Friday, 20 December 2013


I thought I’d post the below email chain from a conversation that I had recently with Jadon. Although getting feedback from your instructor is key to developing your game sometimes feedback from your peers can be a bit more honest and in some cases brutally so.

Hi Jadon

With me being injured I’m doing a lot of reading on Judo and BJJ blogs and also places like reddit.

Anyway, I’m looking for constructive criticism regarding my game particularly my newaza. What do I need to improve on? What do I do well?

Do I roll like a typical Judoka or can you see some BJJ influence in me? Anything else you care to mention would be appreciated.

You can also critique my stand up as well but I know your area of expertise is on the ground.


Hi Stuart

Stylistically I think you are well rounded. You transfer from standing to ground very well and it doesn’t come across if you favour one more than the other. On the ground you can play bottom or top but are more advanced on the bottom. Although your top game is more advanced than most dan grades I have come across.

Top game:

Good work rate, you know what to look for but often don’t act on the opportunities as they arise. You can nullify different attacks and setups with good intuition and your top defence to submissions is a particular stand out. Your base is often your weak point as you can lose awareness of it when distracted by attacks from below. However any direct sweep attempt is easily defended. Unfortunately you haven’t had the opportunity to learn many standing passes which would greatly develop your passing (albeit not as useful for current judo rules). If you can add more pressure and restrict your opponent’s hip movement you would find passing easier. This could be done by having more confidence in your base and using your arms more to focus on breaking open the guard and controlling the legs. Your posture is generally always pretty good. Once past guard you have very strong pins with good pressure, you have a good variety of attacks. Sometimes you lose your pressure and allow too much space when attacking.

Bottom game:

Very good, your affinity for it is more natural than most judoka and bjj'ers your size. Good grips and good control. You can lockdown and keep control anytime you want. You have a very good triangle but could experiment more with entries and combo's (with armbars and sweeps). Understandably your weakness is standing passes but this is improving quickly. You can sweep and attack but often not in combo. You can defend low passes very well but sometimes give up to easily before the pass is completed. Don’t be afraid to scramble and create space. When pinned you can keep yourself safe and easily defend direct attacks. Combo attacks will sometimes find a gap in your defences and distract you from regaining guard. Your ability to regain guard is pretty good when you are feeling safe and you have a good sense of how to conserve your energy. Timing is generally good but you could make things easier by cinching up submission attempts tighter and breaking down defences.

I’ve tried to be super critical in order for it to be useful but please don’t let it demotivate you. I am judging your performance against the very best I have sparred with. Training with tough dudes who smash you is the key. So for Dorking the best you can do is focus on the weakest parts of your game in every roll but that is quite difficult with the very short time limits....

Cheers Jadon

Hi Jadon

I think I developed a bottom game mainly because I can’t be bothered with the knee wrestling that sometimes happens in Newaza, which can either result in no actual newaza at all or, if the guy you are sparring with is a lot bigger, can just result in them pushing you back and pinning you. When I first started Judo at Dorking the next nearest belt to me was a brown belt who seriously outweighed me. He would quite often push me back and pin me so I decided pulling guard was a better option. Things have changed at Dorking and this has helped me develop a more attacking game from the top.

So if I was able to focus solely on BJJ how far away from getting a blue belt would I be?

With regards to giving you feedback, well on the ground it’s hard for me to say anything other than “Damn” due to you being so much better than anyone else at Dorking but I’ll try to be constructive. Obviously remember this is from someone who holds no rank in BJJ.

Top Game:

You have some excellent guard passes although you do have the tendency to sometimes stand up when you do this. I’m not sure if a ref would stop the contest if we were in competition for doing that but I know they do in a Newaza only competition. You are good at using the gi for chokes and your chokes are very tight. You are able to quickly transition to armbar without being obvious about it (something I need to work on). Another thing you do well is that you are able to make yourself feel a lot heavier than you are. I can sweep some heavy guys at will but when I try that on you it’s like you weigh 20 stone. I hope that makes sense, I think what I’m trying to say is that you have a good base. Your pins are pretty good but not your strongpoint. However when someone tries to escape from one of your pins you are normally able to grab an arm or a neck and get the submission anyway. Still if you are looking for one area to work on which could win you lots of fights when competing for your dan grade then I’d say work on your pins. Ref’s at low level competitions have very little idea of whether the two fighters are making progress on the ground and matte could be called just as you are cranking on an armbar.

