My 2nd Judo Competition for shodan (black belt) in Japan

On Monday I did this competition again. This was the 2nd time. I had a tie and only got a half a point. So now I have 2.5 points.

This was taken from the other day when I did a judo competition at the Fukuoka Budokan. This competition is called “shodan shinsa” and it’s a test where if you get a certain number of wins you can qualify for a black belt.

It’s a bit anxiety producing and if you ever competed before you will know.

This was a draw.

Neither myself or opponent won so I only got a half of a point and was eliminated. If you lose or tie you get eliminated. To lose is zero points. In my first one I won two matches.

I almost got some submissions. An arm lock from reverse triangle in the beginning, but the ref called matte right when I was about to get it.

ARGHHHH^^.

And another armbar, almost but not that time my technique might have needed an adjustment.

In judo they call matte pretty quick when you are on the ground.

BJJ vs. Judo – What’s the difference?

I’ve practiced both BJJ and judo. I currently live and train in Fukuoka, Japan, but started in San Francisco, CA.

I made this video out near Meinohama beach. There is an area that I like going to and I rode around on my bike and talked. Later I added some footage of myself practicing judo and BJJ mostly in Japan, but there is some from CCSF.

What judo is mostly

First let’s start with the goal.

Ippon is the goal and that is either a throw where the opponent lands on his back, a pin or a submission.

Kodakan judo was a complete grappling program, but nowadays judo is mostly stand up grappling and throws. The rules to judo have changed over the years to partly suit the needs of television viewers.

Watching ground grappling was boring, but watching someone getting thrown is exciting. So they changed the rules to please the TV viewers – so my former sensei Mitchell Palacio said.

In a judo competition a person can win by ippon which is either a throw where the opponent lands on his back, a pin, or a submission.

If the fight goes to the mat and there is no submission within a certain amount of time they will stand them back up again.

What’s judo practice like?

It depends on the school. At CCSF in San Fran, practice starts with some running and light calisthenics, then forward rolls, ukemi: side and back falls, then maybe the teacher will teach techniques, uchikomi: drilling the throw without throwing, nagekomi: letting your partner throw you and then finally randori.

That was at CCSF.

I have been training at Fukuoka univ. and that’s higher level judo. Some stuff is similar to CCSF, but more intense and I didn’t see anyone teach a throwing technique.

Maybe cause all of them were black belts (except me) and it is assumed that you know all of them.

There practice looks something like this:

  1. Warm up: stretching, falling, rolling, walking, running, walking on your hands, cartwheels, etc.
  2. 5 minute intense interval exercises: jumping, running in place, push ups, sit ups, burpees, side steps, mountain climbers, etc. (It gets the blood flowing!)
  3. Uchikomi – drilling the throwing technique without the throw
  4. Nagekomi – letting your partner throw you often 5 times and then switching
  5. Different kinds of randori – free sparring sessions
  6. Something where one person has to fight many people in a row without a break
  7. Newaza – ground sparring where you try to pin or submit your partner

So far out of the 4 classes I have been to there hasn’t been much newaza. One day they practiced some pins from the turtle position and another did newaza sparring.

All of my judo practices have been 2 hours.

The place where I train now is called Sekiryukan and we don’t really do much of a warm up. You can on your own and then we do uchikomi or newaza sparring and then tachiwaza or standing randori.

What jiu-jitsu is mostly

First off you should know that jiu-jitsu or “BJJ” evolved from judo. However, it’s focus is newaza.

The goal of jiu-jitsu is a submission. Unlike judo a pin or throw can’t end the match or win it.

What’s jiu-jitsu practice like?

It depends on the school. Some schools have an intensive workout and others not.

Many have a warm up like this:

  1. Running
  2. Backfalls
  3. Shrimps (sometimes in reverse)
  4. Hip escapes
  5. Forward rolls
  6. Backward rolls
  7. Side shrimp (not that common and difficult)
  8. Back fall with technical stand up
  9. Bear crawls
  10. Crab walks

Then the teacher usually teaches some techniques and you get to practice them with a partner.

Then sometimes there is drilling where you start in a certain position try to escape and/or submit your partner.

Sometimes there is a king of the mountain where the winner stays and the loser goes. And others where one person stays regardless of if they win or lose.

Then there is sparring. You are free to spar with your classmates. The times are often 6 minute rounds although I have seen 2 minute rounds at CCSF and at another school when it is busy.

Sensei Palacio at CCSF has a sort of nagekomi version of jiu-jitsu where you let your partner do a few moves and then switch.

