Archive for June, 2012

How to do Kesa Gatame (Scarf Hold)

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Of all the ground holds, this is my favourite. Kesa gatame (scarf hold) looks as though you are doing virtually nothing, but, if applied correctly, is very strong and difficult to escape from. It can be applied with or without a gi as well, so lends itself to MMA, jiu jitsu and grappling matches. This article will cover the basics of this ground hold. The next article will cover a few escapes from kesa gatame.

If you and your partner are wearing gis and you are tori (applier of the technique):

1. You are on the ground at tori’s right side. Place your right arm across uke’s (the receiver of the technique) body and under his neck such that your forearm is flat against the floor. 

2. Grab the inside of his collar with your right thumb.

3. With your left hand, palm up, wrap your arm around his right arm, gripping the material of his gi in his armpit.  Your left arm must be above his elbow and tight against your body. If you are holding his arm correctly, he can bend his arm and cannot get out; incorrectly, he can bend his arm and pull it free.

4. Sit out on your right hip with your legs bent and relaxed. Your bottom leg (right) should be as high up toward his head as possible. Your left leg is about ninety degrees from the right.

5. Put your own head as close to the floor beside uke’s right ear as possible. This way he can’t place a hand or arm under your chin and peel you backward.

6. Put all your weight on the little toe of your right foot, the big toe of your left, and his chest.

That is the basic ground hold.  If uke moves, you move with him, keeping attached at the hip. Retain the leg positions, moving a little at a time. If you have to cross your legs to go onto your stomach, do so for as short a period of time as possible and then go back to being on your hip.

Variation 1 – An even stronger hold than this is to bring your right leg toward the hand which is holding his collar. Let go of his collar (Point 2 above) and grab your own knee. This is a very tight grip and works extremely well in no gi situations.

Also no gi: Instead of grabbing the material in his armpit – Point 3 above, you merely grab his muscles there. The important part here is to ensure that he cannot free his arm, so your arm holds his tightly above the elbow. Other than gripping uke’s body instead of the material, there is no difference. Click here to go to a video of Kesa Gatame with no gi.

Another variation for kesa gatame when wearing a judogi is the following: When you have moved your hand to grip the material in uke’s armpit (Point 3 above), continue moving your hand (still maintaining his arm tightly against your body) and grasp his far lapel instead of the armpit. When you sit out to complete the ground hold, the hold on the lapel compresses uke’s ribcage making breathing difficult. If you then grip your knee instead of putting your thumb in his collar, he’s toast. 

Kesa Gatame, or scarf hold, is named for the scarf-like look when tori’s arm wraps around uke’s neck. Since most of tori’s body isn’t touching uke’s it may look feeble. It is, however, extremely powerful and effective. You are immobilizing the head and shoulders of your opponent. Without his shoulders, he cannot lift himself off the floor. I’ve managed to hold down guys who outweigh me by about ninety pounds, so I know this hold works well.

Click here to go to a video of kesa gatame.

Click here to go to How to Escape from Kesa Gatame (Scarf Hold)  Escape #1


December 11, 2009

Simple Takedown from the Ground

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Our classes are unusual: we begin by grappling for about an hour. A match could be five minutes or forty-five, if the pair want to keep at it. After we are finished grappling, Dave asks if anything came up during the fights which was interesting, difficult to get out of, or just fun which we can all practice.

This approach works well for us: we had structured classes for many years and found them stifling. The senior members of the club spent virtually all their time teaching the same techniques over and over and spent far too little time working on their own skills.

We assume that you know a certain amount when you come to our class. If we know that you are a novice, someone will monitor you during your workouts, but we will not cater exclusively to beginners. You can work with any of the senior people, all of whom have their own idiosyncrasies and styles, all worth working out with.

Mike looks like the average southern European guy until you’re doing groundwork with him. He’s wiry, agile, smiles throughout most of his matches and has his eyes closed most of the time. He’s not intimidated by fighting a much larger person, mostly because lots of the others are bigger. He takes his time to get to the stage where he can win. He’s a great person to grapple with.

Chris is much heavier and stronger than Mike and, on the ground or standing, doesn’t like to lose. If you get a submission on the ground from him or a point when standing, you’ve really earned it.

Dave is bigger than Mike and smaller than Chris. He’s extremely difficult to choke (his favourite phrase is, “It’s only pain.”) and can weasel his way out of almost everything. I heard that the jiu jitsu people have begun calling him “The Cyborg”, which he is anything but. When he’s grappling with people, and he realizes they are trying a particular technique, he’ll let them go for it as long as necessary. They have to have the opportunity to try techniques. If they don’t quite work, he’ll stop the matches, show them the correct hand, arm, leg placements, etc., and then proceed. He’s a very good teacher.

Now for the Simple Takedown from the Ground: Dave and Chris were demonstrating this last Friday. You and your partner are on your knees facing each other. You want the upper position, controlling your partner’s body. Grip his lapel (if wearing judogi) or arm, if no gi, with one hand. With the other hand/arm grasping his arm, pull yourself into him at an angle of close to 90 degrees: you want to finish shoulder to shoulder with him. Using the second hand, pull down on uke, placing your shoulder on top of his. You now have the superior position.

