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Musings Of A Long-Time Judoka

These are just random tidbits of information or thought that don't really merit an entire article, but may be of interest. This is not aimed at beginning students, rather for instructors… but anyone may pick up whatever they can.

Where the head goes, the body will follow - A constant refrain of mine. This is one of the major reasons that I like a high collar grip… if I can move uke's head, his body is going to follow. I can't emphasize this enough - if you can move Uke's head, you'll move his entire body - so think about different ways to make uke's head move.

Triangle of Techniques - When attempting a choke, uke will often open himself to an armbar, or pin. Whatever ground technique you're attempting, think in terms of a “triangle” of techniques… threaten one to open opportunities for another. Don't get your mind set on just one particular technique. Combinations work just as well in newaza as they do in tachiwaza. Keep in mind that combinations are NOT just one-two… one-two… Osotogari-Ouchigari, for example. Combinations need to be developed as a tree of techniques. You start with your favorite attack, then you must have a followup technique that is used NO MATTER WHAT METHOD Uke defends with.

If you learn Tani Otoshi, you've also learned Yoko Otoshi, and Uki Waza… only the direction that uke is thrown in is different. When teaching Yoko Otoshi, it's easy to teach it as a combination to a left-sided Osotogari attack. When Uke pulls back from the Osotogari, it leads directly into Yoko Otoshi.

ouchigari.jpgOn Ouchigari, put your head on uke's opposite arm… ie; if you are attacking uke's left leg (standard right-handed Ouchigari), put your head on uke's -right- arm. This prevents the common Uranage type defenses to Ouchigari. Many a Judoka has been turned off to Ouchigari because the technique they learned is too easily defended against.

On the right, in the photo you'll see a wonderful example of a correctly performed Ouchigari, Catherine Donohoe is attacking with a right-sided Ouchi, and notice where her head and body are… the chances of uke being able to defend with an Uranage are zilch. This is the way you want to teach Ouchigari!

Standing choke or armbar attempts make wonderful lead-in combinations for throws. They are so rarely attempted that most Judoka take them too seriously… I've won many a match by starting an attack with Kannuki Gatame… uke will react so distinctly that a followup throw is often quite easy.

Why do we teach Seoi Otoshi as a lifting up throw identical in action to Seoinage? Doesn't “Otoshi” mean drop?? Instead of driving your right leg back, with a 'live' foot position (toes dug in), try driving the right leg back with a 'dead' foot position, it gets you lower and deeper… now, DROP uke to your right side… NOT up and over your shoulder.

I've always disliked the standard Yokoshihogatame - it's far too easy for uke to push your head with his 'free' arm - down where he can loop around with a leg. Munegatame, which doesn't position tori in quite as 'low' a position on uke's body, has been far better for me in competition. I can also shift into Ude Garami far easier.

Ippon Seoinage into Morotegari is a little known or used combination. Drive in on Ippon Seoi - if uke defends by stiffening and pulling back, drop your grip and continue spinning in the same direction… you'll end up facing uke again after two 180 degree turns… drive low and attack with Morotegari. Very surprising move to most people.

Feet rarely stray very far from being under a person. When students insist on bending downward as they stare at their opponent's feet, point out this simple fact. I often make this point to beginners by staring in their eyes, and consistently slapping their foot with ashiwaza… It's really simple when you think about it - but a person's feet really are directly under their body!

I read somewhere that people who are naturally left-handed compose roughly 10% of the population - but if you pay attention to National and International competitors, you'll see that roughly half of them appear to be left handed. It's not that left-handers are simply better at Judo - it's that many Judoka finally come to the conclusion that right-handers often have problems dealing with their opposites. I learned that lesson back in the 70's - when I won a tournament using a newly learned (at the time) technique of Sodetsurikomigoshi - which is, of course, a left-handed throw done with a right-handed grip. This success encouraged me with left handed techniques - and I eventually competed entirely left handed. I leave it to you to figure out how to encourage left handed techniques in your club - but _seriously think on this_!

