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The Four Parts of a Judo Throw | Amakella Publishing
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The Four Parts of a Judo Throw

The execution of a judo throw can greatly benefit from analyzing and understanding the four main components of a throw: establishing a solid grip, getting your opponent off-balance, getting your body into position for the throw, and executing the throw with the different parts of the body acting in a coordinated way. While there may be some instances in which one or more of these components are not needed to execute a throw, those are the exception rather than the rule. These components are explained in greater detail below.

1. Establishing a firm grip (kumi kata)

The outcome of a match in competition and randori is influenced to a great extent by the type of gripping control established on every bout. Grip fights are common because if one opponent establishes a dominant grip, then that person can set the direction of the match and has greater chances of applying a technique in a successful way. If you find yourself in a situation when you feel that you are in a vulnerable situation and that an attack from the other person is imminent, the cause may be related to the loss of grip control. Gripping skills are a key part of an effective throw, so it is an area that judokas should learn since the beginning of their judo training, planning their gripping strategies for each bout and adapting their gripping tactics for each opponent. As former Olympian medalist and world judo champion Jimmy Pedro pointed out, “Gripping is one of the most important and fundamental judo skills … yet it is the least taught and understood skill of the game.” A useful resource is the DVD Grip Like a World Champion, released by Pedro in 2007.

2. Getting your opponent off-balance (kuzushi)

Performing a successful throw, one that achieves maximum efficiency with minimal effort, requires getting your opponent off-balance first. You can get your opponent off-balance in eight directions. If you imagine that your opponent is standing on a square, you can get the person off-balance by pushing or pulling, moving the person to the front, back, sides, and corners. Successful kuzushi requires strength and accuracy, leading our opponent in one direction to create momentum, and then applying a technique in the opposite direction. By getting your opponent off-balance, you can gain valuable milliseconds to get yourself in position for a throw, before the other person has time to block your attack or apply countermeasures. Kuzushi is a fundamental component of every throw, and it is also one of the areas where opponents are likely to focus their defensive efforts. This is why muscular development is important, since the muscles associated with the application of successful kuzushi are usually not as strong as the ones used when executing throws. Accordingly, it is important to understand the biomechanics of each throw, identifying where your opponents are directing their efforts, and determining in which direction you should aim your own attack or counterattack. Without proper kuzushi, the chances of completing a judo throw are significantly reduced, so it is important to get the other person off-balance first.

3. Getting into position (tsukuri)

Once you manage to get your opponent off-balance, the next step is to get yourself into position for the throw. This has to be executed as a coordinated and fluid movement, which usually requires speed, without releasing the pressure that keeps your opponent off-balance. Key factors when getting into position are accuracy when placing your feet in the desired position, equilibrium, stability, and location of your center of gravity, which for many techniques you need to flex your legs to lower your body. This coordination of movements is better achieved when it is rehearsed in advance, performing repetitions of your intended techniques (uchi komi) on a regular basis. The more you practice those movements, the more fluid they become, acting in a way that resembles an automatic response, which gets triggered almost instinctively in response to an opening. As judo experts Watanabe and Avakian explained, “The judoist must react with a conditioned reflex to any situation. It must be an automatic response, since there is no time for thinking the situation through.” The movements to get into position may be simple or complicated, and can be part of single techniques or a combination of more than one.

4. Executing the throw (kake)

Once the previous three actions have been conducted, it is time to execute the throw. The most effective throwing movements are those that are performed in an explosive way, which allow for greater speed and force, which are key components of throws that get awarded an instant winning score (ippon). Scoring an ippon usually requires that our throws end up with our opponents landing on their backs, while we maintain control over the action. The simultaneous and explosive movement of the different parts of the body in a coordinated way is likely to end up in a successful throw, unless the opponent is able to adapt and figure a way out. In cases when only a partial score is achieved as a result of a throw, such as when our opponents land on the side of their torso, once on the ground it is important to continue the rolling motion. After that, you are also likely to be in an advantageous position to apply a ne waza technique, such as pinning your opponent into the mat, which can then evolve into a choking or armbar technique.

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