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The System - guidelines for combos

I ended yesterday's article about combinations in judo by asserting that by about brown belt, you should already know the techniques that comprise the vast majority of combos as well as all the footwork that comprises all the transitions between techniques in combos. So, all you really need is a system for organizing your knowledge and a method for practicing the ones that interest you.
The System - Theoretically any two techniques can be chained together into a combo - at least it should be possible to combine any two techniques - but in practical application it turns out that some combos are so crazy as to be nearly impossible.
There are guidelines that govern how techniques flow together into combos...
  • Terminal positions - You can't really imagine doing a yokogake-to-seoinage combo, right?  Some techniques, especially sacrifices and hipthrows, leave you in a position from which it is difficult to recover into another technique.  These techniques are essentially terminal positions so they can be the last technique in a combo but not the first or in the middle.
  • Changing directions - Sometimes it works to try something and if it fails, try the same thing again - sometimes.  But that is Einstein's definition of insanity.  It is also against the spirit of judo because we are supposed to be adaptable and flexible so that we can flow around obstructions.  Instead of attacking the same direction twice, combos often change the direction of attack by 90 or 180 degrees.  So you frequently see forward-backward combos and left-right combos (180 degree combos).  Less obvious but often more effective is the 90 degree change, like pulling uke forward (ukiotoshi) then throwing seoinage almost directly to his side, or tsurikomi (pull horizontally to float uke) then otoshi (downward).
  • Changing ranges - (from a previous article) Combos generally progress from looser contact at longer range toward tighter contact at closer range. Or they might occur from one technique to another within the same range.  Combos rarely go from tighter to looser contact.
  • Chaining techniques to get you in range for your tokui - If your tokui is a very close-range technique (like koshinage or teguruma), then you'll likely want to get good at some of the longer-range techniques as setups. These create pathways toward your tokuiwaza.  On the other hand, if your tokui is a longer-range technique (like deashibarai or kosotogari), then you need to be able to stay at that long range when fighting people who want to get closer.  You need to be able to use kuzushi and medium or close-range attacks to stop the other guy to give you time to step back out to longer range for your tokui.
So, although a chain of throws could theoretically go in any direction through any techniques, in practice these guidelines or rules-of-thumb eliminate part of the set of potential combos, limiting you to the more plausible, more profitable combos.
Stay tuned for an article on The Method.

Patrick Parker