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.

 

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.

 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. “It’s the one you see in the movies, where the hero falls backward, sticks his foot in the stomach of the bad guy and flips him over,” Mike Swain says.

 It works flawlessly on the silver screen, but unless you’re skilled in the art or throwing, you might not want to try it on the street. There are two reasons for this caveat: One, you’re choosing to execute a technique that leaves you on your back, which is not usually a wise move; and two, the weight of a large opponent with a little momentum behind him can buckle your leg if you don’t shove off at just the right moment. “It’s very difficult to throw a big guy,” Mike Swain says.

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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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