by Elie A. Morrell, Shichidan

When I think of the importance of ne waza (grappling) techniques, I like to quote a statement made by the late Kazuzo Kudo in his text on grappling techniques entitled, “Dynamic Judo”. He states: “The throws and grappling techniques are as inseparable as the front and rear wheels of an automobile.” I believe this statement best sums up the importance of ne waza in judo as a whole. Unfortunately, grappling techniques play a secondary role in the teaching syllabus of many coaches.

When we consider the technical aspects of ne waza, it is looked at in terms of statics and dynamics. Dynamics is defined as that branch of mechanics that deals with forces and their relation primarily to motion. Statics on the other hand, is that branch of mechanics dealing with the relation of forces that produce equilibrium.

Relating statics and dynamics to ne waza is straight-forward. Static situations are those which occur when the two players are motionless. That is, all forces are in balance. When motion occurs, the situation is dynamic and an unbalance of forces is present.

In any holdown, the objective of the attacker is to create a static situation where all forces are in balance. Conversely, the defender must attempt to disturb the static situation by creating a dynamic situation commonly referred to as escaping. What then are these forces we are alluding to in any given static or dynamic condition?

Consider the attacker who has succeeded in pinning the opponent. In terms of the technical/physical requirements for securing a good pin, the type of holdown is irrelevant. Since the method of holding is directly related to the way the forces are applied, how then is the best way to hold? More specifically, which is the best way to optimize the application of the forces to create the strongest static position for the attacker?

The attacker must initially have a position of maximum stability. What then defines maximum stability? Maximum stability is attained when the attacker is low and is spread out as much as possible. For example, consider the attacker singularly for a moment without the presence of the defender. If then, the attacker were to assume a prone position on the mat with the legs and arms spread, this would define the optimum stable position. In effect then, the attacker’s task in any given holdown is to achieve a strong pin and a static situation as close as possible to the defined optimum stable condition. From this position, the center of gravity of the attacker is the lowest (which is preferable) and as a consequence the attacker is very difficult to overturn.

Although pinning techniques may well be a matter of preference from one competitor to the next, there are some pinning techniques which do come closer to the optimum condition for stability than others. Individual competitors must realize what the tradeoffs (advantages and disadvantages) are when employing each of the pinning techniques.

Viewing a pin from the defender’s standpoint, it suffices to say that his goal is not to let the attacker succeed in applying a solid pin. If the pinning technique has been perfectly set, the defender must, as soon as possible, determine where the weak point(s) of the attacker are to commence an escape.

Consider now the following definition of the weak point(s) of the attacker as it relates to an escape by the defender. The weak point of an attacker is that part or parts of the attacker’s body which can be moved with the least amount of effort on the part of the escapee. Once this weak part has been moved, either by translation, rotation or a combination of both, the attacker in turn becomes more unstable and the required effort by the escapee gradually diminishes until the escape is complete. The defender applies force via the arms, legs and hands to create the dynamic situation necessary to move the attacker. By the attacker becoming more unstable, what is meant here is that the effectiveness of the holdown is gradually diminished.

Examine now some practical examples of the foregoing statements. With few exceptions, in any escape the defender does one of two things. He either attempts a bridge and roll or an uphill turn escape. Unless the attacker has committed a serious error, bridge and roll escapes can be extremely difficult in the opinion of the writer. Since this type of escape requires that the defender roll the attacker’s body weight over, an initial mechanical advantage is required. Generally speaking, this advantage will be in the form of the attacker’s hip mass being very close to or in contact with the defender’s hip mass or upper body area or raised off the mat. The uphill turn escape offers the defender more flexibility in terms of the possible number of ways to attempt the escape.

Newza Figure A Figure A is meant to represent a defender lying on his back. The quadrants represent the total area and directions from which the attacker is capable of pinning the defender. The A-A’ and B-B’ axes are shown intersecting at the approximate location of the center of mass of the defender.

Assume the attacker is attempting a pin while in the near optimum stable position defined earlier. Invariably the attack with this type of posture will be either along the A-A’ axis or anywhere in quadrants 2 and 3. (One well known exception to the above would be a Tate Shiho Gatame attack along the B-B’ axis where the attacker locks the defenders legs while spreading them with his own.) The suggested escape procedure for this condition would be the uphill turn. The bridge and roll escape could be extremely difficult under these conditions.

If the attacker now assumes a position while on his knees, then the option of either the bridge and roll and uphill turn escapes are open to the defender. This would also apply to a Tate Shiho Gatame attack because now the defender’s legs would be free. The reader will note that the vast majority of attacks regardless of the attacker’s posture will always be along the A-A’ axis or somewhere within quadrants 2 and 3 which could include a direct rear attack much as Kami Shiho Gatame along the B-B’ axis.

Because of the popularity of Kesa Gatame and since it fits neither of the two previously described attack conditions in terms of the attacker’s posture some comments are warranted here. This pinning technique is such that it lends itself well to either of the two types of escapes mentioned. This holdown is also compatible with a number of different ways of executing the uphill turn escape. In most cases, the writer’s preference for escape from this pin in the uphill turn. If, however, the attacker is sitting nearly straight up (incorrectly pinning) a bridge and roll escape may be the better choice.

Bear in mind that the choice of escape for any given situation will be strongly influenced by the experience and temperament of the defender. The defender, if pinned must immediately assess the situation regarding the decision as to which type of escape to attempt.

To this point, it has been assumed that the reader has a clear understanding of both the definition and practical applications of the bridge and roll and uphill turn escapes, Only with this understanding and constant practice of the various escapes will any degree of proficiency be attained.

This paper has attempted in a general sense to make aware to the judo practitioner which escape situations are perhaps optimum for a given attack situation. The writer is fully aware that there exists situations not covered by this paper. The intent was to discuss those mat situations typically encountered most of the time.