Recognizing needed improvement
I have considered the possibility of classifying throws in a way that would make coaching more efficient. A new classification system can provide a simple, more direct, method of communicating throwing methods to players. With simple throwing classifications players could grasp the various throwing methods more quickly.
The Kodokan system of classifying throwing techniques does not meet the learning conditions of Simplicity or Specificity. Kodokan throwing techniques are divided into categories that do not always make sense. The Kodokan system is very strict in it’s definition. Most damning of all, the Kodokan system leaves no room for Creativity.
Simplicity is the most important factor in introducing skills to your players. Simplicity is also a key factor in nurturing techniques into skills.
Present a basic throwing method to your players. For example, a Split Throw variation of Taiotoshi is a basic throwing method for Taiotoshi. When players understand the basic throwing method encourage them to experiment and develop personal variations.
By presenting a basic throwing method you are presenting a strong mechanical foundation. Encouragement of experimentation allows your players to develop unique skills from that foundation. Your players, having been given a creative challenge, will develop a personal approach to Judo play. Your players will also develop tremendous pride in knowing that the skills they are using are of their own invention.
The second motivating factor of this research deals with the Tactics of applying throwing skills. Coaches of American Judo recognize the Tactical Variables of Grip, Posture, Tempo, Edge, Direction and Time. Recent research has revealed several factors that influence and shed light on the use of Grip, Tempo, Direction and Posture as tactical variables. Still, some piece of knowledge was missing. Some area had not been explored. Somewhere there had to be a clue to the difference between success and failure of an attack. None of my previous research had revealed answers to the question of:
“What types of throws should be applied in what circumstances?”
Either the current classification of Tactical Variables was not complete or the right questions were not being asked. I turned to the oldest known authority on combative arts for help.
“The Art of War” is credited to one Sun Tzu and is believed to have been written as early as 500 years before the Christian era. Among the topics of discussion are Terrain and The Nine Variables of Ground. These chapters discussed the lay of the land and the influences that it presents on the conditions of waging a war. Sun Tzu’s wisdom made me wonder if there might be an equivalent to Terrain in Judo competition.
Sun Tzu, perhaps history’s strongest influence on the Tactics and Strategies of War, opens his discussion of Terrain with the statement: “Ground may be classified according to it’s nature as accessible, entrapping, indecisive, constricted, precipitous and distant.” The text defines Terrain as the “topography or conformation of the ground” that the armed force must contend with during campaigns.
Sun Tzu says that if you want to wage battle, first, you have to get to the battle ground. The Terrain and Ground that you have to move over and fight on is a major factor in the success or failure of your efforts.
Terrain, the lay of the land, is an extremely important factor in planning campaigns. The lay of the land can hold tremendous restriction or offer insurmountable advantage. The lay of the land holds strong influence over how to make an offensive approach. The lay of the land is also a defensive tool for the prudent general. Terrain, the lay of the land, does have a counter part in the Sport of Judo.
The Attacking Space, which is the area between Attacker and Defender, is the Terrain of Judo play. Attacking Space is the area that the Judo player must control and travel across to make an attack. The Attacking Space can be classified as Neutral or Closed. The correct approach to dealing with the Attacking Space decides success or failure of your attacks.
There exists a serious shortcoming in understanding when to throw, what to throw with and why certain skills are successful in different situations. No previous study has offered an explanation why strong, apparently, well-timed attacks fail while other, equally, strong and well-timed attacks succeed. No available literature has offered an explanation about opportunity of attacks. These questions need to be addressed. It is not enough to familiarize our players with techniques. Our players need to know when to attack. Our players need to know what type of attack to apply and why.
Several questions also need to be addressed concerning the Attacking Space, or Terrain of Judo play. What are the factors that influence the Attacking Space? Is the Attacking Space one big area between the players or are there different parts to Attacking Space? How does Attacking Space come about? Are there Attacking Spaces that require different responses? Are there clues to the opponent’s vulnerability in the Attacking Space? Finally, perhaps more importantly, if the Attacking Space can be defined, and if the Attacking Space holds the key to the opponent’s vulnerability, can we apply this knowledge to Coaching?
Through previous studies; The role of Power Hand Placement has been discovered, the influence of Tempo was defined, the importance of the First Grip was determined and several factors of probability have been revealed. Through past knowledge and recent research a list of Coaching Principles have evolved;
- The weight bearing leg must be the objective of the successful attack.
- The source of throwing power, your Driving Leg, should be placed along the line of the throwing Direction and opposite the mat area where your opponent’s body will fall
- The Power Hand is placed in accordance with the required physical effort to complete the throw
- The direction of the throw varies with the effort of the attack
- A preparatory footwork pattern always comes before a successful attack
There are still questions to be answered. We don’t know why some attacks are cut off, by the defender, at the very outset while other attacks succeed without apparent effort. Equally mysterious is why do some throws get countered while other, just as precarious, attempts get blocked or side stepped, without a counter throw?
I believe that the key to these, and many similar questions, lies in the Attacking Space. Attacking Space in Judo is what Sun Tzu refers to this as Terrain in warfare. I feel that there is something about the Attacking Space, that area you have to move across in order to get into position to finish an attack, that is not known.
The purpose of this analysis was to test the idea that; Terrain, the Attacking Space, holds the key to successful attacks and that the placement of the opponent’s Supporting Leg holds the key to the Terrain.
Two secondary, yet equally important, notions were also tested in this research:
- there is, really, only a small number of throwing actions, each action with a corresponding, specific, period of vulnerability to attack
- a common link exists between incidents of counter throws
A New Classification System
The technical classification system of Kodokan Judo does not transfer to the arena of competitive Judo. In truth, the classification system of Kodokan Judo was not designed as a Coaching tool. The Kodokan system serves the art of Judo well but does nothing to forward competitive Judo. Kodokan Judo was devised as a means of physical education with no intention of developing a competitive sport. The western world has taken Judo the Art and developed Judo the Sport. The western world, inexplicably, tries to force a system designed for an Art to work in the sporting arena. It’s like trying to put on a shoe two sizes too small. It simply does not fit!
To make Coaching more efficient our view of the methods of throwing needs to be examined and simplified. This simplification needs to be nothing more than a grouping of throwing actions by common traits. This would allow coaches to introduce a basic attacking position, for example a basic Taiotoshi or Seoinage, and then modify the technique as each Tactical Situation or individual player requires.
