Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What do you teach first?

After forty years of teaching judo, I've come to have a general order to teaching. Although it's not always the exact same order every time, there are a few things I try to do the first few months of every new class of beginning judo students.

Within the first few days, I always try to teach:
  • a forward throw
  • a backward throw
  • a pin 
  • a turnover into a pin
I try never to get past the second class of a student's judo career without introducing him or her to the concept of transition, which means, of course, that by the second class, at the latest, they have all learned both a throw and a pin.

Back in the old days (even older than me), many people spent the first few weeks teaching falling. Personally, I think that is one of the dumbest ideas ever. In my classes, we spend 10 or 15 minutes learning to fall the first day, and 5 minutes or so in most classes after that. I hear instructors say that falling is the most important part of judo. I think that's like saying getting pinned is the most important part of wrestling.

Usually the very first throw I teach is either o soto gari (an outside leg sweep) or ippon seoi nage (one armed shoulder throw).  Teaching both a backward throw and a forward throw is pretty obvious. You want to be able to throw your opponent regardless of the direction he or she is moving.

Why those particular throws? It seems to me that ippon seoi nage is a good choice because the student has to get the habit of pulling the opponent off balance, turning and putting both feet facing in the opposite direction in front of the opponent and lowering the center of gravity.

Other throws could probably do just as well to teach those same points.

What about you? What do you teach first?


Nicholas Troyer said...

I started judo a little under a year ago at a community college. We only get to meet twice a week, so the first few weeks the instructors worked ukemi into the warm ups.

The first throws they taught us were o goshi and o soto gari. After we learned a couple pins, they taught us morote seoi nage and left side ippon seoi nage so we could start doing uchikomi drills.

JudoWill said...

I do the same thing but I try to include a strangle within the first two weeks or so (I teach college kids so it may be different for kids clubs). I like students to get used to the idea that Judo teaches "real" techniques that when applied properly can be dangerous and it also helps build trust within the team: "I can trust that this guy will let me go when I tap and not kill me".

I usually pick O-goshi as my first throw to teach because it forces people get close to each other and lets people of drastically different sizes lift each other. I find this helps with confidence since they can leave saying "Hey, I lifted this guy that had 60 lbs on me and it wasn't that hard!"

Thai boxing Gatineau said...

A nice source for judo techniques. Love your posts and thanks for that.

Al B Here said...

The judo club at my university spends a whole lot of time on the breakfalls. especially with the beginners. My instructors have always seemed obsessed with Ippon Seoi Nage, which annoys me personally since I find that throw to be damn tough for an O100 kg judoka like me. Like at Nicholas' club, it was done so we could do the uchikomi drills. I think we finally got to O-Soto Gari over the past 2 weeks or so. We did spend a couple of weeks of the term on ground work between the Seoi Nage and O-Soto, though.

Chad Morrison said...

Come on... there is a skill to breakfalling where you learn to prevent injury and discomfort. I agree that folks may over-concentrate on it, but it's useful for folks to learn how to protect themselves from hitting the earth (which they tend to do a lot in Judo class). As Pat Parker recently mentioned, it's also the "self defense" skill (in the broad sense) that you are most likely to use. I've not had to throw anyone outside of a dojo in the 18 years that I've been practicing, but I have fallen down/tripped/fallen off of things. Other trolling on the breakfall comment, I do like the structure you layed out in your post. Nice easy framework for coaches to work with.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

Well, Chad, you're clearly a much nicer person than me because I was in a lot of fights when young and I'm sure I've thrown people more times than I've fallen down (outside of judo).

I do teach falling, but I completely disagree with people who spend weeks on it and say with a straight face that it is the most important skill in judo.

As for the other comments, I used to teach o goshi first and sometimes I still do. It varies. As I said, I am sure the same exact points from ippon seoi nage - turn your back to your opponent, grip at the elbow, pull - could be taught with o goshi or other techniques.

Guillaume Lacerte said...

I would like to know your reasoning behind not spending much time on learning how to fall, especially in the first classes. It surprises me, as my first instinct would have been to drill it a lot with beginners.

On top of my head, is it because you've found it to be ineffective, because people pick it up over time anyway, or because it takes more than a few classes for the body to simply ''get'' how fall safely?

Thanks for your blog I love the info!

dave schaeffer said...

First throw taught was "grab lapels and or sleeve, with both hands,pretend your steering a bus, and pull them to the ground" throw. Next, I would add to this by blocking uke's foot with tori's. Then, maybe turning and using opposite foot, tai toshi sort of.

dave schaeffer said...

First throw taught was "grab lapels and or sleeve, with both hands,pretend your steering a bus, and pull them to the ground" throw. Next, I would add to this by blocking uke's foot with tori's. Then, maybe turning and using opposite foot, tai toshi sort of.

Sylver said...

I think I have benefited from all aspects of my judo training, but only one aspect of my judo training has actually saved my life on at least one occasion... Can you guess which one?

It was a motorcycle accident at high speed. I was projected 10m forward and landed head down on concrete. I pulled my head up, curved my spine and slapped with my arms. I got up a second later with barely a scratch.

What would have happened without all that ukemi training my first sensei was so fond of?

On another occasion, I slipped and fell down hard on the stairs. Wet feet, marble steps. Not my best idea. Same reflexes kicked in and my hands and forearms took the brunt of the impact, instead of my spine. I defaulted to massaging my sore forearms and cursing, which you have to admit is quite a bit more pleasant than crawling in pain with a dislocated/broken lower back.

Being able to throw, pin and submit people, yes, it's good fun and it has its uses. But reviewing the last 28 years, I have to admit that the most valuable skill I learned in Judo so far is ukemi.

It's hard to beat a skill that can save your life.

Dr. AnnMaria said...

The first throw you were taught, did you turn around to throw them, so it was like a tsurikomi gosh i?beacause otherwise I don't get how it works if you just stand there and use your arms.

Sylver - when I was young, I was in a lot of fights so judo saved me a lot.

I didn't say I don't teach falling. We practice it a little bit every class. What I DON'T do is spend the entire first class or first two or three classes doing nothing but falling.

Fusion Mixed Martial Arts said...

i teach rnough falling technique so that my students can throw each other.

Brrian Jester said...

Just a parent, thank you for the insight.