Friday, June 24, 2011

There should be no escaping your lethal matwork!

I talked before about transition from standing to matwork, both for armbars , and for pins .

For example, Ronda could start in this position, grab his wrist, put her foot above his knee and end up in a position like the one below.

In the post about armbars, I talked about moving from standing to matwork, started out like Ronda in the photo above (except shorter, older and less blonde) and ended up in this position.

There is a second kind of transition and that is when you move from one matwork technique to another.

In the armbar photo above, the person in the armbar could have tried to escape by twisting his arm so that instead of his elbow being pointed toward the ceiling it is toward the floor.

If he does, switch to COMBINATION #1 , which Ronda had helpfully demonstrated below.

Ronda could not get him into the position she intended at first. No worries, because she has practiced for this. She locks his arm tight against her body, and arches for the armbar.

What if that doesn’t work? He tries a forward roll to get away. Ronda keeps hold of his arm and rolls with him, going for COMBINATION #2

If she can stop his roll right here, she’ll lock his arm to her body and arch.

Ronda won a match in her first world cup, the London Open, with this exact armbar. What if it STILL doesn’t work and he rolls all of the way over? Then you go for COMBINATION #3, follow him over and do the same armbar from your back.

Let’s recap, then. You start from standing and go to one armbar, pushing down against the elbow with your leg and pulling up with both hands. If he turns, you lock the arm against your body, and arch, trying a second armbar. If the twists on to his stomach, lock his arm against your body and push-up, trying a third armbar. If he tries a forward roll, follow him, lock the arm against your body and arch, doing a fourth armbar.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Matwork for judo and mixed martial arts: A conversation with me, Ronda, Ben & Jerry

Ronda and I were having a discussion of matwork for judo and mixed martial arts over a pint of Ben & Jerry's S'mores ice cream. I thought this would be a good opportunity to use cinch for a sort of podcast.  For those of you who are good at analogies

Cinch: Podcast as Twitter: Blog

If you're not good at analogies, just click on this link to learn more about matwork. And stay away from Ronda's big toe.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The biggest mistakes in matwork?

I've been writing and deleting paragraphs in the groundwork section of THE BOOK (Building martial arts champions from the ground up ) as I have an argument with myself. I can't decide if I think there are two or three major mistakes in matwork.

Of course there are an enormous number of mistakes that people can make. I do think, though, that there are two or three that overshadow all others.

These two are definitely at the top:
  • Not practicing transition from standing to matwork. People in jiu-jitsu are poor at this because they mostly focus on groundwork and not so much on that split-second of opportunity as you go from standing to matwork. People in judo are poor at this because they generally focus on standing technique and don't give enough thought to matwork. People in mixed martial arts tend to be good at either standing or matwork, but, like people in judo, they tend to practice the two separately.

  • Not practicing matwork combinations. Judo players and mixed  martial artists don't even give much thought to combinations from one groundwork technique to another. Jiu-jitsu players talk a lot about matwork combinations (at least the players I know), but they aren't as good at those combinations as I think they should be. They're just too damn slow. I will admit that MOST judo players do not have their ground game as their strong point, but those who do have an advantage over jiu-jitsu players in that the difference in judo rules has forced them to be sudden. In judo, you have, at most , 30 seconds and usually much less, to secure a pin or submission before the referee makes you stand up. (No, that's not the rule but it's the reality.)

So, those are definitely in my top two.  Improving on those two aspects would make anyone's ground game over 100% better.

There is a third mistake which is not having an attack from every position. I'm debating with myself over that is as serious a mistake as the other two. Let's get this straight - if the only mat moves you have that succeed are from one position, say, when the other person is on all fours and you are standing in front - then the truth is that your matwork sucks and I don't care what your coach, dad and your girlfriend tell you. If you have good transition from standing to matwork and a few good matwork combinations, you can still get by okay if you only have successful attacks from two or three positions instead of eight. But, that's just being okay.

I'd call Jim & ask his opinion but it's late on the east coast and tomorrow morning I have to be up early to give a couple of guest lectures on statistics to middle school students in downtown LA.

So .... if anyone has any thoughts on this, please jump in.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Matwork Secrets: Part 3 Smoother, better, faster, more

You know that faster, smoother, better, more - this is the MORE part.

Yesterday, a couple of people commented that you need to just do an armbar thousands of times in randori, and no, it's not that simple and BJJ people proved that.

Here is part of my opinion on it.