A classification system based on body shape and throwing action is a logical approach for Coaching. After observation of competition and study of reference material I have identified five distinct throwing types:
- Blocking throws: Blocking throws obstruct the travel of the opponent’s pelvic girdle and rotate the torso around or over the obstruction.Examples of Blocking throws areSeoinage, Taiotoshi, Uchimata, Tomoenage, etc.
- Hooking throws; Hook throws trap the opponent’s weight bearing leg by hooking with the attacker’s Free Leg and driving the opponent down over the trapped leg.Examples of Hooking throws areOsoto Gari, Ouchi Gari, etc.
- Trips; Trips are throws that catch the opponent’s foot with the foot of the attackers’ Free Leg and pull the foot out from under the opponent or immobilize the foot and drive the opponent over.Examples of Trips are,Kouchi Gari, Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi, Kosoto Gari, etc.
- Body Throws; Body throws are the result of the attacker wrapping his torso tightly against the opponent and projecting both bodies to the mat.Examples of body throws are,Uranage, Sumigaeshi, etc.
- Momentum throws; Momentum throws take advantage of the opponent’s inertia and push the opponent into an unstable position.Examples of Momentum throws are, Ashi Barai, Uki Otoshi, Sumi Otoshi
This dichotomy is based on a careful analysis of the similarities of throwing actions among the 65 Throwing Techniques of Kodokan Judo. The reason for reducing the throwing actions to a minimum of options is to make Coaching easier and more efficient. If you present your players with five throwing options instead of sixty five you will reduce your player’s learning curve by factor of thirteen. If you associate the five throwing actions with a distinct opportunity of application, the chance of successful application will greatly increase. Further, if a common link can be demonstrated between incidents of counter throws, then you can reduce the likelihood of your players being countered.
Video tapes of the 1981 All Japan Judo Championship, 1984 Olympic Judo competition, 1985 World Judo Championships, 1986 Kano Cup, 1986 Matsumae Cup and the 1989 World Judo Championships were studied for the data of this research. All weight divisions, both male and female, were studied. Two hundred ninety seven incidents of scoring throws were carefully scrutinized to determine circumstances, leading to the scoring attack, and recorded. Only incidents, where the attacker was awarded a score, were studied.
Research has proven that all successful throwing attacks must be aimed at the opponent’s Supporting Leg. Knowing that the Supporting Leg must be the target of attack I chose the position of the weight bearing leg to be the focus my analysis of successful throws. The sex of players or weight divisions were not considered as factors that influenced the success of attacks.
It is a widely held Coaching belief that successful attacks must be directed at the opponent’s weight bearing or Supporting Leg. This makes sense, because the opponent’s Free Leg is moved very quickly and easily. However, in review of existing literature no authoritative reference could be found to support this position. This lack of evidence mandated that this study also verify or refute the conviction of the Support Leg as the imperative target.
The first task of this research then was to define the weight bearing leg. I have chosen the term “Supporting Leg” when referring to the leg of the defender bearing most of his, or her, weight at any given moment. The distinction between the defender’s Supporting Leg and the attacker’s Driving Leg needs definition.
The Supporting Leg is
- The leg bearing most of the opponent’s weight at any given moment
- The leg to which most of the weight is being transferred during travel; I.e., the foot sweeps, Deashi Barai, Okuri Ashi Barai etc., remove the intended Support Leg as the opponents weight is being transferred.
- The leg over which most of weight is being projected during an attack; i.e., during Osotogari or Kouchi Gari the opponent’s weight is projected along the path of the Attacking Leg. Indeed, if the defender’s body were not in a position to support the attacker he, the attacker, would have to place the Attacking Leg to the mat in order to avoid falling on his, or her, face.
The 297 incidents of scoring throws were scrutinized to define the intended target of the attack. In all throws the Support Leg, as defined above, was found to be the attack objective. This evidence overwhelmingly supports the position that the opponent’s Supporting Leg must be the attack objective.
The Attacking Space
The Attacking Space is the area required for the attacker to move through while getting his body into position for a throw. Each individual has his, or her, optimal Attacking Space. There is also an optimal Attacking Space for each of the various skills in a player’s Personal Attack System. Optimal Attacking Space as an important Coaching consideration.
Area between the players cannot be considered Attacking Space, however, until one, or both, players has begun to establish his Attacking Power. Attacking Power is established through the placement of the Power Hand and the Driving Leg. Attacking Power sets the Direction of the attack, through the Driving Leg placement, and establishes control of the opponent’s torso through the Power Hand. Until Attacking Power is starting to be set, by either player, the area between the players remains a Neutral Space.
Attacking Space is mutual. Both players must pass through, or control, the area between themselves in order to throw or avoid being thrown. This requires Attacking Space Management from an Offensive as well as Defensive perspective at all times.
Offensive Management: As players move about the playing area they gradually maneuver to set their approximate Attacking Space. As the attacker gets closer to his, or her, desired Attacking Space, movements become smaller, more specific and are designed to place the attacker in the most advantageous position possible.
Defensive Management: A player’s movement is, simultaneously, intended to keep the opponent from attaining his, or her, optimal Attacking Space.
Elite players manage the Attacking Space with Movement!
- Hips are kept mobile in preparation of altering the Attack Space at the first sign of danger.
- Arms are flexed, drawing the opponent into attacking range, yet ready to repel his, or her, torso.
- Feet are kept moving to, at the same time, disguise the Supporting Leg and prepare the Driving Leg.
Neutral or Controlled?
The Attacking Space, by simple definition, is the area between the players that must be crossed in order to mount an attack. The Attacking Space is either Neutral or Controlled. The Attack Space is Neutral when neither player has, nor is capable of, controlling, or influencing, the opponent’s movements long enough to mount an attack.
The Period of Vulnerability is the space of time that a player has left himself open to attack. A player may place himself in a Period of Vulnerability due to:
- placing of the Supporting Leg in an exposed position,
- because the opponent has gained control of the Attacking Space or
- because the he, or she, stops moving
The Period of Vulnerability and the Attacking Space size go hand in hand. The wider an Attacking Space is, then the longer the defender will be able to expose his, or her, Supporting Leg before an attack can reach it. Conversely, a Supporting Leg may not linger in a location near the opponent’s attacking leg because a small Attacking Space can be moved through very quickly.