Points to note: The lapel grip usually isn’t easy to get. Grab it anywhere with one hand and work your way up with both hands until you have a good grip.

You really have to pull yourself in to him, not him to you. This is done at the same time as your moving 90 degrees to him.

Once you have the superior position, your shoulder on top of his and both hands gripping him tightly,  you can take uke down at will.


May 3, 2010

Judo Throws for the Non-Judo Practitioner – Pt 2

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Last Friday, we split up our class: Mike and I were working with two white belts on their yellow belt throws, while Dave took Francisco aside to work on judo throws specifically for his tournament. In Part 1 of this series, I mentioned that Francisco will be entering the NAGA world championships in early April. He needed to work on judo throws to take his opponent down and be in his control when the judo throw was complete. This series covers judo throws for the non-judo practitioner – throws which can be learned relatively quickly and are specific to certain body positions which the opponents have when they begin.  Since I didn’t work with Francisco during this class, Dave will write about their working on tani otoshi valley drop, both a defensive version and an aggressive version. 

Dave Here:

We chose Tani Otoshi for a number of reasons.  It’s a great throw if set up correctly (I guess all of them are! :) ), can be used either as a counter or as an attack, and it ends with either tate shiho gatame (full mount) or kesa gatame (scarf hold).

The key to Tani Otoshi, particularly when used as a counter to a forward throw such as koshi guruma (or most any other forward throw), is a very strong and pre-emptive hip thrust coupled with a forward step with the left leg (assuming countering a right-handed throw), breaking uke’s balance to the rear quarter. 

Once you’ve done that, the left hand reaches up and grasps the back of the collar, the left leg stretches across and behind uke’s legs, blocking both of them, and you drop your weight to the ground, dragging uke with you and throwing him to the rear.  While in mid-fall, either turn, straddle, and come up to tate shiho gatame, or sit through into kesa gatame.

An attacking form of Tani Otoshi is similar except you’ll be initiating the movement.  Duck under uke’s right arm or attack at his right wrist to force his arm across his body, step strongly to his side while breaking his balance with a hip thrust and rearward pull of your right arm, grasp the back of his collar with your left hand and drop and throw to the rear.

Te Guruma could also be used in either of the above cases, but we felt that Tani Otoshi would be easier to pick up for a person new to throwing and be successful within a short time frame.

Back to Angi:

Other throws which are relatively straightforward and easily learned are Ko Uchi Gari – minor inner reaping, and Ko Soto Gari – minor outer reaping. In both cases, though, the opponent cannot be leaning forward dramatically as they tend to do at the beginning of the BJJ matches. These throws are better suited to situations in which the opponent is standing upright.

In the first case, you would be pushing him to his right back corner, hand high on the collar or lapel. If he is difficult to move backward, jolt him forward for a fraction of a second. As he straightens up to avoid a forward throw, pull him backward at the same time as you move between his legs with your right foot. Bring your left foot up behind your right to balance yourself. Take your right foot and reap his right ankle, while pulling him back. As he falls to the ground, follow him. You will be in an ideal position for a partial mount.

In the second case, ko soto gari, you will be positioning yourself to the outside of your opponent’s body, to his right side. Once again, jolt him forward slightly. As he compensates for this by straightening up, move to his outside, first with your left foot and then with your right to balance. Use your left foot to reap out his right ankle while, at the same time, pull his right sleeve back with your left hand and push with your right hand as you grip the lapel. He will fall to his right back corner. Follow him to the ground. Retain your grip on his right arm, and quickly move your right arm around his shoulders while you sit out into kesa gatame.

This completes our preliminary series on judo throws for the non-judo practitioner. I hope you found it useful. For detailed videos of judo throws, go to the Traditional Judo section of this website; videos of no-gi throws are in the Judo for MMA section of this site. 

Click here to go to Judo Throws for the Non-Judo Practitioner – Pt 1


March 18, 2009

It’s The Little Things – Pt 4

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Recently a new student in our class has been learning the first group of throws in anticipation of testing for his first belt.  This fellow is not especially tall, but really muscular and strong. The throws which he favours involve big movements – o goshi, koshi guruma, etc. – and which do not involve the little movements of many of the others.

Just because yellow is the first belt level in judo does not mean that the throws are easy. Many of the yellow belt throws are complicated and some may be the last which a student manages to do well. De ashi harai, if done well, is performed when tori sweeps out uke’s leg in the fraction of a second before the foot hits the floor. The throws which require tori to step in closely to uke (o uchi gari and ko uchi gari, for instance) when performed statically involve arm movements and multiple small foot movements. Ippon seoi nage and o goshi must have tori’s body placement just so in order to execute the forward throw properly.

