by George Weers
No Judo skill occurs as an isolated incident. There is always a series of events that lead to the execution of every throw, hold down, arm lock, choke or sankaku. Professor Kano recognized a progression of events. He taught that before you could execute a throw (kake) first you had to have movement (tsukuri) and a disturbance of the defender’s balance (kuzushi). Unfortunately Kano Shihan only applied this progression to throwing skills. He did not, so far as we know, address the progression of executing a newaza skill.
Video taped Judo matches from the 1996 Olympic games where reviewed to determine the sequence of events that lead to scores in newaza. In two hundred sixty-one (261) matches a total of six hundred and three (603) newaza exchanges were observed. Newaza incidents were recorded only when an earnest exchange, i.e. the attacker pursued an advantage that could lead to a score. Of the 603 newaza incidents only 58 (9.6%) exchanges resulted in scores, or a near score. Near scores were recorded when the attacker actually secured a hold-down, arm lock or sankaku but the defender managed to escape. Of the 58 scores 16, or 27.6%, resulted from throwing directly into a newaza skill. The remaining 42 scores (72.4%) were secured against an opponent in the hands and knees bottom position. Of primary interest, to this research, was the result of newaza exchanges where the defender was able to adopt a defensive position, in this case the hands and knees bottom defensive posture.
You must understand, we’re not talking about the attacker laboriously prying the defender out of his protective shell like an octopus with an oyster. We’re talking about an explosive burst that jarred the defender into a momentarily exposed position. We’re talking about a hit and run offensive that leaves the victim wondering where the truck came from. We’re talking about applying a well-rehearsed skill that forces the defender into a vulnerable position and capitalizing on the advantage.
In every incident of a successful newaza attack, the attack was executed by first forcing the defender to move in a manner that exposed some part of his/her (defender’s) body as a point of control. This point is an extremely important! There was no newaza score that did not start without movement!!!
In practice, what took place was very simple. Every newaza score started with the attacker making the defender MOVE so that he/she could gain a little control. Once the attacker had some control he increased it until he was in a scoring position. Does this sound familiar? It should, movement and control is exactly how we execute throwing skills!
This research has revealed a sequence of execution to newaza skills that parallels the execution of throwing skills in that each successful newaza attack began with movement, progressed to unbalancing the defender and culminating in the execution of the skill.
All of the newaza scores began with movement. The logical question becomes, what kind of movement? It’s very easy to see the origin of controlling movement when a defender is thrown directly into newaza control. The thrower has generated force that drives the defender’s back toward the mat and just keeps right on pushing into newaza. Movement and control against a ‘turtled’ defender, on-the-other-hand, can be a little more challenging to detect. Attackers employed three maneuvers to generate movement and control.
The term ‘scrub’ is used because the attacker treats the defender like a large cleaning brush and scrubs him/her on the mat to open the defensive posture. Scrubs are executed from a relatively high mobile position. Scrubs are typically executed by the attacker grasping the defender’s collar and belt and then scrubbing the torso forward. Scrubs performed while standing at the defender’s side expose the defender’s hips for insertion of a heel. Scrubs performed from the defender’s head expose the armpits for insertion of a heel, from the rear, or your arm from the front.
Drives are maneuvers that push down and away, at an angle on the defender’s torso. Drives are executed from a medium to low position. Drives expose points of control by pressing one portion of the defender’s torso, the hips or shoulders, into the mat and driving the opposite portion of the torso into an exposed position. In other words, you trap one end in order to make the other end moveable. Drives lower the area that you are pressing into the mat and raise the opposite portion of the defender’s torso. Drives executed from the side expose space to insert a hand or knee. Drives executed from the front expose the defender’s arms and neck. Drives executed from the rear create space at the defender’s hips to insert a heel.
Lifts are exactly what the name implies. You get over your opponent and you lift! You don’t lift all of the opponent. You only lift enough to expose your target. Lifts are, almost exclusively, performed on the defender’s hips. Lifts create space to insert your heel or heels into the defender’s hips to lever the lower torso.
The maneuvers that were used to induce the initial movement are, very nearly, irrelevant. After all, every player is going to employee the skills and maneuvers that work best for him, or her. The point is that the attackers forced the opponent to move and then capitalized on exposed weaknesses.
Basically what the successful attackers did was utilize the rule of inertia. The rule of inertia states that; a body at rest tends to stay at rest, a body in motion tends to stay in motion. The rule of inertia applies to Judo skills the same as it applies to anything else. Successful newaza did nothing more than employ action to get the defender moving and then find a way to turn his/her (the defender’s) back toward the mat.
There’s a very simple lesson here. In newaza, or tachiwaza, your opponent has to be moving in order to be able to execute your skills. Many Coaches already use the principle of moving the opponent to begin a newaza attack. How many Coaches realized that the movement was a requisite to a successful attack? How many Coaches have mistakenly taught players that the use of strength was the way to defeat a defensive opponent?
It was very surprising to find that less than one percent of the newaza exchanges resulted in scores. Could it be that elite competitors have gotten so good at defensive maneuvers that they’re becoming invincible? Could it be that players thought that the defender was in an invulnerable position and didn’t really try to score? More to the point, could it be that players aren’t aware of what actions to take in order to score?
It is, undoubtedly, true that players are getting better at defending themselves. It is also true that many players know better than to waste precious match time trying to assault a strong defensive position. However, I believe that the root cause of the lack of scores is the simple fact the majority of the players simply don’t know how to deal with the situation.
This research has suggested a need for change in Coaching behaviors and practices. From this point forward, it is no longer acceptable to teach any newaza skill that does not begin with explosive movement1. It is no longer acceptable to allow your players to rely on strength in newaza. The new watchwords of newaza have become movement and leverage. With a little thought and planning the inclusion of movement, to begin your newaza, will become as natural as tsukuri, kuzushi and kake.
“You progress not through what has been done, but reaching towards what has yet to be done.” — Kahlil Gibran
Last modified September 12, 1998