Olympic Judo Media Coverage

Every four years, our beloved art gets a few minutes of media coverage.  Was it just the perfect storm that this year, most of the coverage was terrible?

So, if any of you have been on the look-out, you've seen lots more Judo coverage than normal in the American press - or, said differently, you've seen *some* coverage of Judo in the American press, which is lots more than normal...  What are the stories that you would have seen?

Wodjan Shaherkhani - A great story about the first Saudi woman to ever compete in the Olympics.  Of course, the assholes in the IJF being assholes, they didn't want to let a good story about judo get out.. they required some IOC arm-twisting before they would let her compete while wearing her Hijab.  This despite the fact that there are numerous tournaments in Asia which allow the Hijab to be worn.  Pricks.

Nick Delpopolo - Played well for team USA.  Seemed very relaxed.  And inexplicably hungry.  Because he ate a pot brownie.  Are you F*$king kidding me?  The OLYMPICS!  AND YOU EAT A POT BROWNIE?!?! 

Kayla Harrison - She won gold, steamrolled some world-class athletes, and was frigging awesome.  Of course pretty much every article that highlighted her win also highlighted the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her coach.  That piece of shit.

As a side note - Sheryl Swoopes - not a Judoka; rather, the former WNBA player - is the the definition of vapid, referring to sexual abuse as "things not going your way":  http://www.shape.com/blogs/london-2012-summer-olympics/kayla-harrisons-journey-ends-gold-medal  -  Again:  Are you F*$king kidding me?


Book Review: Juji Gatame Encyclopedia by Steve Scott

Steve Scott again shows his talent for naming books (and writing them) in this phenomenal work that includes more mentions of the word "crotch" than you're likely to find anywhere else.  Four Stars (out of Four)
Juji Gatame Encyclopedia

The Upshot:
As I mentioned in a previous post, this is what the Judo Masterclass books should be.  It contains a wealth of knowledge with a narrow focus. He categorizes different types of Juji Gatame (spinning, head roll, hip roll, back roll, and belly down/miscellaneous), and then looks at several variations of each. He also considers transitions/combinations, defenses, and tips on levering your opponent's arm. Additionally, lots of great drill ideas are provided. There are 422 pages in this tome, with plenty of pictures and helpful descriptions. This is a must-have book that is bound to show even the most experienced player one or two new entries (or one or two hundred), and will open players' minds to the world of possibilities in Juji Gatame.  I was about 10% of the way through this book when I felt that I had gotten my money's worth*, and things just got better from there.

What's In It, and How It's Organized:

  • Introduction
  • Drills
  • Core Skills: Examines some skills that are common to almost all Juji Gatame applications
  • Four Basic Entries:  Introduces the spinning Juji, the head roll Juji, the back roll Juji, and the hip roll Juji
  • Spinning Juji Gatame
  • Back roll Juji Gatame
  • Head roll Juji Gatame
  • Hip roll Juji Gatame
  • Traps and levers
  • Juji Gatame combinations
  • Transitions
  • Belly down and other miscellaneous Juji's
  • Defense and escapes
The Good:
First, the book provides a great framework for thinking about Juji Gatame. I have certainly seen several different entries for Juji Gatame, but I had never thought about classifying them.  This systematic approach is very useful to me, particularly as an instructor, as it gives me a nice basis for grouping techniques and teaching subtle differences.  As you may well guess from a book that is over 400 pages about a single move, it also provides numerous Juji Gatame entries I'd never even considered before - so that's obviously useful. I particularly appreciate the focus on levers – I guess I'm not alone in having trouble with this area of applying my Juji. And the chapter on drills, though brief for my taste, is a huge help.  As he also had in Winning on the Mat, there are history and language insights scattered throughout the book, and I really appreciate those additions - understanding the origin of a technique or concept can be invaluable to internalizing it.  And Scott also added some nice flavor by sprinkling in some great quotes... one that I particularly liked was "Sometimes you have to play for a long time to be able to play like yourself,"– Miles Davis.

Could Have Been Better:
The biggest complaint I have with this book is that while it shows a million variations, it often fails to provide a good explanation of why you should do that particular variation. That is, what is the opponent doing differently that makes you choose one version over the other? And a small matter of personal preference, but I like the pictures to be shown in a series together with the accompanying text grouped together, as in Kodakan Judo Throwing Techniques. Some of the picture sequences are disjointed, or the description doesn't match the picture, but this is pretty rare.

One Thing I Learned:
There were tons of new techniques in here that I had not thought about before – as well as improvements to techniques I already knew – but one that I liked in particular was the "Henges Hanger;" basically a way to choke your opponent while you wait to arm bar them. It's a bit lengthy to explain in detail without pictures, but the upshot is that you figure four the arm that you're trying to lever loose, and then use that to choke your opponent.

While you could certainly go your entire Judo career without ever applying Juji Gatame, that would be an absolute shame. And if you want to get better at Juji Gatame, then this book really is a must-have.  And let's hope that Sensei Scott continues to make more books like this.

* Full disclosure:  Mr. Scott actually provided the copy that I reviewed, so, when I mention getting my money's worth, I mean I felt like I had gotten enough value out of the book to warrant the purchase price.  =:>


Final Thoughts on the Olympics

  • Marti Malloy was phenomenal, but boy did she ever get screwed.  
    • She threw her Russian opponent twice for Ippons that would later be waved off.  And I have no idea how the first one turned in to a Yuko:  the center judge called Ippon, and the corner judge that was in view of the camera called a Waza Ari.  So, even if the other corner judge called no score (which would have been ridiculous), that should have come out to be a Waza Ari, minimum.  
    • Against her Hungarian opponent, I think the Hungarian went for full 4 min. and 50 seconds without making a throw attempt.  How she didn't get penalized is beyond me.
  • Shaherkani was able to become the first Saudi woman to ever compete in the Olympics.  The assholes in charge of the IJF tried to prevent her from competing with a hijab (head covering), but I suspect the IOC twisted their arms until they changed their mind. Here are some fun facts about Shaherkani: she's 16 and she's not a black belt.  That one kind of makes you wonder: issue one of the best female athletes said Saudi Arabia had to offer up, or were they trying to set something else up to show why they shouldn't send women into the Olympics? Anyhoo, she didn't win, but good for her for showing up.
  • Travis Stevens' semifinal match against Bischoff was ridiculous...  He got a small mouse right at the beginning, so they wrapped tape around his head a few times, partially obscuring his vision.  Then he got a scratch on the bridge of his nose, so they wrapped another piece of tape around his head a few more times, further obscuring his vision out of that left eye.  And now he looks like a mummy.  Later in the match, I think he got poked in his one good eye.
    • That match got testy (teste?), too.  I've never seen a ref demand that players shake hands in the middle of a match.
  • Of course, this wasn't the worst tape job of the day: Ugo Legrande had a strip going in between his nose and his lip. Ugo Legrand of France reacts to losing to Hussein Hafiz of Egypt in the men's -73kg Judo
  • American fans really showed up in this games.  There seem to a been a ton of fans there.
  • What's even better, the American team really showed up this year. Our first gold ever, a bronze, and two semifinal appearances. That's phenomenal.  A lot of respect is due to our athletes and to Coach Jimmy Pedro, Jr. for their great work over the last several years.
  • The Japanese, on the other hand, seem to be on the way down. Seven medals, with only one gold – and no golds for the men.  Of course, they had more medals than we had participants, but it's not good by their standards.
  • There were a ton of examples of bad refereeing in this Olympics, but the example that stands out most to me is this one:  Nakai of Japan was thrown for Waza Ari with only the bottom of his butt touching the mat, as he rolled over his opponent (his opponent precluding even a possibility that his back could have touched the mat).  What the hell?
  • I have grown to really hate the music that they play at the start and end of all the matches.
  • Was I just taught the wrong thing when I took my reffing class?  nine times out of 10 when there's a score change, the match is stopped and referees conference.  I thought that when there is a difference of opinion over the score, the procedure was supposed to go like this:
    • Corner judges were to signal their desired score from a seated position.
    • In the event that they both showed the same score, they would stand up to signal to the center referee that they agreed.
    • in the event that they disagreed, they would effectively average the score between their respective scores and the center ref's score, and then rise signalling that average (unless the average was the same as the center ref's original score).  
      • For example, the center ref signals an Ippon, and the two corner refs think it was a Waza Ari.  They signal Waza Ari and stand to let the center ref know that they agree.
      • The center ref signals an Ippon, one corner ref signals a Waza Ari, the other corner of signals a Yuko. The judges average their score to a Waza Ari, and stand to signal this to the ref.
      • The center ref signals a Waza Ari, one corner of signals an Ippon, and the other corner ref signals aYuko.  Since the average is a Waza Ari (the center ref's score), the corner judges drop their signals and do nothing else.
    • When the center ref sees that he's been overruled by the standing corner judges, he waves off his original score and signals the new score that the corner judges show.