Actually, I thought Jorge's comment was funny and right on target. I have worked out with plenty of BJJ folks and so has Ronda and the schooling has been primarily in the other direction. It IS true that most judo folks aren't very good at matwork but what Rob is really saying is that most people who are not very good at matwork won't do very well in it, which, of course, makes sense, but that is true whether you do judo, BJJ or anything else.

I think what Jorge was saying is the trick is to do it thousands of times - and THAT is what most people in judo don't do.

Here is what I had planned to talk about today - thank you Rob and Jorge for the lead in !

To make your matwork automatic, you need to practice it thousands of times, and from both right and left side. Here is just a little example using my favorite armbar. This is a common position in a tournament if you have just been knocked down. You are on your butt or side and the opponent is attacking trying to follow up an advantage. Here is what you practice:
1. Grab his right wrist with your left hand.
2. Place your right foot above his knee and push.
3. As he stretches out, let go of the lapel grip you had with your right hand and grab his wrist. Now you have two hands on his one arm.
4.Throw your left leg over his arm.

5. Push down with your leg on his elbow at the same time that you are pulling up with both hands.

Repeat this thousands of times.

Now do it again on the left side.
Notice how I'm originally somewhat curled up as my left leg is bent, with my foot above his right knee. 

As, like Jorge said (what? you didn't read the comments?), I stretch out everything, my leg, my body, Peter's arm goes straight. Once again, I have two hands on Peter's one arm, my leg pushes down, I pull up with both hands and that's a submission.

What happens if he tries to escape?

If someone tries to escape, they'll most likely do it by trying to twist the arm.  If he twists toward me, I'm going to lock the arm against my body and arch my hips.

If he tries to do a forward roll or flip to get out of it, I'm going to hang on to his arm, lock it against my body and roll with him, ending up in the position that was demonstrated in yesterday's blog.

I'm often amused when I teach matwork by the number of people in judo and jiu-jitsu who tell me "this will never work". "This" could be referring to any number of techniques. I am amused because, of course, those techniques worked very well for me in a great many matches and now they're working for my daughter.

What is the secret of getting your matwork to work? Do more of it. Do thousands of repetitions, do them as nearly perfect as you can make them and from every possible situation. Notice that I just covered three different situations - I get the first armbar attempt, he twists and I get the armbar, or he tries a roll and I get the armbar.

P.S. Ronda  - congratulations on your win in Calgary.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

MATWORK “SECRETS” – Smoother, More, Faster, Better - Part 2

It was the first time the Panamerican Games had a women’s judo division. I can’t speak for the rest of the competitors, but I know I was nervous. I’d had a good run, won a lot of tournaments lately but that only made it worse. When I told Dr. James Wooley, the team manager and a two-time Olympian that I was stressed because no matter how much I trained I knew that there was a possibility I could still make a mistake in a match. He laughed at me and said, 
“You’re thinking about it all wrong. You don’t have to be perfect to win this tournament  You don’t need to never make a mistake. You just need to go out there and in each match make one less mistake than the other person.”
How to do armbars without a mistake

When you do an armbar, lock the opponent's arm against your body. You should not be using your arms trying to pull the person's arm in any direction. The most efficient way to do an armbar is to have the opponent's arm tight against your body, between your legs. If the opponent is on his back, as in the example below, rotate towards his head as Karo is doing here


Karo has perfect form as he has no space between his body and Rob's arm.

When you are in the position above arch your hips, either the person will give up or the elbow will dislocate.

I'd just like to point out here that although these two gentlemen are at grappling practice, the technique they are demonstrating is EXACTLY the judo technique, juji gatame, with no modification whatsoever. Karo is, in fact, a judo black belt.

P.S. Rob, who is also a judo player, wanted me to point out that he in fact LET Karo get him in the armbar just so I could get good pictures and there is no possibility that does not involve shackles, snipers and a troop of little boy scouts in which Karo could actually get him into a position where he would be required to tap out.

P.P.S. Thanks to both of you for taking a few minutes away from practice to pose for pictures.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

MATWORK “SECRETS” – Smoother, More, Faster, Better - Part 1

If you want better matwork our training should have a PLAN and you should follow that PLAN. Think this is obvious? As a public service, the next few blog posts will point out common mistakes seen in competition, ending the week with recommendations for how to fix these.

Watch a tournament and see how often you see this:

A player throws and there is a second or two from the throw until following up to the mat. In that second, the opponent turns on his or her stomach, rolls to the side or sits up. All of these split-second moves put the opponent now into a little better position. Why didn’t the player who threw IMMEDIATELY follow up to the ground?

