Seeing the Sports Medicine doctor about my ankle today. I’m still out from it since it got worse. The pain is right in line with the tendonous sheath of extensor digitorum longus so the first doctor I saw doesn’t think it’s a fracture at all, but that doesn’t really help for figuring out how to take care of it. I’m really itching to get back on the mat, but not being able to have my ankle bent inward is a problem for foot sweeps and general rolling.
While Jigaro Kano was studying Tenjin Shinyo-ryu jujitsu under Fukuda Hachinosuke he had difficulty defeating a larger and more senior student named Fukushima Kanekichi. As anyone who’s trained grappling knows, when the stuff you know doesn’t work on someone who’s bigger/stronger/better you start looking for techniques they’ve never seen so that you can eek out that one win in class. Like many of us in this situation Kano turned to other styles to find his silver bullet – first sumo, and then western wrestling. He picked up the fireman’s carry from a wrestling book, and eventually was able to use it to throw Fukushima.
The technique is banned in IJF competition now, but to be honest, I think it’s the epitome of the spirit of judo and all grappling – do what works. It might not be the most beautiful throw or require the most skill, but at the end of the day it’s simple and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. Silver bullets stop working once people learn the one trick you’re doing but we all look for them, and it’s always great having that thing you saw in a book or video work. The next time someone gives you a hard time for looking to Sambo, Gouren, or some other folk style for a silver bullet just remind them even Jigaro Kano did it.
I’m on serious hiatus because my ankle got way worse and I’m still having trouble walking around on it. Reminder to all – I think all leg locks are no more dangerous than arm locks… except heel hooks.
I might flush out information on building mats because I found some cool resources while answering questions on here.
Saturday morning was a small class and so we worked on counters to normal problems judoka encounter in BJJ. The first problem is head control – how to avoid it and how to deal with it when you’re stuck there. The second problem is guard-pulls – how to avoid it and how to deal with it when they attempt it.
Our example for the head control problem was osoto gari. You can’t finish osoto gari when your opponent has head control by simply driving harder like you can for most judo-oriented problems. When Tanner and Tim did this as their first reaction I was able to take their backs with no effort. You can’t just drive forward when someone’s head is on your head/neck. It result in them having an easy duck under. Instead you need to break head control first. Breaking head control can be hard when it’s being used to drive forward and set up a throw. Breaking head control is significantly easier when it’s being used to keep you from being able to drive in. The gi also makes this a lot easier as you can stop them from taking your back or shooting by having strong grips.
For our combination/counter you drive in for osoto, they drop and establish head control but can’t counter because of your dominant grips, you use a high collar grip to have your forearm braced across their jawline and push it out as you turn to break head control and set up tai otoshi instead. Voila. Even if you didn’t raise the arm and aren’t in prime tai otoshi position you’ve broken head control and can reset knowing that they’re going to go for it now. Avoiding head control is about having the grips to stop it in the first place. I can’t really write about how to do that. I lack the words or experience to do so aptly.
Guard-pulling is a serious problem for someone doing judo. My advice is that you can usually detect a guard-pull about as well as you can a sacrifice throw and that the defense is the same – sprawl hard. No, it’s not pleasant for the person pulling guard to have you land hard on top of them, but you also won’t be able to tell the difference between someone doing a shitty sacrifice throw and someone sitting to their butt with grips so you should treat it like a sacrifice throw attempt. We talked about the basic lifting the leg and inserting it to pass and prevent. We then worked with some different types of guard pulls and jumping guard. In my opinion, it’s easier to deal with someone trying to pull butterfly guard or a crazy guard like DLR than it is to stop someone who’s jumping into closed guard. With jumping guard we didn’t talk counters because it’s just too late to do anything – you have to prevent it. Matt has a grip he does where the arm gets pulled across the body. This prevents them from jumping guard, but not sitting. It also requires you have a throw to do from there which most of the time will be something like sode tsurikomi goshi. I suck at that throw, but it’s also a good setup for kibisu gaeshi (ankle pick) or similar throws where having a low grip on the arm is easier.
It’s been awhile since my last post, and a lot has happened in that time. I’m going to focus on this last weekend, but to not leave you hanging a brief summary of where I’ve been: I finally had that roll with the guy who’s not totally aware of the appropriate level of force for a heel hook and my ankle got popped, my work schedule got crazy and then I had a work trip to San Francisco so I had about a month where work was keeping me off the mats, and then this weekend I was finally able to get back on the horse.
