View Full Version : Junior High School Issue in the Dojo

6th March 2017, 04:17
Hello. I am Yamada. This is my first post to this forum. I am a Judoka and I live in Japan.

Long story short: I am Japanese but I grew up abroad (Europe). I moved back home and now live here with my family and child. In Japan as adult you generally go from 2-kyu to 1-kyu to shodan. If a student is successful he might get batsugun (quick promotion) from the sensei which means he can skip the 2-kyu process.

In my situation, I have a wrestling background and since I have been keeping up in shape during my life, I kind of quickly got 1-kyu and will challenge the local judges for a shodan as soon as possible.

Issue: Although it might seem childish, my club is really small local club where both adults and children and in between are practice. All sensei is very nice and such, they actually praise my ability to transfer from wrestling to judo.

But this seems not to be the case with the teenager boys in the club. There is especially one kid who is a kind of a "early bloomer", in other words, puberty. He is that type who influences other kids in his age if you understand my point. He does not seem to like me. At all. For example, when we did randori, he intentionally grabbed the lapel of the gi and gave me a small punch.

I totally understand he trained there probably many years since one of his friends father is the owner of the Dojo. But what makes me question this is how can I handle it? One side of me just want to give him a bodyslam so that he know his lesson. But that's of course not the right solution.

It is impossible to stay away from him, and since he is much younger than me, normally in Japan he would at least respect that fact. But all this becomes very messy in my head since basically I am the foreigner in his eyes, and he has been practice there a lot longer than me.

Sorry for a long post, my English is not so good, but anyone here good a mature suggestion of how to handle this boy? I mean, for all what it means, it is just a child. But I never dealt with such a situation before, and I feel that it is kind of makes me feeling a bit sad since I do not want to break any harmony or safety that he feels, but at the same time, I have to progress to challenge for the shodan.

Any suggestions?

6th March 2017, 19:12
Greetings Yamada,
Welcome to e-budo. Here is my opinion based upon my years of working with boys through Scouting. Since you are not in any position of authority, you would be best served by pretty much ignoring it. Unless he actually threatens your safety, you should just be a good role model for the type of behavior that he should be displaying. Be unfailingly polite, and when he does something out of line, simply smile at him so he knows you noticed, and move on. He will either get over it and begin returning the behavior you are modeling, or he will escalate his antics and draw the notice of those in authority.

Just my opinions.

Cady Goldfield
7th March 2017, 03:52
In an old-fashioned dojo, if a kid like him deliberately tried to hurt another student of any age or rank, he would likely be very harshly handled when it was his turn for randori. But since this is a small local club, that way of dealing with an insecure teenager probably would not be suitable. Paul's advice is likely the best thing you can do, besides perhaps speaking to the club leader and the boy's parents. You should not have your keiko ruined by a child who is in need of adult discipline.

7th March 2017, 09:36
Paul and Cady, first of all, thanks for the nice replies.

As Cady mentions, in an old fashioned dojo, if the Sensei would even notice that kind of behaviour, he would put him "in place", in a very harsh way. This Dojo is mainly run by Jeitai (military) guys and although the majority of the students are young, the older guys has literally been very nice to me from day 1.

The father of one of the boys are Sensei and he is a bit old fashioned (think showa mentality), and is not unfamiliar with putting his son "in place", which for me personally seemed a bit harsh, but well. I think that what Paul says is probably the best solution when it comes to the social part of being members of the same club. The best would probably be to mind my own business, and focus on my own progress and if something happens, then I just try to wash it off with a smile.

Like I mentioned, he is young. Of course I understand he goes through a lot of changing during puberty, so all in all I guess he see me as an easy target since I am the newest member and there might also be a bit jealosy in play since he see that I progress fairly quickly and that the teachers praised especially my ne waza etc etc.

It's a little bit sad though, since basically all other people (including the kids) has been so nice, and since I moved home to Japan I felt that this is one of the few cultural things that I did not miss. But well, mokuto and a positive attitude towards him would probably be the best way for my personal progress, at least for the moment. Hopefully he will change by time.

Thank you very much for your answers.

Cady Goldfield
7th March 2017, 17:10
Good luck, and please let us know how things turn out for you.

P Goldsbury
7th March 2017, 23:39
Hello, Yamada-san,

I have a question. Do you do much one-on-one training with the youth?

I ask because I am the chief instructor in an aikido club which is part of a local culture center. All the members are Japanese, even a 3rd dan who is Eastern European, but who changed his nationality when he married his Japanese wife.

