by E.J. Harrison
Excerpted from “The Manual of Judo” (1952)
Do not forget that in whatever direction you are trying to disturb your opponent’s posture, it is essential that the dynamic impulse should not be confined to your arms and legs alone but must be, as it were, reinforced by the centrifugal force emanating from your lower abdomen or saika tanden. Also in applying kuzushi be careful not to raise your elbows without immediate action, since in that position you expose yourself to dangerous counterattack.
In connection with what has been set above, I cannot do better than quote some remarks made by Mifune, 10th Dan and the late Hashimoto, 9th Dan of the Kodokan, on execution of throws: “it is necessary for you to realize the importance of full use of the body mechanism, from your little finger to your big toe. In this way your power comes from the use of your weight, your abdominal muscles and your shoulders. You must not use your arms are legs locally but your whole body as a unit, getting your results from the tanden (abdomen). For these results it may be as well to remind you of the importance of applying forces longitudinally. When pushing against something with a stick, it is very difficult to get any useful result by a lateral movement, but by a thrust along the length of the stick all your strength can be brought into play. In Judo this principle applies to all use of the wrists, arms and body.”
Movement (Shintai, literally “advance or retreat”)
Mastery of correct movement is all important in Judo. Be careful when advancing or retreating, when turning to right or left, to rest the weight of your body on the so-called leading foot. In actual practice or contest the accepted method of movement, which in time becomes virtually automatic, is for one foot to be used as the leading foot, while the other trailing foot comes up to within a few inches of the leading foot before the next step is taken. On no account should your feet be brought very close together or crossed, and be careful to bring up your trailing foot not too close to your leading foot before your leading foot has taken the next step. Neglect of these precautions will impair your balance. In Judo terminology this foot technique is called tsugiashi meaning literally “next” or “following foot”.
Another important point to be observed is that in movement the feet should be very little if at all raised from the mat, but preferably slid in a manner somewhat reminiscent of dance.
And in connection with this important subject of movement, please make careful note of the following basic principle: when engaged in randori or free practice, and your opponent tries to push you, do not push back against him; instead you should move backwards and try to pull him slightly more than he is pushing you but without losing your own balance. Similarly if your opponent is pulling you, contrive to advance against him a thought more rapidly than he is pulling you but without losing your balance. Observance of this principle will facilitate your aim to break your opponent’s posture or balance and thus expose him to your effective attack.
In the same context it should be self-evident that even when engaged with an opponent of approximately equal physical strength, you cannot hope to throw him unless and until you have broken his posture or balance. And if he happens to be physically stronger than yourself, adherence to the correct technique becomes even more important. It would, for example, be a waste of energy to try to throw him if he had one foot or both feet firmly planted on the ground. The ideal moment for any attempted throw is a split second before his leading foot is firmly planted or if you have his posture so broken that he is tilted forward on the toes of that foot. This rule is equally valid whether your opponent’s posture has been broken towards his right or left front corner or towards his direct front, when either foot might be vulnerable to attack, or when your opponent’s posture is broken towards his left or right back corner or direct back and he is canted backwards on his heel or heels, although your chosen throw will necessarily be determined by the particular direction in which you have broken his posture, and will very accordingly.
The leg that is not advancing, i.e., on which your opponent is not resting, is in Japanese Judo parlance sometimes called the “floating” leg, and it is rarely advisable to attack that leg since the retention of his balance does not depend upon it to the same extent as upon the leading leg or foot.
Do not get discouraged if in the early stages of your novitiate a you cannot successfully translate these basic principles into practice. And indeed reflect that when you are sufficiently skillful to do so, say, more often than not in practice or contest, with an opponent one degree below the Dan grade, you will already have qualified for the coveted Black Belt. Dogged patience and perseverance are just as important and necessary ingredients of your mental and moral make-up as are good health and strength of your purely physical equipment, for success in your study of this fascinating art. And the primary object of countless repetitions of your chosen throws is to render the response to your opponent’s every move virtually a reflex action.
One other principle should be noted: unless in the very act of applying a throw, hold or lock, avoid tension and rigidity when grasping your opponent’s lapel and sleeve in any of the natural or self-defensive postures already described. To adopt a simile used by renowned teacher Sakujiro Yokoyama (pictured), your arms should serve as chains loosely connecting you with your antagonist or as an electric cable along which his impulses and contemplated moves may be conveyed to you at the moment of their inception. On the other hand, if you persist in keeping a strong grip on your opponent’s lapel and arms stiff, you will not only all the sooner tire yourself but owing to the cultivation of this bad habit, when you come to apply a throw, both your Tsukuri and Kake will lack the speed and suppleness essential to their success. This bad habit will also deprive your contemplated attack of the element of surprise which in its turn is indispensable to the successful execution of every Judo technique.