You don't increase your ability with a particular skill by NOT using it, rather, it is by your repeated use of a particular skill or technique, that you gain in ability. Why then do we encourage everyone to train with higher ranked Judoka to gain skill? Mismatch everyone constantly… the better Judoka will be gaining repetitions on their throws. Attempting to match everyone to equal skill levels doesn't give them the opportunity to actually apply their skills repetitively. Instead of randori - which far too many Judoka regard as just a hair short of shiai - have a 'give & take' randori - make it mandatory to exchange throws…

There are just four positions on the ground:

1. Hands and Knees - Bottom (Worst position)
2. Hands and Knees - Top (Best position)
3. Legs around - Bottom (Even position)
4. Legs around - Top (Even position)

Everyone should learn methods of attack from all four positions. None of these positions are good for defense. Beginners often think that 'turtling up' or going prone on their stomach is effective - you should as quickly as possible demonstrate to students that this is the worst possible position to be in.

Most Judo clubs that I've seen spend far too much time doing exercises and warm-ups, and not enough time doing Judo. The warm-ups should consist of leg and arm and neck stretches, then start in with newaza drills. Simple drills such as shifting from pin to pin, then gradually moving into newaza randori. ½ hour of this will replace all the warm-up exercises most clubs are currently doing, and actually train in Judo at the same time. After this, falling drills, then uchikomi, and on to either kata or randori, depending on your schedule. Most of us teach the same way we learned, and never really consider how to improve the class schedule

kotegaeshi.jpgIf you don't have significant self-defense instruction in class - ask the students if they'd like more self-defense training. Taking the last 10 minutes of class drilling on Kote Gaeshi, or various self-defense applications, once or twice a week - will give a wonderful 'warm-down' to the class, and provide incentive for people to keep training. Many people start Judo with the intention of learning self-defense - as instructors, we should be meeting that goal.

Kotegaeshi, famously known as an Aikido throw, but also taught in Kodokan Goshin Jutsu, is a wonderfully fluid and comprehensive technique to learn, as it's applicable in a wide variety of situations… Added to Judo's repertoire by Kenji Tomiki, one of Kano's students who was also a student of Ueshiba, it pays dividends when you study it… you'll learn quite a bit about how to move Uke's body in order to use Kotegaeshi. You'll discover that raw power isn't what's needed for successful Kotegaeshi - but positioning and movement.

The first major thinker in Judo was Jigoro Kano. The second major thinker on Judo was Geof Gleeson. If you haven't read his books, or learned about his thoughts on Judo, you should. (Much of what Phil Porter teaches derives directly from Gleeson) If you don't know the term “driver-leg”, or “power-arm”, it would be useful to read Gleeson's books. It will help your Judo. For example, the major reason that throws fail can be traced to poor “driver-leg” positioning. Learning what the correct placement for any particular throw makes it easier to teach accurate technique. Being able to do - is not the same thing as being able to teach.

The twisting of the hips creates the largest single amount of power in a throw. Examine your technique, and see where you can add more hip twist. One example is the first throw of the Nage no Kata, Uki Otoshi. The right hand version, tori drops to his left knee… a more powerful version is to turn 180 degrees to your left, so you are facing the same direction as uke, dropping to your right knee, and executing the same throw. The twisting of the hips adds momentum and power to the throw… and your right hand will become more important to the throw's execution.

Always ask visitors to your club to demonstrate their favorite techniques. You'll find out that you can learn new techniques this way. Don't presume that only visiting Yudansha can show you something new - even brown belts might surprise you - coming from other clubs, they may well have learned something your Sensei never taught.

For example, on the right you'll see a visiting German yudansha, Mr. Helmudt; demonstrating a throw that I'd never seen in over 40 years of training… Never forget to ask visitors to demonstrate their favorite techniques! Learning is never over in Judo - which is why it's such a fascinating lifelong activity.

Martial Arts


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