Judo

Learn Effective Judo Strategies for Competition and Self-Defense From Olympic Medalist Mike Swain, Part 2

Action and Reaction

Many judoka have a favorite throw they’ll use whenever the opportunity presents itself. Contrary to what some instructors claim, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, Olympic judo bronze-medalist Mike Swain says. In fact, it can make all the moves in their judo arsenal more effective by intimidating their opponent. And since they’ve probably practiced the technique to perfection, it ought to serve as a devastating method of self-defense.

“If the person you’re facing fears your favorite throw, your other techniques like the backward throw and foot sweeps work better because your opponent reacts to you coming in for your favorite throw,” Swain says.

Sometimes your opponent will employ as a counter the same judo technique you’re using — which is often the case with the osoto gari, or outer-reaping throw. “What makes a throw work is the courage to attack with your entire body,” Mike Swain says. “You can’t just come in halfway because that’s when you get countered.”

Take It to the Street

Virtually any judo technique that works in competition will work on the street, Mike Swain says. In addition to the technical knowledge you have — and which your opponent probably doesn’t — you’ll have an advantage because you’re used to employing force against force in grappling range. Just as important, you’ll know how to fall without hurting yourself.

Mike Swain

If you determine there’s a need for it, you can always throw a punch or kick to set up a judo technique or to finish one. “In competition, you’d have to use the person’s uniform to pull him off-balance,” Swain says. “On the street, you can just strike him and he’ll be off-balance. Then you can follow through with your throw.”

Your follow-through can include just about any judo move you like with the exception of the hip throw, he says. That’s because in a street fight, the last thing you should do is turn your back to your opponent, even if it’s for an instant.

The most effective moves in such a post-strike situation are sweeps and rear-leg trips, he says. “When someone’s grabbing you and pushing you, he’ll usually have one leg forward. You can take that leg out with your foot, and it’ll happen so quickly that he can’t even see it.”

Extreme Techniques

As soon as your opponent falls, you should keep him down while you try to turn him over and control him or lock his arm, Mike Swain says. Alternatively, you can shoot for a choke. Usually executed from behind, judo chokes are so effective because they cut off the blood supply to the brain, causing the person to pass out in seconds.

judo choke

If you’d rather not mess with unconsciousness, you can go for a standing arm lock. Although it’s no longer permitted in judo competition, he says, it’s still a great self-defense tool that can hyperextend a limb and incapacitate an assailant.

The technique is executed as follows: When the aggressor punches, you grab the wrist of his attacking arm and pull it forward. Then you press your chest against his elbow and put all your weight on the joint, Swain says. At that point, he has two options: to hit the floor face-first or allow his arm to snap. Neither one will be pretty.

Read Part 1 of this story here!

Text by Sara Fogan and Robert W. Young. Mike Swain’s website is mikeswainjudo.com.

Bonus! The Best of Mike Swain

  • Best time to do a choke: When your opponent is distracted, such as during a transition.
  • Best way to prevent a choke: Keep your chin down.

Olympic judoka

  • Best way to keep your opponent from getting close enough to choke you: Position your hands by your throat so that when he reaches for your neck, you can grab his hands or sleeves.
  • Best way to escape from an armbar: Once it’s caught, there’s no way. When your arm is hyperextended, you can’t just pull it back.
  • Best way to stop an armbar: If you know he’s going for it, you can pull your arm in and grab your own jacket—or your arm or leg.
  • Best way to execute the triangle choke unexpectedly: When your opponent is on all fours. They do it from their back in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, whereas in judo, they apply it when the person’s on his hands and knees. It’s the same technique but applied in a different way.
  • Best way to maintain your upright posture: Keep your head above your hips. You always want to stand up straight. When you’re bent over, it’s easier for the person to throw you.
  • Best way to fight a bigger and stronger attacker: Turn around and run.
  • Second-best way to fight a bigger and stronger attacker: Polish your judo techniques and couple that knowledge with superior

Learn Effective Judo Strategies for Competition and Self-Defense From Olympic Medalist Mike Swain, Part 1

In the early days of judo, practitioners would challenge jujitsu stylists to all-out fights to prove which art was superior. Because weight classes were unheard of, there ended up being a lot of small guys fighting a lot of big guys. Judo had to function as a David-vs.-Goliath art if it was to survive. Its adherents quickly discovered that if they had speed and technique, they could nullify their opponent’s strength advantage.