Quick Thoughts on the Olympics, Thus Far (Round 3 - Kayla Harrison Edition!)

  • Finally!  Ne Waza!  Our girl Kayla Harrison rocked a nice Juji Gatame against her first round Russian opponent, and finished of her Brazilian semifinal opponent with a weird Juji Gatame from the bottom!  And I saw one of the 100kg men (Mongolia's Naidan, perhaps?) *actually pull his leg out of half-guard* to secure a pin!  Miracles!
  • Hungary's Abigel Joo evidently injured herself to the point where she was barely walking towards the end her quarterfinal loss against  the US's Kayla Harrison.  She toughed through it, and hobbled to the repechage round...  Evidently, she just needed to walk it off a bit, because she started moving better with about 30 seconds left, and pulled off a BEAUTIFUL cartwheeling Uchi Mata.  Phat.  
  • As a side note, I thought coach Pedro handled the situation well when Joo was injured.  Instead of saying "SHE'S HURT!  MOVE IN FOR THE KILL!", he simply yelled "LOOK AT HER!" to make sure that Harrison noted the situation.
  • Finally saw a split decision in the women's 78kg repechage.  And, in this one, everyone raised their flag at the same time.
  • Maybe it's just been my luck, but NBC seems to have fixed their randomly-timed commercial breaks during streaming
  • The German coach is doing alright for himself...  He carried Dimitri Peters off after winning the bronze, and Peters is one big Gerry...
  • Another thing that cracks me up is how athletes will look expectantly at a ref after throwing (instead of  locking down their opponent) - our own Kayla Harrison did it in the finals...   Does that mean that I shouldn't get so upset with our juniors when they do it?
  • Anybody else notice that Neil Adams (who had been announcing the contestants and the winners to the crowd) didn't have the mic to announce Harrison's victory?  Conspiracy!
Photo: Kayla Harrison has just become the first American to win Olympic gold in judo. Go Team USA and congrats to Kayla!
  • WAY TO EFFING GO KAYLA!  YOU WERE PHENOMENAL!  You won, and you won in style, really dominating your opponents and demonstrating some great Judo in the process!


Quick Thoughts on the Olympics, Thus Far (Round 2)

 More thoughts... I'm still behind, so I haven't gotten a chance to see the US win any medals yet, but here are some more comments on what I *have* seen.
  • From what I've watched, the Georgians seem to be doing the best Judo...  Lots of great attacks.  What do you guys think? 
  • Rosalba Forciniti of the Italian judo team. Photo / APAnybody know what happened to 52kg Italian bronze-medalist Forciniti's hand?  I don't think it was broken, but I've never seen a wrap like that in a Judo...   
  • Is it just me, or is it weird seeing the Cuban women's coach in a suit?  I'm used to seeing him engulfing a folding chair wearing his sweats.  Definitely an upgrade. 
  • Funny to see that even the best in the world screw up bowing in and bowing out.  Public Service Announcement:  You stand in front of the mark while you wait for the match to be awarded. 
  • The judges' decisions (when they raise their flags at the end to determine a winner) seem suspect.  I haven't yet seen one that isn't unanimous (which seems improbable), and there always seems to be a lag between the first and last flags are raised - as if a judge were waiting to see how the other judges ruled before raising his own flag...  Anyone else notice this? 
  • The refs made it up to Korea's Jun-Ho for screwing him the other day by selecting him as the winner of the bronze medal match against the Spaniard 

  • With the exception of 2 or 3 individuals, I haven't seen anyone even *try* to do groundwork, unless they accidentally had to.  Bah. 
  • Any Judoka/Statisticians (Ann Maria De Mars?), if you're out there:  In case you are running out of ways to fill your spare time, here's an analysis I'd love to see - What is the best predictor of judges' decision - is it just attack frequency?  Is there a recency bias?


A Judo Spectator's Guide - Just in Time for the Olympics!

So you've come across the Judo footage, but you're having a hard time following what's happening?  This is the place for you.

There are a ton of rules and nuances (largely inane) in Judo, so think of this as a high-level guide.  If you see something that doesn't fit with this guide, it probably has to do with one of those nuances.  I'm not a rules expert, but if you have a question, feel free to leave a comment and I will answer as best I can.

How do you score?
There are 4 ways to score in Judo:

  • You throw your opponent
  • You pin your opponent mostly on their back
  • You make your opponent submit (typically by tapping), due to either arm-bar, or strangulation
  • Your opponent accumulates penalties
And there are 3 levels of scoring:
  • Ippon:  Instant win - the ref will hold one arm straight over his head.  You get this for:
    1. Throwing your opponent with power and control, usually on their back
    2. Pinning your opponent largely on their back for 25 seconds
    3. Making your opponent submit, either due to arm-bar or choke
    4. Your opponent accumulating too many penalties, or getting a severe penalty
  • Waza Ari:  Get 2 of these, and you win - the ref will hold his arm straight out to the side.  You get a Waza Ari when the throw isn't quite as good, the pin is at least 20 seconds, or the opponent accumulates just 3 penalties.
  • Yuko:  Think of this as a tie-breaker point; no number of Yukos is as good as a single Waza Ari - the ref will hold his arm at a downward angle to the side.  The throws will typically land the opponent on their side instead of their back, the hold-downs are between 15-20 seconds, and only 2 penalties are needed for a Yuko.
And it's important to understand what isn't a score:
  • A throw that lands the opponent belly-down, on their butt, or their head, or anything other than their side or their back
  • A pin that doesn't last at least 15 seconds, or where the person being pinned has their legs wrapped around the opponent's body or leg (guard or half-guard)
  • You also get no credit for passing guard, taking their back, sweeping, or anything else on the ground that isn't a pin

How do you win?
  • Get an Ippon
  • Get 2 Waza Aris
  • Your opponent gets 4 minor or 1 severe penalty
  • You have a greater score than your opponent at the end of regulation time
  • Your opponent withdraws or can't continue
  • Get any score during the "golden score" period (see below)
  • The judges pick you as the winner if time runs out in the "golden score" period

What exactly is "Golden Score"?
"Golden Score" is basically overtime for Judo. If there is no winner at the end of regulation time (5 minutes for men, 4 for women), then it goes into a 3 minute sudden death, where any score for any reason wins.

Soooo... what's with the penalties?  - or, What's with those yellow squares?
There are way too many things that get you penalized in Judo.  I won't go over them here, but the most common two that you will see are going too long without attacking (the ref rolls his arms like a "travelling" gesture in basketball), or for making garbage attacks that are generally aimed at killing time or trying to get to the ground (the ref makes a downward tugging motion with his arms).
Whatever the penalty, the ref will stop the action, make some gesture (like one of the two mentioned above) at one of the contestants, and then point at that contestant.
  • When one contestant is penalized, the first one will be a warning (unless it's a severe penalty, in which case she'll just get thrown out), and you'll see a yellow box show up next to their name on-screen in NBC's coverage (actually, it'll be next to a white or blue box, which just denotes what color gi the contestant is wearing). 
  • The second penalty (two yellow boxes) awards a Yuko. 
  • Things get a little weird at the third penalty:  the Yuko is removed, and a Waza Ari is added to the opponent's score, and three yellow boxes are shown.  And if the opponent already had a Waza Ari, then the match is over (2 Waza Aris = win).
  • The fourth penalty removes the Waza Ari, and the contestant is disqualified.

