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Oishi Judo-The Anti Fight Club

If you think this looks painful, you should have seen
when Oishi sensei pulled his arm completely off. (Kidding.)

Ever wonder what an Anti-Fight Club would constitute? While your imagination may wander to picking flowers, baking acai berry scones, or group massages, I recently learned that there is an even more appropriate physical activity – one that is still tough and physical yet lacks the over the top testosterone peacocking. A martial art that combines coordination, focus as well as the ability to NOT hurt your opponent.  It’s called judo.

Judo, you might ask? That sport you see every few years during the Olympics where men throw each other all over the mat and endlessly writhe around, choking each other? How could that be any more refined than attacking each other with say, mallets? But oh, my friends, judo is indeed much, much more. And at Oishi Judo, the premier Judo Dojo down in Tribeca, I had the incredible opportunity to experience it first hand.

This simple arm locking move took me fifteen times to figure out.
Don’t ever ask me to solve your Rubik’s Cube.

Founded in 1969 by Shiro Oishi – a national judo champion who initially moved to New York City to be an art student – Oishi Judo aims to “develop fitness, knowledge and confidence in a challenging, competitive and friendly atmosphere”.  Now in its third space on Greenwich Street, it attracts a wide range of students of various ages – including one of the most fit and limber 70 year old I have ever seen. Oishi sensei himself is 68, but you really wouldn’t know it just by looking – or even grappling – with him.

Oishi sensei has an ease about him that makes it easy to learn, and it took very little to illuminate all that I had missed from watching judo without a trained eye. The discipline comes from balance, rather than attack or brute strength.  It comes from flexibility not only of your body but your mind. Interestingly, judo actually means the ‘gentle way’, and if you take this kind of approach to viewing two judo-ka (judo practitioners) interacting, you will see how it is more like a dance – two partners treading the mat together, reading each other’s balance until one of them finds the right moment to strike.  There’s a video on the Oishi Judo website that beautifully depicts this.

While I would like to say I just defeated them, this is mat work
where you traverse the floor by shifting your weight.

While it is entirely impossible to compress the intricacies of judo into this article, it may be of interest to know that it was first developed in 1882 by Dr. Jigoro Kano, who based much of it on what was then the fading art of jujutsu. While the purpose of judo is to have your opponent submit via throwing (nage-waza), or ground work (ne-waza), Kano instituted a philosophical bent that deeply contrasted the more violent end goal of other martial arts.

I was literally schooled for an hour and a half, learning basic moves in a manner where it truly felt more like dancing. Spins, twists, pulls and pushes in slow motion not only taught the moves, but also kept the body appropriately stretched and limber.  Having contact with, rolling and moving around on the mat forced me to interact with gravity and the ground in ways that more common fitness regimen like weight lifting, running or yoga simply cannot do. I grappled, I even learned how to throw (kind of), and Oishi sensei showed me how he could easily keep me pinned to the ground without breaking a sweat or causing any pain.

Why is it that sensei are always smiling? Oh right, because
they are the master.  Do not mess with him. Seriously.

The best thing about judo is that it can be beneficial for everyone.  Children will gain a better sense of self-discipline. Youthful folk who think they’re strong and healthy will discover that they are far from being completely in tune with their body and mind.  And older people who are looking for a way to stay fit and balanced have a much more engaging and effective alternative than the treadmill.  Anyone interested in self-defense should also consider judo because in reality, fights rarely look like a scene from The Karate Kid. If you are interested in learning more, Oishi-sensei welcomes anyone to come watch a class at any time.  I was easily hooked, and I am sure you will be too.

——– Reported by Nobi Nakanishi

Oishi Dojo
Oishi Dojo has upheld judo through teaching the pleasure of judo.
They offer senior, junior classes, and private lessons.
547 Greenwich St. (bet. Charlton & Vandam Sts.), New York, NY 10013
TEL: 212 966-6850  /