So says Mike Swain, an internationally known judo practitioner who won a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics. He insists that same mix of speed and technique is just as potent on the mat today, but if you ever need to employ the grappling and throwing art on the street, you may need to spice it up a bit — by avoiding certain techniques and sprinkling in some striking. The following are his favorite fighting philosophies for turning the tables on your opponent no matter where the action takes place.

Control His Body With Judo

In a judo tournament, if you throw your opponent onto his back with force and control, you’ll earn a full point and win the match. “It’s like a knockout,” the Black Belt Hall of Famer says. A similar logic applies to the street because when a person is hurled to the pavement, chances are he’ll be incapacitated.

judo

If the throw doesn’t work quite right and your adversary falls on his side or on his hands and knees, you must use your weight to control him, Mike Swain says. “If you give him any kind of space, he can escape.”

If you happen to be on the wrong end of a throw, once you’re on the ground, you should keep your elbows and knees tucked in, he says. “I call it the ‘beach-ball theory.’ If you jump on a beach ball, you roll off. If an opponent tries to smother you with his body, you can grab him and roll him off you.”

This posture is also useful in self-defense because it protects your vital areas. You don’t want to leave your legs open because your groin will be exposed, and you don’t want your body to be spread out because your torso will be vulnerable, he says. Plus, the defensive position makes it more difficult for your foe to climb on top and immobilize you.

Use Judo to Feel Your Way

Whether you’re rolling in the Olympics or fighting for survival, your consciousness must be uncluttered so you can sense your opponent’s movements, Mike Swain says. Once you’ve freed it of extraneous thoughts, you’ll be better able to expect the unexpected — and react to it.

judo choke

When you’re in grappling range, your awareness should be more about feeling what your enemy is doing than about seeing him move, he says. He likens this principle to dancing: Instead of looking at your partner’s feet to determine where she’s going, you look directly into her eyes. Judo requires that a slight adjustment be made: Divert your gaze to your opponent’s chest and use your peripheral vision to keep track of what’s going on around you.

A valuable exercise entails practicing randori (free-sparring) with a partner after both of you have donned a blindfold. “Let your body feel which way your opponent is going to move,” Mike Swain says. “When you have a dance partner, you have to know when to step [to avoid crushing] her toes. It’s the same with judo: You have to feel when [your opponent] is off-balance.”

Break His Balance the Judo Way

Disrupting your opponent’s balance is the key to executing nearly every judo throw, says the San Jose, California-based instructor. In competition, you’re restricted to using legal judo moves to destabilize him, but on the street, you’re free to use strikes or even dirty tricks to catch him off-guard and set him up for a finishing technique.

A sleeve grip is the most important grip in tournaments because it also helps you get in the right position to execute a throw, Mike Swain says. While that move can work on an opponent who’s wearing a sturdy shirt or a jacket, it won’t function against a T-shirt. Fortunately, it’s not as serious a problem as it was in the past.

“A lot of the techniques that are done in Olympic competition today don’t rely on a gi,” Swain says. “They rely on wrist grabs and leg kicks. There’s a lot more wrestling influence these days. It comes from the European side of judo, like with the Russians and their sambo.”

(To be continued.)

Text by Sara Fogan and Robert W. Young • Photos by Rick Hustead • Mike Swain’s website is mikeswainjudo.com.

Bonus! Judo Movie Magic

Judo’s tomoe nage is also known as the rear-sacrifice throw. …

Martial Arts in the Olympics: Has Inclusion in the Games Helped or Hurt Judo?

In case you live in a cave, here’s a news flash: 2016 is an Olympic year. The 31st Summer Games are scheduled to take place August 5-21 in Rio de Janeiro. Whenever the world’s premier sporting event rolls around, we find ourselves reflecting on how the Olympics have affected the martial arts.

