Pick-Up Lines

Throws in judo can be categorized as such:

  1. Ashi Waza – Foot sweeps and throws where the leg reaps to finish (hiza guruma is a good example)
  2. Koshi Waza – Hip tosses
  3. Te Waza – Hand techniques. Tai otoshi is the quintessential example, there’s no hip or leg. It’s not always so clear. For judo this also includes pick-ups and shots.
  4. Sutemi Waza – Sacrifice throws

To be honest, classifying throws like this makes sense for a lot of them, but the throws from wrestling that judo incorporated (shots, pick-ups) don’t really look or feel like the rest of the hand throws. My stance on pick-ups is simple: awesome. My stance on finishing a pick-up to someone in class is also simple: don’t. So, I advocate the suplex or the high-crotch, but I don’t advocate smashing someone you want to work with in the future to the ground after lifting them six feet in the air? You betcha.

I’m always kind of pissed when someone does finish one because I don’t and I’ve been very vocal about the fact that there’s no need to. If you can pick someone up, you can throw them. There’s a degree of struggle they can do, but to be honest, that usually just makes them land in an awkward, dangerous way. They can grapevine your leg as you lift them. It doesn’t matter much. The grapevine usually happens after you’ve elevated their hips meaning if you would have thrown right away they would have gone for a ride.

Let’s take kata guruma. When we do nage no kata, we never finish kata guruma in our club. It’s not necessary to practice the finish, it’s an obvious movement, toss. Now let’s look at the suplex. You’re still lifting me over your body and dumping me over your shoulder. The risks are the same. Why would you finish that? Two options: 1. You’re a dick. 2. You don’t know better. I like to pretend number one is pretty rare so I always assume number two, scold the person, and keep going. Now, someone does it after I scold them, it’s number one. They’re fair game for spine locks after that (I care about partner safety, but I’m also vindictive).

Well, if you can’t suplex your partners, how do you train it? Good question. Many options.

First is to work the technique with them knowing what you’re doing. This isn’t randori, it’s just drilling the technique. This means I know what you’re doing, I can protect myself and you’ll be going slow and controlled because I’m not countering or resisting. If you’re not going slow and controlled I still reserve the right to protect myself. Doing it this way means you’re still not finishing it with full speed and power, but you know the motion so that you can enter in with full speed and power, get the lift, and set them down with both of you knowing they would have racked up some frequent flyer miles.

Second is my preferred, practice the entrance and lift on people, but practice the finish on dummies. The entrance and lift is what you’ll get countered on. It’s still useful to go back and practice the finish on a person, but controlled. You’re practicing full speed and power (you can do the whole thing as fast and hard as you want on a heavy bag or grappling dummy), but you’re not risking your partner at all. This is the better way to prep for competition because you get the best of all worlds.

There are also some sweet solo and partner drills you can do to strengthen your back, work a full speed entry and finish, and even learn to counter all without risking your or your partners safety. If you can do the throw controlled in randori, go for it. I’m not saying never do it. I’m just emphasizing that it’s important for your partner to know how to take the fall, and it’s important for you to do it with control.

A quick look at the high-crotch: I’ve stepped to the outside to penetrate in and drop level at the same time. My inside hand goes between the legs. My outside hand goes under that to grip both elbows. I turn, hug the leg, and look up. My partner is a full 3+ feet taller. The dick move is to dump them hard and/or just fall to my side with them (let’s hope their neck can support the centrifugal force). I like to set them down. I start taking a knee while I gently pull their leg across (so they’re going to fall from a reasonable height). When I’m able to I also let my outside hand drift from between the legs to their back. Now I can pretty much decide exactly where they go, how fast, and I’ve set myself up with side control by setting them down. Everybody’s happy.

Competition doesn’t follow these rules. Drill them. I’d do it to them there, I’d expect the same back.


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