Monday, September 16, 2019

Never force tori to prove his technique

One of the coolest things about judo is that it is real and honest.  Outcomes are objective instead of subjective and everything is executed to completion, as opposed to pulling punches that might or might not have been effective or simply dancing around the mat with a partner.)

  • either you are able to make the other person fall or you can't
  • either you can make the other guy submit or you can't
  • either you can escape the other guy's hold or you can't

But there is a paradox or a bind that beginners (and even some old-heads) don't ever understand - beginners should never force the other person to prove that they can do the technique and even experts should only do it judiciously.

We work with semi-compliant partners called "ukes" instead of "attackers" or resistant "opponents" for a couple of reasons:

  • It is better for students to get many repetitions of poor approximations of a technique than to get very few reps of still-poor approximations because their partner confounded every attempt (which is easy to do to a beginner).
  • It is safer for uke to take an appropriate fall at an appropriate time because eventually you will encounter someone who really is able to force you to fall against your will.  When that happens, you will want to have had a lot of falling practice!  Also, when you force tori to prove they can make you fall, you always end up eating more energy when you do hit the ground.

So uke does not confound tori's techniques - especially in nagekomi practice.  Instead, uke helps set up conditions for both a successful throw and a safe fall.

But how far does this compliance go?  At some point, you have to shift toward the "real" and "honest" mentioned earlier, right?

Eventually, after uke and tori have each experienced hundreds or thousands of repetitions of a technique, uke can gradually and judiciously start increasing the resistance - forcing tori to prove that he can take the technique when he wants it.

It is hard to figure this relationship out - especially if we start doing randori or shiai very early.  People get confused and want to prove or force their partner to prove techniques.

  • It can help if we clearly delineate how each person is to behave in each type of practice - uchikomi, nagekomi, randori, and shiai.
  • It can help if we teach explicitly-defined ukemi for each throw (tell uke exactly how to behave and how to fall when you are doing each particular technique.
  • It can help  if we shift our attention from tori to uke.  Make the techniques uke-centric by thinking about them as falling exercises.  That way, tori is not expected to prove that he can do a thing to uke.  Instead he is expected to help uke set up the conditions for a particular fall, and to help support uke like a spotter as uke does that fall a specific way.  So, nagekomi is just a form of ukemi practice.
  • It can help to make sure that everyone plays the roles of uke and of tori often.  Don't let the lower ranked students be throwing dummies for the upper ranks or the competitors.  Don't let the old fat guys get totally out of ukemi (though you might have to cut back some).

Once you get ukes and toris working together successfully in this manner for thousands of reps at a time, they can start dialing up the resistance incrementally.

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Patrick Parker
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