Chapter 4: Simple Simon Says

I nearly forgot but unfortunately, Alon reminded me that the next day was my birthday. I had never liked birthdays.



And besides – Why celebrate aging and approaching death?

“Shall we celebrate after training?” Alon asked.

“Sure, what did you have in mind?”

“Go for dinner, then drive to Roppongi and hit a few clubs and bars.”

“Sounds great.”

When Taka concluded his lesson at nine o’clock the following evening, we rushed out and drove to Alon’s house. We took turns to shower, got dressed and Alon splashed us with some aftershave that his sister had sent him from Israel.

“Ready?” I asked when I was shiny clean and smelt like the sex gland of a raging bull.

“Yes,” he looked at his wristwatch. “Let’s go.”

We got into his car and he dropped the first surprise of the evening.

“First we need to go and help my worker close her stall,” he said.

“You’re kidding me, right? It’s my birthday and I’m starving.”

He looked shocked.

“Have some compassion,” he scorned me. “She’s been standing there all day. But don’t worry, I promise it’ll be quick.”

I complained throughout the drive, giving him a hard time, making sure he remembered it was my special day.

Half an hour later I found myself dismantling the stall and carrying boxes of jewelry to Alon’s car. His worker, Silvi, was a short, bubbly girl in her early twenties, who wore a long puffy coat that reached below her knees and made her look quite chubby. Silvi seemed quite excited to speak to us and she spoke constantly, as if driven by the urge to exercise her mouth after the many hours she had just spent on the street.

She did help with the carrying but mostly she walked beside me while I was working. With my arms piled high with boxes I was powerless against the output of her mouth. I smiled at her and tried to keep myself calm and sweat free, occasionally glancing at Alon, hoping he would come and share the burden. But Alon, of course, was too busy to help. He was on his mobile phone, his expression so intense you wouldn’t want to disturb him.

We finished packing the car and I opened the passenger door and climbed in.

“Where are your manners?” Alon frowned. “We have a lady here.”

I let Silvi take the front seat and I sat in the back of the small van. We drove off, on our way to Silvi’s guesthouse. Her chatty mood had a serious boost now that we were away from the distractions of the outside world. Helpless I sat, squeezed between boxes, plastic bags and wooden boards, my ears taking a fifteen minute pounding as she rambled on about her experiences in Japan. No salvation came from Alon who continued with his phone conversation throughout the drive. Only when we dropped Silvi off did he place his call on hold and exchange a few words with her. A moment later she was gone and we were back on the road.

“Party?” I tried to interject but he completely ignored me. I kept persisting, my voice going louder and louder until he finally took the phone from his ear and gave me an irate look.


“Are we going to party now?” I said sheepishly. “Maybe something to eat?”

“Party? Food?” he retorted in bemusement, as if my suggestion was the most outrageous thing he had ever heard in his life. “No, no, not yet. First we have to pick up the Rabbi.”

“Why the hell do we need a Rabbi?” I narrowed my eyes at him.

“To lead the prayer.”

“What the fuck? You’ve got to be kidding me. You know I want nothing to do with religion on any day of the year, let alone on my birthday?”

“But you’re Jewish.”

“You’re Jewish, I’m not.”

“But both of your parents are Jewish.”

“That’s not really my fault, is it? Now don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate the gesture, but I don’t want a birthday prayer, birthday blessing or any other religious shit.”

“That’s just fine,” Alon assured me. “The prayer has nothing to do with you.”

“I really don’t get you.”

“Get with it, Gadi. I thought you must have overheard some of the conversations I’ve been having for the past hour.”

“How could I have listened to any of it with Silvi’s constantly blabbering in my ears?”

Alon smiled and explained the situation. Apparently, there was an Israeli in Tokyo whose father had just passed away. A man Alon had never met, a friend of his friend Simon who wanted to organize a communal prayer at his home. To make matters worse, he wanted to synchronize the prayer with his father’s actual funeral, which was taking place at one thirty in the morning Japan time.

“He’s a very devoted son,” Alon concluded. “Simon said that he and his father were very close.”

“If he’s such a devoted son why didn’t he go back to Israel for the funeral?”

“Oh, he really wanted to,” Alon said. “However, he’s overstayed his visa by nearly three months and he’s afraid he might get deported.”

“A small price to pay for peace of mind.”

“He really loves Japan.”

“Oh he does, does he?” I snarled at him.

“That’s what Simon said.”

“Simon said and then you, in your grace, offered to bring your Rabbi to that guy’s house in the middle of the night. On my birthday.”

“He’s not my Rabbi,” Alon corrected me, a little smile brightening his face. “He’s my massage therapy instructor.”

“The one who massages women’s breasts?”

“The one who also massages women’s breasts,” Alon calmly corrected me. “There is nothing sexual about it. It’s all in the name of medicine.”

“Of course it is. But tits aside, why did you offer to bring him to the prayer? You don’t even know the guy or his father. And why bring me along? Why, Alon, I don’t even know your friend Simple Simon, or whatever his name is.”

“His name is Simon and you, along with all of us, are needed for the Minyan,” he answered calmly and studied my bemused expression.

“Minyan? You’re out of your mind.”

“Yes, minyan. Even a non religious freak like you knows that at least ten men are required in order to conduct the prayer.”

“Fucking charming.”

I opened the window and let the freezing wind soothe my burning face. There was no doubt about it; the evening was deteriorating from terrible into a real nightmare. I quickly weighed my options, trying to find a way out. Walking back was out of the question as we were miles away from where I was staying. Taking the subway was also impossible since it was nearing midnight, the time when most underground services stopped for the night. The only way was by taxi but I had to dismiss that idea due to lack of funds.

