What are your chances of getting out of a Hold Down once the referee has announced Osaekomi? I studied hundreds of international matches to see just how often players escape from holds. During matches from the 1983, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1995 World Championships as-well-as the 1992 Olympic games 57 incidents of Osaekomi were observed. Of the 57 Osaekomi 39 resulted in an Ippon while the defender escaped from the remaining 19. These numbers tell us that 31.6 percent of the time top level Judo players are able to escape from a hold down.

Statistics, however, don’t really tell the story. True, it is interesting to know that World class players can escape 31.6% of the time, but the real question is how do they escape. This is where the research gets very interesting. Of the 19 escapes observed 19 of the escapes were Uphill Turns. That’s right! The only escape that was successful, in World and Olympic level Judo competition, was the Uphill Turn.

Just to refresh your memory; the Uphill Turn is the escape where you turn toward the person that is holding you down and roll onto your stomach. The mechanics of the Uphill Turn are very simple. You have to get your body into position to PUSH against the opponents chest. Putting your body into position means getting your legs and arms where they can move the opponent away. That is legs (plural) and arms (plural) not just a leg or arm as we so often see!

Once you’re in position to push you don’t have to lift the opponent. All you have to do is make enough room, between you and your opponent, to turn your FAR arm and shoulder (that’s the shoulder and shoulder that is the farthest away from your opponent’s body) under the opponent’s chest. Once your arm and shoulder are under the opponent’s chest it’s easy to burrow your way under so that you turn onto your own chest.

It is, really, quite easy to escape with the Uphill Turn. It is also just as easy to prevent escape from the Uphill Turn. All your attacker has to do is keep your far arm and shoulder from wedging in under his/her chest. To prevent the arm and shoulder from wedging under all he/she has to do is put, and keep, pressure on your far shoulder so that you can’t turn towards your attacker.

So, is it’s so easy to prevent the Uphill Turn how come it’s the only escape being used? The key to escaping with an Uphill Turn it that you have to start turning towards your opponent before he/she can block your far shoulder. In other words, the instant that your back touches the mat you have to start turning into your opponent.

Guess what! Turning towards the opponent is not logical. Your panic reaction is to run away from the person trying to hold you down, not run towards him. We have to learn the proper response to the situation of having our backs to the mat. We have to practice, and drill, in order to develop the response of turning towards opponents when our backs touch the mat.

Now we know WHAT we have to do to escape WHY do we have to use the Uphill Turn to escape from Hold Downs? Why is the Uphill Turn the only escape that was used, successfully, by top level players? Not surprisingly, I realized the answer while I was engaged in Newaza.

I was working out with a young student recently. The young man is a good deal larger than myself and has wrestling experience so I was in trouble, as usual. Well, we got onto the mat and I was able to secure a hold down. Immediately the young man tried to bridge and roll. I looked down at him and said (here comes the good stuff) “you aren’t going to get out because you’re trying to pull me off”. The instant that the words were out of my mouth I realized that I had just uttered a profound statement. Of course, I didn’t let the kid know that I had just learned this extremely important bit of Newaza knowledge. I let him think that dispelling the secrets of hold down escapes was daily activity for the old Coach. Just what was so insightful about what I had said though?

Think about it! Our bodies are designed to push. True, we can pull but when we pull we place ourselves in a mechanically unsound and unstable position. The Uphill Turn works because you use your legs and arms to push your attacker away. The Uphill Turn gets your whole body into the act! Your legs come under your hips, your elbows come to your sides, your shoulders press against the opponent’s chest. In other words, the Uphill Turn fits the way we are designed to work most efficiently.

The Bridge and Roll, on the other hand, relies on pulling your opponent across your chest. At best, players using the Bridge and Roll push with their legs but they still have to pull the opponent across their chest with their arms. If you try to Bridge and Roll an opponent that has the majority of his weight extended on the side away from where you want to roll the opponent then you will have to pull his entire body weight across your chest. Actually, you will have to move more than his weight because his legs are extended and act as a counter weight.

When you Uphill Turn, on the other hand, you can get your body into position to push. Guess what!! You only have to push a small portion of the attacker’s weight far enough to make a small hole to turn your far shoulder into. With the Uphill Turn it doesn’t matter that the attacker’s legs are being used as a counter weight. We aren’t moving his legs!

That doesn’t mean that the Bridge and Roll won’t work as an escape! The Bridge and Roll will work, but the attacker’s hold down has to match the mechanical capability of your escape maneuver. In the Bridge and Roll your torso works as a fulcrum over which the opponent’s body is levered. In order to get the opponent’s body vulnerable to being levered you will have to have an appreciable amount of the opponent’s weight crossing the center line of your body, onto the side that you want to roll him towards. I estimate that at least half of the opponent’s torso must be across your center line before you will be able to execute a Bridge and Roll.

Once half of the opponent’s torso crosses your centerline all you have to do is hold your opponent in place and push so that his/her weight is rolled downhill.

Have you noticed that we seldom see an attacker silly enough to place his/her weight across the defender’s body? What we do see are holds where the attacker hunkers down into your armpit and camps there for thirty seconds. Unfortunately, what many defenders do in this situations is try lift their opponent or try to pull their arm (or other trapped body part) away. What we need to teach our players start turning into the attacker, and pushing for a small space, as soon as the throwing attack starts.

The bottom line is that you will almost always have to use an Uphill Turn because, mechanically, nothing else will work. If want to be able to use the Uphill Turn you had better start practicing the Uphill Turn.

January 1996

Last modified July 20, 1997