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.”

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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.”

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JUDO INFO FOR MMA FIGHTERS Judo Moves From Jimmy Pedro #1: Major Outer Reaping ThrowOsoto-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. [ti_billboard name="Major Outer Reaping Throw"] “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.” [ti_billboard name="Combination Throw"] 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 LockJuji-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.” [ti_billboard name="Cross-Arm Lock"] 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. [ti_billboard name="Triangle Choke"] “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. For more information on judo moves:
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"Unlike karate training outside a combat zone," Cpt. Yoon explained, "it is important here that the troops be able to turn their techniques into devastating, bone-crushing blows. There is no place for mild strikes in combat when a VC is trying to push a bayonet into your stomach."

For that reason, the compound is peppered with makiwara punching boards, and the Korean Tigers spend much time conditioning the weapons of taekwondo. Also, throughout Vietnam there are plenty of sandbags, which are used to protect all kinds of constructions. They make excellent striking bags for a karateman.

The next unit in the schedule is to display free fighting. The commander again explains that this form of fighting is used to test the Tigers' skills against one another rather than to demonstrate the actual methods of close-quarters combat, as a fight on the battlefield is nearly always over in an instant.

The sparring matches are exhibitions of technique and control. Perhaps the only recognizable difference between these and matches held in tournaments is the consistent power the soldiers put behind their blows and their concentration on hard taekwondo techniques rather than elusive ones.

Against Weapons

At last, a final group prepares to show what happens when an unarmed Tiger meets a VC with a knife or a bayonet fixed to his AK-47 rifle. Two pairs of soldiers stride to the center of the hard-dirt arena, face the commander and render a snappy salute. Then they fall into a four-man square and await orders.

Sgt. Lee barks a command, and the best of the best explode into action. One gladiator leaps for a knife that has been thrown into the arena. He jams it, hard, at another, who violently kicks the striking hand and jumps shoulder height, scissoring the attacker's neck and tumbling him forward onto the unyielding ground with a crash. The knife spins away.

Meanwhile, another black belt catches a rifle with a fixed bayonet that is thrown to him from the sidelines. With a guttural shout, he lunges for his opponent. The defender spins to the left, brings his knee sharply inward against the weapon and rolls the attacker onto his own shoulder while tearing at his windpipe. It's over in seconds.

The couples repeat the performance again and again, smashing full tilt against each other. Every time, the attacker thrusts hard with his weapon. It's just less than miraculous that the practice doesn't turn into a blood bath.

Korean Budomen

Initiated as the Capital Infantry Division, the Tiger Division was activated on June 20, 1949, in Seoul with the mission of providing security for the capital. It was charged with additional security of the 38th parallel in Ongjin in September of the same year. When the Korean War began on June 25, 1950, the division began to prove itself in heavy fighting during battles at Ahn-kang and Kyung-joo along the defense line of the Nakdong River in the southeastern part of the country.

Following the successful Inchon landing by Gen. Douglas MacArthur's forces, the division penetrated deep into the North across the 38th parallel, overrunning enemy strongholds and advancing close to the Korea-Manchuria border. As their ability became recognized, the division was committed repeatedly and saw the armistice signed while fighting at the front in the spring of 1952. They captured more than 9,920 enemy, killed more than 91,000 and seized more than 31,000 weapons. As a result of their valor, the division was awarded five ROK Presidential Citations and a U.S. Presidential Citation, an ROK National Assembly award and 42 other plaudits.

After the armistice, the division had already been dubbed with the Tiger laurel and was deployed along the front line of the central part of the Korea DMZ. They remained under continued training and constant combat readiness.

Upon approval of the National Assembly, the division was directed to combat in the Republic of Vietnam on August 20, 1965. Three separate elements arrived at Qui Nhon on November 1 after four weeks of preliminary training. That month, it received its tactical area of responsibility, which consisted of 1,400 square kilometers in Binh Dinh Province in central Vietnam. The division's general mission objectives are to protect travel routes, military installations and facilities within its TAOR and to assist the Republic of Vietnam in its pacification plan by eliminating Viet Cong in the area and helping the people rebuild their destroyed homes.

Since 1965, the Tiger Division has stabilized security within their area to an impressive degree. The TAOR itself has expanded from 1,400 to 3,800 square kilometers. As of mid-June, the Tigers had killed more than 9,000 enemy, captured nearly 3,000 and counted 4,500 defectors, as well as seizing nearly 4,000 weapons.