I think that is cool. You choose the technique. I haven’t seen this at any other school.

Jiu-jit$u is more profit driven

BJJ is more profit driven. It’s more of a money making scheme. It’s more entrepreneurial.

Judo on the other hand is not. In Japan it’s part of the school system. Many students will choose whether to do kendo or judo.

That’s part of the school system. I know judo and kendo are both part of many school systems and I had friends in Japan that both did kendo and judo in school.

So it’s kind of like wrestling in the USA which is also part of the school system. Not in all schools, but in many.

Here are some examples from here in Fukuoka, Japan where I am currently. I have been to 3 different places inquiring about judo.

  1. Meidoukan. Charges 10,000 Yen ($100) a year plus an additional fee of 1,900 Yen a month I think. You can train 3 days a week.
  2. Sekiryukan. Charges 3,500 Yen a month and you can train 3 days a week.
  3. University of Fukuoka. Now I just walked into this place and it’s quite impressive. It has a huge bright yellow and red mat and so far they haven’t asked me for any money.

So you can see that it’s cheaper.

BJJ on the other hand is entrepreneurial.

I currently pay 10,800 Yen ($100) a month to train at Axis jiu-jitsu.

Tri-Force jiu-jitsu charges the same.

I went to another place called Carpe Diem and the guy said 20,000 Yen a month. And I thought the guy was trying to take advantage of the dumb new foreigner in town…

Haha.

Nice try.

So I left.

I train at Axis jiu-jitsu now for 2 reasons. One it’s closer to my house and two the sensei invited me to train for free on my first day.

The other 2 schools in Fukuoka wanted me to pay right away.

I guess in the USA I got used to a free first class.

In San Francisco I used to train judo and jiu-jitsu a lot at City College which is almost free or is free now I think.

I also trained at Romelo Melo occasionally which was like $160 a month or $130 when I signed a contract for my first year.

I don’t like contracts though and after 14 months there I went to CCSF to learn some judo and jiu-jitsu.

Caeser Gracie was like $120 for a few months.

Evolve jiu-jitsu was like $130 I think, but I only went there for the free open mats on Friday.

Ralph Gracie was like $180 a month, but I only went to a few open mats in Berkeley and once in downtown SF.

So jiu-jitsu costs more money and it’s more entrepreneurial.

Jiu-jitsu is also more branded like: 10th planet, Gracie, Alliance, etc. In judo there are no brands.

Judo is judo.

Judo is usually more academic and less profit driven

You can probably train judo somewhere for free actually. Well, you might be able to depending on where you are. I did. City College in San Francisco is now free as far as I know. When I started there it was like $80 a semester.

Certainly there are places that will make you pay for judo probably like BJJ, but I haven’t been there. Where I currently train in Fukuoka, Japan costs about $30USD a month. On top of that I have been a guest at a couple of universities and a high school in Japan for free.

I also entered a competition for judo shodan for free.

Competitions in BJJ can cost quite a bit like maybe $100. The only BJJ competitions that I did where at City College and those were pretty cheap like maybe $25 if I remember correctly.

Are the mat’s the same?

Mats will vary from gym to gym, but in my experience I’d say that BJJ mats tend to be softer which may seem ironic. Both the surface of the mat and the cushion part of the mat tend to be softer in BJJ gyms.

And judo mats tend to be more firm, but sometimes have springs in the floor. Judo mats tend to also have rougher surface material on them too. One thing that I have noticed about the really soft mat where I currently train BJJ is that doing stand up techniques like throws and moving around is more difficult cause the floor is spongy like.

Are the gi’s the same?

At first glance it may look as if the gi’s are the same. They are similar, but judo gi’s have a longer skirt – the part of the jacket below the belt.

White is the traditional color and blue is also usually acceptable at least for competition.

Jiu-jitsu gi’s have a shorter skirt and the gi’s tend to have a lot of advertising on them with logos and what not.

In jiu-jitsu there are:

  • White gi’s
  • Blue gi’s
  • Black gi’s
  • Camouflage gi’s
  • Pink gi’s
  • Purple gi’s
  • Red gi’s

And probably more.

But in judo it’s only white and blue. Logos are not common like in BJJ, but some companies do put smaller logos on their gi’s like “Mizuno”.

And then in Japan the judoka’s often put their name on the back of the jacket.

Also another slight difference is what people wear under their gi’s. In judo most males do not wear anything under their gi, but in jiu-jitsu I would say many males wear t-shirts or rash guards under their gi’s.

