Judo in France II: tai otoshi

So, last night’s work-out was all about tai otoshi.  It was as well-thought-out as any judo class I’ve ever attended, I think.

We started with working on tsugi ashi.  Initially, we did the forward and backward (en arrière) movements of nage no kata.  Then we worked on going in different directions–sidewards, diagonally, and even around in semi-circles, which mystified me somewhat.  Next we worked on doing a little circle with our foot while moving…sideways?  Forward?  Not sure how to describe it.  This mystified me even more.

From there, we moved on to tai otoshi.  We started with the typical things–weight on the foot that you want to throw the guy over, etc.  Then we moved on to timing–the senseis showed how it was much easier to throw your partner if he’s walking and you attack the rear foot, which I think is different from anything I’ve seen before.  They’re right–it works well.  Finally, we worked on what to do if the guy steps around it, and that’s where the mysterious semicircles came in–you use them to go with your partner’s sideways movement.

Finally, we moved on to countering tai otoshi.  Here’s where the mystifying circle with your foot comes in–you use it esquiver (that mysterious word again–in this sense, to evade, the central meaning of the word) the throw and step around in front of your partner.  Then we learned three counter-throws, depending on how well your partner is pushing with his lapel grip–slip in for o goshi if he doesn’t have a good push there, turn all the way in for seoi nage if he has a strong push (really nice–you totally use his push against him), and ko soto gake if you can’t get in at all.

As always, Zipf’s Law brought some new words my way last night:

  • chuter: To fall.
  • esquiver: To evade, avoid, dodge.  I talked about this one a couple of posts ago.  Last night, the sensei used it in the most basic sense (in a judo context)–evading an attack.
  • en dessous: Beneath.  When you do tai otoshi, you need to attack beneath your opponent’s knee.
  • pêcher: To fish.  The sensei used this as Hideki Sensei does the English word–to describe the motion of the tsurite.
  • un enchaînement: In the judo sense, we would call this a combination.  It’s a chain, series, succession, sequence, linkage.
  • en arrière: Backwards.

Oh–the beautiful woman in her 50s showed up again, this time in civvies.  Incredibly elegant–like a movie star.  The old-fashioned kind, not the new kind.  I’m smitten.

Zipf’s Law strikes again

French words from walking around my neighborhood, checking out the various businesses:

  • le traiteur: Caterer.  I think it also might refer to a place/person that makes food to go.
  • la gestion: Management, administration.
  • un achat: Purchase, buying.  As opposed to…
  • la vente: Sales, selling.
  • le comptoir: A counter (as in a bar), although I see it more often in the sense of a bar.

Words from doing the grocery shopping:

  • le seiche: Cuttlefish (quite tasty grilled)
  • le poulpe: Octopus.  Having it for dinner, in a salad.
  • la coquille: Shell.
  • filme fraîchure: Saran wrap.
  • écrémé: Fat-free.


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?

Zipf’s Law strikes

The distribution of words in language is Zipfian, meaning that if you order words by frequency and then plot the frequency against the rank, you get a logarithmic curve.  What that means: any language is full of a small number of words that occur very frequently, and an enormous number of words that rarely occur.  However, they do occur.  What this means for the foreign language learner is that every stinking day, you will run across words that you haven’t seen before.  Here are a few random words from today–also see today’s post on the vocabulary of cell phone rental.

  • la teinturerie: Despite the fact that the verb teinter means to dye, this is a dry cleaner.
  • Tomme de Savoie: A mild cheese from Savoie.  If I understand the web page correctly, it’s the only controlled-origin cheese that’s available at different levels of fat.
  • la livraison: Delivery, e.g. of groceries–I came across this word at the grocery store.
  • effacer: To erase, wipe off.  With respect to computers: delete.  On my new cheap French cell phone, it’s basically the delete and/or back button.
  • insérer: To insert.  Haven’t quite figured out what it means on my cell phone.
  • le retour: Return.  Seems to mean back on my cell phone.
  • le compteur: Counter, meter.  There’s a compteur de messages on my cell phone.
  • supprimer: To remove, delete.  There’s a menu item to supprimer messages on my cell phone.
  • ainsi: In this way, e.g. Je vous explique que l’accident s’est passé ainsi ‘I’m telling you, the accident happened like that”; can introduce a conclusion, e.g. ainsi donc, tu partiras demain? “So, you’re leaving tomorrow?”; ainsi que: “as well as.”
  • le stage: Regarding work, an internship; in other senses, a training course.  The judo club that I’m going to visit this evening has various stages d’été–“summer courses.”

Getting a cell phone: In France, the customer is not always right

French salespeople have a reputation in America for being quite rude.  Looking at it from their point of view: they know their job.  You’re on their territory.  If you don’t know what you’re doing, you mess them up unnecessarily.  Even bearing that in mind, my cell-phone-buying experience seems exceptionally painful.