“Happy birthday,” I whispered to myself and sat sulking as Alon returned to his phone.

It took a while to reach the house of the Rabbi, which was on the opposite side of Tokyo.

“Can you move to the back again?” Alon asked as we waited for him to come out. “It’s not nice to let him sit there.”

 “Oh, but it’s nice to let me,” I ground my teeth at him.

“You’re so spoilt,” he said. I wanted to retort with something clever but had no time to answer. A short skinny man came out of the house and took his seat at the front. He wore a brown suit, leather shoes and a large yamaka over his dark hair. A smile was pasted on his clean shaved face as he introduced himself to me.

“Tzvi,” he said and outstretched his hand toward me.

“Gadi,” I said and we shook hands.

While Tzvi was conversing with Alon, I battled the mountain of crap around me. Boxes, jewelry, wood, and rolls of paper kept falling on top of me with every turn and every bump on the road. Tzvi turned to face me.

“It’s so good of you to come for the prayer at such a late hour,” he said.

“Didn’t have much choice in the matter.”

“We always have choices,” he said. “God, in his wisdom, bestowed upon us unlimited choices and yet you, you chose to perform a mitzvah above everything else.”

“Or maybe I simply don’t have enough money for a get-away taxi.”

The smile froze on his face and he turned to look at Alon with an inquiring expression. Alon laughed and explained the situation to Tzvi, of my expectation for a birthday celebration, my lack of belief in the all mighty, and that I don’t know any of the people involved in the evening’s activity.

“Now I’m really impressed,” Tzvi returned his attention to me. “You sacrificed your special day to help a person you have never met.”

“I must be a saint.”

“Don’t know about that,” Tzvi laughed. “But I can tell you that for someone who claims he doesn’t believe in god you make some very good Jewish choices.”

“But I’m not a Jew.”

“If your mother is Jewish then you are a Jew.”

“I thought I have unlimited choices.”

“Of course you do.”

“Then I choose not to be Jewish.”

“I’m afraid you can’t do that.”

“Oh. What a bummer.”

“Leave him,” Alon interjected. “Gadi’s not a big fan of religion.”

“Or maybe he’s simply confused about what he is,” Tzvi smiled and his all knowing expression caused a burning ripple to spread over my face.

“Confused?” I narrowed my eyes at him. “There is nothing confusing about my lack of belief. If anything, I’m confused about you, Rabbi.”

“Why is that?” answered Tzvi. He seemed amused.

”Well, I’ve never seen a clean shaved Rabbi before. Thought you guys weren’t allowed to shave because you’re not allowed to harm your divine skin or something like that.”

“You’re right about shaving but wrong about me. I don’t shave.”

‎”You don’t?” I smiled and pointed at his clean shaved face. “Boy, you could have fooled me.”

Tzvi didn’t lose his cool as he explained that in fact he used hair removal cream.”

“So you found a loop hole to trick your god? Indeed, I am confused.”

An awkward silence followed as Tzvi stared at me with a mixture of disbelief and horror. I was gearing up to continue the debate, about to bring up the subject of his notorious breast therapy but Alon, in his wisdom, quickly changed the subject. I returned to my solitude, sulking and battling with the crap at the back of the van.

It was late by the time we got there and even later by the time the prayer finally began. The irony of the situation didn’t escape me. Here I was, a total disbeliever who would never set foot in a synagogue, standing shoulder to shoulder with people I’d never met and reading from a prayer book.

Like it or not, I couldn’t deny the fact it was by far the most bizarre and unusual birthday I had ever had.

At four o’clock in the morning we finally dropped Tzvi off and headed back towards the city center.

“Party?” Alon asked. “Something to eat?”

“Perhaps on my next birthday,” I sighed. I’d run out of energy and patience.

But it seems there is no rest for the wicked and at four thirty in the morning, after arriving at his home, Alon went straight to the kitchen and cooked me a giant birthday omlette. He stuck a candle in the middle and came into the room with a wide smile on his face.

“What?” he asked when I blew out the candle and burst out laughing. “What did you wish for, Gadi?”

“To never be in your company on my birthday ever again.”

Chapter 3  Chapter 5

Chapter 3: The Middle of the Movie…

Alon had to go to work soon after training.

Teenager looking away from screen in cinema house

“So, what do you think?” he asked as he sat on his scooter, strapping the helmet to his head.

“Amazing, I said. “Although I feel as if I just spent an hour inside a washing machine.”

“You do look like wet laundry,” he laughed and pointed at the red marks on my sweaty face. “You really put up a fight there, didn’t you? I saw the face of your first opponent and it looked far worse than yours.”

“Poor fucker, I took it all out on him.”

“Now I hope you understand why I avoided sparring with you,” Alon laughed.

“I more than understand. I also avoided sparring with beginners when I used to practice Karate. They can be the most dangerous people on the mats, trying out a flying Bruce Lee kick or another spectacular move they’ve seen in movies. But they always ended up with their shin embedded in your groin, lifting your balls right up to your throat.”

“Or trying to smother you with the Royce Gracie choke, rubbing the skin off your face with their kimono like it was a potato peeler.”

“I know,” I grimaced. “Although I must admit I was quite insulted when you didn’t want to spar with me. I guess I didn’t take myself as a beginner. Ego is a dangerous thing.”

“Well, let that be a lesson to us all,” Alon said and drove off, leaving me to take the train back to the city.

I felt like a ghost as I rode back to Shibuya, so overwhelmed by the experience. The image of my sparring partner sitting on his ass and throwing me left and right went through my mind. He threw me despite the fact I was sitting on my knees, the seiza I had practiced for years, a position I considered, until the sparring session, as the strongest expression of the term – Center of Gravity.