Look at the players below. They are in a beginning class and just learning to do throws and hold- downs.

They are practicing a drill where one person throws and then goes into a pin the second they hit the mat. The student has just thrown and he already has the opponent's right arm locked under his left arm for the pin. He didn't need to move his right arm because it was in the right position for the pin when he came into the throw. Unfortunately, this is NOT the way most people learn matwork from the very beginning, which is why they make mistakes later on.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Why there are fewer competitors in judo : The enemy is us

There is no denying the fact that there are fewer people competing in judo than twenty or thirty years ago. Many explanations have been offered for this, pretty much all of which can be summarized as the U.S. is a bunch of lazy slackers and judo is the second-biggest sport in the world, so there!

In fact, there is considerable evidence to suggest that judo is NOT the second-biggest sport in the world, if one defines "biggest" as the one with the most spectators or the most participants or the most competitors, but that is a myth to be busted another day. Let's take our myths one at a time, shall we?

Three new sports have become extremely popular in the U.S.  - grappling, mixed martial arts and Brazilian jiujitsu. While jiujitsu has been around for a long time, the particular style that has given rise to all the new schools is relatively new. If the soft, wienie theory were true, it is hard to understand why a sport that allows you to slam people on really thin mats (grappling) or punch people in the face AND armbar them, is gaining players by the day.

Let's look at the four P's they teach you in marketing - price, product, promotion and place. Of those four, the one we are the worst on is product.

I can hear the screams of outrage already - judo is a wonderful sport! We love it! If people only knew …

I believe we have at least two major problems with judo as a product. The first is the lack of respect we give to our consumers / students.

Look how judo is taught in many clubs (not all clubs, but too many). Some old men tell a lot of young people to do exercises. They get to do this because they have a higher rank. If anyone complains that practice is the same every day or asks why they are doing a certain drill, it is pointed out that the instructor is a volunteer. I have been in judo classes many times in many places where the instructor will yell at students,
"You're not here to have fun!" 
Well, what are they here for, then? Personally, I had a great time when I trained and I won a lot. I did it because it was fun. I've heard instructors say,
"They'll have fun when they win." 
Yes, winning is an awesome amount of fun, but someone who is a really good athlete can probably win at something besides judo, too, and maybe that thing will be more fun. You see, most people think the whole point of recreational activities is, well, recreation. Sports are SUPPOSED to be fun.

Contrast this with grappling or MMA. People come in and work out. The person running the class does some demonstration of techniques. Since they have no belt to validate their qualifications, people make a judgement as to whether this person knows what he or she is talking about or not. No one yells at them to tie their belt, their uniform is not tucked in, or they forgot to bow.

Some might argue that judo teaches you respect. This is true, in some schools, but respect is not how you dress, it is how you behave and it is mutual.

I meet people who are in grappling, MMA and jiujitsu all of the time. Some of them are complete jerks - just like some people in judo. Most of them are extremely polite, just like people in judo. I'm not stupid. I realize that part of that politeness is because I'm an older woman and people are raised to be polite to older women, and most especially to mothers, because being impolite to someone's mother may earn you a kick in the teeth. The fact that I'm the mother of four beautiful daughters is not lost on me and no doubt adds to the politeness factor.

My point - and you may by now have despaired of me having one - is that I haven't seen any evidence that yelling at people to tie their belts, tuck in their judo gis, and bow properly has caused a drastically higher level of politeness.

This may seem to contradict the experience of some older instructors at tournaments, who will tell me that they have been extremely rudely spoken to by young people from MMA clubs. I believe respect is mutual. If you walk up to a person you don't know and berate him for the way he's dressed, bowing, shoes, etc. you see it as your right because you are a higher rank. He just sees it as a stranger yelling at him about something trivial that's none of his business. Seriously, what gives you that right?

This isn't to say I haven't made some young people unhappy. For example, I've told 18- 20 year old men at tournaments that they can't be drinking beer in the lobby because they are under age, it's illegal, they were being bad role models to younger children, people who provide funds to our organization could see them and it could hurt our chances for additional funding, and a lot of other reasons. They were NOT happy, but they quit drinking in public when I was around. What I did NOT say was because I said so, I am a sixth-degree black belt, I am a referee. What I hope they understood (and I think they did) is that I talked to them because I care about them, our younger players, and any players who might lose out on funding due to their bad behavior. What gives me the right is I'm a person in the judo community, with no or more less rights than them or their parents.