Buying a cell phone works something like this:

  1. Spend two hours on the phone company’s web site trying to figure out services, different phones, and where there’s a physical store so that you don’t have to have the phone mailed to you, since you need it by the day after tomorrow.
  2. Go to the metro station to buy a Passe Navigo (subway/train pass), since that’s cheaper than paying for a million subway tickets.
  3. Stand in line at the metro station cashier’s window.  Cashier: “Good morning.” Me: “Good morning.  I’d like to buy a Passe Navigo.” Her: “Do you have a photo?” Me: “Yes, here’s my ID card.” Her: “No, I need an actual photo.  You can go to the Monoprix, or go across the street to the subway station.” (Go to the Monoprix.  Get a photo. Return to the cashier’s window.  Stand in line.  Buy a Passe Navigo, which has your picture on it, in which you look like a criminal, because the instructions on the screen were very clear that you’d better not smile.)
  4. Take the subway to the Madeleine station.  Slowly figure out the crazy intersection.  Walk to the store.
  5. At the store, stand in line.  Finally get to the attendant.  Me: “Good morning.  I’d like to buy an inexpensive cell phone.”  Her: “Fine.  Do you have service with us?”  Me: “No.  I’d like to subscribe.” Her: “You need an ID card, an (incomprehensible), and an (incomprehensible).” Me: “I have an ID card.”  Her: “You need an ID card, an (incomprehensible), and an (incomprehensible).” Me: “Could Madame speak more slowly?  I don’t speak French well.”  Her: “No, I can’t speak more slowly.  Do you have an ID card, an (incomprehensible), and an (incomprehensible)?”  Me: “I have an ID card.  I don’t understand what the others are.” Her: “Fine.  Here’s a number.”
  6. Wait for your number to be called.  While you’re waiting, pick out a phone and select a plan.
  7. Salesgirl: “What would you like?” Me: “I’d like to buy this phone and get the 15.99 Euro plan.”  Her: “That phone is not available.” Me: “OK, this one.” Her: “Do you have an ID card, a credit card, and an (incomprehensible)?” (Show her your ID card and your credit card.) Her: “We have to mail the phone to you.  What’s your address?” (Tell her your address.) Her: “Is your name on the mailbox?” Me: “No.”  Her: “Then, what IS the name on the mailbox?”  Her: “You have to know the name on the mailbox.  I’ll sell you a SIM card and the service, and then you can go somewhere else and buy a phone.”  (Follow her to the touchscreen to pay.)  Her: “Where’s your credit card?”  (Hand her your credit card.)  Her: “That kind of credit card won’t work.”  (Put the credit card in the machine.  It works.)
  8. Leave the store, having purchased a SIM card and service, but without a phone.
  9. Go to the Monoprix and buy wine and cheese, because after that experience, you really need the wine.


The lexicon of cell phones

My Verizon phone service sucks here, and would be quite expensive, even if it worked.  I need a phone just to be able to find my way to work on the first day, so my first chore is to figure out how to buy or rent one.  Like everything else, this requires a new vocabulary.

  • abonné: As an adjective, this means used to, habitual, or seasoned: Il est abonné aux seconds rôles.  As a noun, it can refer to a subscriber of a magazine or service, a season-ticket holder for the train or a sports team, or a pre-paid customer in retail.  Its use on the mobile phone service web site that I’m trying to navigate is probably that of the subscriber or the pre-paid customer.
  • location: Not “location,” but rental!  This took quite a while to become clear to me.
  • comptant: Up-front (payment), cash payment, buying outright.
  • haut débit: This one puzzled me–I couldn’t figure out why I kept seeing it in advertising posters for phones.  “High-speed.”
  • gérer: To manage, handle, organize, as in managing your account.

Even with your new-found vocabulary, getting phone service turns out to be an ordeal.  See the next blog post.


My first surreal French moment

My first surreal French moment: I’m getting off of the plane in Paris.  In the row behind me, a little girl is happily conjugating a verb: “j’aurai, tu auras, il aura, nous aurons, vous aurez, ils auront.”  That’s the futur simple of the highly irregular verb avoir, for those of you who weren’t paying attention in French class.  Oh là là, says the mother (really).  “I’m good at conjugating,” says the little girl, proudly.

I think I’m going to like this country.

Curative Power of Medical Data

JCDL 2020 Workshop on Biomedical Natural Language Processing


Criminal Curiosities


Biomedical natural language processing

Mostly Mammoths

but other things that fascinate me, too


Adventures in natural history collections

Our French Oasis


ACL 2017

PC Chairs Blog

Abby Mullen

A site about history and life

EFL Notes

Random commentary on teaching English as a foreign language

Natural Language Processing

Université Paris-Centrale, Spring 2017

Speak Out in Spanish!

living and loving language




Exploring and venting about quantitative issues