Bottom Game:

Ok, so you clearly favour being on top but passing your guard is ni on impossible for me at the moment. You shrimp well and have good hips. The few times that I have been able to get to half guard you have been quick to regain full guard or sweep me from there. Again, half guard is another position which I am not very experienced at and don’t really know what to do from there other than push down on the leg if I’m passing, or hang on for dear life If I’m on the bottom.

Standing up:

You are quite explosive with your throws and you have some good sacrifice throws. I think what you need to work on is chaining attacks together more. For instance go for a tai otoshi and if it’s not successful immediately go for a tani otoshi or or ko uchi gari. I think Seoi nage in to ko uchi gari maki komi should be ideal for you. I think at our level we should always attack with two throws and possibly three. Other than that I can’t fault you. You already have good enough newaza for a dan grade you just need to refine your stand up a bit more and then you’d be worth a black belt.

Let me know what you think


Hi Stuart,

Lots of useful stuff there. Definitely agree with the chaining attacks part in standing, something I have been finding quite difficult to do without consciously thinking about it in randori. Standing passing is a bad habit for judo your right :(

Belt wise it’s hard to tell but I would want you to be able to survive well against blue's and also be able to occasionally sub them whilst also doing very well against the whites, so more performance orientated than curriculum based, but also having some tools for every position, but definitely getting there. I think it’s just consistency in ground work holding you back, as it’s just the little adjustments and timing that need honing.


Hi Jadon

I know I’m not BJJ blue belt standard, I guess if Nova Forca did stripes I’d be worth a couple?

I’ve never subbed a blue belt but have come close a couple of times.

For chaining attacks check out this It has a nice video of every throw from the Goyko and has suggestions for counters and combinations. To start with just add a combination to each of your favourite throws (no more than 4 or 5) and try and work on them in randori. Against the young-uns is a perfect opportunity to practice them.


Hi Stuart

Cool thanks, Ill check it out.
Oh yeah, solid 3 stripes.

Stand up:

Good gripping, good tricky ashi waza. I think you could use these 2 strengths more to help setup your big throws like harai goshi and uchimata but they are formidable in their own right as well, particularly the gripping. I find I have to use unconventional attacks and grips just to survive. I have spent time asking for coaching pointers and training them to specifically deal with your game. Your awareness of kuzushi is good which is why I think your ashi waza is good. You could be meaner! and more aggressive, although I know you aren’t always encouraged to do that. You know which throws you are weak on and I think they are always classically difficult for any tall guy to do against short opponents.


Monday, 9 December 2013

Review of the year 2013

With me being out for the rest of the year through injury (Superficial Thrombosis in my lower leg) I may as well write my review of the year early as I won’t be getting in any more Judo training.

I started the year as a green belt but was eager to grade for my blue. The club saw the return of Duncan, a 2nd dan, who had trained and taught Judo extensively in Japan. Duncan has been a very welcome addition to the coaching staff at Dorking Judo Club and his son has been a very welcome addition to the cadets and has great promise and some lovely Judo.

The only competition I entered this year was the Surrey Open Blue Belt and below ( I got a silver last year) but unfortunately due to the lack on entrants it was cancelled for the seniors.

I managed to get some training in at the following other clubs throughout the year:

Witley – Run by the excellent Pete Swettenham, who also visited and took several of the classes at Dorking.

Yoshin Ryu – My number two club really. I have only attended their Randori session on a Thursday night but can thoroughly recommend it to anyone who wants some hard randori and also an excellent work out at the same time. All the coaches here are very friendly and have some excellent Judo and this is reflected by the high standards of the students. On a good night there are a dozen or so dan grades on the mat and another dozen kyu grades.

