Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The scoop on Rhadi

Someone sent me an email response to my Rhadi Freguson post the other day. It seems my devoted fans are demanding an explicit opinion from me (of all people) on Mr. Ferguson:
I read your post on Rhadi Ferguson and everyone's responses. I agree ... that his video seems more like everyday positive thinking tips. I looked up a few of Rhadi's videos and yes he does a lot of pick-ups...but his record is impressive... Anyway, I noticed you didn't leave any opinions of the guy or his video. So do you have any? Also I really liked the post about the spirit of grappling.
First, I should say that Rhadi’s apparently a really tough dude. He’d almost certainly beat me up as soon as he touched me. Probably pick me up and hit me against the ceiling! Also, I’m not in the business of approving or disapproving of Rhadi or anyone else. I’m not selling Rhadi-stuff – I just posted the videos because they are interesting and, despite what his cowardly anonymous detractors say, he demonstrates good judo in those videos.
Where has it been said that a big, strong man should not do big, strong judo? I do seem to recall reading somewhere that Kano and company did not want to put leg picks and pickups as early parts of the syllabus and the reason given was that they prevent the learning of ‘real’ judo. Leg picks are so easy in a lot of cases that if they are encouraged then some beginning students would do nothing else. Maybe this is where the folks decided that pickups were ‘bad’ judo.
Rhadi is obviously a powerful man, and his tokuiwaza appears to be high amplitude leg picks – strength throws. This brings up another strange mis-conception about judo. One that it took me a long time to get over personally. The idea that judo is supposed to be a genteel (as opposed to gentle) way - an effortless thing. Well, the basis of the idea is not “no strength” but rather, “maximally efficient use of the strength you do have”. Lately I’ve stopped telling students that judo is the “gentle way” or “soft way” because I think a looser translation is much better – “Judo is the smart way to use your strength.” And, based on his videos and his tournament record, I’d say he was using his super powers pretty intelligently. So, in short, my opinion of Rhadi Ferguson (for what it’s worth):
  • He’s a tough dude
  • He’s a great athlete
  • He does good judo
As I said a while back in a post, “He’s both a pleasure and a terror to watch.”


  1. I was talking to Bryce about Rhadi yesterday and was asking about strength versus technique. After watching a couple of videos on Rhadi, I came to the conclusion that I can't even delude myself into thinking I'd last more than a minute against the guy if I had to. He's like a grappling refrigerator and pretty fast for a guy his size. Also like you said, he uses the raw power he has along with technique and I remembered the video of Mifune you showed me where he's demonstrating on a 7 foot tall Japanese guy and it occurred to me that the 7 foot tall guy wasn't using any power at all, it looked all technique to me. I guess to sum up, I suppose we can only use what we have, and if size and strength is something you're gifted with, why not use it?

  2. Also, BTW, in the Rhadi trailer I posted today...


    I saw a couple of SUPERB deashibarai sweeps, and deashi is about as low-power as you can get and it is also in a lot of ways the basis of all the sweet finesse leg throws in judo.

    So, saying that the guy doesn't do 'real' judo is just null and void.

  3. Greetings gentlemen.

    I stumbled upon your site and thought I'd leave a comment or two.

    Power, such as technique is an earned commodity. It takes hours of gym time and mat time to acquire both. When the two are married together, moves *appear* to be more powerful when they actually are, but they are masked by smooth technique.

    As strong as I am (or should I say used to be), I would have a difficult time hurling a 220lb man in the air from the stand still position. The movement patterns a timing necessary to perform a high arching pickup and to perform a deashibarai are very similar.

    And don't be fooled by the moves that you've seen me do on the back end of my career. I, like you, started with Osoto gari, ouchi gari, kouchi gari, kosoti, harai, uchimate etc.,.

    Overtime I just picked the best techniques that suited my style and my body type.

    Take care gentlemen and have a great day.

    Rhadi Ferguson
    2004 Olympian
    4-Time National Judo Champion
    BJJ Black Belt (and they don't give those out because you're powerful :-) )


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