The second area where we have failed as a product is the arbitrary and capricious rules. Rules change at random with no input from the coaches or players and no apparent rhyme or reason. I've been in judo 40 years and I have a Ph.D. and I can't figure out why one year a certain throw will be legal and the next year not or why a certain grip is illegal. Judo matches are determined by the referees' intervention FAR more than other contact sports I have watched (and I'm not counting tae kwon do and other striking sports in here because I don't know much about them and I think maybe they attract a different clientele).

Read this next paragraph slowly because I think it is key --
When someone trains even moderately hard, he or she will be unhappy to go into an event, wait around for hours to compete, only to lose a match due to holding the uniform in an unacceptable manner or touching the leg, or anyone of a great number of other infractions which make no sense. The number of judo matches in the U.S. decided by penalties far exceeds anything I have ever seen in any other contact sport.

The attitude toward coaches and players for years has been
"Screw 'em, what are they going to do? Not compete?"

In fact, it appears that what they are going to do is not compete in judo, but rather, compete in something very like judo. We're not the only game in town any more.

One explanation I have heard for the rule changes is to differentiate judo more from wrestling and grappling. Let me get this right, someone thought it was a good idea to change to be LESS like the sports that were more popular? Sure, that'll work. (Sarcasm alert!)

Friday, June 3, 2011

If judo techniques were named by people in karate

My niece just got her brown belt in karate and we were discussing names of the different techniques. In judo we have names like one-armed shoulder throw because you have one of the opponent's arms and throw them over your shoulder. In karate they have techniques with names like Thundering Mantis and Do the Locust because, I guess, they were all named by the human equivalent of the honey badger. ( Okay, first of all, if You think I am kidding try to guess which of these are real karate technique names and which are just shit we made up.

Riding the Staff
Double Darkness
Passing Wind
Mountain of Man
Dance of Death
Song of Death
Crash of the Eagle II
The Lotus of Death
Prance of the Tiger
Toe of Doom

Now, let's try to rename some judo techniques to be more crowd-pleasing. I'm doing this on my iPad in Internet darkness zone so I will have to upload the photos later when I return to civilization. We will see which ones you guessed correctly. Feel free to post your guesses in the comments so we can mock you, I mean , be impressed.

Dance of the Drunken Uncle
Entangling Midget
Snap, Crackle, Pop
Limbo of Destruction
Slipping on the Banana ( some styles call this Dreams of Kwan)
Don't Do this in Prison

Oh just in case you were wondering, every other one of those names was a real karate technique. So, Passing Wind Is a real technique but Toe of Doom is not.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

June 5 Gi & No - Gi Grappling at Hayastan or Why Can't Technology Meet Judo?

I really like Gene LeBell and Gokor Chivichyan. They are two really nice guys. However, even with that said, I have to admit that they are not the first to spring to mind when I think of technology. Gene was a bad ass judo player back in the 1950s but since then he has made his living being thrown through doors and falling off of motorcycles as a stunt man. Gokor used to beat up people and now he teaches other people to beat up people.

They are having a tournament this weekend, Gi and No-Gi grappling. The Gi part is pretty much judo without all the rules against grabbing the legs, with no penalties for not saying "Mother may I" before taking a grip and stuff like that. Anyone who has an interest in freestyle judo will love it.
Ronda is there to coach the players from the West Coast Judo Training Center, but if you are a judo player and confused, just go up to her and ask her any questions. I'm sure she'll be happy to help you out.

None of that is my point. My point is that THEY have a website where you can register and pay on line with a credit card or Paypal. Why the heck don't judo tournaments have that? I know sometimes state or national competitions do, but this is a "Drop by on Sunday and fight tournament".

For YEARS, I have been suggesting that we make judo tournaments easier to register and compete in, that you not have to get up at Dark o'clock in the morning to register and weigh-in.

This tournament gives you three options - pay on-line, download and print the form and mail in a check (sorry, too late for that now) and pay in cash on the day of the event.

They give you two options to weigh in - you can drop by the day before if you live in the area and weigh between 11 and 1 or, if you live further away and don't want to drive in twice, you can come weigh in between 8 and 10 on Sunday.

This just seems so simple and obvious - pay online if you want, download the form and mail it in if you want, weigh-in the day before or the morning of the tournament, whichever is easier for you. In short, make it easy for people to register, pay and weigh.

Why can't judo do that? No, seriously, why?