Monday, July 7, 2014

A little punch drunk

Sooo, some of you may have seen the recent fight between Ronda Rousey and Alexis Davis.  If you haven't, you can watch it in it's entirely below. Don't worry—it will only take 16 seconds.



In the judo world, Ms. Rousey has served as something of an evangelist of the art (not so much in word as in deed), dominating her competition with trademark judo techniques, from hip throws to her bread-and-butter submission, juji gatame.

Case in point: during this particular bought, she makes very quite use of ogoshi straight to kesa gatame to end it before she can even manage to break a sweat.

Which is great. Hurray for judo, and all that.

Here's the thing. This example actually troubles me a bit. As long as your interest in judo is solely sport-oriented, then never mind, you probably needn't concern yourself. But if you look at judo in any measure as a viable form of "self defense" you may be in for a rude awakening—or, get put to sleep as the case may be.

Because if any of us (myself included) want to assume judo will save us "out there" on the proverbial "street," we should realize that in order to make judo a sport, one that be practiced with minimal injury, rules needed to be set in place. Rules that made it "illegal" to do certain things to your opponent that would  most likely will cause significant harm, such as leg and wrist locks, or—you guessed it—punching someone in the face. (Although, I'm sure many a competitive judoka will tell you that that rule doesn't necessarily stop opponents from slipping in a little chin music under the radar.)

So, while Ms. Rousey's performance may underscore many judoka's faith in their art, to me, it also points out a rather glaring weakness in it when it comes to self defense. If I train to deal with someone who can hold me in something like kesa gatame, but who is also nice enough to refrain from grinding my face into hamburger meat, what would I do in a true self-defense situation where my attacker isn't playing by any rules but his own?

And that's what troubles me. My particular school has never been interested in competitive sport judo, which leaves me to wonder, why am I doing it? Sure, there are the usual internal, personal benefits that come with the study of any art, and enrichment of the self and the spirit, so on and so forth, which I don't mean to devalue or dismiss. I just wonder how many folks out there are aware of the chink in judo's armor.



It's for this very reason that I dislike the practice of assuming a "turtle" position when grappling. In the context of sport, I get it, makes sense. Work it, drill it, break it down, score your point, go nuts. But otherwise, why on earth would I bother?

If I'm in an honest-to-goodness fight, and the other guy turtles up on me, well my friend, that's as good a time as any to run the hell away. Call the cops, for Pete's sake. Or, I suppose if you'd prefer to stick around and finish the poor bastard off, why mess with any fancy-pants upside-down, roll-around, arm-lock-choke nonsense, and just stomp on his head or kick him in the kidneys till he's peeing blood?

And if I'm the one who turtles up in a real fight, then I'm an idiot for thinking the other guy isn't going to do exactly that, and frankly, almost deserve the inevitable beating I get.

The same could be said for tate shiho gatame, of course. A bad guy isn't going to bother holding my like a teddy bear; he's gonna mount you and start treating your face like a speed bag. Anyway, you get the point.

So, where does that leave me? Well, while I certainly don't intend to start punching people during judo class, I would actually like to address some of these vulnerabilities in my practice. I still may not be able to withstand the human thresher machine that is Ronda Rousey, but against your run-of-the-mill ruffian, maybe I could at least save my pretty face.

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