Judo technique and tactics

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by Juan Carlos Yamamoto

Recently, I was lucky enough to get the book “Judo: Base and Strategy (nage waza)” that I had requested without knowing its content too much and I was very delighted with its content.
Its author is Kenichiro AGEMIZU who is the current Technical Director (Head Coach) of the powerful men’s team of TOKAI University who returned to be the champion in the last (2019) Men’s University Team Championship (free weight) this time for the fourth consecutive time , as well as the women’s team (of 5 members) that was also the winner.
It should be remembered that the TOKAI University Men’s Team is the most winner of the universities team championships, both free weight (24 times) and weight (10 times) and that it has as Shu Shihan (Main Master) Nobuyuki SATO (who will lead the university team to the foreground) and as one of the Shihan (Master) to none other than the great former champion and current president of the AJJF, Yasuhiro YAMASHITA and as Deputy Technical Director to another former champion, Kosei INOUE , current Technical Director of the men’s team.
Given the interesting nature of his approach to the technical and tactical training of Japanese judokas, which he calls “Theory of the 6 Sections,” I will try to summarize his main conceptual guidelines below.

The 6 Sections result from combining the 2 forms of grip,
(1) symmetrical grip (ai yotsu; right-handed vs. right-handed or left-handed vs. left-handed) and
(2) inverted or asymmetric grip (kenka yotsu: right-handed versus left-handed).
With the height characteristics of the rivals:
(1) higher,
(2) of equal height and
(3) lower.
For each of the 6 Sections, the bases of the grip forms and the techniques to apply vary, so each judoka should establish and order their techniques to apply in each of the 6 Sections, so that they can succeed in front of different types of rivals and situations.
For this reason, it presents in a systematic way different alternatives of applying the most favourable techniques for each of the 6 Sections.
(JUDO compatibility)
In Judo, as it is a combat sport, one cannot escape the fight and, therefore, one must always face the problem of compatibility with the rival.
This could be explained taking as an example the game of “stone, paper and scissors”, where, although one wanted to beat the rival with “stone”, he could not do it if the rival went with “paper” or “stone”. As it is known that the “stone” is not compatible with “paper”, if the rival goes with “paper”, one has no other way of winning, other than with “scissors”. Thus, one should be prepared to prevail over any of the 3 alternatives.
In Judo, if one tends to avoid certain types of rivals (or practice partners) with whom he does not have compatibility and tries to find rivals with those who do have compatibility, the positive and the negative of the compatibility are emphasized and ends in a vicious circle where it ends up taking a long time to overcome this situation (of incompatibility).
Thus, the characteristics of the rivals were classified into 6 Sections, A, B, C, D, E and F, (without taking into account the weight, since it competes in categories by weight), so that whoever can Covering all the sections will make you a seamless athlete, although in reality very few can do it. (See Table 1)

(Keys to cover the 6 Sections)
There are several reasons why very few athletes can successfully cover all 6 Sections. The first cause is the fact that the most appropriate techniques to apply differ according to the characteristics of the rivals and that very few can change their tokui waza, according to these characteristics.
For example, for those who have seoi nage as a tokui waza, it is not easy for them to apply it against shorter rivals as it happens to those who apply uchi mata against taller rivals.
Therefore, it is necessary to train athletes who can vary their tokui waza according to the characteristics of the rivals, without focusing on a single tokui waza. Therefore, although it is very important to master a technique in a consummate way, but it is equally important to have an attitude to try to learn and master various techniques.

It would be the case, for example, of Naohisa TAKATO, Bronze Medal at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympics, who, according to the rival, applies seoi nage, uchi mata and o soto gari, which also complicates rivals who cannot prevent a certain attack.
The second cause is found in the fact that kumikata varies according to grip, whether it is symmetrical (ai yotsu) or inverted (kenka yotsu).
With the symmetrical grip (ai yotsu), the lines of the feet of the rivals are parallel and, consequently, the breasts are face to face in a position where the one with more strength is more advantageous. While with the inverted grip (kenka yotsu), the lines of the feet of both cross and the breasts are not facing each other and situations are generated where the tsurite of each one bothers the other and the technique to overcome them prevails more.
That is, in general, with the symmetrical grip (ai yotsu) the force prevails more, while with the inverted grip (kenka yotsu), the technique prevails.
Most athletes have greater ease with one form of grip, so efforts should be made to improve the weaker grip in order to respond flexibly to grip changes.
It should be remembered that, mainly in Japan, the percentage of left-handed athletes increases as it rises in the ranking position, observing a large number of left-handed athletes among the members of the teams in proportions much greater than those observed among the beginners. .
So for an athlete to be able to cover all 6 Sections, he must master several techniques and have the ability to change the kumikata.
Likewise, the author recommends carrying out a self-diagnosis on the strengths and weaknesses that one has for each section. (See table 2).

