Look, ma, no hands!

I haven't written here in a while, mostly because my father recently passed away, and, well, blogging hasn't exactly been at the top of my list of priorities. And I can't say how often I'll post in the near future, because my second kid is about ready to be born, and most of us know how that kind of thing can wreak havoc on a schedule.

For now, though, I thought I'd mention a little bit about some interesting things I found in judo class this morning.

As a normal part of practice in all the classes at Windsong, we start with a foot sweep drill: as tori, I sweep uke's foot with my left foot, I set it down, then immediately sweep with my right foot, set it down and so one, walking this way across the mat; then it's the other man's turn (see the image above; I think there's a video of this drill somewhere, but I can't find it just now).

Now, a student mentioned to me the other day that when they tried to sweep someone's foot, they simply missed. That's a normal hurdle we have to jump going from a drill to actual nage komi or randori.

The first thing people tend to do in order to make it work is speed up. Which is, of course, no good. For uke's it's really easy to feel the change in speed through tori's arms (which are attached) like feelers, like the whiskers on a cat. Rather than change our speed, we have to change the distance.

So I had everyone pair up. Uke grabbed tori, one hand on each lapel, and tori had no grips whatsoever. Our hands can help a throw, such as a footsweep, but too often when learning, our arms try to do all the work and make things worse. We have to learn to do it with our centers first.

Once we had that no-hand relationship, we moved around the mat. At some point, tori takes a deeper than normal step with his support leg, and then does a sweep with the follow-up leg. We weren't concerned about throwing, just trying to 1) maintain the same speed (no accelerating), 2) move through the man with our centers, and 3) catch the foot in the natural rhythm. Uke should really feel nothing until it's too late.

The interesting thing was, we tried it with a step-around double foot-sweep (harai tsurikomi ashi) entry. We immediately ran into some issues.

When we have a grip on uke, it's far easier (automatic, really) to keep our centers pointed at the man because we're attached at two points (left lapel and right elbow). When not attached, it was much easier for our centers to wander, or in other words, for the knot out our belts to point out in space instead of staying pointed right at uke's knot. We ended up trying to do the double foot sweep before uke had a chance to come around, and our centers were pointed out in space ahead of him, and our sweeping foot was way behind us (no power).

With no hands, we really had to put our heads back in our center, to really think about where it was pointed, which made sure we did the technique from there, not just the foot. With our hands, we can draw uke around, which lines him up nicely with us. But without hands, uke's following along like I'm a boat, his arms are a rope, and uke's a water skier. So, we had to wait a step or two until uke caught up. But once he did, and our centers lined up, the sweep was right there waiting.

I'm actually really interested in exploring more throws practiced without hands, so we may do that for a while. I've done it before to a certain extent, years ago, but my memory is hazy, and I suspect there's more gold to mine there.

We'll see if I actually have the time to post about it.


  1. last nite i had a student who was too solid in the shoulders and arms - it was messing up the throw (deashibarai).

    so we played the thing with lite hands for uke and no hands for tori and it made a remarkable difference. after he got the idea we added the hands back in as feelers and guidance and the deashi that came out of it was remarkable.


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