The Attacking Space is also Neutral if neither player exposes his Supporting Leg to attack long enough for the opponent to get into attacking position. In this case the Attacking Space is Neutral due to an insufficient Period of Vulnerability.
The Attack Space is Controlled when the attacker has immobilized the defender in preparation for an attack. You can also gain control of the Attacking Space when the defender’s Period of Vulnerability is long enough to get into position for your attack.
Attacking Space consists of two components that influence accessibility.
Vertical Space is the area between the players from the mat to their heads. Vertical Space is generally triangular in form with the widest area, the base of the triangle, between the players’ Driving and Supporting Legs. The top of the triangle is found where the player’s are pulling their shoulders in under their Power Hands.
The width of the base of the Vertical Space triangle varies at any given moment. How wide your Vertical Space triangle is decided by the amount of resistance that you and your opponent offer to keep each other from entering the Attacking Space. As you exert force against one another your Driving Legs are moved further back in order to equalize resistance. The width of Vertical Space triangle changes as the players set their Driving Legs to provide the proper amount of force to keep the opponent out. When the players move their Driving Legs, they are moving them to return the same amount of resistance that the opponent is using. However, the change in the Vertical Space also affects your Mobility.
Mobility, your degree of available free movement, is greatly influenced by the Vertical Space Triangle. There is a trade off between Mobility and the amount of force that you generate against an opponent. The wider the base of your Vertical Space Triangle the more force you are able to develop against your opponent but the wider the base of your Vertical Space triangle the less mobile you are. If you want to move at a rapid Tempo you have to,
- Narrow the Vertical Space by standing tall
- Sacrifice the amount of force that you have available
Conversely, force is available if you are willing to make small, slow, movements with a wide Vertical Space.
Horizontal Attacking Space is the area between the two players’ hip and shoulder girdles. Horizontal Space is the area through which your hips and shoulders rotate during an attack. There are two types of Horizontal Space. The Restricted, Inside Horizontal Space and the Outside, Open Horizontal Space.
Restricted, Inside, Space
The Closed, Inside, Horizontal Space, is the area where the two opponents’ upper bodies come closest together. This area is on the Power Hand side of the controlling player. Players seldom stand squarely facing each other. As Power is set into attack position the Horizontal Space on the Power Hand side closes. The Inside/Closed Space is where the space is limited due to the player’s stance. Inside Space is the area where the attacker is going to come from while launching attacks against the Far Supporting Leg. The Inside Space is where Minor Foot techniques and power oriented attacks take place.
The opposite of the Closed, Inside, area is the Open, Outside Horizontal Space. Outside Horizontal Space is the widest area between the players. Generally, this area will be opposite the dominant player’s Power Hand on his Locking Hand side. Usually, defenders try to keep the Supporting Leg in the Outside area for safety.
The safety zone
Each throwing skill requires a certain amount of Attacking Space to get the attacker’s body into position. Each person, due to his, or her, body structure has an ideal amount of space needed to pass through. The attacker must put himself into position to have the correct amount of Space to meet the requirements of his attack and his body. If the Attacking Space is set correctly, when the attacking position is reached, the players are locked into position for the throw. If the Attacking Space is too narrow the attacker bumps into the defender and the attacking rhythm is interrupted. If the Attacking Space is too wide the attacker moves very easily into attacking position but there is no one at home to throw.
There is a Safety Zone just inside or just outside your optimum Attacking Space. It is important to note that the Safety Zone is very narrow. If you get beyond the Safety Zone, too close to the opponent, you may be drawn into your attacker’s gripping power. If you get outside the Safety Zone, too far away from your opponent, you have very little influence over the situation. Being outside the Safety Zone is especially dangerous when your attacker is experienced at using combination attacks to bring an opponent into attacking range.
Your objective as a defender, then, is to develop a method of keeping yourself in this Safety Zone. Top level players strive to maintain a safe distance through one of two methods.
Many elite players use their arms as shock absorbers. The defender’s arms are kept flexible and in position, between the players, so as to respond to the opponent’s movements into and out of the Neutral Space. As the opponent moves and the distance, between the players, changes the defender tries to keep the Neutral Space at a consistent distance.
It is important to note that the defender is not attempting to prevent the opponent from entering the Neutral Space. The defender is trying to keep the Neutral Space at the same comfortable distance. It could be said of this defender that he is floating on the outside of the opponent’s Optimal Attacking Space.
The opposite of the floating defender is the domineering inside fighter. The dominant player use strong grips to pull the opponent into the Neutral area too far to be able to move into an attack. The inside fighter does not allow the opponent the necessary room to mount an attack. Inside fighters only allow the opponent to open the area between them in preparation for his own attack. Inside fighters wear the opponent down by forcing him to put a great deal of physical effort into defense.
Scoring throws were observed and notes were made on:
- Type of throw: I used the previously described classification system to look for consistencies in opportunity and execution. I felt that a lack of a consistency on an important mechanical or tactical point would refute the idea of a narrow range of throwing types. I was, also, testing the idea that the throws of international players could be classified into groups of basic maneuvers.
- Support Leg: The position of the Supporting Leg was carefully noted. Because the Supporting leg must be the target of all attacks, the position of the Supporting must also be a very important factor concerning success of an attack.
- Posture: I was also trying to learn the influence of the opponent’s posture on throwing opportunity. Various Tactical ploys, such as deep defensive postures, are used in the belief that attacking, or countering, opportunity is influenced through changes in Posture.
Attacks that forced the opponent to vigorously defend or Spin Out of, to avoid a score, were also observed. By comparing similar scoring and non-scoring attacks I was looking for clues as to what might be present in the scoring attacks that made a difference between success and failure. After approximately seven scoring examples, of each throwing type, had been carefully examined distinct patterns began to emerge. These patterns showed definite scoring circumstances and offered key points to be observed in subsequent incidents.
Throwing types and Opportunities
My initial theory named five discrete throwing types with, presumably, five discrete opportunities. This was not born out by the evidence. Instead of five types of throws with corresponding Opportunities of Vulnerability three distinct Tactical Situations of vulnerability were revealed.
The Exposed Supporting Leg
My classification of throws identified two types of throwing actions that captured and held the opponent’s Supporting Leg while the body was driven over it for the throw.
