Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they have chosen, few in pursuit of the goal.


I’d always thought of Judo as the dullest sibling when it came to martial arts. Never would I have imaged that my first proper experience would leave me in genuine awe of the technical demands, and for much of the class chasing shadows.

Brendan, at the Gentle Art Academy, knew I was in the market for a Judo expert and kindly put me in contact with a black belt (and MMA fighter) who happened to be visiting Singapore and picking up some Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at their gym. It’s a courtesy in many martial arts to allow visiting black belts, even if in a different discipline, to train for free. And in return there is some sharing of ideas and exchange of knowledge and technique.

Disappointingly from a rugby perspective, as Judo has developed as a competitive sport, the ability to go for your opponent’s legs with your hands has been removed. I suspect this has been to maintain its distinct character from the likes of BJJ or wrestling. But given in rugby we can’t trip and need to demonstrate an ever-increasing level of care in what we do with opposing players when we lift them off the ground -many of the obvious drilled judo techniques don’t cross over easily. Although I can say that Judo massively ticks a satisfaction box when you start to execute some of the throws -its right up there with choking someone out in BJJ.

What was interesting from a rugby perspective was the careful breakdown of the elements involved in throwing. Most throws had the same three basic elements; destabilising or unbalancing you opponent (breaking their balance), stepping in (positioning yourself to throw them) and then executing the throw (remembering to really pull your opponent through the throw). The key component of the three is breaking their balance -that’s what enables someone to throw or take down a bigger and stronger opponent with minimum effort. In a way it’s part of the same efficiency in technique that was apparent in BJJ and Muay Thai.

And I don’t think that in rugby we place enough importance on breaking the balance of your opponent when tackling -rugby has developed chasing bigger, stronger, faster -in many ways at the expense of greater efficiency. I always loved the big hit -stopping an opponent dead like they’d hit a wall, but on reflection I wouldn’t have minded doing it with a little less energy expended.

The speed of movement and balance in Judo was again something you can’t quite appreciate until you’re there trying it yourself. In sparing my opponent (and teacher) Gulom, was not just fast but felt elusive -like trying to catch water, and when I finally got any grip he just fell through my hands. My fingers ached afterwards from just trying to establish grip. And this element felt very different than in BJJ.


Thankfully for me, the pain fell short of a degree that it stopped me having some recovery beers post session. Next week I’m in two minds between Silat and Krav Maga -will keep you posted.

Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it

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