Grac­effo, Ph.'., goes old school in the Big Ap­ple as he com­pares and con­trasts the -apanese art with the Chi­nese wrestling he’s learn­ing in Shanghai.

Dur­ing the long breaks the other stu­dents and I got at Shanghai Univer­sity of Sport — Na­tional Day, Spring Fes­ti­val (Chi­nese New Year), sum­mer va­ca­tion and so on — I trav­eled to other coun­tries for work and plea­sure. Of course, I added judo train­ing to my itin­er­ary when­ever I could be­cause it was closely re­lated to my ma­jor.

At some of the gyms I vis­ited around the world, I was told that the prac­tice of judo had been heav­ily in­flu­enced by MMA and Brazil­ian jiu

jitsu. In New York, how­ever, I spent time with Gary Rasa­nen, an eighthde­gree black belt who’s re­sisted the temp­ta­tion to mod­ify his judo. He’s old school, which means he teaches mostly stand-up throw­ing, and he uses only the Ja­panese names for those throws.

Rasa­nen is also strict when it comes to rank. He seems to be­lieve that the most di­rect path to the “gen­tle way” is through suf­fer­ing. “The MMA and jiu-jitsu guys come out here some­times be­cause they want to learn the throws,” he con­fided, “but no one wants to get thrown 300 times a night.”

I deemed it a valid ob­ser­va­tion be­cause in com­par­i­son to the time I spent train­ing in MMA, BJJ and wrestling, I was def­i­nitely get­ting thrown more in Rasa­nen’s judo classes. He ap­par­ently sup­ports Jig­oro Kano’s rule of thumb that judo should be 70-per­cent throw­ing and 30-per­cent ground work.

Think about that state­ment: In judo, a syl­labus of less than 70 throws is prac­ticed over and over un­til aes­thetic per­fec­tion is achieved. That can be te­dious and painful for some prac­ti­tion­ers, which is prob­a­bly why most of the judo schools I’ve vis­ited have a small stu­dent body and teach­ers who hold full-time jobs on the out­side.


be at all home in China be­cause the coun­try is one of the few places where the Ja­panese names for judo throws aren’t used. This is likely the re­sult of one of two rea­sons. The first is po­lit­i­cal. China has never for­given Ja­pan for World War II, which means many Chi­nese hold a great deal of an­i­mos­ity to­ward the Ja­panese.

The sec­ond is Ja­pan uses three writ­ing sys­tems. In that na­tion, judo terms are writ­ten with Chi­nese char­ac­ters but pro­nounced in Ja­panese. In the U.S., if a Chi­nese char­ac­ter is en­coun­tered in an English text­book on judo, most read­ers won’t know or care that it’s Chi­nese. They sim­ply will ig­nore it and read the pho­netic spell­ing of the Ja­panese pro­nun­ci­a­tion, which usu­ally fol­lows the tech­nique’s name in

brack­ets. As a re­sult, judo tech­niques in most coun­tries around the world use the same pho­netic pro­nun­ci­a­tions of the Ja­panese words.

Not in China, how­ever. If you’re read­ing a Chi­nese-lan­guage judo text­book here and come to the name of a throw, you see that it’s writ­ten in Chi­nese char­ac­ters with no in­di­ca­tion that this one word in the sen­tence should be pro­nounced the Ja­panese way rather than the Chi­nese way. And even if there was some sign, most Chi­nese read­ers wouldn’t know how to pro­nounce the char­ac­ter the Ja­panese way.


wasn’t the only rea­son study­ing judo and other grap­pling arts at Shanghai Univer­sity of Sport was unique. Most of the Chi­nese ath­letes there are pre­s­e­lected as chil­dren based on their phys­i­cal at­tributes. In fact, many of my team­mates and train­ing mates told me they left home when they were 12 — and some as young as 9 — to live in a sports school, where they trained twice a day. By the time they reached SUS, they’d en­joyed a decade of full- time train­ing and had com­peted at the na­tional and in­ter­na­tional lev­els. As a re­sult, all the peo­ple I grap­pled with pos­sessed very ad­vanced skills.

Another re­sult of my time at SUS was I be­gan notic­ing dif­fer­ences between the skill sets of the var­i­ous grap­pling arts. Chi­nese wrestling, as well as freestyle wrestling and MMA, al­low at­tacks aimed at the legs. Ex­am­ples in­clude the sin­gle-leg and dou­ble-leg take­down. Judo, how­ever, no longer per­mits them. Those tech­niques were present when Jig­oro Kano cod­i­fied the art, but they were re­moved later when wrestlers be­gan win­ning in­ter­na­tional judo com­pe­ti­tions. It was be­lieved that by let­ting the art evolve from one in which beau­ti­ful throws were em­pha­sized to one in which win­ning at any ex­pense was the goal would per­ma­nently dam­age judo.

That’s not un­heard of in the mar­tial arts. When Kano cre­ated judo from ju­jitsu, he re­moved many of the sub­mis­sions and ground-fight­ing tech­niques be­cause he en­vi­sioned judo as the art of skill­ful throw­ing. Al­low­ing op­po­nents to fight too much on the ground af­ter care­lessly throw­ing or be­ing thrown seemed con­trary to his philoso­phies.

JUDO DOES have com­mon­al­i­ties with the wrestling I en­coun­tered in China. Prac­ti­tion­ers of both arts wear a sim­i­lar uni­form, although the Chi­nese-wrestling shirt has short sleeves and the judo gi long. Many of the throws are sim­i­lar, but Chi­nese wrestling spe­cial­izes in sweeps and rather unique cloth­ing-based throws. My im­pres­sion is that in judo, the cloth­ing pro­vides a place to grip to ex­e­cute a throw, whereas in Chi­nese wrestling, many of the throws are ac­tu­ally cloth­ing-based.

Un­like judo, Chi­nese wrestling doesn’t in­clude ground fight­ing. In­stead, wrestlers re­set be­fore go­ing for the next throw. This means that

ju­doka have some knowl­edge of sub­mis­sions, chokes, pins and ground fight­ing, but Chi­nese wrestlers do not. How­ever, Chi­nese wrestling in­cludes tech­niques that judo sel­dom sees. Among them are strength moves like the su­plex, bear hug and body lock. Also of note is the sac­ri­fice throw, which is com­mon in MMA and freestyle wrestling and can be used in judo but is more or less for­bid­den in Chi­nese wrestling.

It’s that va­ri­ety, how­ever, that makes the in­ter­na­tional ex­plo­ration of the mar­tial arts fas­ci­nat­ing for all who en­gage in it.

Un­like judo, Chi­nese wrestling doesn’t in­clude ground fight­ing. In­stead, wrestlers re­set be­fore go­ing for the next throw.

An­to­nio Grac­effo’s book War­rior Odyssey is avail­able on Ama­

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.