One way in which Judo is remarkable and surprising is how it is profoundly collaborative and cooperative.
Many warm-up exercises and all grappling and groundwork rely on close trained cooperation between two people.
Much of beginner Judo consists of learning how to fall without injury, and how to help a partner who is developing a technique gain ability.
It’s worth noting that since starting in September, we haven’t tried any free grappling in a standing position. The closest we get is free attempts to throw and hold down an opponent when you both start on your knees or sitting back to back, and we have been encouraged to tap out and end the round when we are convinced we cannot escape the hold down.
We are learning so many different techniques and working with partners of so many body types that we often need to seek guidance from the instructors and advanced students about how to perform techniques properly. For me, the hardest thing is doing a whole set of difficult tasks simultaneously: whether it’s practicing a forward rolling breakfall with initial foot and shoulder and arm positioning and then complex movement and then more precise foot and arm positioning, working on throws that require coordinated and complex foot and upper body movements, or trying to maintain or break hold downs using a combination of taught technique and the improvisation of enthusiasm.