Thursday, July 22, 2010

The stiff-arm and the freeze

In judo, probably the most popular beginner randori tactic is the stiff-arm.  You get a grip on the opponent's gi and lock your arms out straight in order to hold them off of you and prevent them from entering for a throw.
Problem is, even though stiff-arming may make it somewhat harder for the other guy to enter for a throw, it just about absolutely prevents you from doing any judo either.  So long as you are stiffarming, neither guy can do good judo.  You might not get thrown but you'll never throw them either. This makes it a pretty crude tactic.
It is also a beginner trick because when we first start randori, everyone comes up with the bright idea of stiff-arming.  It doesn't have to be taught, beginners just do it.  Also, a lot of beginner class time is taken up trying to show folks how to get around the other guy's stiff-arms.  Eventually, as you get better, it doesn't make much difference if the opponent stiff-arms you or not.
The part about this that really bugs me is not being stiff-armed.  It's okay with me if you try to hold me out.  The part that really, really bugs me is when I catch myself stiff-arming someone.  This is such an easy reflex or habit to fall into that occasionally I catch myself being surprised by someone and resorting to the stiff-arm to try to get control of the situation.  Here I am, 20 years into my judo training and still catching myself making the first day#1 beginner randori mistake.
I got to thinking about this the other day.  It almost always happens when I'm surprised by something that my opponent does.  When they take me out of my comfort zone, I often respond with stiff-arms instead of responding with ju.  I wonder if this is the same mechanism as what Rory Miller calls, "the freeze."
Rory is always preaching the freeze.  Apparently, everybody freezes when they encounter a novel (and violent) situation.  It's usually the guy who can un-freeze and get into motion soonest that will win the encounter.
So, is the judo stiff-arm the same thing as Rory's freeze?  If so, how do you recognize that you are stiff-arming sooner and how do you stop stiff-arming habitually?  Do the same methods for breaking the freeze work to break your own stiff-arm reflex?
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