When you’re training you go through phases. There’s like a 3-4 month period where this thing, this thing guys, oh my god guys this thing. Phases are perfectly natural and they add a ton to your game. I went through my rubber guard phase, half guard phase, leg lock phase, try-to-be-simple phase, sweeping phase, only playing the top phase, shots instead of throws phase, and wrestling phase. I’m sure there’s been more, and before you start totaling them up and wondering, yes, you are always in at least one phase, and yes, some of those have overlapped.
Lately my phase on the ground has been half-guard. I’m actively putting myself there and it’s a position I want to get good at. I’m slowly trying to wean off of it and go back to a just-the-basics phase where I work a few submissions/sweeps from closed guard and just try to work well from the top. That’s not really my obsession though.
The obsessive phases are the ones that end up permanently scarring your game. For me they were wrestling, leg locks, and flying attacks. The wrestling obsession greatly shaped my judo. Even though I can’t sprawl worth a damn anymore (accursed judo practices), I still love the arm drag and have to use the knee-tap if I’m going to throw someone much bigger than me like Tanner. Leg locks will always be a part of my game and when we did them on Saturday I was being hugely critical and modifying what we were shown to go to the Sambo leg knot instead of just threading my leg to keep them from rolling out. I haven’t gone for an earnest flying armbar attempt in a long time, but even dicking around I can still usually get them.
My new obsession isn’t really new. Not for me, not for anyone. It’s the concept that there has to be a smooth transition from standing to the ground. Butt flopping isn’t smooth – it’s an abrupt transition that happens with no regard for your opponent or bringing them into a position where you can truly dominate. Most judo throws aren’t smooth. People will toss someone and stay standing then think about how to go to the ground. When I throw I’m always trying to sacrifice. Whether it’s ouchi gake, osoto gari, or tomoe nage my goal is to be on the ground with uke at the end of the throw. This is a concept that shouldn’t be alien to anyone in the sport world. It’s a huge no-no in the self defense world, but I don’t live there anymore. I live in a world where going to the ground is a boon.
That’s not to knock judo. You see some individuals who get the throw and immediately are in a good position on the ground. Really, that’s what sport judo should be. You should have the submission before the referee has a chance to give you the point for the throw. It’s also not to knock BJJ. Some people do a phenomenal job of transitioning to the ground without having to plop their ass down and give up on using the advantages of being on their feet.
What I’m talking about though is absolutely smooth transitions directly from standing to submission without pause. Rolling knee bars, flying arm locks, and spinning inverted heel hooks. The transition has to be perfectly natural and it has to go somewhere. My new obsession for sacrifice throws is that when I mess up I will immediately switch to the flower sweep or tuck my knee in and switch to attacking the leg while they’re still standing. They’ve already stuffed the throw and if you give them a chance they’re going to stuff the sweep and pass the guard so it has to be immediate. It’s high risk while I’m working on it, but I’ve already started to see a high reward for it.