I think in analogies. One of the most effective tools in improving my Martial Arts over the years, is to try to understand new ideas in a way that allows me to teach them to others. I learned early on in my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu career that the best way to truly learn something is to teach it. Students ask questions and approach new concepts from a way that even an experienced teacher might not think of. They may question why at teacher grasps a Gi in a certain way or shifts his weight in a certain direction, and a good teacher doesn’t answer, “Because I always have.” A good teacher -if he doesn’t know why he has always performed a technique in a certain way- will use his years of experience and knowledge to examine the real reason why a minor grip adjustment, or balance change, or knee position, is the most effective way to complete a technique. Even an experienced teacher may discover students often ask questions that challenge his blind spot. Many of these are novel ideas that a teacher has not considered. The difference between a good teacher and an exceptional one is the ability to take a solid concept or complicated idea and translate it into manageable parts for a new student to internalize. A teacher that states, “We do it this way because it is the most effective,” without explaining WHY something is effective does his students a disservice.
My personal journey, as a Police Officer, Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner, Muay Thai student, and a current Judo novice has led me to many, “Aha!” moments. Every time someone shows me a solid foundational principle, I find myself immediately trying to relate it to some concept, idea, or experience in my life. In this way, I link new concepts to my conscious web. This allows me to retain and utilize these concepts in the future.
For example, on many occasions I have found myself talking to suspended drivers, who respond to being told they are suspended by saying, “…But I am licensed in another state.” Instead of getting in to a complicated legal discussion about non-reciprocal license agreements across state lines, I always use a much simpler example. “If your mom and dad are divorced and you visit mom, and mom says you can’t play Xbox at her house; you can’t play it. It doesn’t matter if dad lets you play it at his house. When you’re in Mom’s house, it’s Mom’s rules.”
I have used this analogy several times talking to suspended drivers and every time, it has led to (albeit begrudging) understanding.
I find that complicated ideas broken down simply often help me make intelligent decisions quickly.
Growing up I read Calvin and Hobbes… Constantly, without knowing what some of his vocabulary meant, I would parrot phrases that I read because they sounded smart. The world of Bill Waterson has always captured my attention and even now, at 26 years old I find myself still picking up one of his collections. One of his strips that has always remained implanted in my mind is this one.
After I read it I had to ask my dad to explain it to me, which he did, but in a way that I still don’t truly understand.
Before we move on to how this applies to Judo, we need to do a little math.
A typical 12" vinyl record's outside grooves measure 5.75" from the center. The inside grooves measure at around 2.25" from the center. Calculating the circumference and rotation speed, the final inches per second the needle covers at the beginning and end of the record, assuming a steady 33 revolutions per minute (rpm) are 19.8 inches per second at the outside of the record, then gradually slows to a meager 7.7 inches per second on the inside.
Stay with me, I promise this is related to Judo.
This means that the center of the record only has to spin at 38% of the speed of the outside, in order to travel a full circle. Recently the Muay Thai academy had a Law Enforcement seminar that I was lucky enough to help instruct. While demonstrating a turning Police Grasp takedown, one of the common issues we saw was the officer turning slowly or off center and the “Suspect” was easily able to keep his balance.
While trying to explain to the class the importance of stepping and turning quickly, the above comic popped in to my head and this whole concept and analogy clicked in to place for the perfect teaching moment.
Class paused and I explained how a record turning on a turntable has two points covering a vastly different amount of space, yet somehow the outer edge completes a circuit at the same time as the inner edge. Very simply: because it has to move faster.
In the weeks since this seminar, our gym this has labeled this the “Record Concept.” “Like a record,” has become the go to instruction to explain how a throw is to be accomplished. As I read over my Judo books, I see a very consistent theme to throws. Every twisting motion, every rotational throw only works if the inside of the “record” is rotating faster than the outside can compensate.
De-Ashi-Hari, Uchi-Mata, Seo-Nagi, O-Soto-Gari: all Judo throws that require a faster outside of the record.
I’m curious, but I wouldn’t even be able to count how many rotations per minute a human is capable of performing. I’d wager that a one time explosive twist is much quicker than 45 Rpm’s. I’d wager that no matter how agile, a person sprinting in a tight circle will never catch up to a person spinning in place, not when they have to run at least 38% faster to cover the same angle.
The tipping throws of Japanese Jiu-Jitsu, the twisting trips of Muay Thai, even the basic Policeman’s Grasp or Under-hook Takedown, all become more ineffective if the inside has to move as far as the outside of the record.
Since we explored this concept of being a record, I have been noticing the Record Concept in more and more throws, trips, and takedowns. I’ve even noticed it in striking. The smaller the angle that I can cut while moving in to close the distance, the faster I can hit.
While this may seem like common sense to Black Belts or Senior Instructors, this simple concept has made me aware of something more important than any combination, any throw, or any submission. Calvin and Hobbes made me aware of a concept and in so doing has given me an analogy we have been using nearly daily at our gym. Hopefully this concept is one that stays fresh in my mind as I continue teaching and training. I also hope this simple analogy will click in the minds of new students so it doesn’t take them 15 years of reading Calvin and Hobbes to understand a simple judo throw.