- Major Hooking actions, Osotogari and Ouchi, as well as variations of Kouchi and Kosoto
- Trips or Minor Hooking actions, i.e., Kouchi Gari, Kosoto Gari, Leg Picks etc.
Several incidents of throws that captured and held the Supporting Leg were observed. The problem was that I could not find a consistent factor in the defender’s Posture or Direction of Travel that might explain why the attacker had used this type of throw. This was puzzling. Fortunately, as more incidents of the Leg Capturing type throws were examined, one common factor emerged. The one consistent factor, between throws that captured and held the Supporting Leg, was the defender’s (person about to be thrown) placement of the Support Leg before the attack.
In 109 observed incidents, of capturing and immobilizing the Support Leg, for a scoring throw, the Support Leg
- the Leg farthest away from the thrower (the Far Leg)
- was forward of the defender’s torso. (Support Leg Exposed)
This statistic does not represent a simple majority of the Leg Capturing throws! All of the Leg Capturing throws had one factor in common, the fact that the Support Leg was forward of the opponent’s torso. This overwhelming evidence leads to a simple conclusion–If the Support Leg is Exposed, Capture It!
Simply stated, whenever the opponent exposes his Supporting Leg, on the Far Side, the attacker must respond
- by trapping the leg,
- holding it in position and
- forcing the opponent’s torso over the trapped leg.
Throws that accomplish this action are Osoto Gari, Kouchi Gari, Leg Pick Ups etc.
The Protected Supporting Leg
Hip Blocking actions place an obstruction before the opponents pelvic region and push his, or her, torso around the obstruction. Hip Blocking throws tend to obstruct forward movement of the opponent’s hips and roll the defender just in front of his, or her, own Supporting Leg. Some of the traditional throws that fall into this classification are, Seoinage, Tsurikomi Goshi, Uchimata, Tomoenage,
Ninety one (91) incidents of Hip Blocking throws were observed. Of the 91 incidents 85 of the scores occurred when the opponent’s Support Leg was:
- the Far Leg
- set to the Rear of the defender’s torso
Hip Blocking scores occurred with a 93.4% consistency of the defender’s Supporting Leg placement.
The 5.6% of the scoring Hip Blocking actions that did not attack against a Protected Rear Supporting Leg consisted of:
- One Tomoenage; One incident of Tomoenage was observed where the defender’s Support Leg was Exposed forward. The thrower attempted to throw laterally with his Tomoe Nage but actually rolled the defender to the rear. The throw was completed with difficulty and the defender was known to have a back injury at the time. No other incidents of Tomoenage scoring against an Exposed Supporting Leg position were observed. These factors suggests that this particular incident may have been an aberration.
- Four Drop Seoi Otoshi; Not a Knee Drop Seoinage but a drop to the Inside Knee (knee nearest the defender) and an immediate eruption into the throwing direction with the Driving Leg. All incidents of this action were executed by the same player that suggests specialized individual traits. This in no way negates the validity of this throwing action but it does imply unique qualities that were individually developed.
- One Seoinage; There was one incident observed of World Champion, Koga, throwing a greatly inferior opponent, Maach of Morocco, with Seoinage against a forward Support Leg. Even with such vast skill superiority Koga had a great deal of difficulty finishing the throw. This was not a legitimate demonstration of skill. It is my opinion that this incident should be discounted as a superior player being able to take advantage of a weaker player in any circumstances.
This evidence tells me to use a Coaching Principle of: When the Supporting Leg is Protected, Block the Hips!
As opportunity patterns emerged scoring throws could be easily placed into a category by Support Leg position and the throwing action being used. Taiotoshi, however, did not fall easily into either a Hip Blocking or Leg Capturing category. After carefully observing incidents of Taiotoshi it became apparent that this throw could be used to Capture an Exposed Support Leg or Block the Hips.
In 69.23% of the Taiotoshi scores observed the Attacker’s Free Leg extended across the opponent’s Exposed Forward Supporting Leg to block, or trap, the supporting foot. In other words, the Taiotoshi was being used as an ankle trip against the foot of the Exposed Far Supporting Leg. In fact, all incidents of Taiotoshi scores executed by World Champion Mike Swain, in this study material, were of the Trip type.
In the remaining 30.77% of the Taiotoshi the Supporting Leg was Protected to the Rear of the torso. When the Supporting Leg was Protected, the Attacker’s hips were driven deeply across the defender’s front in order to Block the Opponent’s Hips. Attacking a Protected Supporting Leg with Taiotoshi required a high physical effort to complete the throw.
There is an important Coaching point here. With both of the attacker’s feet set firmly on the mat Taiotoshi is one of the most stable throws in Judo. Taiotoshi is difficult to counter and the attacking position is easily attainable.
Yet, given these benefits, Taiotoshi accounts for only 5.47% of the effective throws in top level competition, scoring in 14% of the attacks when it is applied. There seems to be an incongruity here. Taiotoshi is strong, safe, easy to apply and scores on a par with the other major scoring throws (approximately 15 to 20%) but it is not often used. The effective use of Taiotoshi can be improved. In order improve scoring chances, your players need to understand and practice using Taiotoshi as a small foot trapping skill.
From the Rear
There are occasions when the attacker will get completely behind his opponent. When you can get behind your opponent a Supporting Leg, that was Protected, is now exposed. You must Capture the Supporting Leg and drive the defender’s body over it. Attacks such as Nidan Kosoto Gake and variations of Leg Picks will accomplish this task. This is a common situation and should be given ample drill training.
When a player places his Supporting Leg within reach of the attacker’s Free Leg, he is going to get thrown. Even if the Supporting Leg is exposed only for a very short period, sooner or later, the defender will get caught. It is a simple situation. If you place yourself in harm’s way, you can expect trouble.
The area near the opponent’s Free Leg is very dangerous and should be considered as a no-mans-land, a neutral zone. You will find the Neutral Zone in the Restricted Space between the players. If either players trespasses into the Neutral Zone then he, or she, is asking for trouble. By the very nature of moving about, from one foot to the other, your weight is going to be placed near the attacker’s Free Leg at some time. You must be sure, when placing your Supporting Leg in the area between yourself and your opponent, that the leg is left for a very short period. Remember, any time that either player Trespasses he is vulnerable to attack.
