Long before there was the Ultimate Fighting Championship or mixed martial arts, there were judo moves. Founded in 1882 by Dr. Jigoro Kano, judo took the best techniques of various schools of Japanese jujitsu, refined the ones that needed it and incorporated them into a single scientific system. Its adherents then put those techniques to the ultimate test: limited-rules combat with practitioners of other arts. It doesn’t sound all that different from the premise of the UFC — except that it took place a century earlier.
It seems like a no-brainer that judo moves would have taken over the MMA world, but that’s not the case. The reason, says four-time Olympic judoka Jimmy Pedro, is politics. “In the rest of the world, there are professional judo programs that pay athletes to pursue Olympic medals and world titles. The guys who are at the top of their game in judo aren’t allowed to fight in MMA or [Brazilian] jiu-jitsu tournaments. The coaches don’t want any distractions to get in the way of their athletes’ performances. It’s the same in all the European countries, which are the best in the world in judo.
“If they wait until their judo days are over before getting into MMA, they’re essentially starting as a white belt when they’re 28 or 30 and facing guys who have been fighting for eight or 10 years already.”
Learn judo moves from another great judo master
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Such loyalty, whether voluntary or coerced, is great for competitive judo but not so great for judo’s reputation as an effective component of MMA. Despite the occasional success of judoka like Karo Parisyan, Yoshihiro Akiyama and Hidehiko Yoshida, judo moves aren’t generally regarded as a powerhouse component in an MMA fighter’s arsenal.
But that need not be the case, says Jimmy Pedro, who medaled twice in the Olympics. To support his position, he offers the following four judo moves for novice and experienced MMA fighters — and for any martial artist who wants to be able to handle himself on the ground. Not surprisingly, the first two judo moves begin with one of the art’s fundamentals: the standard judo grip.
The Importance of the Grip in Judo Moves
“One of the most important skills in judo is gripping your opponent’s uniform,” Jimmy Pedro says. “The key is gaining inside control, which allows you to execute your technique while controlling the inside space so you can stop him from attacking.”
To practice the grip for your judo moves, stand in front of your partner with your left foot forward while he has his right foot forward. As he reaches out, maneuver your left arm along the inside of his arm and seize his collar. “Once you’ve grabbed it, post your arm high to control his shoulder,” Jimmy Pedro says. “That stops him from pulling you in tight; it helps you keep your distance. Next, get a sleeve grip with your right hand. Ideally, grab it in a way that prevents him from grabbing you.”
Learn more about judo grips in this FREE REPORT — Three Judo Throws at the Foundation of Judo Training: An Introduction to Self-Defense Techniques!
JUDO INFO FOR MMA FIGHTERS
Judo Moves From Jimmy Pedro #1: Major Outer Reaping Throw
“Osoto-gari is great not only for every MMA fighter but also for every martial artist — it’s one of the most devastating judo throws,” Jimmy Pedro says. “It lets you minimize exposure of your back to your opponent. If you miss it, he isn’t behind you to take advantage of the position. It’s an excellent counter to many grappling techniques.”
Start with the standard grip for judo moves. “Use your right hand to pull his weight onto his left foot — your goal is to get him to transfer his balance from both legs to one,” he says. “With your left hand, your thumb goes high and your elbow comes to his chest, driving him backward. Take a giant step with your right foot, equal to or a little past his left foot. Your head and upper body should be over your right knee.
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“Next is the extension of your left, or reaping, leg. Don’t just sneak it behind him — get full extension with it. Then swing it backward, reaping his left leg at the calf. As you do that, your body acts like a pendulum — your head is down as your leg swings up. Your left leg should never touch the floor.”
The effect of judo moves like this depends on your opponent’s skills. If he’s a judoka, he’ll be OK because he knows how to fall. “If he doesn’t, his head will probably snap back and hit the ground. Hard. It can render him unconscious or even split his head open,” he says.
Assuming he’s not incapacitated by the impact, you have several options for your next judo moves. “In judo, the finish would be to get his head and arm and pin him,” Jimmy Pedro says. “In self-defense, you could strike him while he’s on the ground or go into a juji-gatame (cross-arm lock or armbar).”
In fact, as a tidbit of judo info, Jimmy Pedro admits to once having used osoto-gari on the street — and he didn’t need the armbar. “It was in a foreign country,” he says. “One of my buddies got stabbed in the leg, and I ended up grabbing the guy and throwing him. There was a lot of blood.”
JUDO INFO FOR MMA FIGHTERS
Judo Moves From Jimmy Pedro #2: Combination Throw
“This one is a combination of ogoshi and harai-goshi and starts from the same grip,” he says. “It’s the judo technique that’s used the most in MMA. If you watch [Nick and Nate] Diaz or Karo Parisyan, you’ll often see them use it from the clinch against the fence or in a wrist control and underhook.”
