Friday, July 08, 2011

Uke-centric kataguruma

I've been doing a series on teaching judo's nagenokata from an uke-centric perspective - that is, with greater attention to uke's motion and role instead of looking at it as, "tori grabs uke thusly and smashes him like so."
Raise your hand if you've gotten into nagenokata, gotten the first couple working nicely, then been frustrated by the third technique, kataguruma.  Sensei tries to tell you, "more pull," and "catch him when he's up," but you still wish your uke would go on a severe diet. 
The kata version of nagenokata - at least as it is commonly taught - the one that we affectionately call "The Iron Cross," - is extremely hard to do to someone approaching your own size or bigger.  Usually our response to this fact is to gripe that "I'm just no good at this thing," or to strive to get stronger so you can lift heaver people in the air - when we should take this as a clue to stop trying to lift squirming, person-sized things!
Here's another hint... In aikido, when we first approach hand throws (you did know kataguruma was a hand throw, didn't you?) we call them "floating throws," but they are also called "otoshi" throws, which means "dropping".  Hmm... floating and dropping sound like opposites... almost like one might lead to the other.
Well, it does.  It turns out that whenever the body rises, it has to drop in order to get back to a normal state, and when it drops, it has to rise again.  It is that pesky physics thing, "What goes up must come down," and its converse. So, in aikido, when we want to get an otoshi/drop, we start it out by accentuating uke's rise (or float).  The rise makes the timing window for the subsequent otoshi wider and easier to hit.
Same thing happens in reverse in kataguruma.  "Guruma" is a turning motion, but it happens on a body rise.  So, if we want to make guruma/rise easier... (that's right) preceed it with an otoshi/drop!
In the kata technique you take normal sleeve, lapel grips and fade back 3 times, changing your left hand grip on step 2 and "lifting" on step 3 - right? Almost.  Try it this way instead...
  • take normal sleeve-lapel grips and fade back.
  • switch your left hand grip as per the book on step #2
  • on the footfall of step 3, turn 90 degrees toward uke's front arm and push your left arm straight.  This stretches uke out on the line he's standing on and threatens him with a sumiotoshi-like motion.
  • here's the uke-centric part.  Uke has to refuse to roll out of the otoshi.  In doing so, he tends to take a step forward with his back leg, rising and almost having to climb on top of you.  This is when you fit in and stand up.  There is very little lift involved, because uke is vigorously stopping the otoshi/drop by rising into a guruma motion!
So, instead of the typical 1(fade back), 2(switch grips), 3 (fit and lift) timing, try a timing more like 1 (fade), 2 (grip), 3 (otoshi), and 4 (fit and stand).
I think you'll find that preceeding kataguruma with a credible threat of sumiotoshi makes the kataguruma much easier and fits within the form of the standard kata.

Patrick Parker

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