This test for judo is called “shodan” shinsa. Shodan is the first level of the black belt in judo. I did this test in Fukuoka, Japan yesterday.
In America and at least where I started judo at CCSF there is a different ranking system for belts.
And brown belts have 3 degrees. And then of course black belts have varying degrees going upwards of maybe 9 or so degrees.
But in Japan there is only:
There are no colored belts between white and black.
To get a black belt or even the next level of black belt you have to do a test. And this test varies for adults and children. For adults you have to compete and fight against others who are also competing for a black belt.
It’s a single elimination competition which means if you lose once you’re out. And you have to accumulate enough points and your first time that is 4.5 points which means you have to win like 4 or 5 times in a row.
If you don’t you can try again at the next competition.
I did this in Fukuoka yesterday. I probably wouldn’t have but my dojo where I got the cultural visa to stay in Japan encouraged me to do so.
As you might expect it was a bit scary like other BJJ competitions that I did. This was the first judo one that I did.
I get a lot anxiety and anticipation and all the fears like: getting hurt, this isn’t that important, why should I do this, I am going to lose, I’m not good enough – all those fears that other people get.
But amongst all those negative thoughts and feelings – actually most of the time it’s a feeling – kind of like public speaking or a performance if you have ever done that.
But I try to inject into my mind some positive thoughts too like:
“You’ll probably win or learn something” which was true.
But when the fight starts the feelings are gone and you are in the moment.
I did win two and I did learn something about the rules and about how I can work on my tani otoshi counter.
Getting a black belt isn’t the ultimate goal. The goal is to learn and have fun doing so. Although I am not sure it’s always fun, but 99% of the time it makes me feel better.
Like the competition it would have been easier to just say no I don’t need to do this because I have done that before with jiu-jitsu competitions, but I knew that if I did it I would feel better.
It’s just about pushing through those fears and discomfort.
I am also happy that I got a couple of throws because I am better on the ground and have about 4 times the amount of experience and hours doing BJJ than I do judo tachi waza (throws).
There is another competition like this in November and I will probably do it because I started it so now I feel like I have to finish it.
Occasionally some people will win 4 or 5 matches in a row and get the black belt, but my friends tell me more often than not it can take 2-3 times.
I know one that said it took 7 times as a teen, another 4 times and another who actually won 6 in a row on his first time for shodan, but then said for yon dan (4th degree) it took him 3 or 4 times.
Judo is actually called “the gentle way”
Yep, but it doesn’t look or feel gentle most the time. But what is meant by that I think is finding the opening for a move or submission or where the opponent is off balance for a throw. Like in the pic above in the thumbnail to this video.
I threw that guy with an osoto gari.
He was stronger, probably weighed more, more aggressive and a bit spastic, but I found the path of the least resistance and threw him there and that’s judo – finding and seeing the openings and then capitalizing on them.