Thursday, 28 February 2013

Ronda Rousey - UFC 157

Regular readers will know that I’m a big fan of MMA. Well last weekend saw the first ever women’s MMA fight in the UFC featuring Ronda Rousey, a former Olympic Judo bronze medallist, whom I have championed on my blog a couple of times in the past.

What’s so nice about watching Ronda fight is that she uses her Judo skills a lot. Her opponent on Saturday night was Liz Carmouche, a tough ex US Marine who put up a really good fight, taking Ronda’s back at one point and putting on a horrible looking face crank which caused me to tap from the comfort of my sofa!

Ouch, that's gotta hurt
Luckily Ronda is made of tougher stuff than me, eventually escaping and then throwing Carmouche to the canvas using Koshi-guruma. Now what was odd, for MMA anyway was that Ronda then proceeded to hold Carmouche in Kesa-gatame and peppered her with short punches to the face before finally submitting Carmouche with her trademark Juji-gatame. The reason I say that the use of Kesa-gatame is odd is that in MMA and no-gi submission grappling, the person on the bottom can often escape from the kesa and end up taking the back of the person on top. This is a very dangerous position to be in in MMA and no-gi grappling but less dangerous in Judo where one can simply turtle up, although the ref normally calls matte before then.

 Kesa gatame
Juji gatame, Ronda's trademark submission.
Opinions were divided on Ronda’s use of Kesa-gatame. On the new Judo forum (E-Judo) many of the guys (and girls) on there simply said that as Ronda is such a high level Judoka that it’s very unlikely that anyone would ever escape. Others on there said that Ronda will lose one day when someone escapes and takes her back and chokes her out. It’s interesting to note that on the same card Urijah Faber was being held in Kesa-gatame by his opponent Ivan Menjivar. Urijah was able to simply pull Menjivar across his body and ended up in side control, where he eventually took Menjivar’s back and choked him out. That said, Menjivar does not possess anywhere near the same level of Judo as Ronda does but I think it’s worth noting anyway.

It’ll be interesting to see what Ronda does in her next fight and whether she continues to use Kesa-gatame. Whether she does or not I’m sure we’ll continue to see other aspects of her Judo like the throws and of course her trademark Juji-gatame.

Blue Belt Grading

I got an email during the week from Graeme to say that he would concentrate on grading everyone in the coming weeks which meant more blue belt syllabus for yours truly.
It was good to see Andrew return after Injuring his shoulder and Jadon was back sporting his new green belt.

After the warm up we did a couple of quick rounds of newaza randori and then I was asked to show the rest of the class various techniques from the blue belt syllabus which went like this:

Okuri-eri-jime –Wasn’t text book but it worked. There are a number of collar chokes/strangles in the blue belt syllabus, which is good for me. I’ve actively tried to use them more as it is a weakness in my submission game as I tend to favour no-gi chokes such as one would typically see in MMA like the rear naked. In newaza randori I’m often able to grab the collar around the neck but then have to stop and think how I apply the choke, by which time Uke has escaped. However, with the addition of Nami-juji-jime, Gyaku-juji-jime, Okuri-eri-jime and Koshi-jime, I at least have some options now.

Koshi-jime – I’ve used this recently in randori to good success so was ok performing this.

Soto-kibitsu-gaeshi, Uchi-kibitsu-gaeshi & Kata-uchi-ashi-dori are all techniques that I’m never likely to use in randori. In fact I think we’ve only practised them once in the class before, so taking all of this in to account I think I did ok.

Kata-guruma – My mind went totally blank with this one and I didn’t know how to enter in to the throw. I eventually performed probably the worst version of this I have ever done. Before Graeme could come and correct me I insisted on doing it again, which was barely passable. I’d like to blame my poor technique on Oli’s (my uke) expanding waistline but I was just having one of those days, at least where this throw was concerned.

With only 10 minutes of the class left we finished off with a couple of rounds of randori where I managed a nice Sasae-tsurikomi-ashi on Oli. I then paired up against Jadon, who I found really difficult to throw. He was particularly quick and able to counter me a couple of times, throwing me nicely with a Yoko-guruma or was it Uki-waza? (It’s very difficult to tell these throws apart in the heat of battle and without the benefit of television replays). Although it only lasted a couple of minutes I can definitely see the improvement in his tachiwaza since we last sparred.

I’m more than half way through the blue belt grading now so hopefully I can finish it off next week. I just have a couple more throws to perform and then it’s on to the performance part of the grading which includes things like showing counters and combinations of a certain technique followed by randori. If I do get my blue belt next week it will be just over 1 year since I got my green belt (2nd March 2012). I wonder how long it will take me to get to brown!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Witley Judo Club - Randori night

As reported in my last post, the competition I was due to compete in on Sunday was cancelled and with DJC being closed for the school holidays I was left feeling slightly frustrated. However I received a text on Monday inviting me and a couple of other Dorking club members to Witley Judo Club for their Monday night Randori class, which kind of made up for it.

