Tag Archives: Judo

What to expect from your first Judo class

Author: Jake


In this information age every decision one makes, it seems, needs to be validated by someone else’s opinion or somebody else’s experience. Today I’m writing about going to Judo Class.  More specifically, I’m writing about going to the KBI for Judo Class. So, spare yourselves the Yelp search, and please consider my story.

Here’s what you’ll likely experience if you try out a judo class at KBI Judo NYC. Probably you’ll plug the address into a maps app which will lead you to either get off the 1 train at 103rd street or take a bus to 106th street.  Then it’s a leisurely walk along scenic Riverside Drive to the unique location of our dojo. It is located in the lower floor of a Buddhist Church, nestled between two Mansion-like town houses. You might, for a minute, marvel at the large statue of Shinran Shonin standing out front. Then, you’ll slide the old iron gate open and walk up a few steps before entering our home. You might open the heavy door yourself, or you may feel confused and buzz the doorbell. Either way, you will enter this building just as enthusiastic and hopeful as each one of us has before.

Entrance to Kokushi Budo Institute - Judo NYC

Entrance to Kbi Judo NYC

You might see me sweeping the stairs (like a master, I might add) as you enter. Then, after your descent down the plain-looking stairs, you may meet Johnny, a young college student whose sheer appreciation and excitement for martial arts leads him to get to class a half an hour early to stretch and chat with friends. You might also see the cheerful crew of kids who will have just finished their own Judo class, and are off to go home or to their next activity. Perhaps you’ll then see Helen, a young pharmacist, laughing at a story told by Andy (our funny man). If you peer over the corner, you’ll see Sensei sitting at his desk.  If you let him, he will give you the full introduction and a welcome tour.

Uchikomi Kbi Judo jake

Once you’re on the mat, in your gi and belt, a variety of thoughts may arise, from “Wow, I’m really about to do this!” and “I’m so pumped!” to “I really hope this doesn’t hurt much.”  Regardless of what arises, you’re about to begin your martial arts education.

You’ll first stretch with everybody else. Then  you’ll learn to fall –  and I mean fall safely. A black or brown belt will politely and gently instruct you to tuck in your chin so as to avoid hitting your head.  He or she will explain that you should not use your arms to break a fall, rather roll onto your back and slap the ground to more evenly distribute the weight and shock of the fall. After this fundamental notion of “safe falling” is taught to you, the class will most likely do 15-20 minutes of Uchikomi (technical practice). You might be surprised to find that all the belts, from white to black, are practicing together!

Uchimata KBI judo NYC


Adam, a black-belt, may be there teaching Ray, a purple belt, the different throwing techniques that he needs for his brown belt. You could be taught your very first judo technique by me, or by Thibaut or by Andy or by Ricardo. You might learn , or Ouchi Gari or Ippon Seoi Nage. It likely will feel strange at first. Your instructors will tell you that all it takes is practice, and if you believe them, you’ll already be on the right track. After rotating numerous times to practice with a few different people, Randori (or actual full-speed Judo time) begins. You’ll likely have your first ever judo match with a brown or black belt. He or she will let you work with your newly learned techniques, and move around so as to get acquainted with the feeling of a judo match. You might have 3 or 4 more standing rounds, and then perhaps a round or two of Newaza (Ground Grappling), where you will learn how to pin and choke your opponents (and learn how to perform all these techniques safely).

Push  ups


Eventually class will end. You’ll probably be a little tired and more than a little sweaty. Everyone will line up for closing ceremonies and bow towards eachother including the Judo founder, Jigoro Kano. Then you will yell (or chant) the four words of the dojo creed along with all your classmates. You will then stand up, announce to the class your name, and then receive a sincere applause for having made it through your first judo class. This tradition might seem strange, but it is exhilarating.  We then stand up in rank order, and form a circle of handshaking so that you may express (hopefully) gratitude towards all those who helped to teach you and practice with you.

As you leave the mat, you might shake hands again with a few more people and have a conversation with someone new.  Maybe you’ll get the phone number or email address of someone whom you’d like to ask more about Judo. Sensei will likely come over to you, thank you for coming by, and ask how you liked it. You might be thrilled and say “I cannot wait to come back”, or you might say that it “was a little too rough for me, and I really don’t want to get injured” (in which case Sensei might recommend Jujutsu or Aikido or any of one of our other fabulous martial arts-classes which are slightly slower paced and risk less injury).  No matter your response, though, undoubtedly you will have met new people who were glad that you were there to pass time and share one of their passions.

Judo girls NYC

This story isn’t about me, but it could be. It could also be about you, or a friend or a son or daughter. But if this is about you, then you will have tried something new with friendly people, finished a class of it, and had the opportunity to come back for more if you so desire; and that is an invaluable experience.

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Judo workout video

Here is a Judo workout video from KBI.