How do you medal?  - or, What's with the two bronze medals?  - or, What the heck is "Repechage"?
Repechage is the French word for loser's bracket. Not really, but you can think of it that way. Basically, what happens is this: repechage begins with two matches consisting of the four losers from the quarterfinal round. The winners of each match will go on play a loser from one of the two semifinal matches. The two winners of these matches, then, are awarded a bronze medal and their day is done. The winners of the semifinals compete in the finals (of course): the winner gets gold and loser gets silver.

Hopefully this will be helpful.


Quick Thoughts on the Olympics, Thus Far (Round 1)

I haven't watched all of the divisions, but wanted to offer some commentary on what I have seen, so far:

  • Wow... the 60 kg Frenchman Milous was really given a gift against his Georgian opponent:  Down a yuko with 30 seconds left, he was thrown for no score with only his Frenchness preventing the Ippon (the Georgian was ROBBED).  With JUST 5 SECONDS on the board, Milous destroyed the guy with an ippon.
  • Neuso SigauqueSigauque (right) from Mozambique is 27, though this dude looks like a teenager.
  • Watching this stuff without Neil Adams doing the commentary just isn't the same... I just want someone to yell "ROIGHT THE WAY OVA!" or "HE SWITCHED IT!"
  • Also, the randomly-timed advertisements on NBC.com's streaming are ANNOYING.  Couldn't they find an intern somewhere to put in queues for commercials during the "Matte" times, or - better still - after matches?!?  Also annoying is the fact that it crashed my computer several times.
  • What's up with some folks not having their country abbreviation on the back of their gis?  I saw it with Mozambique, Cambodia, and one or two others...
  • Is it just me, or are there a TON of "golden score" rounds due to nobody scoring in the regular contest time?  I have watched a number of contests where the only score was due to a second penalty in overtime.  BOOOORIIIIING.  Glad to see that all of the rule changes have made the contest so spectator-friendly and encourage such great judo!
  • Good to see that there is plenty of bad refereeing in the Olympics, and that we don't monopolize it in our local tourneys
  • The best example of bad reffing was in the 66 kg mens bracket: Ebinuma of Japan (white) vs. Jun-Ho of S. Korea (blue).  It went into sudden death, and blue was making the best effort by far until white busted blue, and was awarded a Yuko.  The replay confirmed that it was a good call - but the match kept going.  In sudden death.  Even though white had scored.  Now... to be honest, I was keeping one eye on my kids, so I am sure that I missed the part where he waived off the score, but it was very disjointed.  Anyhoo, skipping ahead to the end, time runs out, and it goes to ref decision.  All three judges raise their flags for blue (S. Korea) - and then the Japanese coach goes nuts, everyone stands there for a few minutes, and then the refs pretend like nothing had happened, and raise their flags for white.  Huh?  I found this article that explained that it was "overturned by a reviewing commission."  Huh?  Terrible.


How to Watch Olympic Judo

The Olympics are here, and that means it's JUDO TIME!

There is good news and bad news when it comes to watching the Olympics - but mostly just good news:
  • Good news:  nbc.com is covering all Judo events!
  • Bad news: the live coverage begins at around 4:30 AM, Eastern!
  • Good news:  many cable subscribers will be able to watch replays online at any time!
  • Good news:  Evidently, NBC will let you watch it 48 hours after the event if you don't have the right cable subscription!
Well, anyways, if you want to watch, here's what you do:
  1. To make sure you are eligible, go here, and click one of the "Watch Replay" buttons.  Doesn't matter which one - you don't need to actually watch anything...
  2. It will ask you to log in to your cable provider's online service.  Do that (and if you don't have a login, set one up).
  3. It will then tell you if you are eligible to watch... unfortunately for me, I'm not!  So... I'm not advocating that anyone who isn't eligible should hit up their friends for *their* cable provider login info, because that would be immoral.
  4. If you *are* eligible, starting on Saturday, July 28, you can go here for the Judo events.  You can certainly watch them live if you want, but I'll be watching later.  That's it!
There are probably other ways to watch, as well - for instance, there is an NBC iPad app out there that you can use (though I suspect you still need the right cable subscription).  If you know of alternatives, please leave a comment (I may need the help!).

Also, the NBC site has several decent articles covering Olympic Judo.  Just head to this page.

And thanks to Ward for the video link.


Hajime to Matte Model: Throw!

Well... not much to say about this one.  You've moved, you've gripped, and you've moved them again to create the opportunity for the throw.  So... throw them!

Following the "Hajime to Matte" model that we've been covering, we are now on the part where you throw!  So... throw.  I've written a good deal about throwing tips, and I don't have anything off-hand to add, so... just read these old "Throwing Principles" posts:

  • Keep Your Hands in Front:  The closer your hands are to being straight in front of you, the stronger they are, and you lose a lot of power if they get behind your shoulder.
  • Enter Your Throw Low:  For most throws, particularly forward throws, you want to bend your knees before entering.
  • Shoulders Forward:  Keep your shoulders slightly in front of your hips almost all the time... this will keep you from being thrown backwards.
  • Balls of Your Feet:  Stay on the balls of your feet for better mobility.  If you get caught on your heels, you can be thrown backwards easily.
  • Tsugi Ashi:  Use the following foot walking and avoid wide stances.  You'll be more nimble and less likely to get swept.
  • Get the "Tempo":  This actually has more to do with "Move before you throw"... You can move in such a way that you actually get a "free move" to throw your opponent.
  • Foot Angles:  Uke's feet determine the direction(s) in which they are most easily off-balanced.
  • The Glue:  When throwing, don't let Uke's body slide against yours - stick him to you so that when you move, he moves, too!


Drilling à la Jimmy Pedro - or, How to Add Resistance

Jimmy Pedro drills well.  Jimmy Pedro won the World Championships.  Most people don't drill well.  Most people haven't won world championships.

Jimmy Pedro, Jr. was the head instructor at the Greatest Camp a few years ago, and he taught a guard passing drill that went something like this:

  1. Split their guard (basically, give them half-butterfly - assume that their right shin is in your thigh)
  2. Clamp their left leg with your arm, put your head to the outside of the left hip, and hug their right hip
  3. Walk around to their right side, and extend your legs back, making them do the splits
  4. Shift up their body (towards their head) and grab under their head, while maintaining forward pressure with your right arm on their leg
  5. When they can't split any further, draw a circle in the air with your right foot, and this should free it
  6. Yoko Shiho Gatame!
The pass itself was nifty - I've used it several times since (though I need to drill it more often).  But it was how he taught the drill that made the real impression on me:

He identified common failure points, he instructed the Uke on specific ways to take advantage of those failures, and told Uke to try catch Tori at those points during the drill.

This is huge...Rather than just saying "add resistance", he gave specific instructions on when and how to resist.  If you have been doing Judo for at least a week, you have probably run into a guy who, when he hears "now add some resistance" or "go 50%" seems to understand that it is now his job to "win" the drill (*cough*Jesse*cough*).  While this doesn't cure that, it certainly helps localize the infection, so to speak, and gives Tori a much more manageable situation.  It also helps Uke recognize the flaws in the technique, and gives him or her the the tools to exploit them. 

For the curious, the 2 failure points that Pedro emphasized were:
  1. Inadequate clamp on the leg. Uke was to bring that leg into play in trapping Tori's leg if able.
  2. Grabbing for the head before moving up the body. Uke was to apply Ude Gatame if Tori allowed it.
I knew at the time that I really liked how Jimmy taught his drills, but it wasn't until this week (several years later) that I realized why I like it so much...  Having now given it some thought, though, though, I'm definitely going to use this approach to adding resistance in my drills more often.

Jimmy's dad, Jimmy Pedro, Sr., is a big part of the reason for Jimmy, Jr.'s success, and he likely informed the way that Jimmy, Jr. drills.  This is one of the reasons I'm excited about the book that he and former world champ Dr. Ann Maria de Mars have recently completed, to be called "Winning on the Ground."  My guess is that it will have a bunch of drills like this - TBD if they will focus on the failure points and how to exploit them, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Note:  While I was looking for an image for this post, I came across a more detailed walkthrough on the Judo Info site.


