Throwing Principles: Shoulders Forward

Haven't been around in a while... Work and family have been keeping me away... And should be keeping me away right now, but I wanted to get something posted.  So here goes:

So, you've heeded my last post, and you are staying on the balls of your feet, but you still find yourself getting thrown backwards? Well... there's more: 

Another of the really basic throwing principles is that your shoulders should darn near always stay in front of your hips.  Said differently, you should almost never lean backwards.  The simple reason for this is that it is just too easy to be thrown to your rear once your shoulders are behind your hips.  Your body simply wasn't built to be in this position... There are a lot of normal activities that involve bending forward and standing back upright - even with a load -  but there aren't many that involve bending yourself backwards.

"Well, Chad... shouldn't I just stand up straight?"  If you aren't tethered to someone that wants to put you on your butt, standing perfectly upright is fine.  But there is someone nearby that wants to put you in the ground, if you stand up perfectly straight, then it will be too easy for the bad guy to make you lean backwards... and we've already covered what happens then.

Lastly, just to be clear, I'm not saying that you should bend 90 degrees at the waist.  A slight bend forward will do the trick.  If you bend too far forward, your opponent will be able to snap you down to the ground and face-drag you, or at least be able to keep you from standing up, taking away most of your attack options.

I most commonly see people bend backwards when setting in for a throw.  As they raise their leg for the osoto gari, as they get their grip for their ogoshi, or as they spin in for their ippon seoi nage...  Keep your eye out for these trouble spots, and you should have more success in your randori.


Groundwork Principles: Limit Your Scope

Control requires letting go...
***A quick note before I start:  This is not a fully-formed thought... I hope to start a discussion with this post, and I'll update the post occsasionally as warranted.  So please, if you think I got something wrong or missed something, let me know. ***

Control is a huge part of groundwork...  Gaining control over your opponent, and preventing them from getting control over you.  But too often, I see people try to exert absolute control over their opponents,  trying to prevent any part of them from moving an inch.  I can manage this pretty well against my 2 year old son, but not against another 170-pounder... 

Don't think about controlling "your opponent" - think about controlling parts of your opponent.  Sensei Virgil Bowles, may he rest in peace, used to demonstrate the two-finger hold down:  with his victim laying on his or her back, he would put one finger on the wrist of the victim's oustretched right arm, and another finger on  the victim's jaw bone, forcing them to face left.  This proved to be quite effective at keeping the bad guy down - and even more effective at illustrating his point:  If you control the right pieces, you don't need to control that much.
When you focus on one part, you can apply all of your weight/strength to that part.  Or maybe you can apply 70% to one part and 30% to another...  But the more parts you add, the less of yourself you can apply, and the easier it will be to overcome your control at each of the points...

What are some useful things to control?  Here are some thoughts:

  • Head Direction:  If you can make his head look one way, you can bet he won't twist the other way.  People tend to try to avoid twisting their heads off.  And you get to fight against relatively weak muscles.
  • *A* Shoulder:  Most of the time, its a waste to try to control both of them...  Focus on one.  Don't let it up (too far, anyhoo), and don't let them pull it away from you. 
  • The Hips - A Hip, maybe?:  Not as good as the shoulders, but a person can't turn over to their stomachs with their hips facing the ceiling...  Though I have seen some Gumby-esque kids who have come close.
  • A Floating Rib:  Maybe a half-rack?  My original thinking here was about controlling the side... but that's too generic, and too large of a target.  If you can focus on pinning the floating ribs down, that will make it hard to breath and difficult to turn away.  Turning in is still a risk, though.
  • The Neck:  Generally, you would use this to prevent the bad guy from rotating, or from sitting up.  But beware that wrapping your arm under the neck can trap your arm if bad guy presses his head down.
  • An Arm (Part):  The arm is too big of a part as well, but I didn't want to list all of them.  Trapping a wrist or controlling above the elbow (that is, on the humorous) are two good candidates.  Similar to how opponents like to keep their heads screwed on, they also like to keep their arms in socket.  A lot of arm control will be a part of shoulder control, though.
  • A Leg:  Legs are probably my least favorite.  They are big and strong, and can be a terrible waste of energy.  But there are times when the legs will ... present themselves as useful tools.  Similar to the arm:shoulder relationship, I think control of the legs (from a pinning perspective) should generally be aimed at controlling the hips.  For instance, if you can press the legs down and make the hips face one way, that will prevent the bad guy from turning the other way.  You just need to be extra-careful about them turning towards their legs.


Throwing Principles: The Balls

You'd be amazed at a man's strength when he stands on his own balls!

Balls of your feet, weirdos.

So here's another pretty basic throwing principle:  stay on the balls of your feet.  All the time.  Have you ever found yourself turning in for a throw only to find that you are off-balanced backward once you get there?  And am I guessing right when I say that your heels were on the ground, and your toes weren't touching the mat?  Well, there are several things you could do to correct it, but the easiest thing you can do is to make sure that you stay on the balls of your feet.  I'm not saying that you need to tippie-toe all day long, but if you can keep your heel one millimeter off the ground, you'll do all right.

So here is a brief run-down of the benefits of staying on your balls:

  • Balance: See above.  Basically, it's harder (but not impossible) to be off-balanced to your rear if you are on the balls of your feet.
  • Power:  If you are doing a throw that involves driving your body forwards, backwards, or to the side - or to any of the corners - then you can generate more power for that throw by driving off the balls of your feet.  I really can't think of many throws where flat feet are preferred, and can't think of any where you should be on your heels...
  • Mobility:  You will be more mobile on the balls of your feet - able to respond quicker and more nimbly to what is happening.  Partly because once you are put on your heels, your life gets much harder.  But there is more to it.
  • Height:  Ladies love tall men.  And for the ladies:  now you don't need those high-heels.  No real judo benefits on this one.  But don't forget those rockin' calves.
There it is.  And this applies not just to when you are throwing, but moving, as well.  Think...80/20 on your weight distribution as you tsugi ashi...