One of the things I've always been rather curious about was whether or not one could establish any kind of regular (or semi-regular) curriculum in judo. Our aikido always seem to follow a weekly theme well enough (we work on one section of a kata or exercise for one week, then the section the next week, etc.) but judo was always harder to pin down.
It may not be possible, or even wise, to completely pin it down, but through the experiments I've tried so far, I like having a little structure, at least as a starting point. I'm fulling will to be flexible, though.
Anyway, one of the things I'm trying is to spend the first portion of the grappling half of class on one of the major hold downs, usually by pairing up and doing a number of escapes. One week would be kesa gatame, then the next week kata gatame, etc. until we work our way through them (plus the kazure or broken versions) and the repeat.
One of problems with that, as you may have guessed, is that there's more than one way to skin the proverbial cat. Take mune gatame (chest hold), for example, which is what we've been working on for a few weeks now. There's a sort of "main" or "major" escape idea for each one, but really, there's a lot of things you can do, all depending upon what uke does. So escape #1 leads to #2 and #3 if uke does this or that. Then in the midst of practice, one pair realizes something is wonky about version #2 because that uke did something slightly different, and so you veer off into v 2.1 and so on and so forth.
All of which could be said about, well, just about everything we do. Which can be exciting at times; we feel like an archeologist, of sorts, constantly digging up news things that give us new insight, even after years of study. It can also be frustrating at times, not just from a learning point of view, where it all seems too massive to wrap our heads around ("I'll never learn this!") but also from a teaching perspective.
We've already gone a couple of weeks looking at mune gatame, and we could probably go longer. But, if you take an artist for example, you can't just focus your brush on one little corner of a painting day after day; you have to start in big, broad strokes, filling in large areas with base colors first, establish shading and tonal values, then gradually add mid-level details here and there, and refine the overall painting as a whole.
That's really the nice thing about play days, clinics, or even classes where only a couple of people show up and you just don't feel like following the class structure. Those are wonderful times to delve into details and explore endless variations.
Regardless, we've been having a nice turn out lately, and really getting some good work done. Even though I noticed issues with o soto gari and sutegeiko on Monday, I'm not frustrated or unhappy about it. I'm ecstatic that we have people on the mat and working! Working through all these issues are good "problems" to have!