Part 1 of this article examines whether the Games have been good for judo. For input, we interrogated Gary Goltz and Hayward Nishioka, prompting them with questions and hoping they’d offer opinions on other topics that are of concern to them and practitioners of their martial art.

— Editors

Gary Goltz (Photo by Peter Lueders)

ART: JUDO
ADDED TO THE OLYMPICS: 1964
EXPERT: Gary Goltz, former president of the U.S. Judo Association, current board member of the Hal Sharp Judo Teachers Foundation

QUESTION: Is pre-1964 judo different from post-1964 judo?

GARY GOLTZ: Actually, a lot has changed since then. This started after World War II, when judo’s focus became much more on the sport aspect rather than the martial arts aspect. It had a lot to do with the occupation of Japan and Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s ban on the practice of all martial arts. The Kodokan set out to impress the American officers by showing that judo was a sport and a peaceful activity. When the Olympics came to Japan in 1964, they introduced it as an exhibition event. Back then, there were no weight divisions and no females. The only scores were the wazari (half point) and the ippon (full point). Matches lasted up to 20 minutes.

QUESTION: Did the imposition of rules for the Olympics change judo from a martial art to a martial sport?

New low price on the Greg Jackson Mixed Martial Arts Core Curriculum, an online course from Black Belt magazine and the world’s leading MMA coach. More info here!

GARY GOLTZ: Olympic judo today is more driven by rules than ever before. Wrestling-type moves such as kata guruma (shoulder wheel) and morote gari (two-hand leg reap) are now illegal. This was to force players to use more standing techniques such as uchimata (inner-thigh throw), harai gosh (hip sweep), seionage (shoulder throw) and ashi waza (foot techniques). The goal was to look good on TV and differentiate judo from wrestling.

QUESTION: Has Olympic inclusion boosted the popularity of judo overall?

GARY GOLTZ: Judo’s popularity soared in most countries with the exception of the U.S. This was due to the national judo organizations’ insistence on maintaining their members’ amateur status to meet Olympic requirements at the time. Here, other martial arts — karate in the 1960s, kung fu in the ’70s, and then Brazilian jiu-jitsu and krav maga now — flourished in part because of the entertainment industry and successful commercialization methods.

QUESTION: Does being an Olympic sport help judo create stars?

GARY GOLTZ: Absolutely. There are many such examples in Japan, Korea, France, Brazil, Holland, England and even Cuba. The best example in the U.S. is Ronda Rousey, who took a bronze medal in Beijing and then left the sport to become the biggest female star of the UFC.

Kayla Harrison (left), on the other hand, is the only American Olympic judo athlete to take a gold but is far less well-known because she’s chosen to stay focused on judo and enter the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. This illustrates the dilemma faced by those who devote themselves to becoming Olympic champions. They may find that they have limited career options upon retirement.

QUESTION: Did judo lose anything of value when one portion of the martial art — competition — was added to the Olympic Games while other parts of it — such as kata and self-defense — were not?

GARY GOLTZ: When judo became an official Olympic event, competition became the priority. Kata have been made much more consistent over the last five years by the International Judo Federation, perhaps in an effort to eventually make it part of judo in the Olympics, too.

***

Hayward Nishioka (Photo by Rick Hustead)

EXPERT: Hayward Nishioka, 1967 Pan-American Games gold medalist, Black Belt’s 1968 Judo Player of the Year and 1977 Judo Instructor of the Year

QUESTION: How has judo changed since it was added to the Games?

HAYWARD NISHIOKA: Judo today is stronger, faster and tactically different due to the influence of the Olympics. The Olympic motto of Altius, Citius, Fortius (Higher, Faster, Stronger) seems to hold true for Olympic sport judo. One need only look at YouTube submissions to compare the old with the new. Where once weight, height, strength, cardio fitness, nutrition and specialized tactics took a back seat to waza, or techniques, they are now integral pieces of a total package. If you’re missing any one part of the equation, you’re at a distinct disadvantage. Now, …

Winning Girl: Inspirational Documentary Profiles Up-and-Coming Star of Judo, Jiu-Jitsu and Wrestling!