Hajime to Matte Model: Another Quick Thought on 'Move Before You Grip"

There's a benefit to just keeping yourself moving.

For the background on this post, see this.

You've probably heard the expression "Stay on your toes."  It basically means you need to be ready to react to the unexpected.

And how about "He was caught flat-footed"?  That one suggests, basically, that something bad happened because someone wasn't ready to react - because they weren't "on their toes," in other words.

That's part of the benefit of "Move Before You Grip" - it isn't just about closing distance or relative positioning - it's about keeping you nimble and ready to respond/react, ready to move.  Just about every sport has discovered that a) staying on the balls of your feet, and b) continually moving makes  you able to react a bit quicker than if you are flat-footed:

  • Watch a pro tennis player waiting for a serve.  They don't just stand there - they bounce around or at least look like they have happy feet.
  • Watch the soccer goalie while he's waiting for the penalty kick.  Same thing.
  • Go to a football practice, and listen to the coach when his running back runs in to a pile of bad guys - "KEEP YOUR FEET MOVING!"  The RB will be better able to keep his feet under him and able to respond if he keeps those bad boys moving.  And while you're there, watch a linebacker before the snap.  Moving those feet.
  • Etc., etc.
The trap we all fall into in pretty much every case where we should be moving our feet in anticipation is that it isn't natural or efficient (which, btw, is why it isn't natural) - so we instinctively resist that.  It takes conscious effort for a long time to build the habit.  So what you see in Judo is that the opponents may move a good bit before they engage, but once that happens, flat feet, and a bunch of reaching.  Try to recognize when this happens and see if you can keep moving, and if this helps your Judo at all...

All that said, in Judo, you don't want to place too much importance on this - though it is worth a thought.  We also have to be alert that we don't move stupidly.  We can't be remaking a scene from Flashdance while we attempt to grab our opponent.Skip to 1:57 to see what I'm talking about.  Or watch the whole thing and just take in the majesty.


Hajime to Matte Model: Move Before You Throw

In Randori and Shiai, people often either overlook Kuzushi, or simply can't create it.  "Move before you throw" can help.

I've been writing about Nick Lowe's Hajime to Matte model.  Thus far, we've moved before the grip, and we've gripped.  Pretty simple.  Now it's time to move before we throw.

"Move before you throw" is not about simply moving yourself as you turn in for a throw (Tsukuri), it is aimed primarily at moving uke to create Kuzushi.  Too often, people want to jump right into their throw as soon as they get a good grip, when often, that good grip isn't enough.  You set in, and your opponent is then able to off-balance you because he was stable and ready.  Has that ever happened to you?  It's happened to me.  A lot.  As I thought about this model, I think this is one of my biggest weaknesses in Randori.  But the good news is that I think I know how to fix it.

You have to get your opponent set up to be thrown.  Broken balance, compromised posture, uncontrolled movement... these are the sorts of things you usually need to achieve in your opponent to throw her.  We all know this, of course.  The problem is that it's a helluvalot harder to get that off-balance when the bad guy doesn't willingly stand on her tippytoes for us.  Our arms often aren't strong enough to get those simple off-balances.  Well, if our arms aren't strong enough...  maybe we can use the rest of our body.

Quick physics reminder: Force = mass * acceleration.  When you use your arms as a tether for your body weight, you are now able to apply a lot more force to your opponent, because of the additional mass that is coming in to play.  And the other part of the equation - acceleration?  That's where you have to *move* that body.  So now that you are moving that mass of your body, you are applying a much greater force to your opponent - and that great force tends to be much more disruptive than just using your arms would be.  Once you achieve that disruption, however, you can use your arms (which you can move much more quickly than your entire body) to capitalize - reinforcing the initial disruption, exaggerating their recovery, etc...  And, boom!  Kuzushi!

So what are the to-do's in "move before you throw"?  There are many similarities to "move before you grip," but things do get different when you are connected.  Here are some additional keys to consider:

  • Don't abandon your own balance or posture - Sounds like a gimme, but we've all seen it and done it
  • Use your body, then your hands - What I wrote about above
  • Keep your hands in front - See this post for more on that
  • (Optional) Use the "quick launch" foot techniques - See this for more, but the short version is that you can use low-risk, small-movement attacks to mess with their feet, and that can make them easier to move


Hajime to Matte Model: Grip! (Part 2: Other stuff about Gripping)

Your opponent comes along, you must grip it.  Before the ref can count too long, you must grip it. -- I can do this all day.  And I hope at least some of my readers have heard of Devo.

Continuing my series on the Hajime to Matte model from Sensei Nick Lowe.  To read the other stuff I've written about this, click this.  The short version is that when you hear "Hajime," a cycle starts - a series of phases is kicked off, and you want to "win" every phase.  In this post, we're talking about the "Grip" phase, so let's give some thought to how to win this gripping phase.

You have been moving to get your grip, and now it's time to actually lay hands on... What exactly are you trying to accomplish? The ideal is:

  1. You get a dominating grip
  2. Your opponent gets no useful grip whatsoever

Obviously, you can fall short of the ideal and still come out of things okay, but you want to think about your objectives in these terms. You get the best *and* they get nothing. Got it? Great. Now... what was this "dominating grip" we were talking about? If you can do any or all of the following, you may have a dominating grip:
  • At its most basic - you can competently attack them
  • You can move them
  • You can control their posture
  • (Maybe) You can prevent you opponent from competently attacking
Armed with this understanding of what you are going for, how do you now go about obtaining this dominating grip?
  • World-class athletes swear that you should never reach with your Tsurite (your power hand) first.  Always make first contact using your pulling hand (Hikite).
  • World-class athletes (different ones) swear that you should usually reach with your Tsurite first.
  • Ergo, I don't think it matters which one you reach with first; really, variation in your approach to gripping is the key.  You have to mix up which hand you are using, what your targets are, what angles you are taking, etc., all in relentless pursuit of your grip.
  • Get them to react:  hand feints and messing with their feet are good tools for this.
  • Speed helps, and it's not just a matter of getting your hands there quickly - you also have to be able to secure that grip quickly.
  • Loosen their gi for them (e.g., swat their lapel open) if that fits into your plans.
  • Use anything you can get hold of as a handle, and use that handle to move your opponent (or at least parts of your opponent) to improve your grip.
  • Use throw attempts to set up bettter grips.
And how do you deal with their grip?   There are basically 3 strategies, in descending order of preference:
  • Don't let them get their grip:
    • Catch it
    • Parry it
    • Beat them to the punch - throw them before they grip you
  • Strip their grip
  • Disable their grip:  You adjust your grip to neutralize theirs, e.g., they have a powerful overhand grip, you put your fist in their armpit, or they have a strong inside lapel grip, you regrip to the inside
All of this is easier said than done, so you need to drill your gripping situations.  There are a million good drills you can use.  And don't wait for "the dominating grip" to throw your opponent... throw them as soon as you see an opportunity.  And one tip - there's no such thing as a dominating grip for the little guy when there is a gross mismatch in size and strength - you may want to really pay attention to not letting them get their grip, and launching your attacks as you are able.


Quick Thoughts on the "Judo Masterclass" Series

Not a complete waste of money, but I always feel like I got ripped off...

If you've ever looked for Judo books, you've probably seen the "Judo Masterclass Techniques" series by Ippon Books (the same folks who do all of the "Fighting Films" Judo videos).  These books are small (a bit bigger than a folded sheet of paper) and reasonably thin (generally right at 100 pages), so they generally come out looking like very large pamphlets.

They're also very expensive.  For us in the US, we have to pay $20-$25 per pamphlet book.  Now, if a book serves as a great reference and the 100 pages are chock-full of good information, I think that's $25 well-spent...  These books, though... I always feel like I got ripped off.  When I think of a "Masterclass," I think of something geared towards those who already have a good command of the basics.  The Masterclass books invariably spend a lot of real estate on the basics, so you end up getting prescious little "master" material.  And this would be fine if it were a $7 book.  But it isn't.