All this leaves little room for doubt about whom historians will count as the true elite of Vietnam combat. In the ranks of the VC and the NVA, mention of these ferocious Koreans brings shudders to the comrades. Even as he fights those from North Vietnam and the Viet Cong, the Tigerman knows that he has full command of his body and his mind. When he's faced with hand-to-hand combat, he need not rely only on the ferocity of his rifle to equalize the score. He can hammer out punches with machine-gun rapidity or swing a full-flogging kick with sufficient force to gain the advantage. When a man is trained in karate, or to be more specific, taekwondo, he's ahead of the game and the Viet Cong, that crap-shooting armada of insurgent forces, and the crack North Vietnamese troops who come to do battle. They know full well that the Tigers with their taekwondo as well as armaments are tough to beat.

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The roots of taekwondo are in Korea, and for the ROK GIs who enter the Tiger ranks, the intensive routine of training in the martial art is strictly par for the course. No doubt every Tigerman hopes to use his martial arts training sometime in a tournament as well as he does in combat. That's the dream of every GI in the ROK division.

The Tigers, under Maj. Gen. Lew Pyong Hyon and with taekwondo's Capt. Yoon, have been making headlines throughout the world. They are the only troops, it's been said, who fight fire with fire, who use guerrilla techniques and ambush techniques in much the same manner as the Viet Cong. In a war such as this — where the boundary lines are questionable, where there is no front line and where your neighbor can turn into your enemy — such techniques are indispensable. Thanks to the hand-to-hand techniques and the combat-karate emphasis of this militia, the odds are clearly shaping up in the Tiger Division's ledger. Thanks to taekwondo, the Tigers are smashing the enemy with no holds barred and, if anyone doubts it, plenty of contact!

Read Part 1 of this article here.

text by Jack E. Swift

(This article first appeared in the November 1968 issue of Black Belt.)

Scene: A group of soldiers is gathered for a bull session. The subject under discussion is the Tiger Division of the Korean army. The soldiers are engrossed. One, a lean, tanned GI, pushes back his beret, squints into the darkness and looks out to see a mountain of burning embers.

"We were on recon operations in southern Binh Dinh Province," he explains. "One night, we caught the sounds of a skirmish. My squad leader held up his hand and when he smiled, we knew we were in for some action. As we approached the area, we were a little surprised that there was no small-arms fire, but we could hear a lot of guys yelling.

"When we got there, it was an unbelievable sight. Here were those Korean troops in close-quarters combat with what must have been superior forces, as there were [Viet Cong soldiers] all over the place. I've never seen so many broken necks and caved-in ribs in my life. We helped clean up what was left."

So goes the legend, and just in case you're casting a cynical eye as to the Tiger Division's aptitude in the use of martial arts, the record speaks for itself. If there was ever a primer on combat karate, these troops would write it. In two grueling periods daily, every troop in the Tiger Division trains in the taekwondo method, the official karate of Korea.

At one time, there were many factions, but in the past year or so, they've all been absorbed by the International Taekwon-Do Federation, with its headquarters in Seoul. In fact, with the Koreans, and even in many areas in Vietnam, taekwondo is synonymous with karate. Numerous Vietnamese do not even understand the word "karate" — but mention taekwondo and their faces light up with recognition.

Way of Life

At Qui Nhon, division headquarters, visitors are surprised to see sparkling white uniforms — and a sea of black belts — virtually in the middle of a combat zone. While on actual operations away from their base, the Tigers work out in field gear, but at the training center, everyone wears a gi and keeps it as immaculate as any other military uniform.

On the left side of the gi, each person wears the proud division emblem of a roaring tiger. On the other side, if he's an instructor, the soldier wears a black insignia of a fist with white dots above indicating how many degrees of black-belt rank he holds.

Commander of the massive taekwondo corps of the Tiger Division is Capt. Yoon Dong Ho, himself a third dan. But the rugged, intelligent captain is no armchair commander. He's on hand daily at the dirt arena, watching the troops go through their paces and often teaching a special class of officers.

Capt. Yoon is responsible for the official taekwondo training of more than 15,000 Tiger troops in Vietnam. Although popular belief holds otherwise, there are actually more than 200 black-belt holders in the Tiger ranks. Of them, three are fourth dan, 29 are third dan, 57 are second dan and 115 are first dan. There are roughly 600 red belts and 2,300 blue belts, as well as 9,000 troops holding degrees of white belt. Approximately 2,900 men recently began their training in Vietnam. Many of these, of course, already hold rank they won in Korea.


Each element of the Tiger infantry arriving in Vietnam goes through intensive schooling at Qui Nhon. The 26th of these classes began in July, to run just over a month. The sessions lead off with classical techniques under the direct supervision of Sgt. Jun Jae Gun, head taekwondo instructor for the Meng Ho in Vietnam. Sgt. Jun, one of the division's tough trio of fourth degrees, displays a certificate signed by Gen. Choi Hong Hi, International Taekwon-Do Federation president.