Throwing opportunity, when players entered or Trespassed into the Neutral Zone, was the most difficult to understand. The fact that throws were being successfully executed, when the opponent trespassed with his Supporting Leg, was obvious. The wide range of techniques used to score on a Trespassing opponent was very confusing.
Scores were being awarded for techniques as diverse as Tsubami Gaeshi and Ura Nage during a very similar Opportunity of Vulnerability. Clearly, the defender was vulnerable to attack when he placed his Supporting Leg into the Neutral Zone. However, the types of attack being used to score appeared to have little, or nothing, in common.
After considerable study and analysis I recognized the circumstances that led to scores with skills such as Ashi Barai, Kosoto Gari etc. These throws were being executed against the intended Supporting Leg as the leg came into the Restricted area between the players. Foot Sweeps were being applied from a mobile posture against the opponent’s leg that was meant to be placed, if only momentarily, in the Neutral Zone.
Ashi Barai is a low effort, high rate of travel, throw that can be used during a very short Period of Vulnerability. These throws were examples of throwing the leg to which the majority of weight is being transferred during travel, which I call Travel Opportunity Throws.
The circumstances leading to scoring with Tsubami Gaeshi, Uki Waza, Uchimata Sukashi and Sumi Otoshi became the next area of focus. All of these skills were used as counter throws. The person to be countered was driving or projecting the majority of his, or her, weight behind the attacking leg. While the attacker’s weight was being projected into the Neutral Zone the defender;
- Moved his, or her, Supporting Leg out of the way of the attack
- pushed the attacker’s body in the same direction he, or she, was moving for the attack
In other words, the defender sees the attack coming, moves the leg that the attacker was going for and gets out of the way while he pushes the attacker to the mat. (a simple action, but not so easily explained)
Throws such as Ura Nage, Sumi Gaeshi and Kosoto Gake took place when the opponent’s Support Leg Trespassed into the Controlled Attacking Space and the attacker trapped the Supporting Leg. The player’s Rate of Travel was low, before these took place.
A Low Rate of Travel requires a High Physical Effort to complete a throw. The thrower had to trap the weight on the Trespassing Leg and then twist the opponent’s torso around the axis of the opponent’s trapped Supporting Leg.
All of these throws, from Tsubami Gaeshi to Ura Nage, have a similar throwing action of trapping a leg and turning the opponent’s body to the mat. All of these throws, from Tsubami Gaeshi to Ura Nage, have an Effort to Travel relationship. The third Vulnerability Opportunity is TRESPASS. Your opponent becomes vulnerable when he, or she, Trespasses into the Restricted Attacking Space.
The essence of this third throwing opportunity is timing. Trespass opportunity occurs when the opponent supports, intends to support or projects his weight into a Controlled, or Restricted, Attacking Space. Entering the Restricted Space places the Trespasser in, obvious, vulnerability. The objective of the intruder is to remove the weight from the precarious position as soon as possible. Therefore, Coach your players: If the Support Leg Trespasses, Pounce on it!
There were 97 incidents of scoring throws where the opponent was caught Trespassing. These incidents can be subdivided into two classifications, Momentum Throws and Body Throws. Momentum throws can be further divided into two lesser categories, Travel and Projection Opportunity.
Travel Opportunity is created as the players move about the playing area. Players learn very quickly that it is dangerous to place the weight bearing leg within reach of the opponent’s Free Leg, i.e., into the Attacking Space. Each time the weight is placed Inside the Attacking Space a Period of Vulnerability is created.
We, as bipeds, creatures with two legs, move with bipedal locomotion. Due to the mechanics of bipedal locomotion our weight will be shifted from the outside leg to the vulnerable inside leg on a regular basis. As the player freely travel about the mat a rhythmic pattern of weight placement creates opportunity for the Ashi Barai family of throws.
The throwing skills that can be applied to the Travel Opportunity fall into the classification of Momentum throws; Okuri Ashi Barai, Deashi Barai, Kosoto Gari etc. Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi, used as a tripping throw, could also be used in these circumstances.
Weight is projected when the attacker drives an Attacking Leg into throwing position. Examples of projected weight throws are Osoto Gari, Ouchi Gari, Ashi Barai and Uchimata. If the defender has not been immobilized or the Period of Vulnerability has been underestimated the attacker is projecting his weight against a nonexistent object. It remains for the defender to, simply, move out of the path of the attacking leg and help the attacker along his way.
Projection Opportunity throws also fall into the Momentum classification and are represented by; Forward and Lateral Twist Downs (Uki Otoshi and Sumi Otoshi), Tsubami Gaeshi and Uchimata Sukashi
Weight Trapping Opportunity
Weight trapping throws are characterized by a Low Rate of Travel and High Physical Effort. Weight trappers are similar to Leg Captures in that the Supporting Leg is held in place. Leg Capturing throws are, primarily, Hooking throws and hold the captured leg in place while driving the opponent’s torso over the trapped leg. In contrast, Weight Trapping/Body Throws hold the weight over the Supporting Leg and then rotate the opponent’s torso around the axis of the Supporting Leg.
I classify Weight Trapping throws as Body Throws. Body Throws are represented by;Kosoto Gake, Sumi Gaeshi, Ura Nage
It may seem odd to think of skills as diverse as Uki Otoshi and Ura Nage as coming from similar Opportunities of Vulnerability. However, these throws represent opposite ends of a Rate of Travel and Physical Effort scale during a common vulnerability to attack.
When you look at theses skills from a perspective of the placement of the opponent’s Supporting Leg a common link is easy to see. The common link is placing the Supporting Leg in the Restricted area. The factors that differentiate the throwing skills are:
- The Rate of Travel– The Rate of Travel determines how long the Supporting Leg will be available for attack.
- The opponent’s Posture–The opponents Posture determines how much Effort it will take to push the opponents torso to the mat.
The influence of Posture
Keys to deciding what form of throw to use are the opponent’s Posture, Rate and Direction of Travel. The strongest influence on the Attacking Space is Posture.
The easiest way to evaluate the opponent’s Posture is to look at how deeply Crouched he, or she, is. The second factor to look at is how far the Supporting Leg is set away from the opponent’s body. Posture and Support Leg position show how well the opponent can move about the mat. Posture also suggests how much physical force the opponent is able to use.
Generally, the deeper the opponent crouches the more force he can apply but the deeper he is crouched the less easily he can move.
