Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A method for practicing combos in judo

Two days ago I mentioned that you (judo brown belts) need a system for organizing your knowledge re. combos and a method for practicing and internalizing some combos.  Yesterday I gave a few guidelines as a systematic way to think about combos - to sort of limit and focus your study of judo combos.  Today I wanted to talk a bit about my preferred method for practicing judo combos.
One might, of course, practice combos as nagekomi (trading throws) type practice where one partner does throw-A (which uke resists) then tori does throw-B (and uke falls down).  But the problem with this is it is tiresome and inefficient.  There is just too much wallowing on the ground and getting back up and fixing your gi and taking a breath or two and so on... even with focused partners you might get only 4-5 repetitions per minute.
You might come up with the idea of doing static uchikomi to increase the reps and decrease the in-between time, and this is also an okay practice, but it has the down side that it can lead you to think and train you to act as if throw-A is a feint - and I've already discussed a potential problem with feints in a previous article.
So, my favored form of combination practice is a kind of dynamic uchikomi that some of my buddies call "Footsweep to control" and which I call "Running the table."  We usually start this practice with 1-2 small ashiwaza in a cycle. Different folks like different starting cycles but common ones include...
  • left-deashi, right-deashi, turn the corner
  • left-deashi, right deashi, left-hiza
  • left-deashi, right hiza, right deashi, left hiza
...and the point of the exercise is for tori to run this cycle for as long as possible without falling out or getting his feet confused or losing control of uke.  Tori repeatedly does the kuzushi and tsukuri for each throw in succession, attacking uke's feet on every cycle.
Once you become good at the basic cycle, you will start seeing places where you can insert other small ashiwaza.  For instance, the place and time for hiza is almost the same as the place and time for kouchi so if you miss a hiza you can do a kouchi, then get back into synch in your basic cycle.  Or as another example, the action on deashi is about the same as the action on kosoto, so if you (or uke) misplace a step you might get kosoto then step right back into your basic cycle.  In this manner you can fairly rapidly work through most of the ashiwaza AND you get tons and tons of reps of moving into and out of these ashiwaza positions.
Since I have previously asserted that we start our judo instruction with ashiwaza because it teaches the footwork for the other judo throws, pretty soon you will be able to insert the non-ashiwaza kihon (like seoinage and ukigoshi) into the cycle.
And since I have also previously asserted that most all the throws in judo are minor variants of the 5-10 fundamental throws, Once you can smoothly insert those 5-10 throws into your cycle, you can suddenly insert any throws into your cycle.  So you have a method for efficiently practicing nearly any combo you can come up with.
But wait, there's more! This game is actually a bit more than just cyclic uchikomi.  You have to remember that uke is active and not a dummy!  Uke is constantly moving and flowing with the foot controls that tori is putting on him as best he can so that the game is prolonged (instead of the game stopping when uke has to fall) but uke is also actively looking for tori to screw up!  Any time tori loses control or has to take an extra step or two between establishing foot control on uke, it is an opportunity for uke to switch roles and become the tori.  
So, this cycle game is actually a form of limited randori or a gateway to randori.  It is like a footwork-intensive combo-specific randori.

Patrick Parker
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