Interview with "Rowdy" Ronda Rousey

Ronda "Rowdy" Rousey, World Championships silver medalist and the first-ever US woman to medal at the Olympics - not to mention undefeated MMA wrecking ball, was kind enough to grant me an interview.  Read on...

Chad:  First question: Is the "Rou" in Rousey pronounced like the "row" in rowdy, or the "roo" in rooster? I am embarrased to say that I have been to one of your clinics (in Fredericksburg, VA), and while I did come away with some awesome drills and techniques, I still thought your name was pronounced like ROO-see. Go figure.
Ronda Rousey:  It's pronounce ROW as in ROWDY - but I don't mind the ROO pronunciation, it sounds more exotic :):)
Chad:  Ronda "The Exotic Rooster" Rousey - I can definitely see an apparrel line or something coming from that... 

CM:  I know that you and other top level Judoka focus a lot on the gripping in Judo. Has the lack of a gi altered how you approach applying Judo in an MMA setting? Does your approach change over the course of a match?
RR:  The lack of a gi threw me off a little at first. But once I got the hang of working with no gi, I had developed a more unorthodox style. In mma people are mostly used to dealing with wrestling/bjj style grappling, so I feel that gives me an edge.

CM:  What do you like about Judo in MMA? What do you not like? Or perhaps I should say, what has worked and not worked?
RR:  Well since people don't have handles on them anymore I can't do some of my favorite throws that involved exposing my back. But then I was able to improve a lot on foot sweeps and other techniques that I wasn't particularly good at in competitive judo. Also judo is one of the few grappling arts that enforces good posture, so one with a judo background doesn't telegraph wether they're going to strike or come in to clinch in the way wrestlers do - cause they don't have to change levels before going for a takedown.

CM:  Were there any surprises in your transition over to MMA? Was anything easier or more difficult than you expected? Had you done much kicking and punching before?
RR:  No I hadn't done any striking before, but that also meant I didn't have any bad habits and I've been able to learn things the right way since the beginning. I was surprised that I could take a punch so well, and I was surprised about how much I don't know. There's so much I have to learn, it can be a bit daunting, but the process of learning an entirely new sport has been an amazing and fun experience.

CM:  How do we make Judo more attractive to the MMA crowd? Specifically, for a guy who is teaching Judo in an MMA gym, do you have any advice for me?
RR:  Teach judo throws with the gi and with no gi. People often ask me what's the difference between wrestling and no-gi judo. I define the difference as all the throws that take a lot of strength to pull off are wrestling, the effortless ones are judo.

CM:  What is the future of Women's MMA, especially with the UFC having purchased Strikeforce? I think I saw that you just signed a deal with them - do you think they will keep Strikeforce around as a separate entity? Will they introduce women's divisions into the UFC?
RR:  I think they eventually will introduce women into the UFC, we'll know more two years from now when strikeforce's contract with showtime runs out. I'm doing all I can to try and make WMMA seem more profitable, I just have to perform well and look good while I'm at it. But I dunno, it's possible Zuffa will keep strikeforce around as kind of a "feeder" organization for the UFC. Like minor and major league baseball.

CM:  Have you ever gotten tired of Judo? And I don't just mean were there certain training sessions that you would have rather skipped, but have you ever just wanted to take a break from Judo? For that matter, are you taking a break from Judo now?
RR:  I'm never going to compete in judo again. Frankly I'm over that whole lifestyle of competing internationally. Towards the end I no longer enjoyed training and felt I had no say over my own career. Now I have several coaches and a manager and we all make decisions together. I feel like they really respect and listen to any input I have and we try our best to work together and make it work. I don't have to deal with anyone treating me like a child or deal with a national governing body that can't stand me. I don't have to scrape and beg for funding or deal with drama caused by living with my teammates either. All I have to worry about is fighting, and my staff takes care of everything else. Moving over to MMA is the best decision I ever made.

CM:  Do you plan to make a go at the 2012 Olympics, or is MMA the sole focus right now? And if not 2012, do you foresee maybe making a go of the 2016 games?
RR:  I did plan on going to 2012 just because I didn't know what else to do with myself besides compete in judo. It was the only real skill I had (besides bartending). I knew I didn't like it, but felt I didn't have any other options. I'm so happy with my current career now, and don't feel the slightest inclination to go back to judo. I love doing judo and teaching it, but competing is not for me anymore. That said I'm going to both the 2012 and 2016 games to cheer for team USA and party my butt off, but that's about it.