If you’re always afraid of being thrown, especially in randori, and although perhaps you may, if ever on the defensive, prove a difficult man to throw, you can never hope by such tactics to develop into an efficient judoka with ability to throw the other fellow. In the early stages of your training it is almost inevitable that the bold essay of any new throw will expose you to the risk of a counter. Yet if you are wise you’ll make light of this risk and always go “full out” for every throw regardless of the consequences. Once you are satisfied that you have detected a good opening, do not resist the impulse to attack, or in boxing parlance, do not pull your punches.
Tsukuri and Kake
Literally the Japanese word Tsukuri means “make”, “construction”, “workmanship”, while Kake means “beginning” or “start”, but in their Judo connection they have a special technical significance.
Thus tsukuri is the power of distorting your opponent’s posture or balance described above. It is an indispensable preliminary to the decisive application of the particular technique you have in mind for your opponent’s overthrow. Then the instant you are satisfied that you have broken his posture or balance in the required direction, go all out for the relevant throw.
The movement synchronizing with the application of the required technique is known as Kake or, as one might say, the attack itself, i.e. the actual throw. When demonstrated by an expert transition from Tsukuri to Kake may be so swift and subtle as dilute detection by inexperienced onlooker. Faulty Tsukuri can very easily spoil your Kake, even though the latter has intrinsically been correctly applied. And admittedly an exceptionally powerful Judoka may succeed in throwing his opponent despite incorrect Tsukuri and Kake because of the use of brute strength but he is nonetheless violating the basic principles of the art and unless he corrects this fault in good time, he can hardly expect to develop into a really skillful exponent Judo. Japanese instructors of the Kodokan are never impressed by such exhibitions of mere “beef”, and even if the contestant guilty thereof scores a victory, they usually dismiss it contemptuously as “muri” or “unreasonable.”
A third important factor in the throwing process is called Tai-Sabaki. The word is composed of two characters, the first “Tai” meaning “body” and the second “Sabaki” meaning literally “management” or “judgement”, but in Judo context the expression may be freely rendered as the turning movement or action of the body which must by a split second precede the throw. Here I shall quote with grateful acknowledgment from the valuable French “Judo International” (Kokusai Judo) published under the patronage of the French Federation of Judo, part of an explanation of this all-important principle given by the late Honda, 9th Dan of the Kodokan, as follows: “In an overhead view, the line of the hips and shoulders may be likened to a bar turning about its center of gravity. If pushed at one of its ends it will turn, and the only way to overturn it is a push exactly at the center of gravity ‘A’. If we suppose, however, that the bar is free to move and that its center can take up any desired position not only at the middle but at either end, then by placing ‘A’ outside the line of the thrust its weakness is changed into strength. This is so for the human body. In Judo, to give the maximum leverage the turning axis for any throw is almost always at the end of the bar, that is about the shoulder or hip. For example in such throws as Seoinage (Shoulder Throw), Ogoshi (Major Hip Throw), Tai Otoshi (Body Drop), etc., when they are executed to the right, i.e., toward your opponent’s right hand side, you must turn to the left on the toes of your right foot, using the right hip and shoulder as axis or fulcrum. In this way the left-hand and shoulder are used to the utmost advantage in the throw. If, on the other hand, you turn your body is if it were pivoted at the center about a vertical axis, the arm of the lever is much shorter than the resulting movement in a circle and will not break the opponent’s balance to advantage. If Tai-Sabaki is well done, the opponent’s hand on the inside of the turn should not hinder you.” In general, Tai-Sabaki may be described as a balancing movement for the body and should be practiced daily as part of your training. Our efforts must be so directed that the body will be capable of light movement in any direction whatsoever.
The essential qualities of Judo reside in the execution of throws with finesse, without the expenditure of strength, joined to an irresistable rhythm. No less a person than Trevor Leggett, 5th dan of the Kodokan, and the highest ranking non-Japanese Yudansha to date, has aptly epitomized the rationale of the art in his saying that Judo is not a test of strength and endurance but par excellence of skill.
…..E.J. Harrison, 1952