Judo for the West

by Geof Gleeson, A.S. Barnes and Company, Cranford 1967

A sport that resists change dies.

Originality, of course, starts with the coach; it is he who must set the pace, he who must break away from restrictions of irrational traditions, he who must stimulate his group or class into originality and spontaneity.  It is the coach’s responsibility to see that the method he uses does the most to help each person attain fulfillment of their desires.

There is a commonly accepted dogma in judo circles that if one wants to improve skill, practice should be with a higher grade. This appears to me to be fallacious. If repetition is an essential part of skill improvement and all authorities agree that it is, then the throw must be repeated often. To quote Knapp, one among many, “The skills involved in physical education and physical recreation are usually complex and require many repetitions and considerable time.” …To do this he must, in fact, practise with people of lower skill standard than his own.

The judo coach should try to see himself as part of a general educational system.  His duty is not only making his pupils better judo men, although that is an essential part of his job, but also trying to improve them as citizens.

Judo in the past has tended to encourage blind following, the unquestioning acceptance of well-masticated phrases; in fact it has discouraged individual thought altogether.  The worship of the “black belt” has gone a long way in producing a mental blank in most judo men. To ask searching questions of the black belt has been considered an impertinence- almost sacrilege! The title “black belt” has carried with it the implication that whoever holds it has some mystical union with universal omniscience.  Thus, utterances of the black belt have been accepted without question- even when they are directly contradicting some other black belt’s pearls of wisdom.  The listener thinks it is his own stupidity which cannot reconcile the two statements. For the good of judo this attitude of unquestioning acceptance must cease!

It should be realized that a black belt is invariably a mark of personal efficiency in the skill of throwing people about, it has no relationship to the man’s ability as a teacher; it is certainly no indication of his academic or theoretical knowledge.  Often these days, with improved coaching, black belts can be produced in two years or under, so what can these holders know about judo in general?

The possible hazards and dangers of falling must not be told the class, or in any way stressed.  All attention is concentrated upon the skill of throwing- that is the immediate object of the judo skill.

In my opinion, because of the complete difference of uchikomi and competitive movement (randori and shiai) i.e. non-movement, non-completion of throw, passive partner, etc. etc., there will be negative feedback from the practices of uchikomi.  That is, not only will uchikomi not help to improve the skill of throwing, but will actually hinder any improvement.

Many of the suggestions are purposely vague, for I do not want people copying exactly what I say (even if they so have a mind) for that would be contrary to the very principle I advocate- individuality at all times. For this “new” type of judo to grow every coach must contribute something of his own; he can no longer afford to just copy.  Steal and adapt yes; imitate directly, never!

Initially the awards were generally looked upon with skepticism (and in some quarters, this attitude persists). Judo has been looked upon as being so different from other sports that experience gained in other sports could not possibly apply. Gradually, however, the resistance has been overcome (and is being overcome) for it is realized more and more that the coaching scheme is to help, not frustrate.  Many who have passed the examination realize how much better off they are now when it comes to instructing or coaching large groups.

7 thoughts on “Judo for the West

  1. This book is a judo myth I have been chasing, does anyone know how I can find a copy I feel so alone in my thoughts about judo teaching ( I teach for a living) and this is the only judo book that seems to articulate those ideas more clearly and more detailed then I could. The problem is I can’t buy it. Pleases if any one knows were to buy it (unfortunately I am inthe UK please send a message to me.

  2. Well, this is really a sad statement since you live in the land of the author. It’s sad because you Brits are stating to forget the significance of Gleeson. I don’t understand why his books have not been republished. At any rate, if you go to http://www.half.ebay.com, you’ll find one copy of Judo for the West for a very reasonable price.

  3. Coach I got my hands on another copy if Michael is willing to pay the shipping. He can reach me at that email.

  4. Thanks. Good to know. When Mike emailed me, I told him the half.com had a copy very reasonably priced. Haven’t heard back from him. Hopefully, he managed to purchase the book or he will see your follow up.

  5. “The possible hazards and dangers of falling must not be told the class, or in any way stressed. All attention is concentrated upon the skill of throwing- that is the immediate object of the judo skill.”

    So throwing should come before falling? Sounds like a real beginners class, rather than just putting newcomers into a regular class? But, you need a number of experienced ukis for demonstration and, practice. When do the novices start to learn to fall properly? At 46 and, a green belt, taking fast throws like Harai goshi, Morote Seoi Nage is still a harrowing experience, so much that I will freeze if I don’t fall properly on the initial throw. Taking the fall slowly, where the tori must be big and, strong is my current level.

  6. An update. I recently went back to Judo class and, noticed that I was much more relaxed than before. I worked with a sempai who understood my issues with those throws and, just said that I was going to get thrown properly. I was thrown with Koshi-Garuma, O-Goshi and, Ippon Seoi-Nagi and, landed well each time. So, it seems that my journey has taken me to a higher level. Maybe not one that would satisfy the young and, highly competitive, but I’m happy.

  7. Falling should be practiced and learned in conjunction with low amplitude throws, i.e. from sitting, kneeling or squatting…from day one! Beginners can learn this method within a “regular” class provided a coach is assigned to work with said beginners.

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