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Start off-balancing your foe by pulling with your right hand, Jimmy Pedro says. Then release your hold on his collar and circle under his right arm to grab his gi high on his back. Your left foot steps about 12 inches in front of his left foot, and your right foot circles back about 180 degrees, placing most of your weight on your right leg.
“Try to get your hips below his hips and maintain good posture — don’t bend over,” he says. “As your hips make contact, pull with your right hand across your chest, further extending him. Bring your left leg into a reaping motion and pull along a circular path with your upper body. Twist as you reap the leg toward the ceiling.”
In a no-gi bout, start the move by underhooking his right arm and grabbing his shoulder, Jimmy Pedro says. With your left hand, grab his wrist. His MMA glove will help prevent your hand from sliding off.
No matter how you hold him, the throw ends with a twisting takedown. “This isn’t as devastating or as hard of a fall because his head isn’t as vulnerable,” Jimmy Pedro says. “But because it isn’t just front to back, often his feet will fly over his head, and he’ll wind up doing a somersault. That can be very disorienting.”
JUDO INFO FOR MMA FIGHTERS
Judo Moves From Jimmy Pedro #3: Cross-Arm Lock
“Juji-gatame is a ground technique that can start when your opponent is on all fours,” Jimmy Pedro says. “Hook in with your right foot and, at the same time, attack his right arm with your right arm. Bring your left hand down to his neck to look for the strangle. All the while, try to move your right hand out to work his right arm away from his body. Then, if you don’t get the strangle, you can attack the arm.
“Place your left hand on the right side of his head and push it away from his arm. Swing your body to make it perpendicular to his, then take your left knee and drive it underneath and into his head. Continue to pull the arm away from his body.”
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Next in Jimmy Pedro’s arsenal of judo moves is to assume a tripod position in which your weight rests on your forehead and legs. “At this point, your opponent will probably have so much pressure on his head that he’ll pick it up off the mat, allowing you to put your left leg under his neck,” he says. If he’s not defending himself by keeping his arms tucked in, you can finish him. Sure, you’ll be upside down, but the lock still works.
If, however, he’s smart enough to keep his arms close to his torso, you’ll need to go one step further in your judo moves. “Your hand makes a kimura-type lock on his arm, after which you roll him,” he says. “As you do, your left knee comes in tight and sits under his body, and your right leg goes inside his leg. Elevate his hips or leg with your right leg, then twist and torque with your arm to get him on his back.”
From there, the judo moves that Jimmy Pedro recommends are fairly conventional: Maintain pressure on the arm, pulling it so the elbow is higher than the fulcrum on your thigh or pelvis. If he blocks by clasping his hands, use the arm that’s closest to his head to attack his wrist, not his elbow, Jimmy Pedro says. “That minimizes his strength and maximizes your leverage.”
Remember to squeeze your legs together to minimize his chance of breaking free, he says. “Once the arm is straight, take his pinkie to your chest and arch your hips.”
JUDO INFO FOR MMA FIGHTERS
Judo Moves From Jimmy Pedro #4: Triangle Choke
“In MMA, you usually don’t see sangaku-jime done from this position; you see it from the guard,” Jimmy Pedro says. “But in judo, most people end up on their stomach so they don’t get scored on, so we do it from this position. One of the best MMA submissions of 2009 was done by a judo guy who choked his opponent unconscious with this technique.”
The starting position has the opponent on all fours. “Grab his collar and belt,” Jimmy Pedro says. “Post your right foot on his left knee, then pull to open his upper body a little — that enables you to get your legs into position. Your left knee goes beside his head, and your right foot drops in behind his elbow, as though you’re trying to touch your right toe to your left knee.
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“Reach down and grab his right elbow with your left hand and get a stronger grip on his belt with your right, then pull while falling onto your right side. Straighten your right leg as you fall so it ends up under his neck. As your left leg catches his elbow or just below the elbow, your left foot goes into his armpit area. Then lock your left foot into your right knee, squeeze your legs together and do a hamstring curl with your right leg to make the choke tight.
“There are lots of times in MMA matches when one guy is tired and taking desperation shots while trying to hang on — that’s when this technique would be good to use.”
The cool thing about these four judo moves is they stand a good chance of catching your opponent by surprise. The bonus: These judo moves will work just fine even if he knows what you’re up to, which is why they’ve been a part of judo for more than 100 years.
About the Author:
Robert W. Young is the executive editor of Black Belt. For more information about Jimmy Pedro, visit jimmypedro.com. For information about Zebra Mats, the company for whom Pedro works when he’s not teaching or coaching, visit zebramats.com.
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