The thought caused me to chuckle and nod to myself. My disturbing expression and behavior did not escape the eyes of the poor Japanese passenger who stood across from me. He quickly turned his head away, his half closed eyes peering through the wide window. Unconcerned I continued to chuckle. That’s the beauty of a place like Tokyo where you can ride on a crowded train and yet be in a world of your own.

“Amazing art,” I whispered and for a while thought of the techniques that we learned. I tried to memorize them and got deeply annoyed when realizing I had already forgotten many essential details. Frustrated, I moved on to analyze the dissimilar modes of practice between the technical training and the sparring. It brought about some insights about Aikido.

In the technical practice of BJJ, the partners exercised in complete harmony, helping each other perform to the best of their abilities, together striving to grasp the finest details of the techniques. The technique serving as the center of the practice and as such, it was stripped of ego, aggression and ill intentions, shaping a friendly, helpful, flowing and very relaxed atmosphere. It could have been described as Aikido at its best, despite the different techniques.

The sparring had a different goal all together as it presented a clash between opposing forces and opposing wills. Clearly, I couldn’t argue with the fact that flow did occur in sparring, especially when one party followed the movement of the other while luring him into a trap. However, such flow of action only occurred spontaneously and wasn’t, by any means, the purpose of this game. What mattered was winning and indeed, each party strived to dominate the other, to overpower and impose submission. The effect was a sense of threat that ignited the survival instincts of the individuals. The inflicting wills caused resistance, tension and in a sense, prodded at the ego, threatening to deflate it in defeat and to inflate it in victory.

 Analyzing the sparring versus the technical training made me realize why Master Ueshiba, the founder of Aikido, strongly opposed sparring in the practice of his art. Sparring stood in contrast to the philosophy of peace and harmony he promoted. Ironically, however, his decision generated the opposite effect in many practitioners. The reason for that was the fact that many students, at one point or another, desired to test their abilities, to judge the effectiveness of their martial skills. But without sparring in the system they began to seek the fight in the techniques. It caused stagnation and resistance where there should be harmony and flow.

In a place without fighting the egos clashed instead. It reminded me of an incident at the dojo, a few years before, when a student ran crying to the dressing room after being scorned by one of the instructors.

 “Insult is the worse injury in Aikido!” a fellow aikidoka once observed and I chuckled at the pinching truth his words presented.

 I chuckled a little too loudly again. I continued smiling as another passenger turned his head away from me.

“So, what else have I learned today?” I wondered. What immediately came to mind was the way BJJ presented order within the chaotic nature of the battlefield.

At the beginning of every fight there are limitless options for attack. The opponent might punch or kick at any given moment, from any direction and in any form of combinations, making it virtually impossible to predict.

BJJ managed to minimize these options by swiftly closing the distance from the opponent and taking him down, in one decisive motion shutting the lid on his ability to kick and punch effectively. From that point on it is a cat and mouse kind of game, the BJJ practitioner, like the seasoned hunter, lays down his traps and leads the prey to its inevitable doom.

Such a thought-through plan, so rich, eloquent, elegant and simple, imposes calm in the heart of the fighter. Sure, there is also calm in the heart of the Aikidoka, but that comes from a different place. Aikido is practiced without the chaotic nature of fighting, each attack and technique clearly called out long before being executed. Aikido starts from the cherished place of knowing it all, the practitioner stands tall and relaxed as he faces the attack. In BJJ, on the other hand, relaxation comes from brilliant strategic planning, calculated tactics and vast amount of techniques in response to every situation.

I love Aikido but the conclusion I came up with made me realize the disadvantage it had as a fighting system. Aikido, despite its detailed techniques, deep philosophy and strong emphasis on proper bio mechanical movements, the kind that maximized the force one could generate from his body, seriously lacked in the strategic and tactical department.

"I need to learn this shit,” I whispered as the train came to a halt at Shibuya station.


Both Alon and I found it hard to memorize all the technical details of Taka’s lesson, so we conjured a plan of action. We would write down everything we could remember as soon as the class was over. Then, with all the info on paper and the lesson still fresh in the mind, we would travel to Alon’s house, practice what we had just learned and capture the moves on video. It was a simple enough plan but when we got down to it we were faced with unexpected hurdles.

 “Now where exactly do you want to take the video?” I asked as we entered his apartment after training. Alon had a couple rooms. The largest, a six tatami room, (about 5.5 meters by 3 meters), was stuffed to the brim with all sorts; clothes, work equipment, training gear, piles of videos, music CD’s and even a table. The other room had zero space to spare as most of the floor was taken up by a large double bed.

“Outside?” he offered but the sound of thunder, followed by a heavy downpour, spoiled that plan.

“The bed?”

“No. too weird.”

“Pain in the ass,” Alon said and lifted a small mountain of CDs from the middle of the floor, placing them on the bed. “Come on, Gadi, help me out.”

It took a good ten minutes of hard labor to clear a descent space on the floor.

“But who’s going to take the video?” I asked Alon as we changed into our kimono, ready to begin the filming. Alon did not seem concerned.

“It will take itself,” he smiled and quickly improvised a stand for the video camera. At his command, I sprawled on the clear space on the floor and read out aloud from our notes while he stood and fiddled with the focus of the lens. When he was pleased he pressed the REC button and we got down to business. It took us about an hour to complete everything.

 “So what do you think?” Alon asked as we sat and reviewed the video we had just taken.

“Definitely not the work of Tarantino but I guess it’s alright.”

“You don’t sound too convincing.”

“Because all this information is so new to me that I can’t really judge it. Ask me in a couple of weeks.”