We started off the workout with some light running. Followed by Ukemi (break fall practice). Newaza is next which is ground fighting, the mother of Brazilian Jujitsu. This is the best part… Randori (live fighting). What is a workout without push ups to top it off?!

A photo from the workout.

Judo workout

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Judo frustrated? let it go, let it goo!!!

Coming into Judo is hard. First, you have the lug the Judo gi all over the city throughout your commute. It takes up space in the office; it’s heavy, bulky, and inconvenient. Then you must bring it to the dojo along with your briefcase. After all that, you get slammed, fingers contorted, toes bent, leaving contused and confused. Now, with an even heavier gi (sweat infused) you must limp home….

landing on head

landing on head


I would be lying if I said Judo wasn’t hard and frustrating. The learning curve is quite steep. You can’t learn a technique and put it to use for a long time. It isn’t like taking a local kickboxing class where you learn to kick, hit the pads right away, feel good about yourself instantly and go home feeling like you’ve learned a skill you could put to immediate use.
Do you remember the first time you ever picked up a basketball? I do. It wasn’t until very shortly after, that I was able to enjoy the pleasure of the ball swooshing through the hoop (I was hooked and dreamt of the NBA for most of my teens). In judo, from the moment you grab a gi and learn your first arm throw, the time it takes where you can throw an unwilling participant takes a much longer time. Usually far longer than most people can keep interested.


Shintaro Higashi uchimata

So yes it’s frustrating. Many people quit. Therefore it isn’t a very good business to be in. Unfortunately for me, my only other option is putting my Masters degree to use by working for the NYC DOE. Screaming kids, scolding administration, bureaucracy, taking orders? No thank you!

For the many that come to Judo and have these frustrating feelings, it helps to know your purpose and set smaller goals.

Here are some purposes along with differentiated goals for your reference

Trying to be a national level competitor
1. Fight 6 rounds minimum
2. Throw Joe 3 times
3. Do 300 uchikomis
4. Beat Torazo at judo today
5. Off balance the sensei

Just want to get in shape
1. Do hard uchikomis
2. Don’t get frustrated on the outcome of the rounds (you’re there for a workout after all)
3. Stay diligent with the conditioning after class
4. Do extra calisthenics at the end of class
5. Stay persistent
6. Ask the guys who are in the best shape about their diet

Want to learn Judo marathon style, no need to compete
1. Your focus should be on self-aware metacognitive drilling
2. Ask many questions
3. Stay before and after class
4. Don’t worry about live fighting so much
5. Observe and take notes
6. Befriend the black belts!!!

I want to make friends
1. Be friendly
2. Ask questions
3. Grab dinner after judo
4. Grab drinks after judo
5. Exachange phone numbers
6. Spend a lot of time on the Kokushi Budo facebook page

Everyone has a different reason why they seek out Judo instruction. Not everyone will be a National champion. If you have a clear cut purpose, it melts the frustration away since you are NOT comparing yourselves to the 10 year black belts, the World cup medalists and the Shintaro Higashis. Rather you are holding yourself accountable to the smaller goals that are set forth differentiated to your personal judo needs.

Judo frustrated? Let it go!

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Start Judo by Jake

Start judo by jake

Start judo by jake

At the end of 6th grade, I was cut from the school soccer team. In retrospect, it was an insignificant event but at the time I was crushed. All my buddies were still on the team, scoring goals, going to practice and getting in shape, while I stayed home and played PS2 and ate popchips. It was a tough period, and my mom tried everything to get me out of it. “I don’t want to play any other sports, Mom!” I just couldn’t get over it. I didn’t want to play basketball, or go swimming, or run track. I considered myself “retired” from sports at the age of 12.
This dark period continued until, and I remember it to this day, I was at my Grandfather’s with my family when my Mom had a brilliant suggestion, “What about a martial art? You used to do Taekwondo!” I immediately rolled my eyes, “Mom, Taekwondo is not a serious sport, okay, you don’t even go full speed in it. Not in karate or kung fu either.” Ignoring my skepticism, however, my Mom scoured the city in search of a more “physical and intense” martial art class. After weeks of searching, she pinpointed this local dojo called, the “Kokushi-Budo Institute.”
I agreed to check it out this time, feeling a little more optimistic because of my Mom’s encouragement. Feeling too bashful, I decided to watch a class before trying it out, meanwhile my older brother jumped right into the class that very day. So I sat in the basement of a Buddhist Church, and watched a “Judo” class. What a spectacle it was. I was thrilled to see all these big guys flipping each other (I even saw my big bro toss this brown belt who later kindly introduced himself as “Andy”). I was on the edge of my seat the whole time.
But what truly convinced me that this was where I belonged, was at the end of class, when all the students laughed and gave each other high-fives after an hour of battling it out on the mat. I mean, there was such a sense of camaraderie, that I couldn’t wait to get out there. And so I told my mom she was brilliant, and showed up for my first class the next week. I thought it was so awesome, I had to come back for more Judo. 4 years later, and I keep coming back. I now assist Sensei in teaching the Children’s Judo Classes, and seeing the smiles on the faces of young judo practitioners very much reminds me of the thrill I felt when I first walked into the Kokushi Budo Institute. Suffice it to say, I feel just as genuinely excited about Judo now as I did those 4 years ago, and I don’t expect that to change.

