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?

btemplates

14 comments:

Patrick Parker said...

Here's you one to bend the old brainstem and keep it supple... Since our walking gait is cyclic... you can get ahead in tempo like you are talking about... by being a touch late!

I tend to try to get this him-then-me rhythm going, then bust him. If you look at it sorta like an army battle, I let you take the field first, then I deploy on your flank.

If I choose to allow you place you foot on the ground first, then I can place my next footfall such that your last one was not where you would have liked it.

Kinda weird, huh? I can get so behind that I'm ahead!

Patrick Parker said...

note, though... I'm not saying you're wrong. You still want to own the tempo of the engagement - but once you own it youre the boss and you can let him set up all his pieces before you set yours to knock his down.

Chad Morrison said...

I kind of see what you are saying... Ties well with the instruction of "step to the side when they step forward"... you'll be moving second (like black in a chess match) but you'll end up a move ahead...

Patrick Parker said...

if you and I are hooked together and both of us are taking a step... if you set your foot down your body keeps moving as you shift weight onto that foot. Since I am still moving I can use my body mass to amplify your weight shift.

_because_ i set my foot down after you did, I own the tempo and I get the kuzushi, which slows you down and makes me end up ahead

kodokanjudo said...

To me the tempo is how fast or how slow the match action is, like in slow, medium or fast. If you randori a bigger partner, you best keep the tempo fast to keep them out of their slower paced comfort zone. What you are describing in your topic to me is the rhythm, like shintai or tai-sabaki.

Patrick Parker said...

I see what youre saying ,but...

if you are the larger or slower opponent then you will not likely have an easy time getting ahead in the tempo if your opponent is faster and smaller than you. Also, when you hit someone with a kuzushi, they tend to slow down to a crawl and then take a moment to get back up to speed. So if tempo is just the sheer number of actions per time unit, then it will be variable and difficult for you to control.

but most everyone on earth takes one footstep at about the same speed, so if you define the tempo in terms of that clock-like rhythm of the feet, then you have something that you can mroe easily control and something that you can "get ahead of" by slightly following.

kodokanjudo said...

All points well taken.

The first time I heard tempo in judo was at a Phil Porter clinic in the late 80"s. He (I've never been fully sold on PP) lectured on what he called "tempo", as how fast or how slow the pace of the match should be according to your position in the tatami. He got this from a Geoff Gleeson book, I later found out. He had a grid of the tatami where at the center the tempo should be fast, near the corners the tempo should be slow and a medium tempo near the edges. It all had to do with the IJF's new rules on penalties if one was to step out of the marked lines on the the tatami.

Chad Morrison said...

@Pat: I started off wholeheartedly agreeing with your take, then less wholeheartedly, and now I think I am at about 3/4 heart. I was sort of coming at it from a different place; namely, because I "land" first I will have a better base from which to control the remainder of your movement, and from which I am prepared to launch a variety (or plethora) of attacks. In that vein, as the second mover, you will have more opportunity to keep adding energy into the system than the guy who is landing, but that guy will be in a better position to start a new action which screws up the second mover's base. Now, certain judo aiki ninja that I won't name are renowned for their ability to screw with their opponents' stepping, and doubtless, this Magnolia, MS-based nameless ninja can, as the follower, also find opportunities to thusly screw with his opponent, exploiting the unique dynamic in that situation... Actually... scratch that. I think it depends on your (self) control during the movement. If bad guy steps first, without having some control over you, then you are able to call your shots, as it were, for your step and blast the bad guy. If, however, the bad guy has good control over you (as good bad guys tend to do) and is moving you, then you are not in an inherently advantageous situation. That's where a big difference with aiki comes in - your bad guy rarely even gets locked up with you. Fair?

@Kodokan: I was using "tempo" here strictly in the chess sense, not meaning the pace of the actions of the match; rather, it is about getting one move ahead of your opponent. Like Pat said, people take single steps at about the same speed. Some will be meaningfully faster or slower, but most will be the same. So if you think about the "when I move, you move" dynamic that we often see in randori, nobody is at an inherent advantage, because their periods of instability and stability are darned near synchronized. But you can get the "tempo" when you can make your opponent cover more ground than you, or take two steps for your one, or...

Patrick Parker said...

I see what youre getting at, Chad. the mysterious art of making the opponent take 2 steps to your one is called kuzushi ;-)

kuzushi is not just directed force, it is directed force with a certain on-off quality and at a precise time (when opponent's foot hits).

you can do that effect with arm muscles or by shifting your whole body. If you do it with your whole body, you'll want to plant your foot after uke does.

if you get the kuzushi and wreck his ability to put out oomph, then he will not screw with the remainder of your step b'c he will not have better base.

Patrick Parker said...

For a while now I havent been able to subscribe to comment threads on this blog. dont know if it's your template or my reader or what. I've had to wander by every so often and re-read all of your blog to see if there are any new comments. On second thought - I'm sure that is a ploy by you to make folks read and re-read your material!

kodokanjudo said...

Chad, Mifune would make his uke rotate around him (debana and kuzushi) while he positioned himself (in the center) for the throw (tsukure and kake). It had to do with his judo theory of circular movements, much like planetary science.
Kenshiro Abe called it "kushindo" and there is a judo movement in England on this.

kodokanjudo said...

As far as chess... you've touched a very sensitive point for me.
I generally reffered to a judo match as "physical chess".

kodokanjudo said...

In judo, as in chess, one does not have to make a mistake in a match to loose.
In middle school, I was involved in a chess game that went on for nearly 200 moves and after never making a mistake, I had to resign.
Afterwards I played that same game in my head several times trying to figure if I had done something wrong. Eventually I realized my mistake: I had not made the most out of a couple of moves in the middle game. I then realized that every move that I make has to have more than one purpose or I would not be in tune with "Maximun efficiency". You see that judo is very much like chess.

kodokanjudo said...

Translating that experience to judo, I've been in matches where I did all I could do to win (no scores on either side) and lost by "hantei". They left me asking myself what I cound had done better to win those matches. More kuzushi? More activity? More attacks?. Then I realized that it was all in the eyes of the reffs.