CM:  Was your mom your first Judo coach, or did she outsource it? When did you start working with Jimmy Pedro, Sr.? What other coaches have had a major impact on you, both from Judo and MMA?
RR:  My mom always volunteered to take a backseat in my training. She taught me all she could but never insisted on being my head coach. And I'm glad she did because I really needed a Mom, someone I could cry and complain to when training was over. You have to hate you coach some days, that's their job, and I didn't want to hate my mother. I started working with the Pedros when I was 16, they kicked me out and invited me back several times between 2003-2009 when I finally quit and left on my own. I've had dozens of coaches help me for shorter periods during my career, including the Cohens, Numerous coaches from Nanka (SoCal), and Isreal Hernandez who traveled with me and sat in my chair from 07-08, but I had the longest relationship with the Pedros.
In MMA Gokor Chivichyan (grappling), Edmond Taverdyan (striking), and Leo Frincu (wrestling/conditioning) are my main corners. I also receive help from Gene Lebell(grappling), Anthony Hardonk (striking) and Henry Akins (BJJ).

CM:  Along those lines, you started judo fairly late in life compared to most Olympians. How on earth did you get so good so quickly?
RR:  My first judo tournament was on my 11th birthday, my mother started when she was 12. I don't know how I made my first Olympic team in only 6 years... I guess fighting is just part of who I am and comes naturally.

CM:  How do you pay the bills? And how do you balance the need to pay bills with the need to train? Is that now easier as an MMA athlete than strictly a Judo athlete?
RR:  It is soooooo much easier making ends meet in MMA. At first it was difficult, as switching careers always is regardless of what you do. But now that I'm signed with strikeforce and have Darin Harvey, possibly the best manager on God's green Earth, I have nothing to worry about beside winning.


Throwing Principles: Getting the Tempo

Judo is easier when you are a move ahead...

In chess, there's this concept of the "tempo," where you are effectively one (or more) moves ahead.  That makes winning a lot easier.  The way you get the tempo is to move in such a way that a) your opponent must respond to what you just did, and b) you are left in a better place even after your opponent's response.

The same thing exists in Judo, more or less.  It's very easy to find yourself in a situation where you attack, your opponent stops your attack, and then you are both back at square one.  If you are better conditioned than your opponent, this isn't a terrible event; otherwise, though, you really don't want to waste your energy.  So you want to create a tempo and improve your position.

There are several ways to do this (and better Judoka will know more and better ways, I am sure).  Here are a couple that I like:

  • Be the inside of the circle:  Those who have been working with me for any length of time know my love for the "whirling" approaches.  You step to the opponent's front corner (typically when they step forward with their right foot, you step towards their right side with your left foot), pointing your toes in towards the opponent, then slide your  other foot into place as you pull your opponent in a circle around you (I'll try to add a video, in case my explanation isn't doing it for you).  Because your are at the center of the circle and your and your opponent is on the outside edge, he or she will have to travel farther.  Assuming that you are both about the same speed, you'll be recovered from your step and able to launch an attack as they recover from theirs.  You can do a ton of hip throws, sweeps, and other throws off of this approach.
  • Help your opponent overcompensate:  Another simple approach is to "help" your opponent.  If they want to step forward, you "help" them step forward even further than they meant to.  They then have to recover their balance, and if you are already set, you can take advantage during this recovery.  A great example is when you pull your opponent forward and down as they step forward:  they'll have to recover, either by taking another step forward, or driving themselves backwards.  Either way, there are a plethora of throws you'll have at your disposal.  And then you can bust up a plethora of piñatas at your victory celebration.  (Three Amigos, anyone?)
Like I said, I'll try to add videos to this post later, in case this doesn't make much sense.  What are some other good ways to create a tempo?


Recent Blog Postings I Like

I don't read a ton of blogs (you can see the ones that I do read on the right side of the page), but here are a few (mostly) recent postings that I like:

Dr. Ann Maria DeMars: 

Pat Parker:
Gerry Lafon:
  • Stretching (not recent, and I am not yet sold, but it has me thinking)
  • Turnouts (not sold on this either, but again, good to noodle)


One Thing At a Time

I recently got this question from Ward:  "I often wonder if I should do set-ins thinking about only one thing, say footwork 5x, then hips 5x, then hands 5x. Ultimately you have to put them all together, but I think you have to develop the muscle memory one step at a time. What do you think?"