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Osoto Gari Instruction video

Please enjoy my osoto gari instruction video.



Osotogari is one of the original 40 throws of Judo as developed by Jigoro Kano. It belongs to the first group, Dai Ikkyo of the traditional throwing list, Gokyo (no waza), of Kodokan Judo. It is also included in the current 67 Throws of Kodokan Judo. It is classified as a foot technique.


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Footsweep (Deashi barai) by Shintaro Higashi

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Selecting a great Judo instructor

Selecting a great judo teacher

“when you are ready to learn, a teacher will appear.”

When seeking out an instructor, you need to do your due diligence and weigh out the various factors that make a great mentor. Here are some categories I believe the teacher needs to excel in in order to be a great leader of the dojo. Of course this isn’t perfect and subject to many a criticism… In my defense, I am writing this during a 45 minute break while my first graders sing and dance in a push-in music class.


Here is a chart so you can visualize it, followed by a written description and some questions you should be asking yourself about your mentor.

Judo instructor quality chart


1. Competition record
a. Are they a competitor?
b. How far did they go? How far can they take you?
2. Pedagogy
a. Do they know how to differentiate instruction for your skill and style?
b. Are their methodologies current, relevant and on point?
c. Are they innovative with their drills?
d. Can they connect with the students?
3. Education
a. Are they an academic?
b. Are they educated? Martial arts is about education after all…
4. Real World success
a. Are they successful in other areas of their lives?
b. Do they live their life by the moral code they preach?
c. Can they be role models for you off the mat as well?
5. Fitness level
a. Are they in shape?

I put together a chart here for your reference. Of course every instructor will be different. I hope when you seek out your teacher you try to put together a chart like this one so you can make an informed decision. If you are already involved at a dojo somewhere, how does your sensei measure up on this chart? I would hope they rank high. That’s what being a black belt is all about.

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3 levels of seoi nage for Judo and BJJ

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Challenging Judo Norms

Challenging Judo Norms

1. Osoto gari is the first move to be taught. Osoto is simple to teach beginners because it doesn’t take much coordination to forge the basic form. The beginners also feel like they learned something. But it is highly ineffective at the early stages. Even in a beginner vs beginner situation, the two will most likely not be able to execute this throw because of the natural way they fight in defensive posture (hips disengaged). Why not teach them something they can use off the bat? Here is a thought. Uchimata against defensive position…

2. Uchikomi is not efficient. In Japan, where the practices are 4 hours long, doing 30 minutes of uchikomi may be highly beneficial. However, if you look at the instructional landscape in most American Judo schools (time is limited), uchikomi takes too big of a fraction of the class. Uchikomi should be focused and quick. No more than 5 minutes. More time spent on 3 person drills, throws, shark bait drills and situation fighting I feel is a much better use of limited mat time.

3. Randori is overrated for the beginners. Yes, Randori is the essence of judo but it is simply too hard. The twisted fingers and toes that get caught up in the gis can be very discouraging for a beginner only a few weeks into their judo journey. I feel if we were to hold off randori until the 6 month mark where the students have invested in developing good basics, the students might be more likely to endure the pain and work through it. Even though we don’t do this at the KBI , I would like to implement this in the future.

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Judo for life in NYC

Judo is a way of life. My father who started KBI as a branch of Kokushikan university 50 years ago is 75 years old. He is in excellent shape. He taught me that Judo is forever. Why? Let me tell you…

The merits of the sport are apparent. Not only does it promote growth in physical aspects (strength, speed, etc), but it also helps the mind flourish. Jigoro Kano developed judo as an education system that encompasses all areas of life. Many sports has the sole mission to build the athlete to acquire a certain skill set and to excel within the realm of the sport itself. However, Judo helps you to become a better citizen of the world.

I believe humans are supposed to reach out and grab someone. To fight, grapple and play. Throw, trip and wrestle. The fight or flight is the most primitive of human responses and I believe Judo training caters to this human need. In the modern tech age, we spend most of our days staring into a glowing rectangle, hunched over our artificial communication centers. Couped up in our 9-5’s. Even the food we eat is processed to a point where there aren’t any remnants of what nature originally intended for us to consume.

In a world like this, no wonder people fall into the depths of dark psychological abyss. Although I know I am biased through the childhood indoctrination, I believe judo is the Panacea to this pandemic. Throw a gi on, reach out, Grab someone and fight them! But not JUST fight… BUT The way Jigoro kano meant for it to be… In congruence with an education system that develops the mind, body and soul.

Here is a thread about Judo and longevity. Enjoy.

Is judo harsh on the body?

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