This new student has difficulty with the small foot movements (he compares them to ballet movements). To throw uke with o uchi gari, tori steps in between uke’s feet strongly with his right foot, while pulling himself into uke at the same time. He then brings his back foot up behind the front foot (tee-ing up) in order to become balanced forward. The front foot then reaps uke’s left leg to the right.

These minute foot movements were driving this student to distraction. His gut instinct was to move the front leg and leave the back leg where it was, resulting in a very wide-legged, off-balance stance. In order to sweep the leg, he was even more off-balance (not forward, but backward) and the throw was not strong. It mostly consisted of his pushing uke. Granted, uke hit the floor, but that wasn’t the throw we wanted.

During competitions, throws are not static. Even during class randori, once all the movements have been learned, variations of body position are taken into account and the throw may not be traditional. Even the “push” variation I mentioned above might garner a point.

But, as we are still a judo club, and teach traditional judo (along with variations), students who wish to advance to other belt levels must know the traditional movements for throws and all other techniques.

We have many repetitions to do in order to get this student to learn the correct movements, which do not come naturally to him. When he performed the throw with the correct movements, the throw was strong and powerful. He was also balanced properly after the throw. Unfortunately doing a throw once doesn’t constitute learning it.  Any body movement which is to become muscle memory must be performed many, many times, and then still worked on and perfected.

One of the reasons judo is still an effective martial art is that there is always more to learn. There are variations of techniques which people have developed and are still developing – Judo is constantly evolving. Sometimes these variations are out of necessity because of body type or ability. Sometimes they come from having worked out with someone else and finding yourself in an unusual position and managing to weasel your way out by doing something new.

One of the reasons we love judo, and love teaching, is that we get to learn new stuff, too.

Click here to go to It’s The Little Things – Pt 3


January 5, 2010

Three Judo Hip Throws

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

At class last night, we had two new men attend, one who has been with the jiu jitsu club for several months and to our class a few times, and the other who had been with the jiu jitsu club only two weeks.  The second young man had had no previous martial arts experience other than those two weeks, during which he learned o goshi (major hip).

Since Jackie had worked on o goshi, Dave demonstrated three judo hip techniques: o goshi, tsurikomi goshi and koshi guruma. In all three cases, the hips jut out past uke’s hips, but the arms are in different positions.

O goshi seems straightforward until you have to get your hip well past uke’s. This is not a natural position, but if done well, a much smaller tori can easily lift uke and hold uke on his or her back without throwing. (I managed to do this with a man who outweighed me by about 100 lbs. to prove to my son’s girlfriend that you didn’t have to be big in order to throw a much bigger person.)  Mike and I were working with Jackie. Stepping in to o goshi and then not doing the throw is difficult, since your arm is around uke’s back and your body gets twisted, but once the movement continues and the throw happens, providing your hip is past uke’s sufficiently, it’s a very powerful throw. We spent most of the time trying to get the hips out far enough. The rest of the time we worked on the finer points of kuzushi, holding uke during the throw, turning one’s own head, and thereby the torso, to the left, and controlling uke during the breakfall.

In order to make tsurikomi goshi easier to do, instead of the straight arm, we did a version in which we hold the lapel with the right hand and move the right forearm under uke’s left armpit. The kuzushi (breaking the balance) and foot placement, etc., are all the same as in o goshi. When grasping the lapel and then moving the forearm under the armpit, we emphasized keeping a strong wrist, such that the wrist is not bent in any way. The wrist and forearm are all on one plane, acting as a lever, and become much stronger than if the wrist were bent. You are also less inclined to get the types of injuries we see in judo, such as hyper-extending joints. (We found this technique is crucial in tai otoshi – tori uses the entire forearm in the throw versus merely the hand.)

For koshi guruma, we did a kneeling version, with the hip out even farther than the other two throws. It looks like a wrestler’s hip throw, with tori’s hips ending up almost 90 degrees to the side of uke’s. Tori wraps his right arm around uke’s shoulders, and when stepping in, steps with his right foot normally, and with the left, very deeply between uke’s feet. Tori then twists his hips well past uke’s, drops down on the right knee, while turning his head to the left. Uke goes flying over the hips and back of tori.

When I did this, I naturally ended in a kesa gatame (scarf hold) position afterward. Others stayed on their right knees and brought the other knees down, while maintaining control with the hands. Since this throw is low to the ground and you have uke wrapped up so tightly from the beginning, this throw lends itself very well to MMA. There are so many positions you can be in afterward. Once you have your arm wrapped around your opponent’s shoulders and are controlling his left arm, even if he stuffs the hip throw, you are in control of his upper body. You can change to a number of other throws in which you can get him to the ground.

We worked on three similar, yet different, judo hip throws. The arms were in different positions, as were our bodies: during o goshi we had our arms around our opponents’ waists; tsurikomi goshi involved  having our right elbows under uke’s left armpit; koshi guruma had us on our right knees with our right arms tightly wrapped around uke’s shoulders. All of the hip throws were very powerful and effective.


February 7, 2009