Why is it that sometimes the thrower is in control when the players hit the mat, sometimes the defender is in control when the players hit the mat and sometimes nobody is in control when the players hit the mat? Inquiring minds what to know. I wanted to know.

What we are talking about is the action of getting from a throwing attack to ground play. In other words, making a transition from Nagewaza to Newaza. What happens during a transition? Who controls transitions? What gives one person control over the opponent?

In an effort to find the answer to these questions I reviewed selected matches from the 1983 Moscow World Championships. During the matches 178 incidents of throwing attacks, with the players going to the mat, occurred.

Who controlled the situation, when the players got to the mat, was decided simply by which of the players was in position to make a newaza attack (basically the person on top). Of the 178 incidents of transitions 54 of the incidents were controlled by the person that attempted to throw. Fifty one incidents were controlled by the defender. Seventy three incidents ended with neither player being in control when they got to the mat.

Statistically, 30.3% of attacks ended with the thrower in charge of the newaza situation. I call this a Positive Transition. Negative Transitions are a situation where one players attacks with a throw but the other player is in control when they start newaza. Negatives Transitions occurred 28.7% of the time. Neutral Transitions, where neither player had a newaza advantage occurred 41% of the time.

What makes the difference in who controls the newaza exchange? Initially I thought that the key may lie in the mechanical actions of the attacker. What was it that the thrower was doing during one incident but not doing another time that might maintain or lose control of the attack?

As I observed a few incidents I could see that positive transitions were controlled by the attacker closing the attacking space. After the thrower had closed the attacking space he would keep pushing into the defenders body until the players hit the mat. I came to recognize that their were two areas of the opponent’s bodies that the attackers drove into. Attackers pressed into the opponent’s armpits or against the inner thigh. The area that the attacker drove against was determined by the type of attack being employed. Statistically, attackers drove into the upper body at a rate 81.5% over 18.5% of attacks going against the lower extremities.

Negative transitions were controlled in much the same way as positive transitions. Instead of the thrower driving against the defender it was the defender that took the initiative and closed the attacking space before the attacker could take control. In other words the defender was making an effort to counter attack. The space was closed at the shoulders or the hips, with a closely divided 51% at the shoulders and 49% at the hips. Neither maneuver appeared to offer a difference in control over the situation.

Neutral transitions are, from one perspective, the opposite of a positive of negative transition. Neutral transitions occur when the defender forces the attacking space open. You must realize what is being said here. The attacker gets his throw started, and starts closing the attacking space. The defender, recognizing his perilous position, then forces the space open. The space is forced open at the hips or shoulders. Interestingly, forcing the space open at the shoulders appears to occur because the defender recognized the pending attack early and was able to take evasive action. Forcing the space open at the hips appeared to be a last second survival maneuver. Forcing space at the shoulders and hips was almost equal with 50.7% and 49.3% occurrence, respectively.

What can we draw from this research. Obviously we need to practice transitions. We need to take the time to explain to our players that controlling your throwing attack all the way into newaza does not just happen. You have to get enough control to make a throw and then you have keep applying pressure to keep the control that you have worked for.

Conversely, we need to practice the defensive side of transitions. This research has shown that taking control away from the attacker happens almost as frequently as the attacker can control the situation (30.3% positive transitions vs. 28.7% negative transitions) So practice, practice, practice your defensive skills and learn to take control. Even if you don’t take control you have a good chance of neutralizing the situation.

In closing, I have drawn three, very important, conclusions from this research.

1) When you open space you neutralize your situation.

2) When you close space you take control of the situation.

3) The person that controls the throwing space controls the ensuing newaza exchange.

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