Well, tying back to my post on multitasking, I would say that this is a great idea, though I would bump up the number of reps.  If you've come to my class more than twice, you've probably heard me say "You can [mess] everything else up, just get your feet right!"  I think Sensei Goltz's drills from his clinic have it right, too:  the first habits to build are footwork and body positioning.  I also like that he stresses that you shouldn't grip - in doing this, he avoids a pitfall of this approach:  namely, if you are focusing on building a good habit in one area, you may simultaneously be building bad habits in other areas that aren't receiving your focus.  So he just takes those out of the mix. 

So if you are having trouble with a drill, try focusing on the components, and see if that helps.  Heck, even if you are feeling pretty good about a drill, you should, from time to time, be mindful of how you are performing the different components.



Recap of Gary Goltz's Clinic

Sensei Gary Goltz paid us a visit on his whistle-stop tour of the East Coast .  His clinic started with a demonstration of some simple, effective drills to teach footwork and body positioning for throws to the uke's rear, focusing on the three main entries for rear throws.  He demonstrates the culmination here:

Note that he does not grip his uke's gi - the drill is aimed at focusing on footwork and body positioning.  One note on the O Soto portion - be cautious not to let your shoulders get behind your hips as you bring your leg up - it's a good way to end up on your butt.

He then demonstrated similar drills focusing on two main entries for forward throws.  The "regular entry":

And the "irregular" entry:

He then gave a simple and effective version of Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi - As a side note, I really like how he executes this Sasae, starting by destroying uke's posture and making him hop to stay alive...  I think I will start teaching it this way:

We then looked at how to combo into Sasae, using Osoto Gari as a lead-in:

Not coincidentally, this combination is reversible!  You can just as easily go Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi to Osoto Gari! 

Following that, if you didn't quite complete your Sasae, your opponent should be in a great position for O Guruma, Harai Goshi, or a number of other throws:

Finally, we did some randori, but with a twist:  At first, only the high rank could attack.  The lower rank was only to respond to the throw, by either a) avoiding it, b) countering it, or c) just taking the fall.  After a few minutes, the attacker and "responder" would change.  I really liked this flavor of randori, especially when you have some lower ranks on the mat, because it simplifies the action somewhat, and allows more focus on sub-components on randori (see my post on multitasking for more on why I would like this).

Just before bowing out, Sensei Goltz shared some great news with us:  our very own Leo Valdes (a.k.a. "KodokanJudo" for anyone who has been reading the comments on this blog) received his promotion to Yodan!  Big congratulations to Leo on that.  Definitely well-deserved.

In addition to Sensei Goltz, we also had Senseis Bernie Gill (Richmond, Godan) and Hamdi Hawash (Richmond/Egypt, Godan) who added another 100+ years of Judo experience to the mix.  In all, it was a great clinic that everyone, whether experienced or novice, could take away from and add to their own Judo.  Sensei Goltz's focus on the simple and effective provided drills and combinations that hammer home some core principles of Judo in a very easy-to-grasp manner.  We at Akari Judo really appreciate him taking the time to work with us, and will definitely be integrating his drills and techniques into our practice.

And congratulations again to Leo!


What I Want From a National Organization

In honor of our upcoming visit by USJA President Gary Goltz (7/16/11), I wanted to go ahead and get this post out that has been lingering in my brain since I started this blog, and I'll see what I can find out from Sensei Goltz about what the USJA does, and what on this list they may be willing to consider.

Let me preface this by saying that I don't honestly know what the USJA, the USJF, or USA Judo actually do... they may do some of this, all of it, or none of it (well, I am pretty sure that they all do at least some). 