What are the belts like?

In BJJ you have five belt colors: white, blue, purple, brown and black. Some schools also place stripes on belts to measure progress through the belts.

The belt colors are similar around the world.

In judo you have some variance of the belt colors depending on the school and country. Where I trained at City College in San Francisco we had: white, green, brown (w/ 3 degrees) and black.

I have also seen students from other academies and countries wearing yellow (which might be a youth belt) and blue belts which might be higher than green belts.

In Japan there’s usually only white and black belts. At the youth level there may be some schools that use brown and green.

There are also certain levels of black belts called degrees in BJJ and dans in judo. In judo a very high level black belt may receive a red belt at 9th or 10th dan, but these high ranks are rare.

How long does it take to get a black belt?

In BJJ most say it takes 10 years, but it really depends. I know brown and purple belts who have been practicing for 10 years. I even met a blue belt who said he had been practicing for 10 years.

If you are extremely gifted and you practice often It can take less time.

In judo it’s generally easier to get a black belt called a shodan. It depends on the school – always and you.

My teacher at CCSF said you can do it in 2. Judo is more academic so it seems like if you just apply yourself every semester and do the tests you can level up. But most took around 5 years there I think.

Here in Japan you have to do a competition called shodan shinsa. You have to win 4 times and do the kata.

Judo is more formal and there are more rules

As mentioned earlier it’s common to bow in judo when stepping on the mat or at the beginning or end of class. Traditionally you either sit on the mat kneeling or cross legged.

If you don’t your teacher might yell at you.

In jiu-jitsu I haven’t been to a school that told me to sit a certain way. It’s just generally more relaxed and less formal.

If you’re belt comes undone then you tie it back up and tuck your gi in. If your belt comes undone in BJJ it doesn’t really matter in fact many people will just take it off. And throw it to the side.

If you try that in judo you will probably get yelled at like I was once.

In judo there are certain ways of bowing and beginning randori, competitions and even uchikomi sometimes. You bow and step in with your left foot first and then your right and then “hajime!” begin.

When you finish you step out with your right foot first and then your left and then bow.

At the end of the class you bow out usually and hands at your side left foot back to your knee, right foot back to your knee while on your toes and then point your toes back and come to seiza – kneeling.

To get up you get off your butt, get on your toes and then step your right foot forward and then left and stand.

Should you bow or handshake?

In jiu-jitsu it’s common to shake hands with your classmates in some dojos and then again when you leave. And in all of the dojos that I have ever rolled in you always slap hands and then fist bump your partner before you spar.

In judo shaking hands is not common.

I remember when I first started judo after about a year of jiu-jitsu. I went to the class and tried shaking my teachers hand and he just kind of looked at me in a cold and indifferent manner and offered me a limp hand.

I don’t think he liked hand shakes.

In judo you bow and it’s called “rei”. You often bow in the beginning of class and at the end and at those times you sometimes kneel and “bow”. Sometimes you bow when you step on and off the mat.

You usually bow when you do randori with your partner too.

What’s the difference between judo newaza and BJJ?

Well, as far as Kodakan judo goes I’ll make some generalizations here based on my experience. Of course a judoka could train Kosen judo which is uncommon and that could affect their style or maybe they also train BJJ or wrestling.

But…

  • A lot of the judokas are going to go for a pin if you “roll” (BJJ term) with them and when they pin you they might stop because they won in their mind. Their are a lot more pin positions in judo that aren’t commonly used in BJJ.
  • They tend to be top dominant and don’t play guard.
  • They might roll over and give you their back which doesn’t happen in BJJ.
  • They might be faster and more aggressive. Not sure why it seems that way, but maybe because there is a time limit in judo for newaza.
  • There are also shorter sparring rounds in judo which have been 2-3 minutes and in jiu-jitsu 5-6 minutes. Kosen judo competitions are 6 minutes long.

Kosen judo

Kosen judo has a different rule set that allows for more newaza and some of the techniques currently forbidden in Kodokan judo.

It is more akin to old judo.

  1. You can pull your opponent to the ground (kinda like pulling guard in BJJ)
  2. You can do ashi garame which is not allowed in kodakan judo and in some BJJ competitions.
  3. You can’t do any leg submissions.
  4. You can win by ippon: pin, submission, or clean throw.
  5. There is no time limit to be on the ground.

Watch this video of a Kosen judo competition.

I did a judo competition in Japan called “shodan shinsa” yesterday

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.

white>green>brown>black

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:

white>black

There are no colored belts between white and black.