I was thinking about this as I was reading Steve Scott's newest book, The Juji Gatame Encyclopedia.  It's 400+ pages all on what boils down to a single technique.  I'll be reviewing it when I'm done reading, but I hadn't gotten too far into it when I thought a great line for this book would be, "Like a Masterclass book, but not a ripoff!"  (Mr. Scott:  You can use that slogan for free!).  400+ pages, a bajillion detailed variations, defenses, problem areas...  I'm loving it so far.  This is what the Masterclass books should be.

But they aren't.


Hajime to Matte Model: Grip! (Part 1: Labeling the Parts)

You've moved forward.  You've gone ahead.  NOW GRIP IT!  GRIP IT GOOD!

I've been expounding on the Hajime to Matte model that Sensei Nick Lowe teaches (see here for the overview).  We've covered "move before you grip"), so the logical next step?  GRIP!

So before I get in to this, let me first give the disclaimer that I am probably the least qualified person to write about gripping.  Well, that's probably over-doing it... my 2 year old's Kumi Kata is terrible, *and* he doesn't know how to write.  But after him - me.

Before we get to the meat of the subject, I'd like to quickly cover the components of a grip.  In most situations, you will lay two hands on your opponent.  Lucky us!  There are Japanese names for these hands!
  • Hikite:  The pulling hand.  With a typical righty grip (right hand on their left lapel, left hand on their right sleeve), in a typical righty throw*, your Hikite is your sleeve hand.  It has the following functions:
    • Pulling for the initial Kuzushi (off-balance), as well as during the throw
    • Controlling the opponent's outside arm during a throw to prevent them from posting it
    • Controlling the opponent's "power hand" in Ai Yotsu (righty vs. righty, or lefty vs. lefty) situations*
  • Tsurite:  The lifting hand, or the "power hand".  In the typical righty grip in a righty throw*, the Tsurite is the lapel hand.  It's job is:
    • Moving the opponent's torso to break balance
    • Controlling the opponent's body during the throw (your power hand creates most of the "glue," and you need good Tsurite control to ensure your opponent lands on her back for the Ippon)
* It's important to note (well, not really that important in the grand scheme of things, but bear with me) that the throw determines which hand is the Hikite and which is the Tsurite.  That means, strictly speaking, I don't think that you even have a "Hikite" in a defensive situation, and that your Hikite and Tsurite can switch, without you ever changing your grip.  Take, for example, these throws from when you have the typical righty grip:
  • Right-sided Tsurikomi Goshi:  You turn to your left.  Your Hikite is your left hand (sleeve grip), your Tsurite is your right hand (lapel grip), as usual.
  • Left-sided Sode Tsurikomi Goshi:  You turn to your right (opposite of what is pictured).  This time, your "pulling hand" is the right hand on your opponent's lapel, and the sleeve hand becomes the Tsurite!
This framework is useful in two ways, IMO:
  1. You can now think about what roles your hand should be playing (though don't let this limit you - just remember that both hands should be doing *something*)
  2. We can now speak the same language when talking about gripping
Tune in next time for more ramblings on gripping!


Hajime to Matte Model: Move Before the Grip

If you have to be a target, be a moving target...

In a recent post, I mentioned the "Hajime to Matte" model that Sensei Nick Lowe shared with us at the camp.  If you go to Akari Judo, we're going to be spending the month of July working on this Hajime to Matte model, so I wanted to devote some posts to my thoughts on each phase.

The first phase of this model is "Move before you grip."  The basic idea is that once you hear "Hajime" (Japanese for "begin") you need to move to get the right position - position relative to your opponent, and position relative to the mat area - to set yourself up for success in the next phase:  the grip.

So what are those aspects that you need to consider when thinking about moving before the grip?  Well, first you'll want to think about how to move, to be sure that you are moving the right way - that is, in a way that will keep you mobile and won't set you up to be thrown.  Then, you'll need to think about where to go - and that will be determined by where your opponent is and what part of the mat you want to be near (e.g., a corner, a sideline, the middle, etc.).

How to Move:
  • The Balls of Your Feet:  I've talked about the importance of the balls before!  I focused mostly on throwing, there, but you should be staying on the balls of your feet even before you touch your opponent.  The same reasons apply:  balance, power, and mobility are all improved if you are on the balls of your feet vs. flat footed (or worse, on your heels!).
  • Keep Your Feet Apart...:  If your feet touch, your weight is supported with a very narrow base.  That narrow base will decrease your upper body mobility, and make you suceptible to a pre-grip throw!  That's embarassing.
  • ... But Not Far Apart:  My students have heard me yell "Too wide!  Too wide!" thousands of times.  If your feet are too far apart, then you are very sweepable, and not that mobile.  I'll catch someone with a pre-grip Deashi at least once per month because people are taking big steps towards me, and they can't recover.  So no long steps, no wide stances.
  • Tsugi Ashi:  Tsugi Ashi (following foot) is a style of walking that involves doing all of the stuff I mentioned above, and walking by first sliding the foot that is closest to the direction you want to move, then sliding the trailing foot into place.  For instance, if you are standing with your right foot forward, and you want to move backwards, you would first slide your left foot further back (because it is the closest to the direction you want to move), and then slide your right foot back.  Read this post to find out more about the benefits of Tsugi Ashi.
  • Hands Up!:  Keeping your hands up won't change much about how you move, but it will keep you ready to grip and defend while you move.  Remember, you are moving to get a grip, and having your hands up (in front of your shoulders, let's say) will help with that.
  • Pace Yourself:  Depending on where you want to go (and many other factors), you may want to move at a faster or slower pace.  There are situation-specific advantages and disadvantages to both... Just give it a thought.
OK... You know how to move.  But where should you go?  Well...  That depends on a number of things:
  • Your Grip:  You can try to position yourself at the right angle to take your grip.  Also, if you assume that your opponent will be moving in reaction to your movement, you can use this reaction to help set up your grip. 
  • His Grip:  Are you playing someone that will nail you if he gets his right hand on your back?  Then keep your back away from his right hand!
  • Your Throw:  You'll still probably want to move again after you grip, but you should be thinking about your throw from the get go.  Do you need lots room to your left side to execute?  Then you probably don't want to have a sideline to your left.  Do you need uke to be reaching forwards?  Maybe you should back away a bit. 
  • His Throw:  Same points as above, just this time, if he needs room to his left, you may want to pin his left side to the line.
  • Penalties:  Is he a sucker for stepping out of bounds?  Then get him over that line!  It may not be beautiful Judo, but it is a way to win.  And reverse applies if he is great at making others step out...  Stay away from that line!
  • Time:  As time starts to wind down, the player who is ahead starts to get a little wild, and sometimes unpredictable.  If you're ahead, you want to avoid getting boxed in or taking any penalties, so you may want to stay near the center.  And if you are behind?  You get the idea... 
OK... that should cover the basics...  What did I miss?


Greatest Judo Training Camp on Earth Recap

So now that it's over... what do I really remember?

Ok... my last post that is just about my camp experience... How would I sum things up?  Well, let me first look at the instructors:

