Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thoughts on the Judo World Championships: Gripping and Playing the Edge

                                      (Jimmy was right. It's all about gripping. I doubt even he knew
                                                             how true this would become)

If you're like me, you've been following the Judo World Championships in Paris the last few days. Last night after about an hour, I noted I was bored by the number of 7-11 minute matches with few discernible big throwing attempts, save in the last few minutes of regulation.
I got to thinking about my most recent tournament and some things I realized on the drive home.....

I competed recently in a regional level Judo tournament. I had semi-dislocated my elbow 3 weeks prior due to armbar/jujigatame in an MMA fight. I was unable to play right hand due to pain in my elbow and had only managed about 6-7 training sessions before the tournament.

I managed to sweep two weight classes, win all my matches by Ippon while playing predominantly left-handed. My tokuiwaza is a right Tai Otoshi with either traditional grip or a cross/same side grip.
This post isn't about how I'm the most awesome Judoka ever. It's more specifically about the importance of gripping based on the new rules in Judo. I thought back on the 2 hour drive home from the tournament. I beat several players not so much b/c I was a stronger thrower, had better conditioning, or even a wider range of strong throws.....I won b/c for the most part won the battle for grips: I kept them from getting their preferred grip and out-hustled them by attacking first in most of the exchanges. Some of these were legitimate attacks and some of these were just to make it look like I was throwing and he wasn't throwing.
When my opponents did attack, it was often  from a technically weaker position due to inferior gripping/position. I had watched their previous matches and my first order of business on the mat was keeping their preferred grip out of reach. I avoided any high collar grips or over the back grips from being placed on me, and I controlled their sleeve at the end, without letting them grip me on that side.

They eventually became anxious due to penalty for passivity or began coming forward out of frustration. Or both.
Each time this set up my finishing throw for Ippon. I actually threw my 2 toughest opponents the easiest out of the rest of the guys I faced b/c they grew anxious due to penalty or frustration and added their momentum to my throw.

Back to the Paris World Championships:
The banning of leg attacks and the move towards Judo being a mainly standing/throwing version of grappling (as opposed to wrestling, BJJ, Sambo et cetera) has very much increased the importance of gripping in Judo.

If you go and watch matches like I've linked below in the 60kg and 66kg category you see a much higher incidence of gripping exchanges that float to the edge of the mat with either half-hearted throws attempted or none at all. Many more matches are being thrown/won/decided at the edge of the mat following what feels like more protracted gripping exchanges than in the past.

Sobirov vs Hiroaka


2 more matches in the 66kg with protracted gripping exchanges and few big throw attempts


The final of the 60kg, at my first watching seemed overly passive, almost like neither player was really looking to throw and throw big. But as I went back and rewatched the matches, my perception changed. Players that historically could attack a leg or look for a pick-up when in an uncomfortable position or being driven to the edge of the mat now must either regrip, break the opponent's grip, or hope for a referee's "matte".

Sutemiwaza which was such a common occurrence in the last Olympics was still on display in the 60 and 66 as a fall back for players out of position and wary of passivity penalties by referees.A number of players you could tell just went for a sutemiwaza just to do something rather than draw a passivity call.

In Summary:
With the new emphasis on standing Judo and the banning of leg attacks; gripping has become even more important due to new limitations on attacks. In theory, players can still set in for a pick-up or a fireman's carry/kata guruma, but the potential for hansokumake/disqualification by a referee makes this ill-advised in competition.
In addition, the combination of shidos into points has also changed the nature of matches. Once a player is penalized, the non-penalized player then pours it on in rate of attack in the hopes of the opponent being further penalized and falling behind in points, thus having to further open up and attack from potentially inferior positions.

The banning of leg attacks and the double leg/morotegari was meant to get rid of "koka" Judo and make Judo a standup grappling sport.
The Cubans were criticized for their strategy of getting ahead then riding out a lead by foot sweeping and looking busy when ahead on points.
What we now may have is a mainly grappling for position/grip sport where big throws are fewer and further between than ever.

Thoughts? Comments?

No comments:

Post a Comment