And…

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”

Haha… really?

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.

A day training Kosen judo at Kyushu university in Itoshima, Japan

Lucky me. In a previous post I got to see a kosen judo competitiion here in Fukuoka, Japan. This is a rare style of judo that emphasizes newaza (ground techniques) so it’s similar to BJJ or is it that BJJ was inspired from kosen judo?

Hmmm…

Here’s a picture from then.

You can see me above in the back right and to my left is Tsukamoto-san and second in the back left is Amamiya-san. Those two I train with often at Sekiryukan in Hakata. They are 3rd and 4th degree black belts.

Anyways…

Last Saturday I went with a couple of my dojo members from Sekiryukan to Kyushu university to practice Kosen judo from about 9:30 to 12:30.

Here are a few clips from the lesson.

And then after I went to a beach in Meinohama, Fukuoka. I went for a swim and it was nice. I also saw a lot of feral cats.

A kosen judo competition between universities in Fukuoka, Japan

This is a Kosen judo competition between the former “imperial” universities in Fukuoka, Japan.

Kosen judo has a different rule set from the standard kodokan judo rule book. Kosen judo allows for more newaza (ground fighting). Kosen judo is basically “old” judo.

The new rules to judo have become stricter and stricter. Unlike kodokan judo you can pull guard, and attack the legs for single leg takedowns, leg picks and more.

One of the guys from my new judo dojo here in Fukuoka told me about the competition and we went together. He trained kosen judo at Kobe university. Kosen judo is more like BJJ, but with the throws and is perhaps a little more simpler than modern day BJJ.

There are no leg locks in Kosen judo, but you can do ashi garame and I saw many players doing something like an ankle hold or my friend said heel hold.

The matches were 6 minutes long and the winner would stay. The coach would chose who would fight next. I think the team with the most points would be the one to win.

I didn’t learn all the rules, but there was a tie between Osaka university and Tohoku university.

 

 

I got a cultural visa to live in Japan and practice Judo

…for a year!

Cool eh?

I am excited.

So I came over here to Fukuoka, Japan about 5.5 months ago. I started off training a lot of jiu-jitsu and tried to get a visa through that school, but it didn’t work out.

Probably cause it was “Brazilian” jiu-jitsu. There’s not much of a difference between judo newaza and BJJ as BJJ was derived from judo.

And…

I tried to explain to the immigration officer how there were only like 5 teachers between me and Jigoro Kano – founder of judo. Yet, it didn’t work.

But that’s o.k. because I was planning on training judo too.

Ironically there are more places here to train BJJ than there are judo. Judo is popular in the school system, but after school it’s not that popular. I only found like 2 places in all of Fukuoka where adults could train compared to like 5 or more places for BJJ.

Anyways…

It cost me $40 to get my residence card after I received my COE (certificate of elgibility). I had to do a second application that looked almost identical to the COE, but was for a a change in residence status.

It took about a month to process after my application was submitted. I didn’t have to leave the country to get a new visa like I had to in China, Korea and Taiwan when I taught English there. I heard you could get these for karate or aikido too. And maybe for stuff like: archery, tea ceremony or other Japanese cultural things.

Anyways, it doesn’t permit you to work. You need your own money and you need to show them your accounts.

Then you need to find a school that wants to help.

How did I do it?

  1. Come over on a tourist visa
  2. Find a school and a Japanese cultural activity
  3. Fill out the application and have your school enter their info
  4. Create additional documents including your experience that is related like for me that was practicing judo and BJJ in the USA (photos of me in competitions and getting promoted in both BJJ and judo)
  5. Bank balances and or proof of income outside of Japan
  6. Submit and wait

If BJJ or Judo Is Hard On Your Body, Why Do It?

Are BJJ and judo hard on your body? Are you going to get injured? Are you going to hurt your knees, shoulders, back, etc?

If they are dangerous why do them?

Well, first I will answer the question if judo or jiu-jitsu is bad for your body based on my experience training which has been oh maybe 5.5 years or so of pretty steady training.

I estimate I have over 300 hours of judo practice and about 1400 hours of BJJ practice.

Watch this video to hear my experience on how hard these martial arts are on your body.

So did you watch the video yet?

So if they are hard on your body why do them?

Well, like many things in life there is a good side and a bad side. Let’s now look at the good side.