“But you leave in a couple of weeks.”

“It is what it is.”

The days flew by and we continued the intense practice, hours on end on the mats or at Alon’s house. It was an enriching period for me and I did my best to squeeze the most out of every minute and every second, knowing that my time was running out.

“You’re going to kill yourself!” Alon warned me when one evening I collapsed at his house from sheer exhaustion.

“I’ll certainly get an A for trying.”

“Or become a master in BJJ.”

“For sure.”

We laughed and we joked and I did my best to hide my frustration.

“Give me the beginning of this movie,” I wanted to scream at him from the top of my lungs. “I’m lost, mate, bloody well lost.”

Chapter 2  Chapter 4

סדנת התרמה למען החלמתה של ארי-יה לביא רמירז – הבת של לי סנסיי, חברתנו הטובה שמלמדת אייקידו בלוס אנג׳לס.


ארי-יה אובחנה לאחרונה עם סוג מסוכן של סרטן העצמות, והטיפולים בה כרוכים בהוצאות כספיות גבוהות מאוד, וחלק מהטיפולים היקרים יעזרו ויקלו מאוד על ארי-יה.
ההשתתפות בסדנה היא על בסיס תרומה אישית אנונימית שתיאסף ותועבר ביחד עם כל התרומות לחשבון הבנק שנועד לאיסוף התרומות.
אפשר לתרום בלי קשר לסדנה וגם להתעדכן במצבה של ארי-יה בקישור הבא:



ידריכו בסדנה:
גדי שור סנסיי דאן 7 יושינקאי
איתן בן מאיר סנסיי דאן 6 אייקיקאי
ענתי מירון סנסיי דאן 5 אייקיקאי
חיים נוי סנסיי דאן 5 סיידוקאן
אסי מועלם סנסיי דאן 5
זאב ארליך דאן 5

כל מתאמנת ומתאמן בכל רמה מוזמנות ומוזמנים להשתתף, לתרום, וליהנות מהדרכת המורות והמורים שישתתפו.


Chapter 2: Men-hugs, Bikers Kimono, and Thumbs-Up

The BJJ dojo, sorry, the BJJ academy, was located on the second floor of a wide office building. We walked through the glass doors at the entrance, passing by a long banner. It bore a drawing of a triangle within a triangle with the word, ‘Axis’, pasted above.

“ Axis is the name of Rickson Gracie’s association,” Alon pointed out. “There are many BJJ organizations even within the Gracie family.”

“Big family?”

“The biggest,” Alon smiled. “I was told you will need a whole neighborhood in order to host all the Gracies.”

“Shall we go up?”

“For sure, and let’s hope it’s already open. We’re a few minutes early and it’s the first lesson of the day.”

We climbed up the stairs and found the door to the academy open.

“Just in time,’” Alon said and led the way through the entrance. I found myself inside a wide hall that was divided in two by a wall composed of wood and large glass windows. The smaller section served as the reception room, while the other, a spacious training hall. The walls of the reception were painted in a calming cream color and decorated with a few pictures and trophies. The floor was covered with smooth light brown parquet, similar to the color of the wood that composed the divide between the two sections of the hall.

We stopped in front of a long curved counter that stood to the left of the entrance.

“Nice place,” I remarked. “Kind of like a modern gym.”

“That’s the idea. Now where are they?”


“The staff. I need to stamp my membership card and you need to pay for training.”

As we waited I continued to scan the place.

A couple of round tables and a few chairs were spread around the floor of the reception room. A fridge, composed of steel frame and glass walls, stood against the wall opposite the counter. It was loaded with water bottles and energy drinks. A television, attached to the wall by an iron bar, hung over the fridge. It softly played popular music videos.

“Why are there mats attached to the walls?” I asked while pointing at the training hall. There was a belt of sky-blue mats running around the entire circumference of the lower part of the walls, about one meter from the floor. They were the same kind of mats that covered the floor.

“When people fight they end up falling in unexpected directions,” Alon said. “A padded wall minimizes the chance of accidents.”

The Axis logo was painted on the wall across from the glass divide with a photograph of Rickson Gracie below. Strangely enough, there was no Kamidana above his picture. You can find in most Japanese dojo  “Kamidana”, a small decorative model of a Shinto shrine.

All in all it looked a very western style training hall. In fact, the only reminder of Japanese influence was the long row of training suits, sorry, kimonos, that hung from the ceiling of the narrow balcony to the right of the hall.

Alon’s face brightened as the door behind the counter opened. A small skinny man with outrageously messed-up ears stepped out and gently closed the door behind him. He smiled shyly as he approached us. He wore a blue kimono that looked tailor-made and was covered with quite a few colorful patches. A kimono fit for a Formula-1 biker.

“Alon,” he cheered and they shook hands and man-hugged, grabbing each other with a pat on the back. They exchanged a few words in Japanese. The man spoke fluently but with a heavy Brazilian accent.

Gadi,” I said and shook the hand he extended towards me. I guessed man-hugs came later in the relationship.

“Joao Carlos,” he introduced himself, smiled and said a few more words, but I found it hard to follow him, my eyes captured by the sight of yet another man, the spitting image of Joao Carlos, coming out of the same door that Joao Carlos had just a second before. A chill ran down my spine as the man behind Joao smiled at me. He then opened another door and disappeared within. Same smile, same kimono, same bloody slippers.

Déjà vu?


A Steven Seagal movie?

What the hell was going on?

“My twin brother,” Joao Carlos said in broken English and his words, although soft as a whisper, cracked an opening in my seriously petrified state.

