How many times have you seen an attack, against a defender in the Hands and Knees Bottom or Legs Around Bottom position, demonstrated by an attacker on his knees? How many times have you done it yourself? Do your players apply newaza skills from their knees? Do elite players apply newaza skills from their knees?

The objective of Judo play is to take away your opponent’s mobility while maintaining your own. So how do elite players maintain mobility when working from Legs Around or Hands and Knees Top? In order to find the answer to this question, I decided to research World Championship competition.

I reviewed matches from the 1983, 1991 and 1995 World Championships. The matches provided a cross section of Judo play from past to present, representative play from all weight divisions as-well-as both male and female competition.

I wanted to see what position attackers adopt before beginning an assault. Before I recorded an incident, the defender had to have had adopted a defensive position of either Legs Around or Hands and Knees Bottom and the attacker had to make a clear effort to assault the defensive position. Situations where the players went out of bounds, the Referee declared Matte or an attack was not pursued were not deemed to be legitimate newaza exchanges.

The Numbers

During this research 206 incidents of newaza exchanges were observed. In only 12 of the 206 exchanges did the attacker attempt to apply a maneuver while on his knees! In other words in 94.2% of the newaza exchanges the attacker worked from a mobile position. None of the 12 attacks from the knees produced a scoring maneuver. In point of fact, attacks from the knees did not threaten any defender in the least. In no incident did a World Champion attempt to attack a defensive opponent from his/her knees!

Positions of Mobility

There were two mobile positions used by attackers. Almost invariably, against Hands and Knees Bottom:

the attacker got to both feet lowered through his hips and drove into the defender with hips, arms and shoulders.

Against a defender in Legs Around Bottom the attacker:

kept his/her back erect dropped to one knee (keeping the toes alive, of course) and drove into the defender with the lower torso and abdomen.

Terminal Attacks

Not surprisingly elite players use terminal attacks when throwing. In other words the best players don’t quit driving their throws until they hit the mat. The nature of a terminal throw, however, means that the attacker is going to finish his throw on his knees or stomach. (Here comes the important part!) After a terminal throw elite players took the time to get into a mobile position BEFORE attempting a newaza maneuver! That’s right, when the elite land on their knees or stomach they get into a mobile position before pursuing newaza.


Here’s the question, do certain people refuse to apply newaza from their knees because they’re elite players or are these people elite players because they refuse to apply newaza from their knees? It doesn’t matter!! World champions don’t attack from their knees. For that reason and that reason alone we should NEVER teach a newaza maneuver that is done from the knees. Certainly, you should not allow your players to play newaza from their knees!

As a Coach it’s your responsibility to insure that your players have the best tools possible to play this game of Judo. Mobility is the ultimate tool. Playing from your knees restricts mobility, so just don’t do it.

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