  1. It’s fun
  2. You’ll learn a lot
  3. Get high! (natural source of drugs)
  4. You’ll get a great workout
  5. You’ll probably make some friends
  6. Learn self defense!
  7. It might change you

Jiu-jitsu is fun

It can be scary, difficult and sometimes it sucks, but…

It’s usually a lot of fun because for one it’s a game. Sure, it’s self defense, but it’s also a game and most people like games. Think you’re not a competitive person?

Think again!

Competition is your very nature!

Think of it like checkers or Scrabble or chess.

Well…

Actually people compare jiu-jitsu to chess, but I never played chess so I couldn’t relate. It’s like you make one move and I can make one move. If you do this then I can do that. What I can do is dependent on what you do.

In the beginning you don’t know what to do, but you learn slowly.

You’ll learn

It’s fun to learn new moves and new ways of using your body. Basically you learn solutions.

Now…

The learning is slow, but you will gradually learn solutions to the problems that you are having on the mat.

In the beginning you don’t know anything and you lose a lot. It’s tough! You’ll get submitted a lot and discouraged, but remember it happens to everyone even black belts.

Through trial and error you learn.

Free hits of dopamine

Jiu-jitsu can be very addicting. Like I told you already it’s fun to learn. But it’s really fun to win! And winning in jiu-jitsu is catching someone in a submission or it can feel good to do a sweep, escape or some other dominant position too.

In judo it could be a throw, pin, submission, sweep, etc.

Now if you are new chances are that will take time before you get anybody in a submission because… you are new.

But when you do you’ll get a little a shot of dopamine that will probably keep you coming back for more.

It feels good.

But…

What happens when you get tapped out?

Ahhh, it doesn’t feel as good, but you get to reset and try again or if you don’t tap out you can go to the hospital and get some kind of shot from them.

Hehe, that’s my dark humor…

Also at the end of class you’ll probably feel better than when you went into the class. I can’t tell you how many times I had a hard time getting to class. I didn’t feel like it and I wanted to stay home, but I pushed through it.

And almost always I felt better once I started and then even better at the end of class.

You’ll learn that this is a skill.

And that’s cool.

Yes, strength and size matter, but so doesn’t skill. And jiu-jitsu/judo is something you can learn. Chances are that you will meet a higher belt who can tap you out and they will be smaller and weaker than you!

You’ll be like WTF!

“That guy or girl who is like 50 lbs less than me just got me.” It hurts your ego a bit, but it’s cool.

That will give you faith…

Because then you realize that this isn’t just a brutal game of people trying to out muscle one another.

Well, wait sometimes it can be like that, but that’s usually at the lower skill levels. Strength matters, but remember that skill can overcome strength.

I remember KRS-ONE saying something interesting once. It was something like…

“What can you do without technology?”

In this day and age we are so dependent on computers and phones and other electronic gadgets.

They are cool, but how about you? What can you do without technology?

One of your answers could be “judo” or “jiu-jitsu”!

That’s cool.

You’ll probably get a great workout

Now I don’t mean you’ll get buff or ripped because of it alone, but chances are you’ll get a great workout.

What kind of workout?

I’d say mostly cardio.

Will you get stronger?

Probably somewhat and you might get some muscle tone if you do it frequently, but I wouldn’t expect much. At first it’s difficult and like anything new you will feel pain, soreness and be short of breath.

Remember that first day of soccer, basketball, skiing, snowboarding, ____ (fill in the blank)?

It’s kind of like that.

However, with time your body will get used to it.

Now what’s practice like?

It depends on the school.

Often it’s something like: warm up, technique, drilling, and sparring.

It can depend on the school a little as to what sort of warm up you will do. I have trained in some schools that do an extensive warm up: push ups, sit ups, jumping jacks, bear crawls, squats, burpees, hip escapes, forward rolls, falls, walking on your hands, cartwheels, running, skipping, sprints, carioca, stretches, etc.

But where I am training BJJ now in Japan we hardly do a warm up. It’s mostly techinique and then sparring. Where I am training judo now there is a light warm up on your own, newaza sparring, uchikomi and then randori.

So it will depend on the school.

However…

The real workout to judo and jiujitsu is the sparring. That’s the core of the workout. You’ll work up quite a sweat through that especially if you spar many times in a row.

I like to do that if possible because if I stop and rest my mind gets too active and I start thinking too much and getting scared to spar. Perhaps it’s anxiety. And maybe I don’t want to get cold.

I am more of a slow twitch guy and I can last pretty long, but don’t have much power.

Anyways…

In judo sparring is called randori and in jiu-jitsu it’s often called “rolling”.

