Monday, August 17, 2009

Helpful handful: Easier falls for hip throws

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Booth
One point that is repeatedly brought up in the age-old BJJ vs. Judo debate is that the BJJ guys think that the falling-intensive practices in judo are just plain abusive. I've heard several BJJ guys say that they thought the only way to survive that much falling is to do judo when you are young and then move into BJJ for the rest of your martial arts career. I've also heard of judo guys getting into aikido to prolong their mat-years.
Indeed, learning to fall was a bear for me. I seemed to get more hurt with every practice. The pain was frustrating, and the frustration made the falling more painful - a vicious loop that it took years to break. The worst, most abusive throws to practice were the hipthrows and shoulder throws (commonly known as koshinage in aikido).
Well, it turns out it is possible to make the ukemi for hipthrows and shoulder throws much lighter, more survivable, and even enjoyable. Here is a handful of hints I've found helpful for improving falls from hip throws.
  • Go with the flow. The harder tori has to exert to throw you, the more energy you will have to eat at the end. I'm not saying to jump or throw yourself (that's dishonest and dangerous). But if you know you are going to be taking a fall (as in nagekomi or trading-throws practice) then allow the off-balance to raise you onto your toes and bring your feet together. This makes it easier for tori to be kinder to you.
  • Slide over tori's back. Don't cling or hang on, and don't try to speed up your turn-over. If you try to speed up or slow down the energy of the throw, you will inevitably fall wrong and it will hurt more. Try to think about oozing over tori's back like... well, like something that oozes.
  • Extend till the point of no return, then curl. If you stay stiff the whole time, you will hit wrong. If you stay floppy the whole time and just drape yourself over tori, it will take more energy for him to throw you, so the landing will hurt more. The solution is to extend your back and neck until you reach the point in the throw where you are just about to start sliding headfirst into the ground, then breathe out and curl up.
  • Back of your shoulder lands first. You want the back of your shoulder to be the first thing to hit the ground. Similar to the previous idea of not speeding the energy up, if you try to un-roll out of your fall before your shoulder is on the ground, you are going to take more of a vertical drop, and it will hurt more. Put your shoulder on the ground and then unfurl your body onto the ground.
  • Tori, don't try to hold uke up. Especially don't try to soften the fall for uke by holding up on his waist. That is a sure-fire way to make uke land in a weird way. It seems counter-intuitive, but often you are being kinder to uke by trying to throw his head at the ground. This way, he lands shoulder-first and doesn't have a time lag in the air to find a way to screw up the fall.
Photo courtesy of Stephanie Booth
Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: or phone 601.248.7282
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