What I Want (in no particular order):

  • Technology Resources:  Web site templates designed for a judo club, templates designed for tourney hosts (including the ability for participants to register and pay), easy online forms (like registration, promotion, etc), and probably some other stuff.  And of course, a decent web site - that doesn't advertise stamp collections.
  • Help for Fledgling Clubs:  Some sort of mat lend/lease program to help people get a few mats for practice (and I'd be willing to bet that there are plenty of established clubs that could donate some old mats to such a program - because how easy would it be for folks to start garage dojos at that point, which could then grow to be larger clubs), the aforementioned web site template, sample liability release forms, a "things to consider" checklist when you are starting up a club...
  • Help to Start Tournaments:  As before, some sort of matt lend/lease program, though this may not be feasible since the number of mats needed would be much greater, and the duration of the need much shorter.  But perhaps in some regions, a common pool of tourney mats could be purchased, and you would just need to pay a wear and tear fee to use them when you hosted a tourney.  Also the technology stuff mentioned before.  I'd want options for the rule applicable rule set/tourney format (as described here and here) to provide standards, but also allow flexibility and creativity to meet the goals of the tourney host and participants.  And, as with starting a club, tips on how to get started would be awfully helpful.
  • Setting (Flexible) Promotion Standards:  I don't think that all green belts should know exactly the same thing, but I do find it helpful to know what a standard green belt should look like.  Said differently, while I don't want an organization mandating a specific list of skills for each promotion, I do like having guidelines.  There is also a matter of quality control, particularly at higher ranks, but I am not clear on how to really achieve this.  After all, you can't really set objective criteria for what a 6th Dan should look like... at least, I don't think you can.  It starts to get esoteric after a certain point.  And you also have the clique effect that tends to over-promote some and under-promote others.  Read on for more on that point.
  • Term Limits for Any Positions of Influence:  I'm not a political insider - so I honestly don't know what the state of affairs is within the USJA or any other organization, so I'm certainly not pointing fingers.  But I do know that there is a tendency for cliques to form in any organization, and when the cliques form, you start to have an environment where the clique tends to look out for its own interests at the expense of those outside the clique.  When those cliques then get in positions of power within the organization, the effect is worse.  This could manifest itself in promotions being given more frequently to insiders, or in the suppression of any "rebels" who try to affect change.  Term limits would help prevent any cliques from becoming too entrenched.  That said, it may also be that there is a shortage of folks who actually want to serve in these positions, and if that's the case, then forget the term limit idea.
  • Insurance:  As far as I know, every organization provides this.  Not sure if they have pooled together yet, though, which could save us a few bucks...
  • Spreading Knowledge:  Having exposure to instructors other than your "regular" one is crucial, so having an opportunity to attend clinics and camps is huge.  The national organizations should subsidize clinics, at least to a point.  Maybe if remote club X can get at least Y attendees, then the national org will fly someone out there once every other year, or something like that.  I recognize that you can't do too much of this on a limited budget, so it's more of a nice-to-have.  I think the Kelley's Capers series is a great idea that kind of gets at what I am talking about.  And while I am talking about spreading knowledge, I want to give a quick shout-out to Chuck Wall in Fredericksburg.  He's been awesome about bringing people in from all over, and I just want to say that I really appreciate it.  I've either had my kids' birthday parties or injuries during the last couple of clinics, but I'll be back up there next time.  And a big thanks to Leo Valdes for setting up our upcoming visit by Gary Goltz.
What I Don't Want (again, in no particular order, and I'll be honest, many of these are directed at the USJA):
  • To have to fill out my life's history on a promotion form... I paid good money for *you* to record when I got promoted to Nikyu so that I wouldn't have to remember.
  • To have to pay $150 for a stinking promotion.  That's just silly.
  • A 30-page document detailing promotion requirements including such marvels as "Demonstrate Seiza."
  • Too much concern about international competition.  Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled to see our folks medal in the various world championships, and I realize that it takes support to get there.  But I think right now, given the state of Judo in the US, my membership dollar would be better spent on growing the judo population (by doing things like helping fledgling clubs) and improving the quality.  Having more and better competitors will naturally lead to better international competitors, I think.  And of course, when the IJF makes some arbitrary rule change, our national organizations shouldn't then go an ram that down our throats.
  • Maintaining a training center.  I think, back when I started in the 90's, the USJA had some training center in Colorado...  I'm sure it was cool, but I never could get out there.  Neither could probably 95% of the other members.  So don't take our money to pay for a training center that the vast majority will not use.  Maybe when we get our membership up to such levels that the national org has oodles of discretionary income, then we can build a "Kodokan of the US"  - but not until then.
  • Competing with other national orgs.  It is silly to me that there are 3 big national judo organizations.  And sillier still that they should sometimes be working at cross-purposes.  It seems that a lot of this is getting straightened out (now a USJF member can compete in a USJA tourney, for instance), but I suspect that there is still room to improve.  Just fold them all together.  Or at least fold in the JA and JF, if USA Judo has to be separate for Olympic reasons...
So those are the things I want, and some that I don't.  What did I miss?  And where did I miss the mark?  And are there any insiders out there who can shed light on what is already being done?