We have many families, who all train, and also a number of teenage boys. Some of these have just reached shodan and I use them regularly as ukes when I demonstrate waza. Another student looks the same age, but is quite a bit older, will take shodan soon. He has what one might call 'learning difficulties' and I am told that he his years of aikido training (he came as a small boy) have been very helpful in making him sociable. He can be difficult, but most dojo members know him and are not fazed by occasional bursts of odd behavior. He likes me to use him as uke, but is well aware that my waza 'work' and that he has to take ukemi.

Of course, I am regarded as the foreigner in the dojo, but I am also the shihan, or chief instructor. (I have a Japanese colleague, who trains with his family and whom I have known for many years, but I outrank him.) As Cady suggests, anyone who breaks what is actually a complex set of social rules and conventions is gently but firmly put in place--usually with a degree of humour. ("Oh, sorry! did that hurt?") As you know, aikido has joint locks and pins, but you need to be very careful in putting these on hard with youngsters.

Best wishes,

8th March 2017, 05:15
Cady san> I will certainly let you know how things progress. Next keiko would be the day after tomorrow.

Hello there Peter san! Nice to have someone with first hand experience from here in Japan. I am actually a Judoka and not Aikidoka ;) But of course what you wrote is something that can be applied in both arts.

I do not do very much one-on-one training with the youth per se. When it comes to randori the teacher usually teams me up with himself, some of the other teachers, or some of the people who have shodan or higher (in this club, the youngest shodan is around 23 so not really that big issue). On rare occasions I do Randori with the teenagers (this was the situation when he decided to give me a little punch hehe), but Waza I do with the youth pretty much every session.

Indeed. Harmony and balance within the dojo is of course beneficial for everyone. But unfortunately puberty and harmony isn't always that easy to combine, and I totally understand that this particular guy might have been feeling that I might pose some kind of a social "threat" to him since he is probably the one who is aiming for shodan (as well as me), and he has been training in that club for over three years from what I recall. So I totally understand what he is going through, although I have a bit hard to handle it, since my purpose of my own keiko should be to progress, and I sincerely hope to do so in harmony with other members of the club, of course.

But yes, you are right, as well as Cady in that sense that some of these young boys is "put in place" in a firmly but yet fair way. I hope to do some waza the next session with him and if he does something outside the "borders", I will just take it with a smile and continue practice. Sooner or later he will hopefully realise that his way of trying to provoke won't work.

Also, my club is totally "Japanese" aka no foreigners, so that might also contribute a bit to the fact that he might feel a bit uncomfortable with the fact that I am the newest member but have also spent a lot time abroad...I don't know really, but I guess that might be a part of it as well.

Thanks for your reply!

Ellis Amdur
10th March 2017, 23:58
I used to train with the Tokai University #5 Fusoku Kotougakko judobu. I was a 35 year old English instructor at the school, and these were some of the best judo prospects in all of Japan.

Among the boys was my main rival, a junior high student of 13 years old, about 235 pounds. (the majority of the high school students, many of them almost world class were completely beyond me, and practicing with them would have been a waste of their time - they were there to train to be champions, not to take care of the English teacher). Higashi-Inoue was the boy's name, and he came from a really rough background - father abusive and drunk, and he had a lot of anger in him. Which he tried to manage on the mat, not always successfully. What I did with him was call him my main training rival and joke that here he was, a thirteen year old, on his way up, and here I was, a 35 year old, on my way down, and we were meeting in the middle. In other words, I constructed a rivalry between us that he could take pride in, particularly as his goal was to pass me by. When I made it difficult for him, it became a fun challenge rather than a threat.

Ellis Amdur

11th March 2017, 07:37
Thank you for sharing your experiences!

Then it would be kind of a similar situation, although I am not quite that old yet :) But indeed, I feel that it might be better off to keep a relaxed attitude towards him and just let him have his game, as long as he doesn't personally try to disturb me too much. Yesterday he did not show up, but next time I will just ignore him and if anything happens, then I will just like Paul said, wipe it off with a smile. Since I am the adult, that would be the right thing to do.

The Sensei though (the main Sensei) are aware of that the teenagers are a bit "teenagers" so to speak, and sometimes he have put them into place in a very strict way (to be honest, he kicked and beat his son, which is something that I really do not agree in). So to be honest, I think it's really not such big of a deal anymore. Last week or so, I have gotten time to think and after talking to you guys, I feel better.

So thanks to everyone for the advices!