You’ll sweat a lot and it’s good

Here’s how sweating is beneficial:

  1. Detox
  2. Helps your skin
  3. Relieves stress
  4. Good for your heart
  5. Improves circulation

You know what? I think that there might be more benefits because jiu-jitsu sparring in a fairly intense manner is kinda like taking a sauna.

Now I can’t say it’s the same, but I bet it has some of the same benefits.

Benefits of using sauna

Anyways…

You’ll probably make some friends

Grappling is an up and close personal thing. It’s hands on and it’s full contact. You’ll meet a lot of new people from different backgrounds. You’d be surprised. You might think at first glance that it is a bunch of meatheads rolling around, but no you’ll meet all types.

In my class today there was a barber, doctor, artist, fireman, a few office workers, and some others that I don’t know well!

Learn self defense!

Yes.

This was my primary motive for learning jiu-jitsu. Either judo or BJJ can be good for that. It can depend on where you train, but I’d probably say that judo is a little more well rounded though because it includes throws and newaza. BJJ classes can include throws or takedowns, but most of the time (90+%) it’s ground techniques.

But don’t expect to learn either one fast.

I say give it a year at least (a few days a week) if you want to learn it for self defense.

It takes time.

It’s been 5+ years and I am still learning and improving although as I said it’s hard to see.

Check out this video and story about how I used judo and jiu-jitsu in a street fight.

It might change you

I don’t want to say that it will change you and it’s this great character or personality building thing to do. I have no idea on how it will affect you.

But I think if you stick with it then you’ll at least learn something about patience.

I remember when I first got into it. I remember watching Youtube videos and getting inspired.

I think I wanted to change myself and become more of a confident person.

Now I have to be honest.

I don’t think I am anymore confident. I know I have learned a lot of techniques, but am I better?

I had one teacher (Sensei Palacio) say, “everyone else is getting better too” so that’s part of the reason you don’t see your progress.

Has it changed me?

I remember my first teacher Romelo Melo saying one wise thing after about a year of training. He said something like, “Ian, if the old you walked in that door today you would be able to kick his ass.”

I liked that.

That’s competing with yourself.

And even though it seems like we are competing with other people we are also competing against ourselves, maybe our older selves.

Have you ever been humbled by a lower rank in jiu-jitsu or judo?

I saw a question like this on Quora and thought I’d chime in with my answer.

Yes, I have been submitted by white belts in jiu-jitsu and thrown by white belts and green belts in judo. So in other words I lost to people with less experience and a lower rank.

Why?

Aren’t you supposed to be better than the lower belts if you are a higher belt?

Well, yes, but it’s not so clear cut. There are a few reasons why you might get submitted or thrown or beaten by someone of a lower rank.

7 Reasons

  1. They are bigger or stronger
  2. They may have related experience in other martial arts
  3. They could be “sandbagging” (unlikely)
  4. They might have forgotten their true belt
  5. They might be better and more experienced than their belt
  6. They might have let you (the higher belt)
  7. You can get caught

1. Size, strength and skill all matter

Even if you are a higher belt than your opponent they can still be stronger, faster, bigger and all of those give them an advantage.

Yes, skill matters, but so doesn’t size and strength.

According to Rener Gracie 50lbs is a belt. So what that means is that if you and your opponent are both white belts, but your opponent is 50lbs heavier then he is basically a blue belt compared to you.

The bigger guy has an advantage. And so to be able to compete with him or her then your skill has to be that much better.

So if you got beat by a bigger guy then don’t worry cause it happens all the time.

2. They might have other related experience

For example, they are several grappling sports which have some similarities: wrestling, judo, jiu-jitsu and sambo.

They all use some of the same positions, techniques and different ones, but they just have different goals. So maybe your opponent is lower ranked than you but has related experience.

I’ll tell you a story.

In my first school where I trained in San Francisco, (Romelo Melo). My teacher was a black belt and maybe 180lbs. And then there was a guy there who could submit him and he was only a blue belt.

How?

Well there were two reasons:

  1. The blue belt was bigger. I can’t remember, but probably well over 200lbs.
  2. The blue belt used to wrestle in college.

Also in some BJJ competitions a judo black belt who is a white belt in BJJ has to compete as a blue belt in BJJ.

3. They could be “sandbagging”

It’s not very common, but some people might actually be a higher belt than the one they are wearing.

There are some people that enter competitions and compete at a lower level. They just switch their belt.

That’s deception and if the person sticks around anywhere eventually someone will probably fish out the truth.

4. They might have forgotten their belt

Also they might have forgotten their belt that day and be using a donor belt which is lower than their actual belt.

