Monday, April 25, 2011

Why jiu-jitsu players & wrestlers don't win at judo (and vice-versa)

No, this isn't yet another of those million posts you read on the Internet about "my martial art is the best thing invented since breathing and all of you other pusillanimous pukes are my rightful prey and most bow down before me, moo-ha ha ha !"

In fact, something I have been thinking about for a while is the benefits and drawbacks of cross-training. This has been in the back of my mind for years, ever since one tournament when I saw a pretty good young black belt get slammed with uchimata.

A lot of times wrestlers beat judo players. The truth is that there are a lot more wrestlers in this country and wrestling coaches tend to run a lot more physically strenuous practices than most judo clubs do. This isn't uniformly true, but it's true of most judo and jiu-jitsu clubs and if you think differently, I recommend you get out of your little bubble and go watch some wrestling practices. PLEASE don't tell me how your club trains harder than everyone - I have heard that from so many instructors, it's just boring, not to mention impossible. There can't be ten jiu-jitsu schools in your city that train harder than every other school in the city. Nine of you guys are fooling yourselves.

My friend, Steve Scott, says in one of his book (I think it is Coaching on the Mat) that you should teach them like judo players but train them like wrestlers. I meant what I said literally. If you have never wrestled, or it's been twenty years (memories fade), I strongly recommend you drop by your local university and watch wrestling practice. It IS physically harder than most martial arts practices.

There are some excellent moves from wrestling that can help anyone's matwork. I'm always amazed when I meet a judo player who doesn't know how to do a half-nelson turnover. The link shows a half-nelson being demonstrated by Los Angeles Trade Tech Community College instructor, Steve Seck, who was a very successful high school wrestler before going on to make the U.S. Olympic judo team.

So... benefits of wrestling for judo and jiu-jitsu players - better physical conditioning, pick up mat moves that might not be as familiar or emphasized as much as they should be. BUT .... there can be too much of a good thing...

When cross-training is too much of a good thing

Going back to our young black belt investigating the number of lights in the ceiling  - he hadn't been to judo for a while because it was wrestling season and he was on the team at his school. He came back to judo in much better physical condition. The only problem is that in wrestling no one ever gets a high grip on your gi because you're not wearing one. The third match in the tournament, someone got a grip on this young man, pulled down, and when he started to come back up, the opponent stepped in and slammed him. This was a good judo player and I am pretty sure if he had been coming to practice regularly the match would have come out differently. He had lost some of the reflex of protecting people from grabbing his gi because he didn't have to worry about it.

I'm always an advocate of going to other sports IN ADDITION to your main event, not judo practice instead of wrestling, jiu-jitsu instead of judo, or vice-versa. The most obvious difference wrestling has from jiu-jitsu and judo is there is no gi, so there is less fighting for a grip.

There are other "differences that make a difference". Of course, a really good judo or jiu-jitsu player loves fighting someone who gets in a wrestler's position on the mat, because they have their head up to keep from being turned over easily - which makes it harder to do a half-nelson but really easy to loop the gi under and choke them. They keep their arms too straight and are almost inviting armbars. In judo, wrestlers often win in the novice divisions where armbars, and sometimes chokes, are not allowed, but once they move into brown and black belt divisions a judo player will take them out. Of course, jiu-jitsu allows chokes and armbars from the very beginning.

From that last sentence, you might think it's easier for a wrestler to win at judo than jiu-jitsu. Not necessarily, especially not with the new rule changes. It is now (with limited exceptions) against the rules to grab the leg in Olympic judo, so a single-leg take down, double-leg take down and many other wrestling throws are now illegal in judo. They are, however, still legal in jiu-jitsu (and freestyle judo). So, a technique that would get a wrestler a penalty in judo will get him points in jiu-jitsu.

The obvious point is that there are differences in the rules and if you are doing too much cross-training, you get into the habit of playing by a different set of rules - a lesson our young black belt learned the hard way.


Stephen said...

One advantage to wrestling is that it teaches you to follow-through. I found in Judo if I threw into a pin, I was more likely to get a full point for the throw (and to get the pin if I did not).

But you are right that most work-outs just are not physically hard enough. When I wrestled I would sweat off five to seven pounds each work-out (and drink it right back on, of course).

I don't recall sweating that much or that hard in either Judo or Karate. Definitely not when I visited my friend's Ju Jitsu club either.

Now I'm kind of old ... but you make a very good point. I don't meet very many Judoka at 135 or less who are going to have five to seven pounds of water sweated off each work out.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

You're absolutely right about the follow through. There are some specific advantages to matwork in cross training, and some disadvantages, too.

Anonymous said...

i am a very big advocate of greco roman wrestling for judo ..

shame that greco is hard to find ..

Ze Grapplez said...

reminds me when i lost an MMA fight by guillotine and my Judo coach told me that wouldn't have happened if I'd been coming to Judo more regularly.

except the Guillotine isn't legal in Judo. Nor are leg attacks. or shoulder attacks depending on how the referee sees it. the flying armbar can also get you dq'd.

the list is endless.
i used to be impressed with your blog, but now it feels like a roundabout rationale for not stepping out of your comfort zone and seeing grappling from a different perspective.

i am a far, far more competent grappler as a result of having fought in MMA and brazilian jiu-jitsu than i would be if i just doggedly only went to Judo.
my matwork for BJJ is better b/c I pin better and control better from top position, and i'm not afraid to use athleticism to escape.
my matwork for Judo is better and my passing the half-guard death squeeze that eventually gets world class players pinned and defeated b/c i've been working with bjj competitors.

what a shame you don't see all of those benefits and write it off as there are benefits and disadvantages. i think the benefits and my competition record/ways to win has dramatically improved than before when i was a one-dimensional thrower.

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Anonymous said...

I was s fair Greco wrestler when I started judo where I Beat most people I fought, not because of my style but because Greco taught me to fight harder. Judo taught me to fight better though.

savageworlds said...

Yeah...just wrong Former wrestler Naidan Tuvshinbayar (MGL) defeated Keiji Suzuki (JPN) with Wrestling techniques during olympics 2008 in Beejing (-100 kg judo) and won the gold medal! A wrestler using wrestling techniques won gold in judo at the olympics then they changed the just no on the blog post.

Abu Hādī said...

You didnt go to a very good judo club then brother. Each time i go judo i end up coming home feeling cramped and sweating crazy.

Loren P said...

I've been reading so many articles about why this martial art doesn't do well against this martial art. It really is MMA that has brought light to all of this I think.

Loren P | London Fight Factory