The MMA club was in the same hall as the Judo club. As I began my first session a photograph of Prof. Kano , cold and aloof, stared down from the wall at me accusingly. I am sure many the Judo clergy will be tutting already but allow me to relate my folly......
For me the pleasure would be learning to adapt the last 7 years of Judo (and about 5.5 of mainly Gi Ju jitsu) into a no - gi context and learning a bit of striking. I did not go into the training session with a "I can take any of you down" mentality but rather with an open mind eager to learn something new.
I have to say not having a gi completely threw me at first I have to learn new ways of gripping. Footsweeps such as ko ouchi Gari seemed to work on all but the two best in the club though.
Training session 4 - the main coach pulls me aside and says "if you want to get any good at grappling you will have to quit Judo " he says.
The main coach is very good and I have only 4 nights experience without a gi remember .
"How long have you been doing Judo ?" he asks
" 7 years"
"see seven years and you cant even take me down - Judo is shit - I am killing you"
" but ... but I have gold medals and everything " I splutter
" see just proves my point, Judo is all strength and no technique - I know I've done it"
"depends on the club " I mutter
"this club" he says
I didnt want to slag my own club off so I kept quiet but the truth is Judo in my current country isn't the best even in the best clubs strength is often used to compensate for lack of good technique. I wish he had traveled and experienced beautiful technical Judo that works almost by magic - but I think my retorts would have fallen on deaf ears. So I stay quiet -and simmer and seeth.
I am angry but keep quiet - I don't want to start an argument on a mat with someone I barely know and is quite capable of beating the crap out of me. However thoughts, rebellious thoughts, swam through my mind. Firstly - its not fair to judge Judo by my performance in any circumstances - I am not the best, secondly its not fair to judge my judo even if Ive been doing it 7 years as Id only been doing it 4 days without a gi. Thirdly it seemed a bit rich to be slagging off the other martial art that shared the same training hall as him and , as I later found out, with a teacher he had learnt Judo with himself for 2 years.
I thought Id give the class one more go - I didn't want to just give up - but I was aware that continuing training with this person could be dodgy on many levels.
I went back and he said " where have you trained BJJ ? " -
"many places" I reply
"name one" he says , so I rattled off a few - but it was if he was questioning that I had been honest that I had done BJJ , as if he was saying that it was ok to do Judo for 7 years and still be crap but not BJJ.
After class I explained how Judo had helped me turn my life around and that I would not quit it, nor did I feel it would be fair on my Judo teacher (who shared the same building) to suddenly disappear to another club. e seemed to agree with those sentiments and agreed that if I loved Judo I should keep doing it - just he didn't think I would improve in mma.
I was really upset by this whole scenario - but I was getting enormous benefits from the physical side of the training. In just a few training sessions my belly had waved the white flag and retreated back to almost six pack level. However psychologically it was not helping me.
I was really in two minds as to whether to go back. So much of my life has been structured around Judo and to have some one insult something that I was so passionate about was well..... hard to explain.
However bad I felt I decided I would feel worse if I didn't go back to the training session. So I tried it one more time. This time there were no more comments and the coach was very friendly this time, perhaps he was surprised to see me, besides I was getting used to the no gi situation and was using ashi waza to take down most people including one of his best students (all of whom were very friendly and good sports) . I still couldnt get near the main teacher and he still hammered me on the ground but his shots were becoming less effective.
I am glad I went back - not to prove myself or Judo , but I felt better for not just abandoning the mat. I will not convince anyone of the worthiness of Judo by talking to them - but I believe just by letting myself be bent by idiocy and then springing back calmy and resolutely rather than snapping or getting angry shows a bit of the psychology of Judo.
Although Judo is my main priority and I will not be giving it up anytime soon, I will continue doing MMA for the time being as I like the fitness but my conclusion so far is :
Physically its great but psychologically it does not have the mutual respect and welfare part down so well (sure even a few Judo clubs struggle with that). There is lip service paid to this concept but it isn't as deep as it is in Judo. Perhaps not all MMA clubs are like that I look forward to finding out. At the end of the day Judo for me is about making better human beings - the culture of MMA seems different perhaps a bit more macho - but my body likes the training so I will continue for now. Judo has thousands of years of culture behind it - maybe pankration did too - but MMA is very young in terms of culture its almost like the brash teenager of martial arts dismissive of "bullshit" and only interested in effective technique - and lets face it it does work - but I also wonder how much internet forums have influenced the culture of MMA negatively.
Also at the end of the day in todays world martial arts are not a lot of use against a gun so there real value is not only in effective techniques but creating more useful, educated and effective members of society - something that is not always evident in MMA and might even be regarded as bullshido.
MMA does have a refreshing honesty about it - so perhaps some sort of mutual benefit between traditional martial arts and MMA may be possible in the long run - perhaps MMA will invigorate Judo and Judo will temper MMA - we shall see.