I have experienced this several times in different schools.

For example, where I train now in Fukuoka there’s a guy who is actually a purple belt, but wears a white belt.

When I first rolled with him and he tapped me out I thought this guy seems pretty good and maybe he has experience in judo.

So I asked him with my limited Japanese and he said yes that he did do judo before.

But…

Later on my teacher told me that he was a purple belt, but he lost his belt. So IDK if there is some rule that if you lose your belt here in Japan you have to go back to wearing a white belt or if he just doesn’t care, but he still wears a white belt.

5. They are actually more experienced than you

The belt is a general system. It’s a bench mark and I think it kind of works, but there are variations from belt to belt and each school is different.

For example, no two blue belts (or any other belt color) are the same. One might have been a blue belt for one day and the other for 5 years.

So there is a big difference in actual experience there.

Different schools also have different standards. For example, in my first school most people would get blue belts around the 1-1.5 year mark.

But in other schools like Caeser Gracie or Ralph Gracie those tend to come later like around 2 years.

It took me 3 years to get a blue belt in jiu-jitsu.

And I know people who were blue belts for 7 or 8 years.

There are no systematic standards to jiu-jitsu ranks.

6. Sometimes the higher belts let you get them

Or sometimes they want to practice their escapes. But I’ve known a lot of higher belts to do this. They will play with you and let you get submissions or maybe put themselves on the line so that they can try an escape.

If it’s the case that you just tapped out a higher belt it might be that they let you or maybe not.

I’ve tapped out higher belts: purple, brown and even black, but I know in some cases they let me or just weren’t trying that hard.

7. Sometimes you get caught

As the funny Kurt Osiander always says, “you fucked up”.

Anyone can fail.

Overall you might be better than your opponent, but just because you are better doesn’t mean you can’t get caught or make a mistake.

Maybe your opponent who is lower ranked than you knows something you don’t or surprised you with something you weren’t expecting.

Most of the time you can see things coming with the lower belts. But sometimes they can still surprise you or they might know something that most lower belts don’t.

You can lose. You are not invincible.

It’s hard

Just yesterday I was rolling (sparring) with a white belt here in Fukuoka who was a guest from Korea. It was the first time that I rolled with him.

He said he wanted to “light” spar and well it was my first one of the day.

But he didn’t really go “light” and he was being aggressive. So we rolled for probably 12 minutes or so and one time he almost got me in an ankle lock.

Why?

He just caught my leg. I guess my mistake was that I exposed it at some point. And I almost tapped out, but I got out and did the escape I had learned before.

I didn’t get hurt and I was fine.

But it was close.

I could have tapped.

I was thinking to myself, “don’t get hurt because you don’t want to tap out to a white belt”.

He was bit stronger than me as I felt like I was loosing my grip on his collar to prevent him from going back and finishing the ankle lock, but I took one last chance to push down his foot on my hip and scoot past his leg and get out.

I actually really wanted to tap him out, because he said he wanted to go “light”, but was being really aggressive so that just made me mad. I like to go lighter for my first few rolls to warm up and not go 100% right off the bat.

But hey he’s a white belt and a lot of white belts are wild like that.

Eventually I caught him in an arm bar and he tapped out. And that was the end of that.

But you have to be careful.

I remember Steve Maxwell (cool guy) on the Joe Rogan show saying that a lot of the injuries that he sees are from higher belts not tapping out to lower belts.

It’s hard.

You don’t want to lose to someone who is lower ranked than you, but you have to “remember that your joints have no pride”.

Someone said that on Reddit and it’s true. You have an ego and losing to a lower rank is more of a blow to your ego. But if you want to stay healthy you should get used to it.

And me too.

I understand it is hard when you are in the moment. You don’t want to fail, but tomorrow is another day. You got to think long term.

Getting thrown in judo

I spend less time doing judo, but getting thrown by a lower belt seems to matter a bit less to me.

Maybe because to me it’s just getting thrown and the consequences are not that big. But when you get submitted with a joint lock or choke the consequences in reality are much greater if you don’t tap.

That’s because if you don’t tap your joint is going to get damaged or you will be knocked unconscious (possibly die) if you are choked.

A throw is easier in my eyes. But maybe it also depends on what you value more. If you are a fierce judo competitor getting thrown is a big deal.

But I started with jiu-jitsu and it’s less of a blow to my ego if I get thrown.

Conclusion – It’s easier to lose to a higher belt

It’s less of a blow to your ego if you lose to a higher belt or higher ranking person, but if you lose to a lower belt it’s harder.