Throws, just as Postures, are designed for either Speed or Force. Foot sweeps are light and quick and are executed from an erect Posture. You cannot throw an opponent in a deep defensive Posture with a foot sweep because the attacker is unable to generate enough Offensive Force to meet the Defensive Force. A Body Throw version of Kosoto Gake, on the other hand, will generate enough force to overcome the opponent’s defensive force.
In the comparison of Kosoto Gari and Kosoto Gake we have two similar throwing actions with a similar Opportunity of Vulnerability but only one of the throws will work. Observation of the opponent’s Posture tells the attacker which variation of skill to use.
The possible combinations of Grip, Tempo, Edge and Direction, in any given situation, would be impossible to predict. Because the situations, which our players will be faced with, are unlimited we need to find a way to generalize the use of Tactics.
Your job as Coach is to introduce general Tactical Situations and encourage players to experiment. Your starting point is to get players to:
- Recognize the situations of Supporting Leg Exposed, Supporting Leg Protected, Supporting Trespassing
- Recognize the type of throw that will work in the situation that they are faced with.
Once the necessary type of throw is recognized, the opponent’s posture gives all of the clues as to force and direction of throw that are needed.
No throwing attack will succeed unless the defender is thrown where the Supporting Leg is unable to support him, or her. Your opponent shows you what type of throw to use, where to throw him and how much effort to apply in order to throw. All of this information is found in the way that the opponent stands.
We can tell what type of throw to use by where the opponent has placed his Supporting Leg. If the Supporting Leg is the leg farthest away from your Driving Leg and forward of the shoulder the Far Supporting Leg is Exposed.
When the Far Supporting Leg Exposed, Capture it! Capturing the Supporting Leg means that you want to catch the leg, prevent it from moving and push the opponent over the Captured Leg. It takes Hooking throws to accomplish this task.
When the opponent’s Far Supporting Leg is set to the rear, his Supporting Leg is Protected or Hidden. You cannot reach a Protected Supporting Leg to Capture it. You have two options. Option one is to get behind the defender and capture the Supporting Leg. This is difficult! The defender is in position to move away and keep the attacker at a safe distance. If defensive mobility is not enough to keep the attacker at bay the defender also has an offensive weapon in his, or her, Free Leg.
When the defender hides the Supporting Leg the attacker must get past the defenders Free Leg before the Supporting Leg can be Captured. Getting past the Free Leg can be dangerous because many experienced defenders are very good at counter attacking. Option two is more logical and easier to achieve.
With the Supporting Leg Protected you should block the opponent’s hips and push the opponent around the obstruction. This action reduces the use of the defender’s Free Leg as a defensive weapon and pushes the defender into the area away from his, or her, Supporting Leg. Throws that can be used to meet these requirements are the Hip Blocking Throws and the Rolling Blocks. Finally, when the Supporting Leg is the leg nearest the attacker’s Free Leg, it is a Near Supporting Leg. Whenever the Supporting Leg is Near it is in a very dangerous position because it is within easy reach to pounced on. Both Attacker and Defender know the danger of having a Near Supporting Leg so the Supporting Leg is never left in place for very long. This is why we say that when the Supporting Leg is Near, or Trespassing, Pounce on it.
The amount of physical effort needed to throw the opponent determines the type of throw used. The attacks requiring the least effort, on a Trespassing opponent, are the Momentum throws; Ashi Barai, Sukashi etc. Medium efforts need Major Hooks and Trips; Kosoto Gake and Sasae Tsuri Komi Ashi. The heaviest efforts will require body throws; Sumi Gaeshi, Ura Nage etc. How much force is needed? The amount of force used in a throw must meet the amount of resistance that the opponent is using to defend.
The more force that your opponent wants to be able to use the further he, or she, moves the Supporting Leg away from his, or her, torso. When a player wants to move about quickly, with little force available, the Supporting Leg stays very close under the torso. As the requirement for force increases, in order to increase defensive resistance or prepare for an attack, the Supporting Leg is moved further away from the torso. There is, however, a trade off for the increased force. As the Supporting Leg moves away from the torso, it is true that, the defender has more force to push with. The problem is that the increased force is only available in one direction. Wherever the Supporting Leg is set to push that is the direction that it will push until it is repositioned.
When the Supporting Leg is set the defender has little or no force to prevent an attacker from pushing where the Supporting Leg is not. That is to say, if the Supporting Leg is Forward there is no support to the Rear of the Supporting Leg. If there is no Support there is Hole that the defender could fall into.
The further the Supporting Leg is moved from below your torso the more unstable the area opposite of the Supporting Leg becomes. Where the opponent’s Supporting Leg is tells you where to throw! You must push your opponent into the unstable area. The unstable area, this HOLE in the opponent’s defensive stability, where the Supporting Leg is not, is where the opponent must be thrown!
We can analogize the defender’s Support Leg placement to digging a hole. As the Supporting Leg is moved away from the torso a hole, a void of support, is created where the leg is moving from. When there is a hole in the defender’s support system! All the attacker has to do is trap the Supporting Leg where it is and push the defender into the hole of his own making.
The further the Supporting Leg is moved the bigger, and deeper, the hole gets. The defender knows that the hole is there so he adjusts his stance and grips, his overall Posture, in order to avoid being pushed into the hole. You must also make similar adjustments. You have to match the opponent’s resistance with offensive skill that will push the defender into the hole.
You could say that the attacker must match the size of attack to the size of the defender’s hole. For a small hole, erect posture and free movement, the defender can move around and avoid being pushed in very easily. He stands erect, his grips are wide and movement is free. You will need a small, alert, movement in order to be quick enough to push the opponent into the hole before he gets away.
As the hole gets bigger the opponent’s movements get smaller and his, or her, Posture gets stronger. You have to match the opponent’s resistance with stronger attacking movements. You will have to:
- set your Driving Leg at a greater Angle of Attack,
- shift your Power Hand to exert more Control over the defender’s hips
- rotate more severely into your throw
The attacking movements must be big because there is a big hole to throw the opponent into and he, or she, has prepared a big defensive effort.
