Saturday, July 14, 2012

Help 'em up - How I learned judo from a 13-year-old

and why Dr. Rhadi Ferguson may beat me yet

So, Dr. Rhadi Ferguson and I are both putting the finishing  touches on our books. I challenged him to a race on twitter, and both of us being the competitive type are doing our best to win. Even though I started out 175 pages ahead of him, he may beat me yet, as the second-to-last chapter is the one that Jim and I have the most disagreements on.

Jim is a brilliant coach, no question about it. As I write this, he is working with the Olympic team and they are lucky to have him. He is too much of a gentleman to tell me flat out he thinks I am crazy, but he often says,

"Well, that could happen, but it's very unlikely."

Actually, he is both right and wrong, on two points. The first is that while some of the situations and techniques that I show are unlikely for people competing at the Olympic level, they are very likely for less experienced players. For the athletes he is working with right now, Jim is absolutely correct.

However, the great majority of the people who read our book are going to be young players, parents or coaches of young players, and adults who have been doing judo, grappling or mixed martial arts only a few years, at most. Many of them will compete against people who make "beginner mistakes" because they are relative beginners.

The second point is even very, very good people make mistakes. I've done it and I don't want to call anyone out by name but I just want to say that I have seen even people who are amazing competitors hesitate at the wrong instant and get nailed with something really basic. In fact, Jim and I were sitting side by side at the Olympics when the Cuban player went in for a plain old basic tai o toshi (body drop) throw, scored and went into the Olympic finals. Yes, they make each one of them very, very seldom but there are a lot of possible mistakes. So, if you practice 20 different situation drills for situations that only come up 1% of the time then 20% of the time, or something like one match out of five, you will nail  your opponent. What about the other four times out of five? Well, that's all of the other chapters in the book! Also, part of your job as a competitor is trying to "encourage" your opponent to make those mistakes, so they are going to happen more than 20% of the time. For an example of how to do that, you should buy our book and look at the help 'em up drill number two.

(If you are a statistician you realize that 20 events with a 1% probability happen less than 20% of the time unless they are all mutually exclusive probabilities. This is not my statistics blog. Just hush.)

Here is how the help 'em up drill came about --

Years ago, I was at a tournament in Barstow, California, watching the 13-14 year old division, because Ronda was in it. She was only twelve-year-old green belt but I had put her into a couple of divisions to get more matches. A young blue belt girl from the Barstow Judo Club was competing. In her first match, her opponent was on one knee, the girl came in and threw for an ippon and won the match. Ronda was her second match and it was almost a repeat of the first one. Ronda was on one knee, coming up and the other girl came in, threw her and got her in a pin. It was only a waza ari (half a point), and Ronda got out of the pin, mad enough to spit nails, turned the other girl over and won. On the way home, we had a conversation that went something like this. (It was over 13 years ago so this may not be a word-for-word accurate memory.)

"What do you think about that girl that threw you?"

 "Mom, she wasn't that good, she just got lucky." 

"Pumpkin, I watched her match before you and I thought she was lucky. Then I watched her do it to you and you almost never get thrown. Then I watched her do it to the two people after you. No one gets that God damned lucky. We're going to go home and practice that. I'm calling it the Help 'em up drill."

A year later, in the finals of the junior nationals, she threw her big rival with that exact move we'd seen in Barstow. Now, you might say, so what, some purple belt 13-year-old kid beat some other purple belt  14-year-old kid. Who really cares? The answer is, that kid cares. It was not the Olympics. It was just the biggest thing she had won up to that time, it was the first time she had beaten that girl by a full point and it was a huge deal to her. So, maybe these drills won't help you win the Olympics, although, as Jim says, it is possible but very unlikely. The possibility is far greater they will help you win the Tulsa Grappling Tournament, Freestyle Judo Championships or your third amateur mixed martial arts match. You know what? I'm totally okay with that.

Here, for your edification and illumination is a part of one of the four help 'em up drills


You have attacked your partner and knocked her to one knee.


As your opponent starts to come up off of knee, you step your right foot back and go into a sweeping hip throw (harai goshi). 

Ronda doesn't have perfect technique in the attack above but, as her opponent is in a very bad position, it really doesn't matter so much.

5 comments:

Lex said...

Maybe I'm a hopeless romantic, but to me my favorite techniques are ones that aren't "perfect" in a traditional sense but for some reason click with me. Not sure if we pick the techniques we like, or they pick us, but whether they're "perfect" or unorthodox, what matters is the reps you're willing to put in on it. I could continue with an analogy to marriage, but I'm not qualified to make such clever connections.

Al B Here said...

I fully support your decision to present situations and scenarios that beginners et al. could encounter. Reading this, I thought about my Kosei Inoue instructional DVDs and how it clearly caters to a more experienced audience. For example, when it discusses Inoue's feints to set up his famed uchimata... I've tried a number of the feints against my fellow beginners in the hopes of creating the same sort of reaction to set up the throw; however, beginners aren't aware enough of the subtle nuances, so they often didn't notice what I was trying to do, and thus didn't react.

I also recall a BJJ seminar I attended where the instructor said that "Good guys will do this..." when dealing with a particular technique, but when I went back to my club I discovered quickly that no one in my club did what "good guys do," rendering the counter pretty ineffective.

There needs to be material that caters to beginners, intermediates, and advanced players. It sounds like your book does so.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Well, I hope Jim and the editor agree with you guys because I just sent off the book!

dsimon3387 said...

Good luck Ann Maria

I have always felt that the basics become "set up" based on the circumstances and that this is how they become advanced techniques in the first place.

A boxing jab is sacrosanct...Ali only needed it to win! Yet in MMA scenerios it is not advocated. Context determines utility.

Stephen said...

(If you are a statistician you realize that 20 events with a 1% probability happen less than 20% of the time unless they are all mutually exclusive probabilities. This is not my statistics blog. Just hush.)

Feeling better about the %tages. 1/5 -- to one significant figure, sure. 20% ...

But I liked the examples.