There are a lot of reasons on why you may have lost to a lower belt such as they could be bigger, stronger, actually more experienced, sandbagging, not the belt they are wearing, or you just might have gotten caught.

I have lost (been submitted, pinned or thrown) to lower ranks for all of those reasons.

We all want to win, but losing is just part of this game and you are going to lose many times. I know it’s a little cliche to hear but there is often some truth to it and that is that it is a “learning experience”.

Tomorrow is another day and you want to be healthy so despite their belt color you probably want to do what one of my teachers said, “tap early and tap often”.

Is starting judo or jiu-jitsu at age 45 too late?

I don’t think so.

I started around 38 with jiu-jitsu and I didn’t have any grappling experience. After a year I wanted to learn judo too, so I moved to a school that did both.

I currently train both although I spend more time doing BJJ.

What are your concerns? Getting hurt?

You can get hurt. These activities are not as safe as playing table tennis, but many sports are dangerous.

Life is dangerous.

Even if you try to play it safe and hide out at home something else will get you, like disease…

I have received a few injuries mostly minor, but a few that took me out for a while. You got to watch out, especially for the big and strong guys.

You also have to watch out for your ego.

Your passion or will can’t compete with someone who has years of experience so my advice is…

Take it easy.

Cross train: workout, do other exercises.

It takes a lot of time to learn these martial arts and there is always something to learn regardless of your level. In judo the term for a black belt is “shodan” which actually means beginning degree.

I have heard plenty of blackbelts in jiu-jitsu say the same thing.

Think long term. But 45 is not that old.

Initially it’s all going to be new and there are so many movements which you aren’t used to. I train quite a bit now. In the past I was doing 4 days a week with 2 of those days being for a mix of judo and jiu-jitsu.

Now I am doing like 6 days a week for jiu-jitsu and 2 days a week in judo when I can.

Which is harder?

Most people I know who do jiu-jitsu say judo is harder. I spend more time doing jiu-jitsu so I am not really sure what the judo folks think of jiu-jitsu.

Although..

I know my judo teacher would sometimes make comments like jiu-jitsu is more for “animals” – as there are fewer rules. Or you have to use technique in judo where jiu-jitsu is all muscle.

But…

I don’t agree with that. I think that was his bias. I see it the same way and that’s that it is all technique, but strength is an attribute too.

Strength and size matter in both.

If they didn’t matter there wouldn’t be separate weight divisions in competitions.

Anyways…

You get impact with judo cause you get thrown and sometimes it’s hard and unexpected. It’s a little faster and probably demands better conditioning than BJJ.

Jiu-jitsu is slower so you tend to get less impact and collision, but you can get strain and injuries too.

But again make sure you start slow and learn how to fall. Find a good school that is looking out for you.

I also recommend doing some yoga to stay limber, but not intense yoga. I do about 15 minutes of yoga for jiu-jitsu a day and I think it helps balance out my body and then a few days a week for strength training. I think all of those things help.

There are a lot of guys in my current jiu-jitsu school who are in their 40’s, some in their 50’s, a guy who is really strong and agile in his 60’s and even a guy who is 70 (in the video above).

Just start slow and take it easy.

Find a good school for either one and tell them your concerns.

I think for starters judo is better to learn as it is a little more well rounded. You learn the basics like falling, plus judo is where BJJ came from, so I think it’s good to know the tradition.

But either one could work depending on what you want. Also I would do some cross training with other exercises.

Here’s a tip for judo to remember.

Tuck your chin!

Remember that when you fall or get thrown because if you don’t you will get a bit of whiplash on your neck or hit your head on the mat.

And as one teacher said, “tap early and tap often”. And as I always tell myself, “play smart”.

And…

Don’t resist.

So here are some tips again to repeat over and over again in your head.

  • Tuck your chin (when falling, but also helps to prevent some chokes)
  • Don’t resist
  • Tap early and tap often
  • Play smart

And lastly

Don’t just take my word for it.

The abdominal workout that I do at Axis jiu-jitsu (5 exercises & 500 repetitions)

This is at Axis jiu-jitsu in Fukuoka. On some of the weekdays we do an abdominal workout with about 5 different exercises and on this day it totaled about 500 repetitions.

The larger the class the more sit ups we do.

It’s a really awesome core workout.

I think my stomach actually got a little more cut from this, the intermittent fasting I do, and the exercise I sometimes do when I am fasting: jiu-jitsu, riding my bike 12km a day, working out, etc.

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