This was my second visit to Witley Judo club, having trained here once before almost a year ago to the day. Last year I trained here in preparation for the Redhill competition. This year I trained here as a substitute for the Redhill competition.

The instructor got us warmed up and then we progressed to some uchi-komi using Tai-otoshi, Ippon-seoi-nage, uchi-mata and harai-goshi, all with movements.
Following this we practised some turnovers from the turtle position for about 5 minutes before we started the Newaza randori which consisted of four rounds, each round lasting 3 minutes.
I tried to make a conscious effort to play a more aggressive top game but after struggling to get anything going against my first opponent, a blue belt, we ended up knee wrestling for most of the three minutes. Realising this was a waste of time I went to my back and attacked from there, quickly securing a san-gaku-jime and getting the tap. I pulled guard again and this time finished him quickly with a face down Juji-gatame.
I went on to roll with a couple of brown belts, and an Orange belt, and managed to secure another San-gaku-jime and Juji-gatame as well as an ude-garami, all the while managing to avoid being tapped or pinned in the process.

We had a quick water break before the standing randori started. We each took turns staying on the mat for two consecutive fights before standing out of one. I must have had about 10 rounds by the time the class ended and on the whole I was quite successful with my throws. Uchi-mata and Ko-uchi-gari were my favourite throws as usual and I also had some success with Sasae-tsuri-komi-ashi and Tani-otoshi. I desperately wanted to land a Harai or a Tai-otoshi but never quite managed it.

I really enjoyed the session as did the other DJC club members, so i'm sure I won't leave it so long next time before returning.

Friday, 15 February 2013


I started writing this post as I was supposed to be competing on Sunday. Unfortunately I received a phone call last night from one of the organisers who informed that due to low numbers the senior’s event would be cancelled. This is very frustrating as I am in good shape and injury free. I had also managed to keep below 90kg and was looking forward to competing for the first time in the -90kg division, especially as I am currently 89kg and therefore likely to be the biggest in my class. My gym work has gone up a notch for the last couple of months with me doing 4 sessions a week of weighted circuits. Add to that one boxing class and two judo sessions and the result is probably the fittest I have been in quite a while.

Of course there is a flip side to not competing on Sunday and that was the takeaway curry that I ordered almost immediately after my phone call with the tournament organisers and the half tub of Ben & Jerry’s Fish food that I forced down afterwards. Not surprisingly I weighed in at 90.5kg the following morning.

Anyway back to the original point of my post which was more to do with why one should compete. I read the below on the Judo forum recently and thought it was spot on, so I thought I’d share it.

“Shiai cannot be stressed enough as a key and vital element of judo. It can also not be stressed enough that shiai is not the whole subject of judo but one of its tiniest parts. Shiai is where we take our practice and put that theory to the test. Not only is ones technique tested in shiai it’s the place where the greatest character changing opportunities are offered by the practice of kodokan Judo. Ultimately in facing a partner in shiai we are facing up to our own fears, insecurities and self doubts. It’s a time to test our character and providing we enter shiai with the correct mindset shiai is the fire where we forge the character that makes a judoka what he can be.”

Daniel Larusso certainly faced up to his fears and insecurities and in the process earned the respect of John Lawrence of the Cobra Kai's. (yes I know it's Karate and not Judo btw)
The British public will never forget this touching moment when Gemma Gibbons guaranteed her place in the Olympic final

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Breaking Grips - Yoshin Ryu

Still buzzing from Tuesday’s class at DJC I was able to visit Yoshin Ryu for their Thursday night randori session. Despite a smaller turnout than usual we still ended up with about seven dan grades and another seven kyu grades so 14 in total, which isn’t bad.

After we were warmed up I was paired with Jamie, a white belt who displayed skills higher than one would expect from a white belt. We first drilled Juji-gatame from the bottom and were then shown various different methods of breaking Uke’s grip should he try to clasp his hands together to resist the armlock. Some of these are shown on the following Kashiwazaki  Video:

We probably spent around 15 minutes drilling these before we were told to get ready for Newaza.

Staying with the same partner I pulled guard to gauge his skill level. He immediately grabbed my legs and tried to pass to my right but I managed to get my knee in and returned to full guard. He then tried to cross collar choke me but at this point I had both my feet on his hips, so was never in danger. He was strong so I decided to stay in this position as I tried to conserve some energy whilst at the same time hoping that he would eventually burn himself out. After what must have been a minute or two I was able to secure a San-gaku-jime, pulling my right leg in really tight to ensure he tapped. We started again and he attacked straight away so I went to my back and looked for sweeps. I eventually swept him using the one I had been shown by Graeme on Tuesday and from there I got one hand in for a cross collar choke but matte was called before I could finish.

