A study was conducted to investigate the types of Movement Patterns employed in Judo competition. A total of 148 international matches were observed to investigate the possibility of determining the types of Movement Patterns used by top level players. Video taped footage of the 1983, 1985, and 1989, World Championships as well as the 1990 and 1991 All Japan Open Judo Championship was used as the analysis material. Through careful observation a total of five distinct Movement Patterns were determined.

Free Movement

Pattern Description

Free Movement is the first Movement Pattern used by players when coming into contact with their opponent. Free Movement is accomplished in a large random steps. The Space between the players is at a maximum. The movement usually occurs with only one hand on the opponent. Free Movement is frequently in a circular, or semi-circular path around the opponent. Free Movement is done on the toes with an erect posture and quick, light, bouncy movements. During the Free Movement Pattern players are keeping themselves at arms length, with their feet directly below their shoulders and their shoulders squared to the opponent. The players keep the Vertical Space, between themselves, constant and withdraw at the slightest advance of the opponent. This is a Square Mobile Posture.

Tactical Value

The primary Tactical value of Free Movement appears to be psychological. Free Movement affords safe initial contact for both players. i.e. it allows one hand contact and full mobility yet denies the opponent any control.

Wide Step Lateral Movement

Pattern Description

Wide Step Lateral Movement falls into the low range of rapid travel. In other words the player’s movements are quick but fast. The players usually have both hands on the opponent but neither player has a Power Hand “set”. Player Space is quite wide but not necessarily maximum. The players are staying in their Square Mobile Posture but the movements are not as wide as in Free Movement. The Wide Step Lateral Movement Pattern sees players moving from directly right or left to moving in a slight right or left arc in front of the opponent.

Tactical Value

The Tactical Value of a Wide Step Lateral Movement Pattern lies in a high security factor. Wide Step Lateral Movement allows players to maneuver for positions of advantage without allowing the opponent time to mount an attack.

2-3 Step Hesitant

Pattern Description

The 2-3 Step Hesitant Movement Pattern is taking two or three steps in quartering left or right diagonal directions, towards the opponent’s side. The players are beginning to develop Attacking Power and testing for any possible weaknesses in the opponent’s stance. Players do not commit their full power the 2-3 Step Hesitant Movement Pattern. Players appear to be testing the opponent’s position with 60 to 75% of the player’s power.

2-3 Step Hesitant Movement is, usually, undertaken by one player at a time. Players frequently takes turns at 2-3 Step Hesitant Movement. The first player will take 2-3 Steps and Hesitate for the opponent’s reaction and then the opponent takes his 2-3 steps to bring the Vertical Space back to neutral.

During 2-3 Step Hesitant Movement the moving player has a Power Hand “set” or is trying to get into position to set a Power Hand. The opponent will also have a Power Hand in position and is resisting any force from the moving player. 2-3 Step Hesitant is the first stage of getting the Driving Leg into place. The players are probing the opponent for weakness but still reserving an escape route in case of attack.

This movement pattern might well be analogized to a pair of young bull moose trying to push each other around just to see what might be gotten away with.

Tactical Value

2-3 Step Hesitant Movement takes the players out of the safety of their Square Mobile Posture and sees then begin to lace a Driving Leg. This Movement Pattern is also employed as an attempt to induce the opponent to commit to a specific line of movement.

One Step Weight Shuffle

Pattern Description

The One Step Weight Shuffle is where the opponent’s are seriously feeling for an opening. The Power Hand is “set” the Driving Leg is back and Near it’s attack position. The aggressor’s chest is open and 80 to 90% of available power is applied to resisting the opponent. With his Driving Leg at or Near the position from which to launch an attack the players shift weight rhythmically from one foot to the other searching for a weakness.

Tactical Value

The Weight Shuffle is an attempt to push the opponent into position for an attack. It is test of strength and nerves. If the opponent allows himself to be pushed too far an attack is imminent. If the opponent does not resist with sufficient strength and allows himself to be pushed back the result will be an attack. The One Step Weight Shuffle is the stage just prior to attack. During the One Step Weight Shuffle the role of attacker and defender is usually obvious. The attacker has his Hips and Chest open and turned away from the opponent, the Driving Leg is set back, the Power Hand is in position and the Locking Hand is trying to break down the defender’s outside shoulder. The defender to remain as mobile as possible and maintain a Square Mobile Posture.