  • Nick Lowe:  His lessons/demonstrations were very clear and uncomplicated.  Taught at a level that a beginner could easily follow along, his lessons were nonetheless valuable to experienced players and instructors...  One of the things I noticed is that he never does the "1-2-3 Judo" - it is always a dynamic approach.  Accordingly, he teaches in a manner that I would expect to build randori/shiai skill very quickly.  He's also a very engaging, very motivational guy.  And it's funny every time a large, highly trained Judoka says the word "tummy" in an English accent.
  • Shenjiro Sasaki: As I mentioned before, he was the most explosive Judoka I have ever seen.  His lessons were very technical, and more advanced than most, not teaching to the lowest common denominator.  Almost none of what he taught can be found in any book I own (and I own a bunch). I think the coolest thing with Sasaki was that he demonstrated creativity, artistry and a real mastery of Judo - he has really made it his own, and it is neat to see the potential of our art in guys like him.  My favorite saying of his?  "Thatsu ma trap!"
  • Igor Yakimov:  In addition to being a cool guy, Igor is a great instructor.  And he brings a very different style of Judo than the others resulting from his roots in the Russian system.  I'm not sure why, but his techniques always seem to stick with me more than others, and I have more success with them... Lord knows I'm not built like Igor, but his stuff is still very relevant to me.  Maybe it's because I have historically had a difficult time with grip fighting, and his grips are so unorthodox here that most haven't developed great defenses for them?  Idunno.  Favorite Igorism?  Hmmm...  too many to choose from, but "Just straaaight his arm, guys!" is up there... 
  • Stan Wentz:  Stan's lessons focused on simple (though not readily apparent) solutions to common problems.  "You're in their half-guard?  Flop over, and you win!"  "They have a strong collar grip?  Grab their back, move their elbow, and you win!"  And damned if I didn't pull those both off in Randori!  I was amazed.  And, as I mentioned before, he's a wizard with grips.  While Stan doesn't have a cool accent like the other guys (he's from boring old Texas), I do have a favorite expression of his:  "They're going to pull my Lefty Card for teaching you guys this one..."
Aside from the instructors, there are lots of other things that I really appreciate about the camp:
  • It takes away your excuses.  Going to the camp, I see plenty of younger guys with greater skill and understanding of the art, and I see older guys who are in better shape...  So there's really no excuse for me not to be in better shape, and I need to keep developing if I want to be of any use as an instructor...
  • I can just be a student: I enjoy teaching - that's why I do it.  But I really do enjoy the opportunity to just be a student.  To practice and learn and have fun.  And that's pretty much all I did for the three days of the camp.
  • I really learned some stuff.  There's a difference between being taught something and learning it.  Any jackass can show up to a class and be taught something, but to learn it, you have to internalize it, and - in the case of Judo - have some ability to execute.  While I certainly didn't "learn" everything that was taught, I did find myself nailing several of the techniques they showed us.  For instance, I probably got Shenjiro's Sasae -> Osoto Gari combo about 8 times in the final Randori.  I hit his Sode Guruma Jime, too, and Stan's "flop over" arm bar from the half guard... and a couple of others.  I'm proud of that.
  • You get to meet and work with some cool folks.  There are tons of folks there, so you can find someone of the skill level and size of your choice.  And pretty much everybody you meet is a cool person to hang out with - and the CAJA folks set the camp up so that you get ample opportunity to hang out at dinner or drinks afterward.  The camaraderie is one of the things that I really love about Judo.
So... once again, I want to give a big shout out to the CAJA folks.  The camp was a great use of my time and money.  Other than the surreal experience of doing Judo while a Christian Rock band practiced - loudly - in the same room, I had no complaints.  The CAJA folks work hard to keep costs down and to bring in great talent.  Thanks again, guys!  And thanks to the instructors -  you guys were great, as well.


Letters from Camp, Day 3

Hello mother, hello father / Greetings from camp, in North Carolina

Day three of three at the Greatest Judo Training Camp on Earth.  It's been tough on the body, but totally worth it.  Here's a brief recap:

  • Nick Lowe started the day with what he called his "Hajime to Matte" framework...  There is more to it, and I'll probably devote another post just to this, because it really is a useful way to think about randori, shiai, etc., but the short version is this:  Once you hear "Hajime!", there are up to 6 phases (and you want to win all 6, every time) before you hear "Matte!":
    1. Move before the grip
    2. Grip
    3. Move before the throw (create Kuzushi/Tsukuri)
    4. Throw (Kake)
    5. Transition
    6. Ne Waza
  • Shenjiro Sasaki then showed us more of his wizardry with a Jujijime defense that can lead to a nice Juji Gatame.  He then showed a turtle rollover that can lead to Sode Guruma Jime, and another that leads to a particularly uncomfortable turnover.  Then we moved to standing techniques, looking at a Kouchi Makikomi (like you've probably not seen), then a Tsurikomi Goshi (off of a more tradition Kouchi setup), then an arm bar and a choke from standing, and finally a spinning entry to Harai/Tai Otoshi/Uchi Mata (and it can work for several others).
  • Hap Wheeler ran us through some nice groundwork drills, focusing on three key aspects of groundwork:
    1. Transition - Getting from standing up to Ne Waza; we did a drill where tori would attempt a throw, uke went to ground (either having been thrown or having turned out), and then newaza randori from there.
    2. Recognition - We did a "freeze" drill where the action was stopped to allow a contestant to identify a particular type of opportunity (e.g., an arm bar).
    3. Speed of Execution - We did a drill to maximize the number of repetitions within a given amount of time.  The drill was set up to allow a quick transition from one partner to the other.
  • Igor Yakimov then showed a nice gripping sequence involving cross-gripping the lapel and "crunching" your opponent's arm, and several throws and subsequent grips from there.  As always, stuff I can use.
  • Nick Lowe then came back to end the camp by trying to kill everyone.  =:>  Amongst other intensive drills, we ended the day with 20 minutes of intense randori...  Okay, it wasn't that bad.  Thankfully, I drive a pickup, so I was able to air out my gi on the way back home to Richmond.
So that was the end of camp...  As I mentioned before, I'll post videos sooner or later (probably later, as it isn't going to be one of my top priorities) to fill in details on all of this stuff.  And I intend to write up another post with my "key take-aways" from the camp...  The main stuf that hit me.

Till next time...


    Letters From Camp, Day 2

    This one time... at Judo Camp...

    Day 2 at the Greatest Judo Training Camp on Earth.  Here's a quick run-down:

    Want more detail?  Fine...

    • Shenjiro Sasaki:  He started the day with his favorite techniques, primarly some CRAZY versions of Seoi.  I'll put it to you this way - it's only a seoi if someone makes you name it.  You throw uke backwards.  It's cool.  He then focused on some great combinations.  Starting with an Osoto from an extreme side stance (cleverly using your hand to lever up uke's head), he then showed an Osoto to Sasai combo, using a little feint hop-step.  A nice Sasai-to-Osoto combo then followed, with another crazy Seoi to combo if the Osoto from the last combo is defended.  I have videos...
    • Nick Lowe:  Sensei Lowe showed some nice rollovers and other attacks when you have someone in your guard.  His focus was in keeping it simple (note:  that was not Sasaki's focus  =:>) and keeping it effective.  Later in the day he showed some transitions from standing->groundwork.
    • Stan Wentz:  He started with some Kenka Yotsu (righty vs. lefty) gripping strategies, then moved into more crazy ninja shit that I'm not going to tell anyone about because I want to keep it to myself and use to take over the world.
    • There was definitely more, but I'm really tired, so...
    Stay tuned for next time!


    A Letter From Camp, Day 1

    Yeah, so I'm a grown man at camp.  What of it?

    As I mentioned a few times before, I am attending the Greatest Judo Camp on Earth.  I haven't been to every camp on earth, so I can't absolutely verify the name, but I'm pretty sure that it's a fair label.  A lot of awesome instructors/badasses are here, and great people to work with as well - which is a good thing, because none of the folks from my club came down.  Not that I'm bitter.  But nobody is ever getting promoted again.

    So, for a *quick* run down of the day (and it was 9.5 hours of Judo, and I'm tired, so quick is the order of the day - I'll post videos later):

    • Shenjiro Sasaki, a small Japanese man apparently made of industrial springs and rebar (seriously, I've never seen anything like this guy... I never understood "explosive" until now...) gave us some good gripping and grip breaking tactics.  Later he gave us some nice standing -> ground transitions, including one that may or may not involve hiding your uke's neck so that the referee can't tell whether the gi is over his chin while you try to choke him. 
    • Nick Lowe then gave us some good drills off of a circling movement to hit: Tae Otoshi, Uchi Mata, and Ouchi Gari.  The real beauty of these drills is that they introduce a simple and effective way to teach these throws (e.g., great for beginners, too), and they don't involve "1-2-3 Judo" (e.g., "first, put your foot here, then pull your left hand here, then...).  He also worked a nice seoi drill that I'll be bringing back home with me, and then came back at the end of the day to demo grip-break/throw combos.
    • Igor Yakimov followed lunch with some gut wrenching guard sweeps that he selected for their usefulness in Judo (e.g., they can get results fast).  For those of you that have worked out at Akari, most of them started with "the Igor Arm Trap" - or at least an attempt at one.  There are several arm bars and chokes that result.  And pain.  You know... 'cuz it's Igor.
    • Stan Wentz (super-stoked that he's here... he's a gripping mastermind, plus he knows a whole bunch of wacky ninja shit that actually works, plus he's a nice guy) shared a whole bunch of whacky ninja shit with us.  =:>  More specifically, there were some great counters to tough gripping situations (e.g., what to do when someone has a powerful grip behind your neck), a super-sweet feint Seoi to Okuriashi (sort of) combo, and a slick - and weird - Seoi Otoshi.
    And now I'm sore, and tired, and my gi smells terrible.  But super-stoked for tomorrow...  Seriously, the instructors are phenomenal...  I know my descriptions aren't going to be that useful to anyone, so I'll try to post videos of all that I can remember when I get back home.