Przemek beckoned me over for my next roll which turned in to total annihilation. It didn’t matter what I did, every roll ended quickly with me being crushed underneath him. If I pulled guard he simply brushed my legs aside and pinned me. If decided to play top game he quickly swept me and pinned me. If he started in turtle he reversed me and pinned me. Of course sometimes he didn’t pin me, instead preferring to submit me with an armlock or choke. I think Przemek must have set some sort of record for the most subs in one roll. He commented afterwards that he had been practising his Newaza a lot with Sensei Tim and it really showed. The last time I rolled with Przemek he was good but last night he was on another level altogether.

After Przemek I was relived to get someone considerably smaller, a brown belt and proceeded to have an excellent tussle. None of us managed any subs or pins but there were plenty of sweeps, reversals armlock and choke attempts, with both of us at sometime having our back taken but managing to spin out of it.

My last roll was with Sean and we also had a good tussle, with both of us managing to submit the other. I was particularly pleased as I managed to submit him with Koshi-jime, a technique from the blue belt syllabus and one that I hadn’t been successful with in the past.

With Newaza finished we had a quick water break before a couple of rounds of randori. I lined up against a brown belt who got the better of me. But despite not being able to throw him, I was close on a number of occasions and never felt dominated by his grips.

My last opponent was Sensei Tim who, after throwing me a couple of times with ease stopped to discuss the grips he was using on me. I had a similar discussion with Peter regarding grips on Tuesday and what Tim said reinforced what I had been told as well as offering me some alternatives. Although I often use a high shoulder grip myself, due to my height advantage, I feel very vulnerable when someone uses the same grip against me especially if they pull me in close and start controlling my posture. It’s definitely something I need to work on but no more so than the rest of my Judo.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Training Buzz

Graeme announced that we would concentrate mainly on Newaza tonight so after we were warmed up we got in to pairs for some Newaza randori with one of us starting on our backs and the other in our guard. First up was Ivan, who started on his back with me in his guard. I intended on trying the “stack pass” that Stewart had shown us before Christmas and although it wasn’t smooth going I did eventually manage to move in to side control where I pinned Ivan with Mune-gatame. After holding this position for five or so seconds I decided to move to tate-shiho-gatame and in the ensuing melee I managed to grab an arm and submit Ivan with Juji-gatame.
When it was my time to start on the bottom I got one butterfly hook in and turned Ivan over so I was in tate-shiho-gatame, I was then looking for Gyaku-juji-jime but couldn’t quite finish before Graeme called matte.

Next up was Oli and I started on the bottom first. Oli managed to escape to half guard and I was literally holding on, trying to work out a way to better my position when he allowed me the space to scoot out and flip him over so that I was in tate-shiho-gatame, which I held until Graeme called matte.
When we changed positions I found it very difficult to make any progress as Oli clamped his legs around my waist. He allowed me no room in which to get my arms in for the stack pass that I had used against Ivan earlier. I think this highlights the fact that I need to work on my guard passing.

Graeme went on to show us various sweeps from our back. The first was the one that I had used against Ivan earlier, i.e. pushing Uke’s leg back and getting a butterfly hook in on one side and then simply controlling the opposite side’s arm and flipping them over. We also did the one where you push both of Uke’s legs back, flattening them out and simply grabbing under their arm and turning them over.

We were then shown a nice choke from our backs which would be easier to explain if I could find a video of it but I’ll try anyway. With me on my back I take my left arm and encircle Uke’s right arm, grabbing their left collar with palm up by their neck. With my right arm I simply grab uke’s gi by their right shoulder and bingo, they tap. It’s one of those techniques that I have seen before but unless you drill them a lot you can never remember and pull off in Newaza randori. However I am going to try that every time I do Newaza now and see if I can add it to my list of techniques.

We were then stood up for some uchi-komi, I picked Tai-otoshi and we slowly progressed on to throw for throw randori, with no resisting the throws. This is a good way to get used to throwing on the move without the fear of being thrown yourself, which is especially good for the lower grades. Staying with the same partner we took turns attacking and defending, which made the throws slightly harder but again without the fear of being countered and thrown yourself. Finally we finished up with 3 rounds of randori. I managed to get an over the shoulder grip on Oli and executed a nice Tani-otoshi which I was particularly pleased with as I had been planning on using this throw before the class. I also had success with Tai-otoshi against Peter in my last randori session of the night.

I was really buzzing after the class, not because I performed excellent Judo, although it wasn’t bad, it was just one of those good training sessions with plenty of sparring that I like. The build up to randori, using uchi-komi, throw for throw and attack and defend made perfect sense and was well thought out. I’m looking forward to trying out some of the things have learnt tonight at Yoshin Ryu on Thursday.