When a trooper is promoted in Vietnam, however, he's awarded a military certificate of training by his supplement company commander, who acts as a representative of Lt. Col. Jai Chun Ko, division field commander. All promotions are recognized by the federation. In cases of promotion to the higher grades, however, special recognition is often meted out. For example, Sgt. Kim Duk Ki was recently awarded his third dan by Lt. Gen. Chae Myung Shin, field headquarters commander for all ROK Forces in Vietnam.

"The major objective of our formal taekwondo classes," asserted Cpt. Yoon, "is to take the minds of our troops and replace civilian thinking with military spirit and fierceness. 'Tiger' is the nickname the division has been tagged with because of the fierce nature we have demonstrated in combat. We intend to live up to it."

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Cpt. Yoon reinforced that statement with an impromptu demonstration of his own favorite techniques. Choosing a brawny trooper with a bayonet, the captain rushed him, parrying the weapon with an onslaught of power strikes with the elbow, palm, heel and fist. He ended with a forearm strike to the windpipe, which he explained is effective when one wants to silence the enemy quickly.

Key elements in hand-to-hand combat, the commander explained, are attacking the weapon directly or the hand that holds it while simultaneously attacking the most vulnerable spot within reach, then pressing the assault to keep the enemy off-balance while finishing him.

Field Testing

Stressing physical fitness in preparation for the application of these techniques, Cpt. Yoon said his troops rely heavily on powerful, smashing blows against the smaller Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Communists. He explained that the enemies are often undernourished because of their long treks from the North and therefore may fall easily under a strong attack.

"One particular situation where we encounter hand-to-hand fighting," Cpt. Yoon said, "is when the VC hide in bunkers and Tiger patrols do not have heavy weapons available to blow [the bunkers] apart. In such a case, the troops simply go in after them. The VC stand little chance against my men in close-quarters fighting."

In addition to the training of their own infantry, Tiger taekwondo instructors teach U.S. and Republic of Vietnam soldiers, as well as other Allied Forces infantry soldiers. Presently, some 1,250 Vietnamese and 150 U.S. soldiers are being taught by the Tigers at Qui Nhon alone. At other installations throughout South Vietnam, the Koreans teach their art to Allied Forces and Vietnamese civilians of both sexes and all ages.

There are scores of Korean black belts who are not members of the Tiger Division but who teach taekwondo to the local troopers and civilians. Many of these men belong to the larger White Horse Division. Especially in populated places such as the Tan Son Nhut Air Base–Saigon area, taekwondo has become as popular as baseball is to Americans. Today, self-defense is serious business to the Vietnamese, as no one knows when a VC terrorist squad will break into his home.

The Tiger Lair

Several miles away from the main training area on the Qui Nhon Air Base where the new arrivals hold classes, the Tiger instructors have their own compound, carved out of the verdant Vietnam countryside. Bordered on two sides by mountains and banked by the South China Sea, the encampment nestles into a serene and clean-smelling natural cradle, somehow out of place amidst the turmoil of war. The site has never been successfully attacked, and no one remembers the last time even a single mortar landed within the perimeter.

The perimeter itself is defined by roll upon roll of barbed wire, machine-gun posts and sandbag-reinforced bunkers. When not actually leading class, the instructors perform most of their military duties wearing their gi, often barebacked in the all-pervading heat. Somehow it doesn't seem quite right to see a fierce fighting man carting pails of water for the makeshift shower or spreading rolls of concertina wire — until you recall how budo masters of ancient times made their charges perform menial tasks before they would be accepted. Perhaps this accounts in part for their dedication and the respectful attitude the troops invariably display.

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Cpt. Yoon decides to review the instructors' training methods, so he has the select corps organize into a squadron to demonstrate their prowess. Sgt. Lee Jin Ho, whose official title is post instructor, leads the formation. They fall swiftly into ranks. The commander steps forward and receives the squadron's salute, then turns the command over to Sgt. Ho.

At a signal, the Tigers break ranks and rush into new formations with precision reminiscent of the Roman legions. The first squad is directed to show taekwondo forms. They snap through the kata in coordinated pairs, demonstrating the adroitness that can only come from military discipline. The forms are technically the same as classical Korean karate but are executed with the confident power of soldiers who have seen what their stuff can do to a man.

The next group forms behind a line of boards, bricks and tiles. Stacks of four and five bricks, up to 15 tiles and four 1-inch boards lie before them. The unit is called to attention, salutes again and assumes a ready posture. Sgt. Lee barks a command, and a dozen heads, hands and fists smash into the solid objects. Not a single one remains unbroken.

Read Part 2 here.

text by Jack E. Swift

(This article first appeared in the November 1968 issue of Black Belt.)

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