Upcoming Events! We're hosting the President!

Just wanted to give a quick heads up to anyone in the area that USJA President Gary Goltz will be at our club on July 16th.  I'm honestly not sure what he'll be showing us, but I'm sure it will be awesome.  No admission, and visitors are certainly welcome:  class starts at 9:00.  Be there!

Also, on August 20 at noon, Revolution BJJ will be hosting Tarek Monier (Judo Olympian) and Dennis Hayes
(Pedro Sauer BJJ Black Belt).  Admission is $45.  Contact Trey Martin at 804-657-7461 or email Andrew Smith at andrew@usgrappling.us to reserve your spot.

As a side note, I've been noodling a "What Do I Want From My National Organization" post for a while, so I guess I'd better get crackin'.  And hopefully I can get Sensei Goltz to sit down for an interview for the blog.


Book Review: The Canon of Judo by Kyuzo Mifune

An excellent, well-rounded book from one of the best of all time.  Four Stars (of Four).
The Canon of Judo: Classic Teachings on Principles and Techniques

I thought I would continue my book reviews with another of my favorites...

The Upshot:
This is a fantastic book by one of the great Judo masters of all time.  There is some real ninja magic in this book, and you can tell that in addition to being a great practitioner, he was also a great teacher.  Another cool thing is that the author was around from the beginning of Judo, and this was published in 1965, so there is lots of cool stuff in here that has been "lost" over time...  Definitely one of my favorite Judo books.

What's In It and How It's Organized:
This book covers standing and ground techniques, as well as defenses, counters, combos, and more.  The chapters are:

  • Intro:  A great section that has lots if Mifune's thoughts on the principles of Judo.
  • Basics (the actual chapter name is "Etiquette" but I think it's a misnomer):  bowing, posture, warm-ups, ukemi, kuzushi, randori and kata, and more.
  • Mifune's Gokyo ("Five Principles"):  Mifune describes the key throws of Judo.  Important to note is that his Gokyo is different than the "official" Gokyo.  Interesting.  Anyhoo, for each throw, there is a general description, step-by-step detail on how to execute it, along with (generally) high quality photos of the man himself in action, and then other notes on the technique, like points to consider, when to execute, etc.  The descriptions are pretty thorough and there are tons of really useful pointers.  This Mifune fellow must have had some teaching experience. 
  • Gatame Waza:  He doesn't spend a ton of time on hold-downs (~10 pages), but there is good detail and it is definitely worth reading, especially to see some of .  The descriptions here and in subsequent chapters are similar to those mentioned above.
  • Shime Waza: About 17 pages devoted to choking, plus a bonus of a poem?  Well, he's a 10th dan, so he can do what he wants, and you'll like it.
  • Counters/Defenses to Holds and Chokes:  Self-explanatory.
  • Kansetsu Waza:  Joint locks, including a couple of leg locks, as well as defenses/counters.
  • Miscellaneous Groundwork ("How to Enter a Mat Technique"):  Guard passes, rollovers, a few more escapes, how to make your victim's life worse, etc.  =:>
  • Counters ("Reverse Techniques"):  Counters to throwing techniques, and there is more Mifune magic in this section.  He covers a number of counters each to several throws.  The detail and photos are a little bit lighter here, but still fairly easy to follow.  He has a rather acrobatic counter to tomoe nage that probably isn't for everyone, but it's cool to see him do it!
  • Other Throws ("Reference Techniques"):  For throws he didn't cover in his gokyo.
  • Mifune's Counter Kata:  A three-set kata (hand, foot, and hip) that looks at countering throw attempts (e.g., uke attempts uki otoshi, tori does tai otoshi).  Interesting...
  • Early 20th Century First Aid ("Kappo"):  Good to have in the early 20th century, but with things like CPR, there have definitely been improvements made since then.
The Good:
This is a Mifune book.  It has a lot of unique flair from one of the great masters.  He seems to be doing his own thing, coming up with new names, and doing different types of techniques.  I wouldn't call it comprehensive, but extensive isn't a bad description.  To compare it to Daigo's "Throwing Techniques", Daigo's book is like a well-manicured yard, while "Canon" is a crazy garden.  "Throwing" is an office, while "Canon" is a magician's workshop.  Got it?  =:>  And a side note, this book, like "Throwing Techniques" was well-translated by Francoise White.

