Friday, January 08, 2016

Ukigatame ends throws and begins groundwork

We almost never allow students to do newaza (ground grappling) and tachiwaza (stand-up throwing) practice at the same time on the same mat.  This is especially important in a small practice space because when you have mixed classes the newaza folks end up tripping the tachiwaza guys and the tachiwaza guys end up throwing and falling on top of the newaza guys.  This guideline is necessary for safety, but it creates some issues that we have to keep in mind so we don't develop problems with our judo.
One major issue involves control.  We would like to throw, or take-down directly into a controlling position (remember we're supposed to be all about control).  But controlling a downed opponent often involves getting down in the mud with him, which we just said we didn't want to do in practice for safety reasons.
So, how do we minimize problems from this issue of not having standing and newaza practice on the same mat?  Set a couple of near-universal practice guidelines:
  • All throws/take-downs end in ukigatame - In our class, I always teach that all throws where it is feasable end in ukigatame (knee-on-belly).  Ukigatame is the controlling position that almost all throws end in.  We began working on that last night by having tori throw and make sure that when uke landed, tori had at least one knee and two hands touching uke's body.
  • All newaza practice begins in ukigatame - Ukigatame is also where we begin all of our newaza practices.  So, if we are going to be practicing groundwork, one partner or the other starts on bottom with the other guy's knee on him.
MAKE SURE YOU DON'T POUNCE OR LAND ON UKE'S RIBS WITH YOUR KNEE IN PRACTICE - that is uncontrolled and dangerous and nobody will like you anymore if you do.

This is also a good practice guideline because of the often-cited rule of thumb that in self-defense situations, you'd rather stay off the ground if at all possible.  So, by training to throw/take-down into ukigatame, there is a pause where tori might be able to maintain control without going to the ground, but by training all of our newaza starting in ukigatame, if tori does get dragged down, it will be a familiar and smooth transition.
Try to make ukigatame (knee-on-belly) your universal transition between tachiwaza (stand-up) and newaza (ground grappling) and I think you'll have good success with your judo practice.

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Patrick Parker
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