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By Hayward Nishioka
Unseen Techniques of Judo
Would you say that a judo technique is skill set that allows one to overcome or win over an opponent? Would this be true whether it be a throw, pin, choke, or arm bar? Usually we associate these techniques or “waza” with a name; seoinage, kesagatame, hadakajime, udegarami. Now think to yourself, are there other ways of winning over your opponent, and if so how and what do you call them? What of a decision win? What of techniques that don’t seem to have a name but still qualify as a point scoring technique? Do the skill sets not have a name and if not what disadvantages are imposed on us as a result?
The problem with not having a name to tag a technique with is that it becomes less recognizable and hard to study. With out a name it’s sort of like meeting someone interesting but you didn’t get a name or a number. This happens more so with other means of overcoming an opponent other than throws, pins, chokes and arm bars. These areas include counter moves, combinations, advanced tactics, which include an area that is ever more important today than in the past, gripping skills.
If we go by the premise that a practiced skill that allows one to win is a technique then the following are just a few examples seen in the last World Championships and the Olympics. Please keep in mind these are not the traditional Japanese concept of a “waza.” For brevity sake I will be using Teddy Riner as an example although there are many Europeans using these unnamed techniques. Only two or three un‐named techniques will be mentioned in this short article. For more examples see “Training for Competition Judo Coaching Strategy and the Science for Success.”
When we generally ask how a person has won we offer up a name of a technique. In Riner’s case his big moves are uchimata, osotogari, ouchigari, but his unseen set ups are what make possible the eventual application of the traditional moves. The set ups are the un‐named techniques. Gripping in is vital to the ability to attack and defend but It’s often difficult to get the grip you want in order to attack. The easiest place to grip is at the ends of the sleeves, which are nearest to you, but most competitors feel more comfortable if they usually get the collar and the sleeve and that’s what they go for, but not Mr. Riner. While he can get most any grip he wants he is often seen gripping a hold of both sleeve end’s and pulling the opponents arms in towards his chest. Now I thought that was a funny place to grip since it’s really difficult to do an uchimata, osoto,or ouchigari from this type of grip. So, why do this type of grip? What you begin to see is the opponent trying to get away from Riner’s grip. All the while Riner is looking offensive, occasionally feigning an attack while the opponent to the referee looks to be stalling and not taking a grip. Most often this results in a shido against his opponent since he didn’t train to work a technique while holding both sleeves but Riner did. Remember a second shido is as good as a yuko score. Which happened for Riner this past Olympics.
The position that Riner’s arms are in as he pulls his opponent’s toward himself is not a natural position. It takes not only strength, it takes muscular endurance to hold the position. For the opponent it is taxing as well to be placed in a grip that seems to suck you into an off balanced position. While Riner has trained for this uncomfortable position the opponent has not, and will most likely be expending more energy than he had bargained for.
Additionally unnatural is to attack with only one hand on your opponent or when your opponent is holding on with one hand. Riner has the practiced ability to do just that. At the instant of releasing a grip Riner is able to attack. This is most likely a practiced maneuver done over and over in a dojo setting, tested in randori practice, and finally used in shiai. It only seems reasonable that two hands defending against your opponent is stronger than if you have only one hand available to push away your opponent. The motion of his entries at this time is often so quick and explosive that unless you have a trained eye or slo‐mo capabilities you will not see the set up. You will most likely report to others, “ He did a powerful osotogari,” when in fact he did much more. If you are a coach what will you be preparing your athlete for? Will it be the osotogari, or the gripping techniques leading to the one handed technique? If you have the chance, view last years World Championships in Paris in the match against Korea where Riner unleashes an osoto as the Korean is pulling his arm away. It's awesome! (VIEW BELOW)
Judo has been evolving and in order to keep up with new developments we have to be able to recognize subtle differences or suffer consequences. Japan in the most recent Olympics with it’s concern for traditional and ippon judo fell short of the mark and will surely have to make great changes if it is to retrieve its top place in world judo. For us in the United States while we have a close and traditional leaning towards Japanese judo, which in my estimation is still the best , we cannot afford to follow Japanese footsteps if they fall behind Russia, France, and Korea. Now that we have finally gotten a gold in the Olympics how about being number one in the world at least once. Crazy you say. Russia did it. We just need to do what Japan is going to have to do now, think out of the box.