We were very privileged to have the opportunity to welcome Dr. Yoko Tanabe, 7th dan, as our guest coach this Thursday. Amongst other accolades Dr. Tanabe is a three times Olympic medallist, a six times All-Japan gold medallist, and five times World Championship medallist. Dr. Tanabe holds a DPhil in Sport Sciences and is an Associate Professor at Nihon University in Tokyo, Japan.
The session started with a warm up around the mat, followed by stretching. Dr. Tanabe then informed the class the session was going to be focused around four technical aspects – gripping, Uchi-mata, O-soto-gari and O-uchi-gari. For the gripping players were shown how to adjust a hold of the sleeve or lapel to a more advantageous position during a fight, and also how to adjust the judogi if the opponent has a strong hold. Two very simple moves, yet so powerful many were left giggling at how easy an adjustment so important turns out to be.
In demonstrating Uchi-mata, Dr. Tanabe emphasised how the kuzushi should be light and not overdone, and how to create enough space for a successful entry into Uchi-mata. Different entries were demonstrated and then drilled in pairs, as well as combinations with O-uchi-gari. For outsiders it must have been somewhat comical seeing 20-odd judoka skipping around with their partners attached to their backs.
The last throws Dr. Tanabe demonstrated were O-soto-gari and O-uchi-gari. Being a left-handed judoka herself she gave very good demonstrations on how these can be used successfully in a competition when fighting left-against-right. It was also emphasised how kuzushis during a fight are not necessarily in the same directions as in regular practice, and players got to drill those uchi komis in pairs.
Before we knew it time was up, and the mats had to be cleared away, even though many would have liked to continue on for longer. The session was very educative in the sense that the players were given the opportunity to practise the technical finesses down to the smallest details, and Dr. Tanabe was incredibly skilled in advising players how to adjust their movement even just the slightest to make their throws more effective. The atmosphere on the mat was light and joyful, and it was evident that everyone was having a good time.
We wish Dr. Tanabe a good trip back to Japan and thank her for a great session. Also big thanks to Howard and Chloe for the photos. Photos from the session can be found on our Flickr account here.