Nova Forca – My number one and only BJJ club. After an absence of a couple of years I managed to get a summers worth of training in with Ricardo and his excellent team in Epsom, Surrey. I don’t think there was a single night when there weren’t at least forty guys present. I’m always made to feel very welcome by Ricardo and will of course be back again sometime next year. Who knows, one day I might actually have the time to commit properly to BJJ.

That's me, back row, 5th from the right

In March I attended an excellent seminar held by Aneta Szcepanska, a former Olympic Silver Medallist from Poland. This was held at Yoshin Ryu where we had upwards of forty people present.

April saw me receive my blue belt which made me think I should actually start to feel like I’m getting good at Judo.

I missed Brian Jacks visit to Yoshin Ryu in June because the arrival of Edward, my son, was imminent. He duly arrived on the 1st July.

My boy, Edward

Black Eagle very kindly sent me their new Judo gi to review. Subsequently I was also asked to review some products from a new company called Martial Herbs who, according to their website, are the premier British sport supplement company providing unique formulas designed especially with the martial artist in mind. I was sent approximately 1 months’ supply of their strength and recovery supplements but due to lots of different injuries, some more serious than others I haven’t been able to finish this review as yet.

September was greeted by the good news that Graeme’s son, David, had earned the final 20 points needed to gain his first dan black belt. The BJA decided to change their grading syllabus, without much, if any, prior warning. The main difference affected the brown belt syllabus, which I was working through and included several throws which I had already performed to get my blue belt.

A car crash saw me miss some weeks in November with whiplash and although I returned to Judo and completed half of my brown belt syllabus I missed the last class of the year and the chance to get my brown belt due to the injury I have now, a Superficial Thrombosis, which is basically a burst vein in my lower leg. This has resulted in a very large swelling, where the blood collected and massive bruising down my leg and in to my foot. Three visits to my GP and one to A&E confirmed that all I can do is take pain killers and wait for my body to heal itself, which could take anywhere between 3-6 weeks.

Andrew received his yellow belt on the last session of the year and he has shown some steady improvement in his game and his overall fitness. Some of his pins are particularly crushing and I’m sure that if he continues to train regularly he could make newaza his forte.

At the beginning of the year my main training partners were Oli and Meho but unfortunately both have since left the club for various reasons. Ivan, another regular, who has an incredible fighting spirit, saw injury ruin his year as an operation to fix a damaged cruciate ligament put paid to any training whatsoever. Big Stuart has been another casualty and has been absent the whole year, again due to a knee injury. Also Black belt Stewart has retired from Judo due to work commitments. This has meant that my main training partner for most of this year has been Jadon, a fellow blue belt, although his main club is Guildford Police Judo club. As I’ve stated before, Jadon is the reason that this blog started as I found myself reading his excellent blog in BJJ several years ago now. Jadon stopped blogging but continued to train BJJ at Andy Roberts’s club in Farnborough and was a high ranked blue belt in BJJ before some personal issues got in the way of him training there and subsequently saw him return to Judo, something that he had trained in before as a child.

Having someone like Jadon to train with has helped keep me motivated this year and has filled the gap left by Oli. With his BJJ training Jadon obviously has some very good skills on the ground and can normally submit me at will. A victory for me is being able to survive a three minute roll without tapping, something I have occasionally been able to achieve. On our feet Jadon makes up for his lack of size by using his speed. We have had some excellent randori sessions this year and usually we both manage to throw each other with good technique. Jadon has also written some excellent blog posts for me this year which was particularly welcome when I was too busy with work commitments to keep my blog updated.

Looking forward to next year I hope to get my brown belt early so that I can concentrate on making a start towards getting my black belt. Hopefully I’ll be accompanied by Jadon, who should be getting his brown belt soon as well.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Nate Diaz throwing Gray Maynard

Apparently Nate has had some Judo lesson from Ronda Rousey, the result of which can be seen above.
As for naming the throw, its a mixture of Harai goshi or Harai maki komi. Any other ideas?