(Assimilate the “BIG 6” techniques)
Those 6 fundamental techniques that should be mastered to cover the 6 Sections have been called “BIG 6” Techniques.
The BIG 6 are the 6 techniques, (1) seoi nage (including ippon seoi nage), (2) tai otoshi, (3) harai goshi, (4) uchi mata, (5) o soto gari and (6) o uchi gari that were identified as the most effective techniques for the different 6 Sections, as observed in Table 3.

Thus, the greater the number of techniques mastered by the BIG 6, one will be able to increase the variety in the ways of attacking, according to the characteristics of the rivals.
At the same time, AGEMIZU presents the following 4 techniques, denominating them as the “SMALL 4”, as techniques to complement the BIG 6, in combination with them: (1) ko uchi gari, (2) ashi barai, (3) sasae tsuri komi ashi and (4) ko soto gari.
(Basis and characteristics of the GRIPS)
Within the grips, it can be considered that there are 3 main cases. The first is the symmetrical grip or “ai yotsu” in which both perform the right or left kumikata.
The second is the case of inverted grip or “kenka yotsu” in which one’s tsurite takes below the rival’s tsurite. The third is with the same inverted grip, but with the tsurite of one taking over the rival’s tsurite.
First of all, one must master his normal kumikata for all 3 cases, paying attention to the position of the tsurite and the balance with the hikite. The tsurite should take at the shoulder height of one or somewhat higher, being ideal to feel that your wrist is supported on the clavicle of the rival. Attempts should be made to maintain this height for the tsurite and to pull the hikite toward one’s abdomen so that he can reach an ideal posture for attack and defense.
Otherwise, having the tsurite too low or not being able to pull the hikite, an imbalance occurs and good posture is lost.

(Base and method of use of HIKITE) It is recommended to fix the tsurite in the area of one’s abdomen or chest, to mainly handle the tsurite with the hikite acting as a support. Although this may seem counterproductive, especially in symmetrical grip if one uses the hikite by stretching it to prevent the opponent’s grip, it will be difficult to hold it and will facilitate the breakdown of the grip by the rival. In inverted grip, the hikite should be fixed by taking the opponent’s sleeve on the outside, and since in this case both will tend to take on the outside, whoever prevails will have more advantage both in attack and defence. (Importance of TSURITE doll) The ways of handling the tsurite, fixing the hikite can be classified into 4 ways. These are, (1) the normal way with the wrist upright and the thumb up, (2) The wrist shape is horizontal with the back of the fist facing up which is used to attract the opponent or take a distance in an inverted grip, (3) the vertical wrist shape with the little finger up which is used to raise the gripping position of the tsurite and (4) the horizontal palm-up wrist shape used when the opponent attempts to change the grip position into symmetrical grip. The basic vertical wrist grip with the thumb up should be the starting point for all movements to achieve the most advantageous kumikata. Since the wrist and the elbow work together and therefore, for each position of the wrist an elbow position corresponds, the correct work of the wrist with the elbow in agreement, is essential to achieve a correct kumite.

(Adjusting the position of the TSURITE) In the kumikata fight, each tries to achieve the most advantageous position, working with the tsurite and the hikite, in coordination. And, when you are in a disadvantageous position, you must do the work of adjusting the position of the tsurite, working with the wrist and elbow of the tsurite, keeping the hikite fixed. Here, one should gradually advance towards the most advantageous position, repeating the series of work of the wrist and elbow. Coming to dominate this work is of great importance for the attack or defense to be more effective. (Reverse grip: TSURITE ELBOW inside and out) Although the grip of the tsurite below the rival’s tsurite is more advantageous to stabilize the centre of gravity, there are cases in which the situation forces the tsurite to take over the rival’s. In this case, the elbow is outside the rival’s tsurite and pressure must be applied to the opponent’s tsurite from the sides to immobilize it and, if necessary, insert the elbow by exerting pressure from above. As this depends a lot on the length of the arms, there are cases in which the taller athlete (and with long arms) prefers the grip above and the shorter (with shorter arms) prefers the grip from below or inside. Although it is most convenient to be able to master both types of grip, each one must find the form that is most advantageous to them.

