When learning anything new, there can be times when you’ve got sensory overload — too much to remember: do this, do that, don’t do that, watch how I do it or he does it. When you’ve finally learned how to do a technique, a throw or arm bar or other technique, there are still things to learn: my opponent just did this and I couldn’t do my technique, or how do I make it work from this angle, etc.
When teaching judo, after the basic technique is learned, we work on the fine points, the details, the little things, which make the technique stronger, more efficient. I don’t propose that I’m an expert on anything, but if I can do a technique by applying small manoeuvres, then so can anyone.
Years ago we used to do a demonstration to our class to show how little space was required to turn yourself over from a ground hold. Someone would grab a plain kitchen chair and another person would lie face down on the mats, with arms by the side, and the chair placed on top of, straddling, the judoka. The judoka would turn over while still under the chair. It’s not fast and can be awkward trying to move your arms and shoulders while trapped, but a little at a time and, voila, you’re facing the ceiling. We proved that you don’t need much space to turn over (basically the width of your own body), just patience and working a little at a time. With some practice, this becomes smooth and easy — it makes a huge difference in being able to escape ground holds.
When learning throws, there are of course those gorillas out there who are so strong they manhandle their opponents; it’s less finesse and more brute strength. For everyone else (although a little finesse for the big guys makes for much better technique), we work on the little things: jutting the hips out past uke’s on hip throws, stepping in deeply between his legs for forward throws, gripping a certain way, pinky in the air for ippon seoi nage, looking over there during your throw. All the little touches bring other factors into play during throws.
For hip throws, “jutting your hips past uke’s” gives far better leverage; you should be able to lift him just using your hips and bending your knees. Once the arms and grips come into play, he’s a goner. “Stepping in deeply between uke’s legs” for forward throws actually places uke off-balance forward; he’s going to fall with far less effort on your part. “Changing grips” on the gi (or the arm, for non-gi throws) may give you better purchase, and may also allow your forearm or whole arm to be used. The “pinky in the air for ippon seoi nage” forces you to hold your throwing arm high, allowing for a stronger and wider turn of the arm. “Looking over there” during your throw forces your head to move, thereby moving your torso. The throw becomes far stronger when you use your core.
I’ve been studying judo for fifteen years and there’s lots more to learn. It really is amazing how much of a difference the fine details, the little things, make in helping our techniques work.
December 11, 2008