Showing posts from October, 2011

Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer

There's kind of a kind of funny paradox in grappling.

It starts with a very basic, straight-forward technique. Let's say for example that uke is on his back and you're baring down on him. A relatively new or unskilled grappler will almost always try to push you off, to "bench press" your weight, right?

When he does that, he's presenting you with a straight arm. Naturally, you secure it and step right into juju gatame, end of story.

Consequently, most students learn or are taught very quickly, "Don't straighten your arms." Which now means you're rarely presented with the opportunity to use that juji gatame entry anymore. Which is great, right, because when your uke upgrades, you're forced to upgrade, and you both make each other better.

But then you realize no one's teaching that original, basic juju gatame entry anymore.

Or let's take the guard position. There's lots of fun things to do to your uke when you get him in your gu…

What I've learned about "kuzushi" (so far)

First of all, I'm learning not to spell it "kazushi." I suspect my pronunciation of Japanese words is, regrettably, somewhat tainted by the accent native to this particular geographic area.

Outside of that, one of the first things I learned is that kuzushi refers to "unbalancing your opponent." This is, by far, the most common definition of the concept I've heard over the years.

The next thing I learned is that there's more to it than that.

The word itself, according to Wikipedia anyway, "comes from the intransitive verb, kuzusu, meaning to level, pull down, or demolish. As such, it is refers to not just an unbalancing, but the process of getting an opponent into a position where his stability, and hence ability to regain uncompromised balance, is destroyed."

Well, that's certainly a good reason to think of kuzushi in such terms. But based on the myriad of things taught to and shared with me over the years by budokas far more advanced than…

Defend by attacking

Not too long ago, friend and teacher Kyle Sloan dropped by one of our early morning judo classes. There was one thing he mentioned to me that has stuck with me, something that I think I was beginning to understand on some level, but when he said it out loud, a lot of things—in both judo and aikido—snapped into focus.

We were speaking specifically about grappling, and how, when you're being held down, or your partner is attempting to choke or arm bar you, one really shouldn't simply defend. Rather, defend by attacking back.

When we're first taught, say, kesa gatame, we're taught certain "escapes"—how to break the hold. But that's just the beginning, I realized. Don't just break the hold, but seek to get myself into a position from which I can choke or arm bar him, or at the very least, put him in a hold down.

It seems like a small difference, but really internalizing it has made a big difference.

The thing is, I think most judo players will eventually …

A little "street judo"

I've been pondering for some time the idea of how to approach many of the judo throws from the standpoint of a sudden, unexpected attack. You know, like "on the street."

Okay, honestly, by now, I hate using that phrase, but for lack of a better one, there you go. I've always been somewhat troubled by one aspect of judo nage waza: the grips. Or to be more specific, the idea of walking around with your hands holding on to your partner and his hands holding on to before either of you attempts to throw.

What about the a-hole who's just trying to punch, kick and otherwise beat the living snot out of me? Can I launch a throw right at the moment he attacks? Or at least avoid the initial attack (get off the line) and then pull the trigger? I don't want to dance with the guy, and he damn sure doesn't wanna dance with me, frankly. The whole "grip fighting" concept seems to me, then, to really only apply to competition judo, and has little or no relevance …


It's really strange how often I find new ways of doing old things. Like hiki taoshi from junana no kata.

It's really difficult to describe in words what I'm been experiencing lately, but in essence, there's a circular movement in there that's so light and sweet, but incredibly effective. In fact I've notice the same thing about tenkai kote hineri. Even big, stout, clunky, muscly guys seem to bobble like rag dolls.

The funny thing is, there's nothing about that flies in the face of any principle I've ever been taught. Since my background happens to be in art and design, I wonder if this is akin to the idea of the principles of painting being universal, but the style of each individual painter is as unique as fingerprints?