Leg Capturing Throws
Leg Capturing throws trap the Supporting Leg and push the defender over the trapped leg. Throws that work in this manner are Hooking throws and some Tripping throws. A Mobile Posture and the opponent’s Supporting Leg being Exposed, provide opportunity for Kouchi Gari, Tripping type Taiotoshi and Leg Pick variants. As Posture changes indicate an increase in offensive force Kouchi Gake, Morote Gari and Osoto Gari become available. The highest effort Leg Capturing throws are of the Osoto Gake, Osoto Otoshi variety.
Hip Blocking Throws
Hip Blocking throws fall into the Medium Tempo Range. Rate of Travel as well as Effort of Execution are, relatively, moderate. Seoinage, Tsurikomi Goshi, the obvious Hip Blocks, may be used to throw in a moderate Effort, moderate Attacking Space situation.
As the Supporting Leg withdraws the leg becomes more difficult to reach. This is due, largely, to the fact that the opponent’s Near Leg can easily block attacks.
When you cannot reach the Supporting Leg, you must find a method of block the Supporting Leg so that it cannot move into the defender’s Hole. If the Supporting Leg can be moved into the Hole, obviously the Hole has been filled and you have to start over. Once the Supporting Leg is blocked, push the opponent into his, or her, Hole.
Throws that accomplish this objective are Seoinage, Tsuri Komi Goshi, Near Leg Taiotoshi, Harai Goshi and Uchimata.
Where does Tomoe Nage fit in? If we count Tomoe Nage as a Hip Blocker, and I do, what Postural considerations create the Opportunity of Vulnerability? The Supporting Leg placement vulnerable to Tomoe Nage ranges from moderately removed to well back. The deciding factor of Vulnerability to Tomoe Nage is the degree of erectness in the opponent’s Posture. An opponent that bends forward at the waist, without a corresponding lowering of the legs, is vulnerable to Tomoe Nage. In fact, Tomoe Nage may be the only throwing skill that could turn the opponent, for a score, in this situation.
Trespassing Opportunity of Vulnerability applies to opponents who place a Supporting Leg inside a Controlled Attacking Space during travel or during an attack.
When a mobile opponent will trespass for a very short period Ashi Barai attacks are in order. As the opponent’s Posture deepens your attacking effort should focus more on trapping the weight Inside the Restricted Space and twisting the opponent’s torso around the trapped leg; I.e., Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi, Kosoto Gake etc.
Finally, when your opponent has adopted a strong, deep, Posture, the Trespassing Leg must be trapped and the torso pivoted around the trapped leg. I.e., Sumi Gaeshi, Ura Nage
A total of 63 scoring counter throws were studied during this research. All 63 incidents were either a Body throw or a Momentum throw. This data shows that all observed countering throwing incidents occurred due to Trespassing Opportunity.
I had hoped to discover some consistent error in the attack procedure. I.e., Attacking the opponent’s Free Leg, improperly placed Driving Leg or incorrect Tempo application. However, as incidents of failed attacks and successful countering throws were scrutinized, I could find no consistent mechanical errors were in throws being countered.
Attacking the opponents Free Leg (here-to-fore believed to be tantamount to a death wish) was frequently observed and went with virtual impunity. Being unable to find consistent errors in the person being countered I turned my scrutiny to the person executing the countering throw. Defender’s being attacked when their Supporting Leg was Exposed or Protected were unable to execute counter throws. These defenders could perform defensive maneuvers but they did not actually throw the opponent for a score.
Defender’s being attacked, while in a Square Mobile Stance:
- weight on the balls of the feet
- feet beneath the shoulders
- shoulders square to the hips
- legs slightly flexed
could, and frequently did, execute a scoring counter throw. In fact, all observed counter throwing attacks, which earned scores, were executed by players being attacked while in a Square Mobile Stance. There were no observed incidents of players in a Square Mobile Stance being thrown for a score.
Two points to note:
- A few players, although they stood at an angle to the opponent and presented only one side, kept their shoulders square over the hips and countered very successfully.
- This observation of safety, in the Square Mobile Stance, could explain why elite players strive to keep square to the opponent on initial contacts.
These facts lead to the conclusions that
- Counter throws are primarily a function of a failure to recognize the defender’s lack of vulnerability
- Your opponent should never be attacked while he, or she, is in a Square Mobile Stance
- Players should be trained to use the Square Mobile Stance as a Safety Tactic
It was, initially, curious that Counter Throws should be restricted to a small range of Posture for the defender. On closer study of the circumstances a certain reasoning was revealed.
When you are in a Square Mobile Posture you are as dynamic as you can get. The Square Mobile Posture affords you the ability to shift weight very easily, thus being able to change Support Legs during the opponent’s attack. The Square Mobile Posture also allows you to get out of the way, of an attack, with a minimum of effort. By switching your Supporting Leg, during an attack, you can move into a safe position and then counter attack before the attacker can get away.
On the other hand, a player with his Support Leg set forward or back is committed to movement in the direction that the foot is pointing. With his restricted movement the defender needs to reset his weight, to the necessary defensive direction, before he, or she, can mount a counter attack. The time difference between a leg that does not need to be moved into position and a leg that has to be moved, even marginally, could account for the difference between a blocked throw and a countered throw.
According to the tenants of statistical analysis a sample size of thirty is required to establish probability trends. My initial intent was to analyze a minimum of thirty incidents of each defined throwing type and look for common links. As patterns were recognized, the focus of the research shifted from the attacker’s Initiative to the defender’s Vulnerability. As the categories of Vulnerability evolved the type of throw, used to score, became predictable.
Of the 297 scoring incidents in this research only six (6) fell outside the described paradigm. This evidence suggests that the required response to a given Opportunity of Vulnerability will fall into the guidelines outlined in this report 99.98% of the time.
Gleeson admonishes; “When learning simple throwing or grappling skills there are two general elements that have to be isolated: the technique and the situation in which it has to be executed” and “Teach the situation first and the techniques second”
Following this advice is simple in Ground Play situations. In Ground Play we recognize only three basic beginning positions. Such a small variety, of starting positions allows you to focus Ground Play training on specific Tactical circumstances. Unfortunately, there have been no standing situations defined before this study.
The results of this research suggests that defining the basic Tactical Situations of throwing is not as complicated as it may appear. Research statistics have presented a range of three Opportunities of Vulnerability and one position of Mobile Safety.
Three throwing opportunities and one situation where you need to leave the opponent alone is very manageable! Coaching your players to recognize each of these situations can be just as manageable.
