Tuesday, June 15, 2010

martial arts excursion: judo

The same place that has capoeira, the Engineering building of the Pontifical Universidad Catolica de Valparaíso (PUCV, but everyone calls it "La Catolica," because wouldn't you?) also has judo on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, and that was tonight's choice.

Like aikido and ninjutsu (and kendo), judo is also a gendai budo from Japan, the ancient battlefield art of jujitsu turned into something you can practice at full speed without killing your partners. My aikido teacher, Frank Doran Shihan, studied it for several years before and after he started aikido; in fact, he taught it to Marines at the Hand-to-Hand Combat Center in the fifties. Every now and again he'll pull out a judo move in the middle of aikido class, which of course catches us completely off guard and we usually feel lucky if we take the fall safely.

The judo people are really nice. They do an hour or so of intensive conditioning work first, which is where I discovered that while my aerobic conditioning is holding up okay, my arms and whatever muscles you use for sit-ups have very little endurance. Unlike the ninjutsu teacher, they view aikido as a valid martial art: the teacher reminded me before class that I couldn't do wrist locks.

I'm not sure I learned any judo, though. Much like ninjutsu, the flow of the class seems geared toward people who already know what they're doing, although there was more time to practice the individual exercises. It's fascinatingly different from aikido: the timing is all different, the way people move when you try to do something is different. I couldn't take anyone's balance, but they had a reasonably hard time taking mine, too, since it turns out moving around and keeping my footing is something I can do, even with people trained in tripping you up.

I may or may not go back. The conditioning is pretty difficult, and I'm not crazy in love with the art. (I've discovered in all this that I don't really like martial arts in general: I like aikido in particular.) The falls are fairly high-impact, at least for a beginner, and especially when there's not a sprung floor under the mats, just concrete. And that's with my years of falling experience, but they're different enough falls to make it difficult.

I did find an aikido place, here in Valparaíso! Good thing I called ahead, though, because it's suspended indefinitely until the instructors get re-certified or something, which corroborates the story from the Y about Aikikai Chile ruling everything with an iron fist, even if it means quashing the growth of the art here. I'm sure they have a story about instructor quality and everything, but the Y's story involved control, and a large sum of money, so I'm not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. Next time I'm at Aikido Hakusan, I'll ask Manuel about it, since he surely has to deal with them.

At any rate, a good night of exercise with excellent people.

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