Could Have Been Better:
Some of the pictures will leave you scratching your head.  Other than that, I wish he would have gone on for another 224 pages.  There is so much good stuff, I didn't want it to end.

One Thing I Learned:
This book has lots of stuff that isn't "official" Judo per the Kodokan/IJF.  E.g., Ura Gatame, a kind of crucifix from the bottom... sort of?


Throwing Principles: The Angles (part 1 - The Feet!)

It's the feet, stupid!  And the toes...

We all talk about throws to the rear, throws to the side, etc., as general descriptions for what happens to uke in a throw.  But here's the ninja secret: it's not about which way uke is facing, and not really about where her bellybutton is pointing (assuming she has an outie).  The primary concern when determining the angle of your throw is the feet!

Let's say you want to do Osoto Gari.  Your uke is standing in normal posture with feet basically side by side, with face, bellybutton, and all 10 toes pointed forward.  It is clear:  You put your left foot beside her right foot (hey, look at that - three feet in a row!) and blast her to her back right corner.  BOOM! 

Question:  But what happens if she pivots 45 degrees on the balls of her feet?  Now, she's facing a different way...
Answer:  Doesn't matter!  Do the exact same thing!  Put your foot just where it was before (hey, look at that - we still have 3 feet in a row!) and blast her to her rear corner again!  Now, the angle that she gets thrown - in relation to the way her body was facing - will be much more to the side than to the rear, but in relation to the feet, it's just the same!  Wunderbar!

Question:  You want to do a right-sided seoi otoshi to your bad guy, who is facing you and is standing in a bit of a front stance, with his left forward.  How much do you need to pivot?  I'll make it multiple choice...

  1. ~180 degrees (so that your body is lined up the same way Uke is facing), because it's a forward throw!
  2. ~135 degrees (so that your body is lined up ~90 degrees to Uke's feet), because you've been reading this post!
  3. ~225 degrees (so that your body is lined up parallel with Uke's feet), because you like adding degrees of difficulty to ineffective throw attempts!
Answer:  Honestly, it was a trick question, because I didn't say where your feet were (even with Tori, it's about the feet!)  But let's assume that you were standing with your feet side by side, facing Uke.  I'm going with choice #2.

See?  It's all about the feet!  Here are a couple of foot-related points to help you out when executing your throw
  • Generally, you are going to have the easiest time off-balancing your opponent on the line perpendicular to their feet, and you'll have a harder time off-balancing them on the line parallel with their feet - though this isn't always true (e.g., if their feet are touching, or if their center is over one foot)
  • After accounting for this, you'll generally have an easier time off-balancing your opponent in a direction where their toes can't come in to play.  And the more toe-meat that they can bring in to play, the harder it will be.  So toward the heel is easier than the side, which is easier than the front.  And the pinky toe corner is easier than the big toe corner.  (As a side note, out of curiosity, I wondered if the different individual toes might have different medical names, other than "phalanges" which is the name for the whole set.  As far as I can tell, "pinky toe" is about as scientific as you get for that little guy, and other than "Big Toe", the other toes are screwed.  And I came across this post where a guy attempts to grant some names to the toes.  The names cracked me up.)
I like the idea of little mats that lay out footsteps (kind of like you may see in dance instruction?) to teach foot placement for throws, but use dots for uke's feet, instead of foot outlines, because you should be less concerned about the direction they are pointing.  The direction of Tori's feet definitely matters, though... But that is for another day.

Last side note:  Don't search Google Images for "foot" - you'll get a bunch of pictures of jacked up, nasty feet.  And nasty children.  And if you accidentally use Google Images for your "official name for the pinky toe" search, the first result is a picture of Dweezil Zappa.  Who knew?


