Judo in France: Dojo Shiseikan

France is said to be the number 2 judo country in the world, after Japan.  In the United States, with over 300 million people, there are perhaps 20,000 judo students.  In contrast, in France, with 63 million people, there are 550,000 judo students.

Google Maps suggests that in my neighborhood alone, there are three judo clubs within walking distance.  I picked one based on the fact that their web site said that they had practice tonight, and after purchasing a box of aspirin, headed out the door.

After getting permission to join the class, I headed onto the mat, shaking my head–nothing but big, strong, young colored belts (beginners).  You really don’t want to practice with beginning judoka, especially young, strong ones–they know how to throw you, but they have zero control, and if you are going to get hurt doing judo, it’s with a beginner.  Imagine my surprise when a stunningly beautiful blonde woman in maybe her 50s walks in during warm-ups.  More on that later.

The work-out was interesting.  To begin with, we spent a bunch of time working on tai sabaki (methods of moving your body).  After working on this for awhile, the sensei and one of the black belts illustrated how to apply it–not with applications in randori (sparring), but with a set from kime-no-kata (an old judo kata that you usually wouldn’t learn until you’re a 4th or 5th degree black belt), showing defense against a knife.  We rarely do kata in the US (unless we’re lucky enough to go to Sensei Barry’s incredible kata class), and we do self defense even less often.  Only after that did they demonstrate applications in randori.

So, we finish warm-ups and start to pair off, and when no one else comes near me, the beautiful blonde woman in maybe her 50s walks over to me, and we work together for the rest of the evening until it’s time for randori.  During randori one of the senseis works with me first, as he should–you have to make sure that visitors won’t hurt your students.  I get my butt kicked, I go home happy, and of course dinner is a baguette, cheese, and a pinot noir.

Judo words of the day:

  • décoller: This verb has various meanings related to moving something up or off of something–an airplane taking off, removing wallpaper, lifting something off the ground, beheading (!).  We were doing crunches and I was apparently sitting up too much, because the sensei told me décollez les épaules–just lift your shoulders up.
  • esquiver: To evade, avoid, dodge.  Get out of the way, basically.  When you between yourself and your partner, that’s esquiver.
  • pousser: To push, shove.  We did a lot of exercises where one person would pousse the other, and the other would do ko uchi gari or ippon seoi nage.

Unresolved linguistic issue of the day: is it bon uke, or bonne uke?

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