    Nighty night.


    The Newest Judoka!

    My oldest just had a birthday, and I figured it was time to give him special present. 

    "His own towel?" you may be asking yourself?  Well, he would have agreed for the first minute after opening the gift (and to be clear, he was superstoked to have "MY OWN TOWEL!!!"), but it was even better than that... and it was even better than his next guess, after I prompted him to open it up a bit more... "My own robe!!!"

    "A GI!  I've got a Gi like Daddy!"

    Of course, Judo men don't smile, so I instructed him to make his Judo face.

    So look out, world.  No joke, the little bastard kept trying to cinch up a Juji on me, but he didn't control my head (bad technique), so I escaped.  =:>

    I guess I need to start teaching kids now...


    Recap of Toni Lettner Clinic at Wall 2 Wall Martial Arts

    I wanted to share this from a recent clinic up at Wall 2 Wall Martial Arts in Fredericksburg.  Another thanks to Chuck Wall for bringing such great guys in, and to Toni Lettner for teaching.  I learned some new stuff there, and wanted to share it on my blog to a) let you guys see what we did, and b) keep from forgetting it!

    We started with a sankaku entry when your opponent is on his belly or turtled:

    Note that before the video starts, I mentioned that you need to get your knee (right knee, if you are on uke's left side) between uke's elbow and body.  And when I roll him over me, I am grabbing the gi behind his far knee and pulling it over my face.

    If your opponent decides to stop you by grabbing your ankle to prevent you from stepping over, then you do this:

    We then went on to standing work, starting with what what I often refer to as the "Igor Grip" (since I was first exposed to this series by Igor Yakimov at the "Greatest Judo Training Camp on Earth" (and I'll be attending again this year!)) from a Kenka Yotsu (righty vs. lefty) situation.  You start with an Ouchi Gari:
    Kouchi Gari can then follow if that doesn't work (note that I didn't demonstrate very good posture here... do better than I did):
    Another option from the same scenario that is useful for us stubby-legged folk is the heel pick (Kibisu Gaeshi):
    And if he resists that by pressing in to you - Hikikomi Gaeshi (which I inaccurately refer to as Sumi Gaeshi):

    After that, we looked at an Ai Yotsu (righty vs. righty, lefty vs. lefty) situation, taking a different grip (maybe I'll call that Toni grip?  Or maybe the Scoop grip?), and again starting with a Kouchi Gari:
    And when he learns to fear your Kouchi Gari, you again move to a Hikikomi Gaeshi:

    Thanks again to Chuck, Toni, and to Chuck's students at Wall 2 Wall - they were great training partners, and everyone there made me feel very welcome.


    Mess With Their Feet, Part 1: The Messing

    If they can't walk, they can't attack.

    This is the first post in a series about messing with your opponent's feet - specifically, how to harrass every step they take.  This post will focus on the "phases" of a step, and what attacks suit themselves to the different phases.  The next post will look at what to do if your attack doesn't successfully throw the opponent, but does disrupt their step...

    Think about the step as a cycle:

    1. The foot and body rise and move forward
    2. The body lowers as the foot begins to plant into the ground and take weight ("the fall").
    3. The foot is planted, and the other foot (particuarly in Tsugiashi, less so in Ayumiashi) closes distance with the first foot (what I'll call "the recovery").
    There are great opportunities to attack the feet at each point in this cycle. For my purposes, I selected a subset of Ashiwaza (foot techniques) that can be quickly launched without having to turn the body away from the Uke.  And not only can these low-risk throws be quickly launched, but they can be quickly recovered from, which is important for part 2 of this series (coming... soon?).   Note that if you attack during the rise or the fall, you will want to generally get as far away from the middle of the step as you can - either hit the beginning of the rise, or the end of the fall.  This is because the travelling foot tends to "float" in the middle, and attacking a floating foot isn't generally going to be successful.

    The start of the cycle (the rise):
    • Hiza Guruma
    • Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi
    • Osoto otoshi
    • Osoto Guruma
    The fall:
    • Ouchi Gari
    • Kouch Gari
    • Osoto Gari (sort of)
    • Kosoto Gari
    • Osoto Otoshi
    • Hiza Guruma
    • Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi
    • Deashi Barai
    After the plant (pre-recovery, or early recovery):
    • Ouchi Gari
    • Kouchi Gari
    • Osoto Gari
    • Kosoto Gari
    • Kosoto Gake
    • Osoto Otoshi
    • Osoto Guruma
    Late recovery:
    • Okuriashi Barai
    • Deashi Barai
    • Harai Tsurikomi Ashi
    This is certainly not a comprehensive list.  If you can think of a particular throw that I didn't post but should have, please let me know.  There would be one of four reasons why I missed it:
    1. Oversight - I just didn't think of it.
    2. Ignorance - I don't know how to do the throw that way - and I'd love to understand how you do it.
    3. Intentional Omission - It didn't fit the criteria I was looking for.
    4. You're wrong - Maybe it really doesn't work the way you are thinking (It's possible, right?)
    So what do you think?  A useful way to think about this?


    Book Review: Judo Inside Out by Geof Gleeson

    An oddly arranged book that seems almost stream-of-consciousness at times, but you can get some pearls out of it.  Two Stars (out of Four)
    Judo Inside Out

    The Upshot:
    This, like the last book I reviewed, is not meant to give instruction on any technique - rather, it tries to explore the essence of Judo.  Even apart from that, this one is certainly different.  It has 6 chapters, though there is barely a unifying theme within chapters.  He jumps from his theory on how the brain launches a judo attack to a discussion of Itsutsu No Kata to a discussion on taxonomy within the same section.  OK.  From what I can gather, Gleeson seems to be an iconoclast - one who, in order to make progress, attacks the things that others hold sacred.  But many iconoclasts have the same disease that the overly reverent have, in that they can't see any value in the other side; that is, iconoclasts tend to think that *all* common knowledge, *all* traditions, and *every* sacred cow is without value, and it is up to them to reinvent every aspect of the thing...  Anyhow, there are a bunch of (IMO) half-baked notions in here which don't add much to anything, but there are also some great ideas that benefit both sensei and student.  And unlike the 12 Winds book, I'd say that this one is worth slogging through (it's short, so not that much of a slog) to get the good stuff.  I didn't particularly enjoy the book, but given that there are a decent number of "Gleesonites" in the world, I'll give him another shot and read one of his other works.  Anyone have a recommendation?