(Space between one and the rival: square or diamond box) In the present work, the space created in the grip with the rival is classified into (1) “square box” and (2) “diamond box”. The “square box” is the space that is created in a normal grip, both symmetrical and inverted, and it is a stable state in which one’s strength is transmitted to the rival. On the other hand, the “diamond box” corresponds to the state in which the space with the rival has been deformed, when starting the application of a technique by shortening one of the diagonals of the square and the third option
would be when the box is completely broken and all space separating with the rival is eliminated. In techniques that involve twists or rotations such as seoi nage, harai goshi or uchi mata, with the hikite’s traction, the “square box” is changed to “rhomboid box” and the space is used more effectively. On the other hand, in techniques such as o soto gari and o uchi gari, one goes from “square box” → “diamond box” → without space.

Furthermore, the author classifies those techniques that involve a rotational movement such as those indicated above, such as “lateral rotation” (yoko kaiten) and “vertical rotation”, although he does not consider the possibility that a technique can be applied with a or another option like other authors do. (Special grips: TSURITE taking the opponent’s back or neck area) There are ways to neutralize two forms of special grips often used by foreign opponents with higher heights. These are grips with the tsurite taking the opponent’s back (sashi kumite) and the nape area of the opponent’s lapel (oku eri). For both cases, coordinated work of the tsurite (wrist and elbow) with the hikite is indicated. The main part of the book is dedicated to the technical and tactical aspects of each of the 6 Sections with a detailed explanation of the application of the main techniques (between BIG 6 and SMALL 4) considered as the most effective for each section with a profusion of pictures. Here, we will present only the main technical and tactical observations made by the author for each of the sections.
(Section B: symmetrical grip with a rival of the same height) It is the most orthodox and most appropriate way to learn the base of the techniques. Consequently, it is recommended to start with this form to learn both the “BIG 6” and “SMALL 4” techniques. As a basic tactical principle of attack for both symmetrical grip and inverted grip, the attack on the opponent’s supporting leg (jiku ashi) is cited, since this, compared to the sweeping leg (kari ashi), remains more fixed and when attacked, the opponent is more likely to destabilize. Especially in symmetrical grip, an attempt should be made to permanently attack the opponent’s support leg, which is the closest. (Section A: symmetrical grip with a taller opponent) With a taller opponent, one is more likely to be chest to chest with the rival and receive pressure from the rival, being in a disadvantageous position. Faced with this, you must try to generate a certain space between the rival, creating a “square box” to apply a technique below its centre of gravity. At the same time, to control the opponent’s tsurite, you must pull it down with the hikite towards your chest. (Section C: symmetrical grip with a shorter opponent) Since the opponent is shorter here, it is convenient to try to stand chest to chest with the opponent and apply pressure from this position. Contrary to Section A, you should try to form a diamond box in the space between the rival, breaking the square box. By reducing the distance with the rival, the latter is more limited to counteract one’s attack. Conversely, if the opponent manages to form a square box, one must guard against an attack with a technique below our center of gravity. (Section E: inverted grip with a rival of equal height) In sections D, E, and F that correspond to the inverted grip, the lines of each other’s feet intersect and the respective tsurites bother each other, preventing the breasts from facing each other. Because the tsurite can go above or below that of the rival, a much more complex technique is required. For this reason, in a combat with inverted grip, the most technical usually prevails. Particularly for Section E, which corresponds to rivals of the same height where attack and defence situations can occur with the tsurite above as well as below, interchangeably, techniques that can be applied with the tsurite in both positions are recommended.

The hikite grip on the outside and the tsurite with the vertical wrist (with the thumb up) are taken as the base, closing with the tsurite on top or opening with the tsurite on the bottom. (Section D: inverted grip with a taller opponent) Here, when facing a higher rival, one’s tsurite is more often below that of the rival. When the grasping position of the tsurite is lowered and the head is lowered, one is exposed to the pressure of the rival, being in a disadvantageous position. Therefore, one should try to keep the grasping position of the tsurite high, applying the principle of “opening with the tsurite from below”. It is effective to master the technique of carrying out this work with only one arm and with the coordinated work of both arms. (Section F: inverted grip with a shorter opponent) Here, being in front of a shorter rival, one’s tsurite is more often above the rival’s. By loosening the pressure with the tsurite, the opponent is allowed to raise the grasping position of his tsurite and gives him more chances of attack. Therefore, the opponent must avoid raising his grip position by applying the principle of “closing with the tsurite above”, using the work of the wrist in an upright position (with the thumb up) and the chin. As in Section D, it is effective to master the technique of carrying out this work with only one arm and with the coordinated work of both arms.

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