“Naturally,” I shyly said while paying, my face feeling strangely warm. Joao raised his thumb up when the transaction was complete. Alon returned the gesture and I quickly followed his example.

Alon laughed to himself as he led us to the changing rooms. We entered the training hall, turned sharply to the right and through a narrow opening. It was a small space, the wall composed of rows of lockers. I found a locker and got changed into a simple white Aikido suit, smiling at the blue suit Alon pulled out of his bag.

“Nice Kimono,” I complimented him and he went into a lengthy explanation about the regulations concerning the BJJ kimono.

“Take the sleeves, for example,” he said. “They shouldn’t be overly short or too tight. They need to allow your opponent the ability to grab them. The measurements are very specific.”

A few more students arrived as we got dressed. Most already knew Alon and they greeted each other with a man-hug. They didn’t seem too concerned with the fact he was only wearing underpants. They exchanged a few words and also concluded most conversations with a thumbs-up. Alon seemed to capture the smile that decorated my face.

“A thumbs-up is the equivalent of the ‘Osu’ in Yoshinkan,” he said.

“Not many people around.”

“And that’s the beauty of it,” Alon nodded. “The morning classes are, in a way, similar to the Kenshu class at the Yoshinkan Hombu dojo. Which means, fewer students than during the evening classes but far more attention to technical details. Most importantly, morning classes are the times when you are likely to train, sometimes even fight, with the instructors.”

We left the dressing room and sat on the mats in the training hall. We stretched while waiting for the class to commence. I watched the students as they came out of the dressing room, noting the many badges with logos and slogans that decorated their kimonos.

“Are we going to fight in this class?” I asked.

“We fight every class but we don’t call it fighting, we call it sparring.”

“Fighting, sparring, whatever, it’s going to be great.”

Alon chuckled.

“You seem quite relaxed about it.”

“Should I be nervous?” I frowned as I scanned the hall. “There’s only one student with a blue belt and the rest are white belts like me. And no one here looks too big or scary. I think I’ll be alright.”

“I would recommend caution over nervousness. You don’t need to be big, scary or wear a black belt in order to kick ass in this game.”

“I think I’ll be fine,” I smiled, confident that my skill as a 5th black belt in Aikido, combined with the one choke I had learned from observing Royce at his first UFC appearance, would be enough to fend off most attacks.

While we waited, Alon explained that there were four instructors at the Academy, all Brazilians with Japanese ancestry.

“Taka Watanebe is the head instructor, Joao and his brothers, his seconds in command, and there is also this guy, Cristiano, who is a great fighter and a huge guy. However, Cristiano rarely takes the class as he is mainly preoccupied with competitions. Apparently, he’s got sponsors who pay for his stay. I guess they hold a lot of hopes for his future in BJJ and MMA.”

            All the students, about ten in number, quickly sat in seiza as a man, dressed in a white kimono and brown belt, entered the hall and went to sit in front of the class.

“That’s Taka?” I frowned at Alon. I found it difficult to match the skinny, gentle looking Japanese man who faced us with the man from Alon’s formidable fighting tale.

“Taka in the flesh,” Alon whispered back.

We bowed and he started with warm-ups that resembled Yoga stretching exercises. He shifted slowly and harmoniously between the different positions, gently demonstrating each move and softly performing it on his body. There was next to zero strain on the skeletal muscles and on the cardio-vascular system during his warm-ups.

Taka described each move to its finest detail and he did so not only in Portuguese and Japanese but also in perfect English. He spoke politely, his voice soft, his eyes intelligent. His character and mannerism stood in sharp contrast to the image of the aggressive fighter I had in my mind.

When the warm-ups were over, Taka moved to perform the first drill of the day. It was an escape from a position he called “Half-Guard”. His explanations were extremely thorough. We practiced for a while and he walked around, further explaining and correcting mistakes, by way of words and demonstration. When he first came next to us he introduced himself and politely exchanged a few words on a personal note. Too nice to be a killer.

The mode of the training was very similar in a sense to Aikido practice. There was clear role-playing and everyone behaved accordingly, a perfect Uke and Shite relationship. I didn’t fit my expectations.

“You give zero resistance,” I complained to Alon at one point. “How can I know if I had you locked or if I performed properly when you go with everything I do?”

“And I will go with everything you do,” he said. “Each technique is a counter for a specific attack or defense move. As such, it represents one specific option of the game and there are millions of options.”

“Still, wouldn’t your technique improve if you’d be able to perform it despite the resistance, the way we practice in Aikido?”

 “Undoubtedly it would improve the technique but overall, when Uke reacts differently, changes the direction of the move or resists, you simply perform another technique. Isn’t that the reason why there are so many techniques in Aikido rather than just one?”

“What do you mean?”

“Many techniques mean many options. Think about it, if each technique would always work you’d have no use for another, would you?”

Taka stopped the practice after few minutes and taught a few counters to the escape, each move explained to the finest detail, and as Alon said, each move related to a specific change in the moves of the Uke. The attention that he gave to each and every detail was astonishing. I could tell he did his best to keep it simple as there were many beginners in the room, but soon I was overwhelmed by everything. I felt disorientated and confused like someone who had just walked into a cinema in the middle of the movie.

After an hour of technical training, just when I felt numb from the overload of information, Taka called out a short recess.

“If you need a drink of water or to go to the toilet, do it now,” Alon said. “Sparring will start in a couple of minutes.”

“Finally,” I said and Alon laughed.

Taka called out to the students to get ready for sparring and they moved toward the center of the hall, each sitting in seiza and facing their sparring partner. I sat and expected Alon to face me but he shook his head.

 “Don’t take it the wrong way but I’d rather fight someone else,” he said. “I don’t fight beginners – way too dangerous.”