    What's In It and How It's Organized:

    • Forward/Acknowledgements/Introduction:  In addition to standard intro stuff, he gives a nice (though partial) intro into how he evaluates/classifies throws.  Going beyond the normal hand/hip/foot categories, he also considers:  the 'handedness' (e.g., left or right) of the throw, pivot foot movement, driving foot movement, grip, line of atack, direction of throw, and the 'opportunity' (the trigger for the attack).
    • Some Differences between Skill and Technique:  He gives an explanation of the difference between the terms, and expounds on why the difference is important.  And then he goes off on an aside about taxonomy, and a few other unrelated tangents.  But  he largely stays on point.
    • Countering Skills:  The skills of counter attacking.  And he groups counters and combinations together as the same thing.  More tangents in here, too...
    • Let's Start Again:  Here, he recommends tailoring instruction (particularly the beginning of instruction) to the objectives of the participant.  For instance, teach would-be competitors first about the scoring system, and how to achieve different scores.  Start those interested in fitness on the ground
    • The Psychology of Competition:  Really goes off the rails in this chapter.  He gives his theories on brain and nervous system function.  He ties Uchikomi to the writings of St. Augustine.  Some decent thoughts on classification.  And there's a bunch of other stuff in here.
    • A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words:  Here, he analyzes pictures to guess what was happening, what kind of score might have resulted, etc.  I *think*, though, that the point of this chapter was to show that people of execute techniques with meaningful differences from how those techniques are taught.
    • A Summing Up:  A brief conclusion.
    The Good:
    Folks like Gleeson take nothing for granted, and challenge assumptions that most would overlook.  This will spur you to think - even if you disagree with his conclusions.  And to be clear, I think he has some good notions in here.  And I reckon that everyone will take something different away from their reading.  And it's a bit beside the point, but there was one line that I particularly liked, regarding how one should go about answering a question without a definitive answer:  "The individual answerer can but allow his prejudice full reign, but hopefully it is one of those better, more educated prejudices that has had its intake of substantial knowledge."  Kind of Twain-esque, though a bit clunky.

    Could Have Been Better:
    Well, it was poorly organized - almost stream-of-consciousness at points diving off on random tangents (note - if you are going to write a book, get a good editor) - he even has frequent sections titled "A by-the-way".  His writing gets pretty clunky at times, and he seems keen to prove his erudition, so you get lots of references to history, philosophy, etc, that seem to be there primarily to show you that he's well-read.  Aside from that, there's a decent helping of half-baked ideas that don't contribute much, in my opinion.

    One Thing I Learned:
    He includes a great explanation of Itsutsu No Kata, which had never really made sense to me in any way, shape, or form.  I always viewed it as some sort of interpretive dance, but Gleeson believes that the 5 movements are representations of 5 types of force in Judo:
    1. Dominant, overpowering force (Go)
    2. Utilizing force (Ju) - The attacker's out-of-control force is used to Tori's advantage.
    3. Centrifugal force
    4. Accelerating force - as with combos where uke eventually can't keep up
    5. Existential force - that is, just by 'being' (in the right place at the right time), you can thwart Uke's attack.

    I'm not sure if he's right, but it seems a decent explanation to me.


    Exercises: Buddy Lifts

    Throw your partner through the ceiling!

    I'm starting an "exercises" series for different warm-up exercises that I like.  The key for me to like them is that they have to be Judo-esque... Thus, you'll never see my promotion of running.  Not that there is anything wrong with running, but if you find yourself running a lot in contest, I think you're doing something wrong...    I want to use Judo mat time for Judo things.  Anyhoo, I think I came up with this first one myself!

    This exercise develops:

    • Explosive leg strength.
    • Strength through the full range of motion in the legs
    • Pulling power
    What do do:
    • Two players in right natural posture grab each other with a standard sleeve/lapel grip.
    • Both players squat - Player A squats as far as possible without sitting down, Player B touches his butt to the ground
    • As soon as B's butt touches the ground, he tries to jump up as high as possible.
    • Player A simultaneously tries to lift B out of the ground and launch him through the ceiling.
    • Player A tries to help B land as gently as possible.
    • Then start over; both players squat with Player A touching her butt to the ground.  Repeat till you can't stand up any more/someone vomits.  Or just pick a number of reps.
    • Maintain good posture - keep a straight(ish) back.
    • Counterbalance your partner - you'll need to lean back some, so it will help to have your feet close to each other.
    • I opted to avoid having the lifter touch her butt to the ground as I think that will help avoid back problems...  Feel free to tinker.
    • Change how you lift (e.g., elbows in vs. elbows up)
    • Change stances (e.g., classic righty- right foot forward with right hand on lapel, or classic lefty - left foot forward with left hand on lapel, or righty vs. lefty)
    • Experiment with your grip (e.g., high collar, double sleeve, etc)
    Try it, and let me know what you think...


    Uke's Job, round 3: Reference Points

    I keep telling ya - Uke isn't just a throwing dummy!  He's got a job to do!

    I've written a couple of times already (here, and here).  The short version:  if you are the Uke (the one getting done unto), don't just stand there.  You have to be mindful of a lot of things.

    Read the other posts for more detail, but one of the things I talk about is offering consistency of experience for repetitions, and another is just generally helping Tori to learn Judo.  Sensei Bernie offered another piece to that:  Uke should set himself up with a consistent orientation on the mat.  For instance, Uke should should find a specific place on the mat, and face a specific direction.  This will allow Tori to use the Dojo to orient himself, rather than looking down at his feet.  This will allow for Uchikomis that use better posture, and will help Tori develop his sense of feel...  Try it!


    Greatest Judo Training Camp on Earth: June 21-23 2012

    Another of my annual shout-outs for the Greatest Judo Training Camp on Earth!

    This year, the GJTCE will be from June 21-23 in Matthews, NC (just outside of Charlotte).  It's $215 if you register in advance, $245 if you don't - and that INCLUDES FOOD!  You can't afford not to go!  Pretty much the only other thing you need is a place to sleep, and they have worked out a deal for $65/night for lodging... you can get 4 folks easily in these rooms (2 on cots), so that's nothing!

    The headline instructor is Shenjiro Sasaki, and he'll be joined by one of my favorites - Igor Yakimov will be back, as will Nick Lowe, who's also awesome.  Jeff Giunta will also be there... I've not met him, but if he rates with Igor and Nick, he must be awesome, as well.

    I may even be able to make it this year - though it will likely be my last trip for a while with a third young'un on the way.  I need somebody to learn Ju No Kata with me... who's down?


    Stepping Behind the Tape

    The most useful part of Shiai may be that moment when you step back behind the tape...
    Before I get to the topic at hand, let me first give some props:  shortly after I moved to Richmond, I met Sensei Bernie Gill, a Godan who would visit class from time to time.  His official line was that he was "retired" from Judo, but that he liked to come hang out with us every once in a while.  If you've never met Bernie, here's a short version:  He's a very humble guy, he's a badass, he's fun to be around, he's 73, he has awesome stories, he can still blast people with Harai Tsurikomi Ashi, he was a student of Takahiko Ishikawa, and I think he's a ninja.  Anyhoo, Sensei Bernie has recently started coming back around (coming out of retirement, perhaps?) and has been sharing some of his ninja magic with us.  I am going to make an effort to start writing some of it down, perhaps turning some of that in to blog posts.  So when you see the "Bernie Gill" label on a post, then it came from something he mentioned in class.
    Step Behind the Tape
    Onward...  If you aren't familiar with the structure of a Shiai (tournament contest), once the match is over, the contestants will stand across from each other in front of a white or blue piece of tape (similar to the designated corners in a boxing match), the ref will award the victory to someone, both competitors will step back behind their tape, bow, then walk off the mat.  Bernie mentioned today that one of the most important moments of Shiai is that moment that you step behind the tape... 

    4 Types of Losing/Winning
    Whether you won or lost, it is helpful to reflect on what just happened.  Bernie used to tell his son that there were ways to lose (which you could reverse and think of as four ways to win):

    1. The other guy was better:  That's going to happen.  But!  If you can learn from him or her - if you can figure out what they did to beat you and recognize a new way to do a technique or a new hole in your defenses, then you win (although you will still have to tell the score table that you lost). 
    2. You made a mistake:  That happens, too.  No excuses - it shouldn't have happened.  But if you recognize the mistake, identify where you need to drill, you can claw something good back from your loss.
    3. Bad decision:  It happens.  Sometimes there are bad referees, some situations are really tricky...  Either way, it doesn't really matter...  It doesn't really count as a loss - call this one a no-contest.  (Of course, check and make sure there isn't something you can chalk up to #s 1 or 2, first... don't be too eager to blame the ref).
    4. You step behind the tape without considering what happened:  If you lose, and you don't give any thought to why you lost - that is, you don't try to put your loss into categories 1, 2, or 3, and take any corresponding actions - then this is an unmitigated failure.  You didn't get a win and you didn't learn anything.  The good news is that this is avoidable...
    So there it is.  I think that is a nice framework...  What do you think?