When I attended the 16th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival, which showcased more than 130 entries from 15 countries, I was pleased to learn that the organizers had included three must-see martial arts-themed movies:

The Assassin — From Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien, this highly anticipated movie could redefine the wu xia genre.

Deadman Inferno — This Japanese flick pits Yakuza members against zombies.

Winning Girl — This is a wonderful dynamic documentary, one that’s perfectly timed considering last year’s defeat of UFC champ Ronda Rousey.

Directed by Kimberlee Bassford, Winning Girl documents four years in the life of a 16-year-old, 125-pound wrestling and judo champion from Hawaii named Teshya Alo. As such, it includes plenty of training, trials and tribulations.

The film opens with a mention that since she was 6, Teshya has won 21 national championships in wrestling and garnered 30 titles in judo and jiu-jitsu. That’s impressive — but not as impressive as the maturity the teenager shows.

“When I went to my first national wrestling tournament and lost, I was very sad,” Teshya said. “I remember watching the girl who won. She was like a celebrity. I used my loss as motivation, went home to Hawaii, trained really hard, and two years later, I beat the same girl to win the nationals.

“I realized that by working hard and beating that girl who was older and stronger than me, that if I keep working hard, one day I could make it to the Olympics. My dream is to win the Olympics in judo and wrestling.”

Teshya knows it won’t be easy. “To get to the Olympics, I have to win the world championships in both sports and beat adults who are much older and more experienced than me,” she said. “So right now, my goal is to represent Hawaii and the United States at the world championships and win.”

Throughout her childhood and early teens, Teshya built a solid reputation as a force to be reckoned with — by defeating boys, girls and women twice her age. Part of the film is the coming-of-age story that takes place from age 12 to 16, which is when we get to witness the challenges and struggles she had to face to advance in two combat sports that people her size and gender rarely participate in, much less excel in.

As Teshya moved up the judo ranks, her signature technique — which she still uses at tournaments — was tomoe nage, the circle throw. But after she won the judo nationals at 16 and represented America at the World Judo Championships, she faced an opponent who constantly countered her tomoe nage attempts. Teshya ended up losing. “I was confused and became paralyzed — [I] didn’t understand the concept of strategy,” she said. “But I’ll learn from the loss.”

It reminded me of the UFC 193, which saw Black Belt Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey lose to Holly Holm. Rousey attempted to use her trademark armbar but was repeatedly foiled by Holm, who was trained by Black Belt Hall of Famer Greg Jackson. When the armbar failed, Rousey either forgot or abandoned her strategy. In its place, she seemed to fight with anger. Meanwhile, Holm appeared to remain calm.

Check out the Greg Jackson Mixed Martial Arts Core Curriculum from Black Belt! Stream lessons to your digital device and start learning how to incorporate MMA tactics and techniques into your current art.

When Teshya, then 15, represented America at the World Wrestling Cadet Championships, she lost her opening match against the former world champion, but she battled on. After a quick succession of follow-up matches, she won the bronze.

A year later, she bagged the gold and became the world champion.

Ultimately, Winning Girl is about empowering young women. It shines a spotlight on the specific challenges associated with Teshya’s quest to become a champion wrestler and judoka while living in Hawaii, while learning about her heritage and while being forced to raise funds to attend the big tournaments.

The refreshing part is that throughout the film, we see that for Teshya Alo, the keys to success in competition are belief in oneself and the support of one’s parents, who ideally use positive reinforcement to power the athlete’s drive to win.

(Photos Courtesy of Making Waves Films LLC)

Go here to order Dr. Craig D. Reid’s book The Ultimate Guide to Martial Arts Movies of the 1970s: 500+ Films Loaded With Action, Weapons and Warriors.

Words of Wisdom From Jigoro Kano, Founder of Judo

As reported in the February 1971 issue of Black Belt, these words of wisdom come from judo founder Jigoro Kano.

“There are two types of judo.

“Small judo is concerned with only techniques and the building of the body.

“Large judo is mindful of the pursuit of the purpose of life: the soul and the body used in the most effective manner for a good result.”…

Next