Throwing Principles: The Glue

Your hands are just there to let your body do the work...

One of the things that you'll hear me talk about in class is "the glue."  The glue is that point where the bad guy's body (uke's body) gets stuck to your body.  And I am not just talking about where your two bodies touch each other...  if his body isn't "stuck" to your body, then you are probably messing something up.  Said differently, if your body slides along his body in a throw that requires "glue", then you are messing up somewhere.
In O Goshi, usually the bad guy's waist/hips gets stuck just above your butt.  For O Guruma, I teach to stick the middle of the bad guy's chest to the side of your ribs.  It takes the right grip, the right body placement, and the right (and persistent) pull.  In Seoi Nage, the glue is on your upper back - the higher the better, aiming for the back of the scapula... Maybe in-between the scapula and the spine.  Are you feeling most of the bad guy's contact just above your butt?  Well, you could be doing it better.

The purpose of creating the glue (which is achieved with the arms) is that you can then let the rest of your body do the real work.  Have you ever missed the leg in an Osoto Gari, but the guy fell anyway?  It might have been due to your excellent body contact (plus kuzushi), and when you threw your torso down, his had to go down, too.  If you can glue the bad guy just above your butt, you can O Goshi just about anybody, no matter how heavy they are.  The trick is in making sure that A) you have the right grip/hand placement, B) your hands are pulling/lifting in the right directions, C) you maintain your pull/lift, and D) that your body is at the right height/angle in relation to your uke.

Now, you don't need "glue" for all throws... Just about all of the otoshi's come to mind (perhaps with the exception of Osoto Otoshi), because you generally aren't supposed to have much body contact at all.  And there are others.  But a decent rule of thumb is that if you are supposed to pull your uke to you, and he is supposed to hit some part of your trunk, then there is probably supposed to be some glue there.  If you feel the bad guy sliding along your body as you start your execution, you haven't established your glue.  And once you recognize that your throw requires glue, knowing where it's supposed to be is a useful diagnostic.  As mentioned above with the Seoi Nage, if he is sticking to your hips instead of your upper back, you could improve your Seoi Nage...

So ask yourself, is he/she glued to me?  And to the right spot?


Book Review: Kodokan Judo Throwing Techniques, by Toshiro Daigo

This is the bible of throwing techniques.  Four Stars (of Four).
Kodokan Judo Throwing Techniques

I wanted to start posting reviews of the Judo books in my library in order to help guide anyone looking to add to their own library...  As a side note, in any of my posts, if you ever do want to buy the book, please use one of the links from my site, as I will get a kick back from Amazon.  =:>

The Upshot:
If you can only buy one Judo book, this is the one to buy.  A great reference that you will call on for decades.
What's In It and How It's Organized: 
This book, as the name suggests, is only about throwing techniques.  A bit of intro, then with a chapter for each class of nage waza (Te, Koshi, Ashi, Ma Sutemi, and Yoko Sutemi).  It covers each throw recognized by the Kodokan, and for each, it will give several different flavors.  Looking through the appendix, you may not see throws you would expect, like Te Guruma.  But remember that "officially", Te Guruma is a flavor of Sukui Nage.  Not sure why that matters, but that's another story.  Descriptions for each throw are very step by step, and there are clear pictures to demonstrate key points in each description.  The descriptions are clear, and easy to follow, especially with the accompanying photos.  And as a side note, it was excellently translated (evidently by a guy named Francoise - go figure).

The Good:
As I said above, this is the bible of throwing techniques.  If you can only get one Judo book, get this one.  It is an excellent reference, and is also a great tool for learning different approaches to a throw that is already in your repetoire.

Could Have Been Better:
I would have liked larger pictures, and maybe some mention of the "unofficial" throws (like the Georgian Pick-Up).  Oh, and just because I am a language nerd, an "official" translation of each technique name would have been nice...  And of course I would have loved another 300 pages to talk about groundwork, but I guess that wasn't really in scope (though I heard a rumor that it is in the works, also by Daigo).

One Thing I Learned:
Just one of the many nuggets:  I learned that Daki Wakare can be applied from a standing position.  And, I guess I should add that I learned a real way to do the throw from this book... I had only ever seen it in passing from instructors who had likely been shown the technique in passing from their instructors...