“What the hell?”

“Later. And good luck with the Royce Gracie choke.”

He moved on to sit across from one of the students, leaving me to sit and sulk by myself. A second later another student came to face me. He was a skinny looking bloke, with pale skin, a curved back and small beady eyes that focused on the ground. He wore a loose white kimono and a white belt that held his scrawny body in a tight knot. He seemed too sheepish and too feeble to be fighting but it was also too late and too impolite to try and move to another partner. I tried to envision how I would drop him onto his back and choke him with the kimono. I was inflamed and ready for a kill, my eyes burning like the eyes of a zealous freak. He seemed undeterred by my mad expression, his eyes glued to the mats.

Taka gave the command to begin sparring and the man across from me extended his bony arm. I shook his hand, bemused by his soft grip. He had managed to drop onto his bottom as I charged forward, a bull fueled by the desire to fight. But a few seconds into the fight and I was already off-balance, out of breath and tapping, my eyes nearly bulging out of their sockets from the pressure of the choke he implemented on my neck. The Royce Gracie choke – what an insult!!!

I sat up, red eyed and panting. He smiled, shook my hand and off we went again with similar results after a minute into the sparring. On the third attempt my frustration got the best of me and I went berserk on the poor fellow, trying to implement aggression in a desperate effort to compensate for my lack of skill. But he remained calm and submitted me easily a few more times until Taka ordered the class to cease fighting and change partners.

I didn’t fare any better with the next two white belts that sparred with me. The only difference was the speed they submitted me. I was completely deflated by the end of the class, out of breath, beaten and as hopeless as a mouse that had just been toyed with by a group of wild cats.

“Did it work?” Alon asked as we headed to the showers, his arms imitating the only choke I knew.

“It worked quite well on my neck,” I sighed and he burst out laughing.

Chapter 1  Chapter 3

It's like Chess – A bjj diary

A documentation of the experiences and insights of Gadi Shorr Sensei in the art of Brazilian Jujitsu.


Chapter 1:   The trap

Chapter 2:  Men hugs, bikers kimono and thumbs up

Chapter 3:   The middle of the movie

Chapter 4:   Simple Simon says

Chapter 5:   The inner hunter of knowledge

Chapter 6:   Fingering submission

Chapter 7:   The thundering voice of strategy

Chapter 8:   The binding of Isaac

Chapter 9:   Paul and super Mario

Chapter 10:   The early days of rush-guard

Chapter 11:   Dodging dodgy partners

Chapter 12:   Seymour Place

Chapter 13:   Never Grow Old, Dorian Grey

Chapter 1: The Trap

The BJJ instructor stood and conversed with the translator on the mats. At long last the translator turned to face the students, to deliver the final words to conclude the class. I rolled my eyes, knowing all too well what would probably come out of his mouth.

            “The master says that BJJ is like chess,” the translator said and I shook my head in response.

“Bet you a hundred pounds he has never played chess in his life,” I whispered to Estella, a Portuguese friend who came to observe me in BJJ practice. Estella, an Aikido instructor herself, brushed aside the thick locks of her dark, long hair, revealing a mischievous smile that spread from ear to ear. She looked like she was about to burst out laughing.

“Oh, you don’t know the half of it,” she chuckled. “Man, if only you could speak Portuguese.”

“If only.”

The conversation took place during a special BJJ course at the ‘Seymour Place Leisure Center’ in London, England. The year was 2003 and I was hooked on BJJ. I was training three days a week at the leisure center under the supervision of Roger Brooking.

 Roger, a BJJ black belt who won a bronze medal at the lucrative BJJ Mondial, was a registered instructor of the Alliance Academy of Master Romero ‘Jacare’ Cavalcanti.

“So what did the teacher say?” I whispered as a free sparring session began on the mats.

“He asked the translator: ‘So what is the name of that game?’

‘Game?’ replied the translator.

‘The one with the black and white horses.’

‘Ah, it’s called Chess.’

‘Yes, Chess.’; the Master nodded happily. ‘Go on, tell them it’s like Chess.’

We chuckled like two naughty kids and then the joy was interrupted by a loud cry.

“Where is ‘The Doctor’?” It echoed through the walls of the small club.

I raised my arm and stepped forward, my eyes searching for the injured party on the mats. I’m not a doctor by profession but a paramedic. However this kind of tiny detail never seemed to carry much weight at our academy. Here I had been nicknamed ‘The Doctor’ either by Roger, or by one of his Brazilian assistants, and that name, as all their other nicknames, stuck like super glue.

 ‘The Doctor’ came about on my second session at the club, when a student broke his nose and started to bleed profusely on mats. I helped him out and stopped the flow of blood with some tissue paper. I then accompanied him to the office at the entrance of the leisure center where I got some ice and attached it to his face. He left with another student to the nearest A&E and I went back to training.

“Is everything OK Doctor?” Roger asked when I walked in and that was that. I was ‘The Doctor’ from that day forward. Never argue with a nickname given by Brazilians, especially not when you gained one that was as positive as ‘The Doctor.’ I knew quite a few unfortunate souls who ended up with far worse nicknames.

Take poor Toby as an example, who flew all the way to Brazil in order to further advance his BJJ skills. He came back with the nickname ‘Chihuahua’ because, so Roger claimed, they thought Toby was as bold and as ugly as the Chihuahua breed. Ziad, a student whose family was originally from Iran, faired far worse when he went to train in one of the notorious Favelas of Rio.

“The first person to greet me at the academy,” Ziad told Roger on his return, “heard my name, took one glance at my beard, and then loudly declared: “We’ve got Bin Laden here.”

Needless to say, the name stuck all through his stay.