The Fox Trot

Pattern Description

The Fox Trot is that little dance, twitch of the hips and the beating of the feet, that we see so often, from strong players, just before an attack. The Fox Trot is a set pattern of quick steps that move the attacker away from the opponent and quickly back into the attacking position. The Fox Trot Movement Pattern is an integral part of a successful attack. The Fox Trot moves the attacker away from the defender and then immediately back to the defender for the attack.

The Fox Trot Pattern effectively opens the necessary Attacking Space, the area between the players that is needed for the attacker to travel through to get his body into attacking position, and then takes the attacker back into the Throwing Space, the proper amount of area that should be between the players for the attack. The Fox Trot provides plyometric action, a coiling and uncoiling of the attacker’s legs and body, for an explosive attack.

Tactical Value

The Fox Trot is a Footwork Pattern that must be used as attack preparation. In all of the attacks observed, during this research, there were no incidents of a defender being scored on, or even needing to seriously defend against the attack, if the Fox Trot was not used. In other words without a Fox Trot there is no effective attack!

The need for the Fox Trot was also evident in Counter Throws as well as straight forward attacks. In preparation to Counter Attack, the Defender needed to open his Attacking Space, through quick Fox Trot Footwork, and then close into the Throwing Space in order to have effective countering throws. In other words, the defender would get out of the way of the attacker’s initial maneuver, with the first steps of the Fox Trot, and then bomb right back in with his a counter attack.

Scoring throws were usually preceded by a period of One Step Weight Shuffle prior to the Fox Trot. Some exceptions were observed but the higher the throwing effort the more need for the sequential progression of Weight Shift, to Fox Trot, to attack was evident.

Observations and Conclusion

The first four Movement Patterns appear to be a natural extension of the gripping situation. As the control of the Power Hand increased movement, from the players, decreased. This progression is quite logical and is probably gained through experience.

The Movement Patterns, noted in this research, also had a distinct progression of use. Movement began with light contact and large activity which progressed to an economy of movement as the degree of Power, being applied to control or attempt to control the opponent, was increased.

Movement Patterns did not necessarily begin with Free Movement nor did it go directly into a Weight Shuffle. The movement between players diminished in proportion to the efforts of the players to set their Power Hands and Driving into position for attacking.

There were no instances of players going, suddenly, from very little movement, with Power Hand and Driving Leg in place to a a flurry of movement with no Power Hand or Driving Leg without a break of contact between the players. In other words, players would start out with lots of movement and work into a Power Position without letting go of the opponent but they would not try to move around rapidly once their Power was set without breaking away from the opponent’s grips.

The first four movement patterns were evident in all players and matches observed. The degree to which the large, faster Movement Patterns was employed appeared to be inversely proportionate to the player’s weight. That is to say the higher the weight category the less the players moved. The presence of the first four movement patterns in all players would suggest that these patterns are natural and do not need to be taught to players.

The facts that:
a) the Fox Trot was not evident in all players and
b) the Fox Trot was required as part of an effective attack
suggests that the Fox Trot is a learned response. That is to say that players must be trained in the use of this Movement Pattern.

The most effective attacks (with a few notable exceptions) progressed from a Weight Shuffle to a Fox Trot. The Fox Trot was also executed from Movement Patterns #2 and #3 but never from pattern #1. Where the Movement Pattern, immediately preceding the Fox Trot, was not a Weight Shuffle the attacker had great difficulty closing to the Throwing Space. Notable exceptions were throws that require a maximally open Throwing Space. i.e. Fast Tempo Tomoenage. (refer to the Tomoe Nage throws of Hosokawa)

That Movements Patterns can be discretely cataloged is not surprising. What might be surprising is that such a small catalog was recorded.

The most important discovery of this study was that there is a Movement Pattern that appears to be a requisite to successful throwing attacks. Of further note is the fact that the requisite pattern was not seen in all players. Coaches will need to adjust teaching methods in order to condition a foot work pattern that opens the Attack Space and places the attacker in optimum position to close into the attacking position. In other words every player must develop his, or her, own version of the Fox Trot.

This may well be another piece of the puzzle that comprises the game of Judo. What we do with it is going to have to be in the hands of each individual player and Coach.

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