My ankle is actually less of a problem than my shoulders these days. In my absence the judo group hasn’t really grown, but they’ve been playing with different things. I now have a variant opinion to that of Matt and Tim about breaking balance. I still prefer the use of the split because of it’s efficacy on large opponents and ability to break through stiff arming. Matt and Tim are favoring winding the gi in with one hand and propping with the other. I like their means for throws where I’m loading the weight on uke’s right front foot, but not for hip throws.
For BJJ warm-ups Thales’ uncle was up from Brazil. He led us through a series of about 15 exercises done as HIIT stations (30 seconds on, 30 seconds off) over the course of half an hour. All the arm stuff was grouped together and all the ab stuff was grouped together with takedowns breaking the two groups out. My whole body is killing me and half way through the arm stuff I found out just how bad my right shoulder has gotten when I had to stop exercises due to joint pain before my muscles were too sore/tired to continue.
Rolling went well – I got to go slow and controlled with someone with a back injury and then with D until my lungs gave out and I needed an inhaler. No worries. I had fun even if I got tapped out and crushed. That’s what rolling is for me – having fun.
After class Tanner did his blue belt test and passed. Big ups to him on the new belt. He’s been working hard the last 5 years in jujitsu and judo so the expedited ranking was well warranted. He’ll be getting ready for his judo black belt test next.
I don’t know if it’s the humidity, the heat, or just a bad time to be me. Lately I’ve been gassing super quick – needing a break after each roll, not being able to complete warm-ups, and needing an inhaler sooner in class than I think I should. Admittedly, I have been out for awhile and I don’t really push myself in judo like I do in BJJ because of a lack of structure and that I’ve been helping run class until Matt shows up lately. Still, it sucks to need to take a break or to slow down while drilling. Saying I’m out of shape or have asthma always feels like such a cop-out. I’m not lazy – I do want to put in the work, it’s just way harder than it used to be.
Class has changed up a bit lately. Instead of learning new techniques we’ve been drilling. Warm-ups are the normal half hour, then 30 minutes of alternating drills, and then the 30+ minutes of rolling like normal. The drills have been simple but important concepts – arm bar from guard, triangle from guard, kimura from guard, triangle escapes, hip bump sweep, flower sweep, knee bar from guard pass, and various passes. Three techniques will be shown, you’ll drill each one for two minutes, switch roles with your partner, repeat for the other two techniques and then three more are shown.
Last night was also an important lesson in defending leg locks. Lee goes for them as much or more than I do which led to positions where I was attacking and defending knee bars, toe holds, and straight ankle locks. He has phenomenal control and I don’t feel like he’s cranking on them at any point. It’s always nice to have someone like that to push you to work on the defenses you don’t have to use a lot.
Theme for judo this week: tilt line.
Draw a line horizontal to the ground that touches the top of both ears. This is the tilt line. If this line is not horizontal you’re off balance. In fact, there are a number of throws that illustrate this concept. The easiest two are o soto gari and koshi guruma. For this variant on o soto you start in a collar and elbow tie. As you step in let your arm slide past the head and hug it into your shoulder. Even if they’re still upright (they won’t be, but still) you can execute the throw from here because the head is locked into a position where that line we drew is now tilted down. For koshi you’ll start in the same collar and elbow tie. As you step across cut your arm so that their head gets forced down to their chest. Even if they’re still upright (again, if you’re pulling they won’t be) you can execute the throw here by popping your hip out. Once the head is locked into one direction or the other the person can be easily thrown. The phrase is something like “where the head goes the body follows”, but for throws I find it simpler to just draw that imaginary tilt line and think about displacing it.
Submission for BJJ this week: Calf slicer from failed knee bar.
You have a knee bar. Everything’s going great. Then they bend the leg. If they figure four it’s no big deal, just use your foot and push away on the locking knee. Their lock will slide off and you’ll have a bent leg that one arm is underhooking at the knee. Take the inside leg (the leg that is between their legs) and put your calf over their shin. Figure four your legs by locking down under your outside leg. Try to stay sitting up and hip in while squeezing your legs to finish. You don’t need to lift your arm or anything – it’s a fulcrum and can stay stationary, the power comes from applying force at the end of the lever arm (in this case as far down on their leg as you can get). Calf slicers tend to be hugely painful, but will actually attack the knee if they don’t tap from the pain first. Be considerate with this as you would with any leg locks. The escape is deceptively simple too – force your partner to their side and cut across the leg with your shin, pop their figure four open with your legs/hips (and hands if you need to), and then sprawl to pass to side control. This is why I emphasized trying to stay upright.