Use of Strength in Judo

By Kazuzo Kudo, Kodokan 9th dan

Kazuzo Kudo Though not limited to judo, particularly true in judo is the advantage a good mind, a large body, and great strength bring. On the other hand, people so blessed sometimes rely on their size and strength and try techniques that are too much; they try to push or twist their opponents down and only succeed in hurting their opponent or themselves. The end of all this is that people of this sort never understand what judo techniques are about.

People who are small and weak, on the other hand, know from the beginning that they cannot trust in their strength alone and work very hard to master the judo techniques. They study to apply their techniques and escape from their opponents by means of proper body movement— advance-retreat actions—and after many years of training progress to become judo masters. What we mean to say by this is that a big body and great strength are not helpful to everyone. These blessings are like a treasure with which a person is born. As long as that person fails to understand the proper use of his treasure, he should by no means waste it in fruitless violence.

I feel that I must warn beginners sternly on this point, because in recent times a great many young people possessed of fine strapping bodies and great strength are aiming for judo mastery. Of course, if these young people will earnestly study and train and master the spirit of judo they can certainly become the unrivaled judo champions of the whole world.

In connection with this, I must make some comments about using one's spirit and using one's strength.

By using one's spirit I mean keeping calm but alert and full of energy, relaxing your arms and legs, and being free but completely aware and responsive to what is going on around you. This spiritual condition also involves accepting your opponent's techniques and not attempting to rashly resist him.

By using your strength we mean exactly the opposite, that is, giving precedence to the power of your body and of your arms and resisting your opponent and consequently tensing your limbs and making your body heavy and hard. This deprives your body of freedom and is a far cry from the right road to judo progress. In judo, from ancient times, use of the spirit has always had the upper hand over use of bodily strength.

The basics of applying force

1. Pull when your opponent pushes
For instance, if your opponent has a strength of six and you have a strength of four, if both of you exert all of your strength in pushing against each other, your four is sure to lose to his six. If however, you do not push but pull as he pushes, you add your four to his six so that with a strength of ten you can easily pull him down. Conversely, if when he pulls you push you can easily push him over. Let us think for a minute of cases in which we presuppose no difference in strength. Your opponent is standing with no intention of changing his pos(ure or position. If you push on his chest he will fall down backward. If he attempts to avoid falling by returning your push, pull him, and he will cbme toppling over forward. Similarly if you pull your opponent by the upper part of his chest area he will fall over forward. If he should attempt to resist by pulling you, make use of the force he is generating and push him so that he falls backward. In short, if you apply your strength economically by pulling when he pushes and pushing when he pulls you can easily down your opponent. Though this seems a very simple thing, it is one of the most important and fundamental elements of the judo way of applying force. Of course, to make full use of this element of force application your position and the way you stand with your opponent, the way you vary your position in accordance with those stances, and the way you move your body must be correct.
Though timing is very important to the application of force, it is neither easy to explain nor easy to master while you are actually performing the techniques. Needless to say, it is too late to try to pull your opponent once he has already pushed you. Similarly, if you try to push him as he is only about to pull you, you will simply be playing into his hand.
The trick to downing him easily is to sense the presence of the idea of pushing or pulling in your opponent's mind before the action itself actually appears. This is the sort of timing we mean, but the only way to make a sense of it your own is to practice, practice, and practice some more.
2. Push-pull
The preceding section in which we said if your opponent pushes, pull, and if he pulls, push, dealt with the force directed toward you from him. This section treats the force you apply to your opponent. We can divide this force into three categories.
  1. First push your opponent, then relax that force and pull him. To speak in more detail, first push, then when he attempts to resist by returning your push, use careful timing, and pull him.
  2. First pull your opponent, then relax that force and push. Here again, first pull your opponent, and when he attempts to prevent your pulling him by pulling you, push with good timing. Do not push suddenly when he attempts to return your pull. You must switch smoothly and with flawless timing into the push. In your practice you should master both this action and that in section a.
  3. Flipping your opponent up. When you and he are together at such close quarters that pushing and pulling are both impossible this method of applying force is effective. You use your entire body to flip your opponent up and force him off balance by raising him from the floor. In this action you use the force of both arms and the spring action in your legs, knees,and hips.
Kyuzo Mifune (tenth dan) says that if your opponent pushes turn your body, if he pulls step out on a diagonal. What he means is that you should not put yourself in a condition in which your opponent cannot down you, you should always maintain that condition. If he pushes, instead of receiving the force of his push straight on, bend your body back to the right or to the left. If he pulls you, reduce the force of his pull to nothing by stepping forward on a slant. If you do this you can always preserve your body's balance, and you will always be in a condition in which your opponent cannot down you. This is a very good reference point to bear in mind in connection with applications of force. 3. Generating force We have been talking about applying force, but we should now turn our attention to concentrating all of your body's strength in the spot where you need it at the right instant. You must be able to do this immediately and boldly, but this is impossible if you have kept your body tense and filled with strength even before you need to use it. As we have already said, keep your entire body relaxed -- not loose and limp, of course -- but flexible so that you can generate the force you need. Be sure you have a thorough understanding of this point. As you become more experienced through practice and as your proficiency with the techniques increases, you will learn that there are a number of variations you can work on the appearance of a technique through changes in tempo, thick or thin movements, power or weakness, straight lines or curved lines, circular or horseshoe shapes. You will also clearly see what makes a technique work and what causes one to fail. In judo, as in all things, we must practice and use our heads to devise better ways of doing things.
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Do not think of attack and defense as two separate things. An attack will be a defense, and a defense must be an attack. --Kazuzo Kudo, 9th dan