“You must take these nicknames with a light heart,” Roger explained over drinks at my house. “Take my nickname for example, which is a blend of the words donkey and bull. It’s because, so they said at my old Academy, that I’m as strong as a bull but as stupid as a donkey. I could choose to be insulted but to be honest with you, I find it quite funny.”

Taking all this into consideration, it is of no wonder why I was more than pleased with my ‘Doctor’.


I had my first taste of BJJ in November 2001, at the age of 34, roughly eight years to the day Royce Gracie delivered to the world of martial arts the shocking revelations of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I, as many other colleagues, watched in awe as he elegantly choked a number of brutal opponents from a variety of disciplines, winning the first tournament of the Ultimate Fighting Championship – the UFC.

Naturally, I was more than anxious to study BJJ after watching Royce in action but at the time, there was a serious shortage of clubs outside Brazil. I wanted to make the trip but didn’t have the time nor the finances to reach Brazil. Reluctantly, I had to wait nearly a decade before my desires could finally be fulfilled.

Salvation came in the form of Alon Cohen, an aikido instructor from the Yoshinkan Aikido Honbu Dojo and a good friend. Alon, as it turned out, had been secretly training for a year at one of Rickson Gracie’s satellite academies that had recently opened in Tokyo. Alon disclosed his secret when I met him on a trip to Tokyo in 2001. He had a lot of explaining to do.

            “Why didn’t you tell me you were training Gracie Jiujitsu?”

“It’s called BJJ, not Gracie Jiu-jitsu,” Alon corrected me. “There are many styles of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.”

“OK, whatever. Still, why keep it a secret?”

“You know how funny they get at the Honbu when you train in other places.”

“I would have kept your secret.”

“ Sorry, but when I keep quiet I keep it to myself.”

I looked at him as he took a sip from the large coffee mug. We were sitting at a small Café outside Meidaimae train station.

“ So what’s the deal?” I continued the questioning. “When did you learn about this dojo?”

“Academy, not dojo,” he corrected me yet again. “And I learned about this academy from an Australian friend who happened to train there.”

“Academy?” I twisted my face. “Do they teach academic subjects in their curriculum? Do you get a University degree upon graduation?”

“No, nothing like that,” Alon laughed. “It’s just the way they call it.”

“But why?”

“I don’t know, maybe it’s a Brazilian thing, some strange desire to be academic, I really can’t tell you. What I’m certain of, though, is that BJJ is a very clever and sophisticated martial art. It has a rich system of attacks and a variety of complex counters. My teacher, Taka, says it’s very similar to chess in that respect.”

“I’ve heard of Chess Academies,” I pointed out.

“Who cares?” Alon exhaled loudly. “It’s not relevant.”

“And how is this teacher of yours?”

“Taka is amazing,” Alon said and the deep tone of his voice, accompanied by the deep frown on his forehead, revealed his sincere appreciation.

“What level black-belt does he have?”

“Taka is a brown belt.”

        (Rickson Gracie and Taka)

“Really? Is that enough to teach BJJ?”

“Oh yeah,” Alon chuckled. “It’s a different system all together from Aikido. Reaching a brown belt in BJJ can take as long as reaching Yondan in Aikido.”

“I wonder how the Japanese feel about him,” I said. “Coming from Brazil and teaching Jiujitsu. A bit like selling ice to Eskimos, isn’t it?”

“I think that overall, most Japanese martial artists appreciate or at least recognize the Brazilian contribution to Jiujitsu.”

“I guess so.”

“And Taka, specifically, has another advantage. He looks Japanese and speaks Japanese because his parents are actually Japanese immigrants to Brazil. Having said that, however,” Alon continued after taking another sip of coffee, “does not imply that Taka had it easy when he first opened his academy in Japan.”

I smiled with delight as Alon moved on to tell me how Taka was lured into a fight with a judo instructor upon his arrival in Tokyo.

“That judo instructor invited Taka for dinner,” Alon said, “under the pretense that he wanted to present Taka with some business proposition over food and drinks. They agreed to meet at the judo instructor’s dojo.”

“Sounds like a good beginning for a Bruce Lee movie,” I said and leaned forward, eager to hear the rest of the tale.

“Taka arrived on time and entered the dojo, dressed in his best suit. Inside he found the instructor, and many of his students, sitting on the mats in seiza. Taka noticed there were also spectators sitting in a row of chairs on the side of the mats. Innocently, Taka took his seat beside them and waited, thinking he had caught the instructor at the end of his class. Then the instructor came to face him.

“’We want you to demonstrate your BJJ abilities.’ he said.

‘Excuse me?’

‘Show us how you spar in BJJ. How you beat my judo with your Jiujitsu.’

Alon said that the trap had been masterfully planned and that before Taka could protest, a student ran to his side and offered him a clean kimono.

“How insulting?” I stopped the flow of his speech. “Why would he give him kimono? Does Taka look like a sumo wrestler?”

“No,” Alon laughed. “And he doesn’t look like a Geisha either. Kimono is what the Brazilians call their training suit.”

“Why not dogi?”

“I don’t know. Please stop interrupting.”

“Sorry. Go on.”

“Now you can imagine that by this point,” Alon continued. “Taka felt like a cornered animal.”


“But he tried to keep calm and collected as he ran his eyes over the eager faces of the students and the aggressive expression of the instructor. Taka, despite being hurt by the disrespectful attitude, decided not to satisfy the desire of the brut.”

“He was about to turn and leave when the instructor said, loud enough for all to hear – ‘You don’t have to fight if you’re afraid.’

“With that patronizing remark he finally managed to enrage Taka. Taka quickly changed his clothes and came to face the rude challenger.”

