Lately I've been thinking about the importance and role of competition within Judo. I've heard a lot lately about going to compete and "hanging it all out there". Judo competitions are setup to crudely emulate combat but do so in such a way as to test the skill set that is studied in Judo. Anytime you create a framework or rule structure to simulate combat, as athletes, we adjust our strategies and do non combative and non martial things that exploit the weakness within the rules. These types of things are what put the "Sport" in Judo. When we collapse into a turtle position and hold on and wait for the ref to stand us up, this is an action that is effective in sport and not effective in combat. When we role through a throw such that our opponents backs hit the ground but we role over them such that we neither are left standing, nor ground control, this is a sport strategy and not martially effective. If we dive to the ground face first rather than doing a break fall and rolling out of a throw, we are playing the sport of Judo to avoid loss rather than to safely walk away from being thrown. These are just a couple of examples of how the sport of Judo effects its practice. Now there is nothing wrong with doing the sport of Judo any more than there is anything wrong with playing football or tennis or hockey.
For myself and many other judoka, the sport aspect is secondary to the martial one. When you practice judo I think you have to decide at some point if you are training in order to compete and win, or if competition is a tool you use to test your training. It would be akin to playing hockey to test your ability to skate. I have seen Judo players break arms and collarbones trying to twist out of a throw to avoid a loss rather than break fall safely and accept it. With the martial aspect in mind we can still compete whole heartily, but the way we train and execute the techniques we know may handicap us somewhat when participating under the rules of the sport.
I guess a distinction could also be made about the difference between the martial and the art within the martial art. Kano seems to stress the importance of position, timing and off balancing, to create an effortless throw. It is true that putting yourself in a position to break an opponents knee or wrist and execute a throw is a very martial thing, however I think that training exclusively in that heavy marital way may cause us to miss the subtleties of the art portion. I think that adding heavy martial aspects to your techniques is probably much easier to do after you have mastered the art involved in effective throwing and ground work.
Whether you enjoy training in judo for the sport, or focus on the martial art, I think it is also important to realize that the training is where all the work and learning is done. Just as most of golf is really learned on the driving range and on the putting greens not in the game, judo is learned in the dojo through repetition and hard work. Competing without training just increases your chances of injury and creates a very slow path of progression which can be frustrating and counter productive. So YES, compete! compete often! Test yourself. But above all else TRAIN. Because if you aren't training, what progress are are you supposedly testing?
Statistics from last class:
Ashi Garuma 6
Tsuri Goshi 6
O-Uchi gari 10
Ko Uchi Gaka 5
Hiza Garuma - Hari O Goshi 10
Hours of training : 1.5 total 5.5
Notes: We did some Randori tonight and I went back into my habits of heavy grips, blocking, countering, and not moving around enough and not committing to my attacks. My Uchi-Mata practice was horrible, but I was reasonably happy with how my Tsuri Goshi is coming. We spent some time figuring out some techniques from Saturdays clinic. I found the arm grab escapes particularly easy to pick up on. They were simple essentially identical to ones I practiced when I briefly studied Japanese Jiu-Jitsu in Canada. The body drops demonstrated a different kind of kasush but would take me many many many repetitions before they become intuitive, so I think I will just focus on the 67 judo throws for now.