The only problem is that the definition of Tactical Throwing Situations is completely new. No one knows what to do with this information. No one knows how, best, to apply this information to Coaching. It will take the courage of deep convictions to excellence to change an old and conditioned training method.
Past practice has been to allow a player to develop a technique and then attempt to adapt it to situations as they arise. This practice does not fulfill the Condition of Specificity!
It is important that your players know what type of throw is needed, in any situation that they are faced with. That is why Tactical Situation training must start with the beginning player and continue through the development of the individual attacking systems of your intermediate players.
As your players learn to recognize situational requirements several changes should become evident:
- your players will make more scoring attacks
- your players will be thrown less often
- your players will be counter thrown less often
Scoring attacks will increase because your players are concentrating on the opponent’s vulnerability. Incidents of being countered will decrease because your players recognize the opponent’s Posture and the danger of being countered in a Square Mobile Stance. Incidents of being thrown will decrease because your players will know what type of attack his, or her, opponent must use in any situation.
Finally, knowing the safety in a Square Mobile Stance your players can learn to use a change of Posture to lay traps or take a short breather.
From a Coaching perspective, knowledge of Opportunities of Vulnerability will be especially useful. When an opponent’s techniques are known, your players can be Coached in what Postures to avoid. Conversely, where one of your players has a weakness he, or she, may be Coached to avoid or minimize play in that situation.
By reducing the options that a player is faced with, in any given situation, the probability of success is increased. Your players are given less to have to think about. Your players will be given a simple formula for success with easily recognized keys to performance.
In simplifying the options, facing the Coach and Player, we are focusing training on essential elements and eliminating superfluous minutia. We are cutting to the heart of the matter, what needs to be done when it needs to be done, with no guess work.
The Ideas Tested
The objective of this research was to support or refute three separate, yet related, ideas.
- I was looking for a definite clue, in the Attacking Space, to show which attacks to use.
- I was attempting to reduce throwing options by identifying common traits in throws and opportunities to throw
- I was attempting to find out why some attacks are countered while other attacks are simply avoided
Terrain, the key to successful attacks
My initial hypothesis was stated as; Judo Terrain, the Attacking Space, holds the key to successful attacks and that the placement of the Supporting Leg holds the key to the Terrain. A more accurate statement would have been that; The placement of the Supporting Leg holds the key to successful attacks as well as defines the Terrain that has to be traveled across.
This may be nothing more than semantics. The important point is that the evidence has supported a correlation of Support Leg placement and the type of attack required to meet the situation.
Throwing Actions and Opportunity
The purpose of this research was twofold. I wanted to define Tactical Situations and the responses required by those Tactical Situations. This research has met those objectives. I, also, wanted to see if a simplified system of classifying techniques was feasible. It is! Every Coach can improve his effectiveness through a simplified classification system. Whether the Coach uses the system suggested here or designs his own simplified system Coaching effectiveness will improve by:
- Using a simple method of classifying and introducing skills to your players
- Encouraging your players to be creative
A common link in Counter Throws
A common link between incidents of countering throws was discovered. In all observed counter throwing incidents the person being countered attacked a defender that was in a Square Mobile Posture. The evidence shows that the most important consideration, in counter throws, is the initial attacker’s failure to recognize and respect the opponent’s Posture of Safe Mobility.
These findings do not attack the traditional aspects of Judo. These findings address the potential improvement of Coaching efficiency in the Olympic Sport of Judo. The intent of this report is to persuade Coaches to divorce themselves of a technical classification approach to Coaching and embrace Coaching from a Tactical perspective. A Tactical Coaching perspective states:
- There are three Situations of Vulnerability and one situation of Mobile Safety.
- Each situation requires a corresponding, very specific, mechanical actions.
Competitive situations have now been defined. Your first step, to using this information, is to Coach your players to recognize Tactical Situations and the required responses.
Learn all that you can about using Tactical Situations. When you and your players understand how to recognize Tactical Situations it’s time to experiment. Your players should be encouraged to experiment with methods of meeting circumstances. You can show old tricks and new ideas that might work that work in some of the situations. Player and Coach experimenting together will develop a player capable of meeting the challenge of the competitive arena and a more effective Coach with a better understanding of tactics.
It is my contention that, the simpler we can present the Sport of Judo, the more effective our players will be. Through simplification we reduce the options that face our players during competition. The above classification system changes the questions facing the player to a positive knowledge of what must be done.
Following is a list representing classically named throws as they may be applied under the above suggested applications.
- Leg Captures/Large action hooks
Osoto Gari, Ouchi Gari, Kosoto Gake, Kouchi Gake,Morote Gari,Yama arashi
- Leg Captures/Foot Trapping Action
Taiotoshi, Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi, Hiza Guruma, Kouchi Gari, Leg Picks
- Hip Blocking Throws/Major, Lock the opponent tight and push him over, Action
Uki Goshi, Ogoshi, Seoinage, Koshi Guruma, Tsurikomi Goshi, Tsuri Goshi, Seoi Otoshi, Tai Otoshi, Osoto Otoshi
- Hip Blocking Throws/Rolling Action
Uchimata, Harai Goshi, Ashi Guruma, Hane Goshi, Tomoe Nage, Kata Guruma, Oguruma, Soto Maki Komi, Uchi Maki Komi
- Trespass Throws/Travel Opportunity
Deashi Barai, Okuri Ashi Barai, Kosoto Gari, Harai Tsuri Komi Ashi
- Trespass Throws/Projection Opportunity
Tsubame Gaeshi, Uki Otoshi, Uki Waza, Sumi Otoshi, Uchi Mata Sukashi
- Trespass Throws/Weight Trapping Opportunity
Sukui Nage, Kuchiki Taoshi, Kibisu Gaeshi, Kosoto Gake, Sumi Gaeshi, Tani Otoshi, Uki Waza, Yoko Guruma, Yoko Wakare, Ura Nage, Yoko Gake, Yoko Otoshi, Daki Wakare, Hikomi Gaeshi, Tawara Gaeshi, Ouchi Gari/Gake
This list should not be viewed as a complete guideline. As players and coaches develop creative views and technical application new methods will be devised to employ techniques in multiple situations.
This page is provided by the author, George Weers, and published here by Neil Ohlenkamp, Encino Judo Club, California, USA.Last modified July 20, 1997