“A showdown,” I smiled in anticipation but Alon paused to take a bite from his egg sandwich. He slowly chewed on it, deliberately maintaining the suspense.

“They circled each other for a few seconds,” he continued, “hands trying to get a good grip on the fabric of the opponents’ kimono. Then the judo instructor charged in and took Taka down with a perfectly timed throw. They landed on the mats with a loud thud, the instructor on top, his students cheering in jubilation. But soon enough they became silent when they realized that their teacher had fallen right inside the guard of Taka, right inside the trap of the jiujitsu teacher who had already tightened a choking grip on their instructor. The judo instructor tried to fight him off but was helpless against the Taka’s perfect technique.

“He tapped his submission and Taka let go and jumped to his feet. He bowed at him, dropped the borrowed kimono onto the mats, changed his clothes and left the place, never to return.”

“Holly shit,” I cried out. “It really was a scene from a Bruce Lee movie. Although, if you don’t mind me saying, it would have been so much better if Taka went into the dojo with a big sign that read – ‘I correct bad Jiujitsu.’”

“But he was a judo instructor.”

“But what went on after he had…”

“Later,” Alon cut me short as he stood up and pointed at his wristwatch. “We need to get going. Training starts in half an hour.”

Prologue    Chapter 2



These are my martial arts records from the first years of the third millennium. The days of the internet revolution.

It was the time when information began to trickle and flow from all corners of the globe, streaming gently on personal computer screens. Soon the streams widened to become gushing rivers, rivers turning into floods. And suddenly, without a warning, the world seemed tiny and accessible. It was exciting, confusing, and sometimes disappointing.

In no time the lines between good and evil faded, the flow of information rooting out common beliefs, unearthing truths and exposing guilt.

It also gave rise to the voice of the masses. Everyone could have a say and no one and nothing was safe anymore.

Needless to say that the new order did not skip the world of martial arts. While the influx of information helped certain systems to reestablish their respected position, it also changed everything for most – some for the better and naturally, some for the worse. It caused popular martial arts to lose their luster, to be ridiculed and nearly crumble into obscurity. At the same time, it allowed virtually unknown disciplines to hit the limelight and gain massive exposure.

As for me, an enthusiastic Aikidoka by hobby and trade, the situation was rapidly turning unpleasantly grim. It couldn’t be helped. It is what it is.

These records are therefore the story of one man overwhelmed by his ever changing and swiftly evolving realities. A man filled with bafflement and desperation.

A man on a journey to try and find his place in the new world.

Chapter 1

סדנאת אורח – שיהאן אנדו, בעל דרגת דאן 8 ביושינקאן אייקידו, מגיע לישראל

אני שמח לבשר ששיהאן אנדו, בעל דרגת דאן 8, ומי שהיה אוצ'י דשי (תלמיד החי ומתחזק את הדוג'ו), והאוקה הצמוד של מאסטר גוזו שיודה, מייסד שיטת יושינקאן אייקידו,  מגיע לישראל. האימונים ייערכו בין התאריכים, 26-27 לאוקטובר, בדוג'ו זאנשין בבית חירות.

תוכנית האימונים:

יום שישי 26/10

08:00 הרשמה והתארגנות
09:00 – 11:00 אימון בוקר
11:00 – 12:00 הפסקה
12:00 – 14:00 אימון צהריים

14:00 סיור באיזור ופעילות חברתית על חוף הים

יום שבת 27/10

08:00 הרשמה והתארגנות
09:00 – 11:00 אימון בוקר
11:00 – 12:00 הפסקה
12:00 – 14:00 אימון צהריים

  • מבצע מיוחד במחיר של 400 ש"ח לשלושים המשלמים הראשונים.

גשקו קוקיוהו – מחנה האימונים של קיץ 2018

גשקו קוקיוהו, (נשימה), ייערך בין ה13-14 ליולי במעגן הימי שדות ים. ההרשמה פתוחה ומספר המקומות מוגבל ל20 איש בלבד!!!

תכנית האימונים:

יום שישי 13.07

9:00 הגעה והתארגנות

10:30 מתיחות, חימום ומבוא לגשקו קוקיוהו – גדי

11:30 קוקיוהו 1,2 וקוקיונאגא  – אלכס

12:30 קוקיוהו 4,5 וקוקיונאגא- דרור

13:30 ארוחת צהריים

14:45 אימון על הדגמות לפי קבוצות –

15:30 מכניזם נשימה ושיהונאגא – יהודה

16:30 מכניזם נשימה ואירימינאגא – אביהוד

17:30 מכניזם נשימה ואיקאג'ו – שחר

18:30 אימון על הדגמות לפי קבוצות–

19:00 ארוחת ערב

*פעילות חברתית מלווה בהרצאות

יום שבת 14.07

07:00 התעוררות בוקר של יוגה – אורי

08:30 אימון על הדגמות לפי קבוצות

09:30 ארוחת בוקר

10:30 חניקות ונשימה – גדי

11:30 קוטאגיישי, שיהונאגא ואירימינאגא – אימון מסכם – אביהוד

12:30 קוקיוהו, קוקיונאגא – אימון מסכם – שחר

13:30 הדגמות

14:00 ארוחת צהריים


מבחני דרגה לקיו-4

 בתחילת פברואר התקיימה בחינת הקיו-4 של יבגני לנדה. יבגני החל דרכו באייקידו לפני כשנתיים וחצי בדוג'ו בקריית גת. האוקה בבחינה היה ניר גוטמן, (קיו 4). המבחן נערך בדוג'ו בנס ציונה. יבגני עבר את המבחן בהצלחה.

סרטון הבחינה