Sunday, February 03, 2013

How many throws are there in judo?

The question arises, how many throws do we learn in judo?  It turns out that there is really no meaningful answer to that question - or perhaps we should be asking some other question.  See, you could say...

  • There is  1 throw in judo - everything is a variation or extrapolation on ukiotoshi
  • There are 2 throws in judo - otoshi and guruma.
  • There are 4 throws in judo - tewaza, koshiwaza, ashiwaza, and sutemiwaza
  • There are about 5 throws in judo - at least every champion has their handful that is all they ever do.
  • There are about 6-10 throws in judo - everything else is a minor variation of a few core principles
  • There are 37 throws in judo - the original 1895 Gokyonowaza
  • There are 40 throws in judo - the 1920 Gokyonowaza
  • There are 67 throws in judo - the IJF's 1982 additions
  • There are thousands of throws in judo - at least, Kano said that Ueshiba's aikido was "ideal judo" and Ueshiba taught thousands of techniques.
  • There are infinite throws in judo - or at least the potential for infinite variation.
I sort of like to view it as analogous to resolution in a computer monitor.  Some folks like to teach many throws so that you get a 'sharper' picture of what judo is - like more pixels on the monitor = higher resolution, but higher-resolution monitors take longer to refresh (at least they used to) just like higher-resolution judo takes longer to learn and may take longer to sort through to find a solution in an emergency. 
But on the other hand, some teachers teach a lower-resolution judo with fewer throws because it is quicker to learn, easier to remember, and quicker to sort through.
Personally I'm somewhere in the middle.  I like to emphasize a core of 6-9 fundamental techniques followed by most of the throws in the 1920 Gokyonowaza, supplemented by 3-4 of the Habukaretawaza.  So my students end up with about 10 fundamentals by about green belt, around 24 throws by shodan, and approximately 40 throws by sandan.  All the other things (the IJF 67) are minor variations for special situations or odd grips or special-purpose counters, etc...

I think a better question than "How many throws can we put in our list?" is, "How many throws can YOU do really well?"

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Patrick Parker
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