Friday, 7 February 2014

What is Randori?

According to Wiki Randori (乱取り?) is a term used in Japanese martial arts to describe free-style practice. The term literally means "chaos taking" or "grasping freedom," implying a freedom from the structured practice of kata. Randori may be contrasted with kata, as two potentially complementary types of training

In Judo Randori is described by Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, in a speech at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games: "Randori, meaning "free exercise", is practiced under conditions of actual contest. It includes throwing, choking, holding the opponent down, and bending or twisting his arms or legs. The two combatants may use whatever methods they like provided they do not hurt each other and obey the rules of Judo concerning etiquette, which are essential to its proper working."

So the way I understand it Randori is a place to try things out or to perfect your favourite technique without the fear of losing a contest by being thrown, submitted or pinned. No one wins or loses in randori, you just learn.

Having missed training on Tuesday I decided to pay a visit to Yoshin Ryu. I’ve deliberately been putting this off as I have been suffering from multiple injuries for a while and Thursday night at Yoshin Ryu is not for the faint hearted.

After we were warmed up Sensei Adam had us practise a variety of chokes and turnovers, all the while interspersing this with newaza randori so that the technique was fresh in our minds. This worked well as we were all constantly warm but just had a few minutes break between newaza randori to catch our breath and learn a new technique. In total I sparred with about 5 or 6 guys but what was really unusual was that in all of my rolls there was not one submission or pin. I was particularly pleased with my guard play as mostly I was able to keep my opponent in my guard and on the odd occasion they managed to pass I was able to quickly regain guard. However, as I said earlier I wasn’t able to pull off any submissions which was slightly frustrating although I myself was not subbed either.

When we got to tachiwaza randori I paired up with Steve a.k.a the tomoe nage kid. I felt constantly threatened by Steve as he dominated me with grips. He was easily able to turn in again and again with multiple uchi-mata attempts, which if it wasn’t for my long legs I’m sure would have been successful. I on the other hand never really felt in a position to attack him with much other than a failed Yoko-tomoe-nage, something I’ve been having some success with recently at Dorking. When Sensei Adam called out 30 seconds to go I was finally able to get a dominant grip myself and then went on the attack. A Failed sumi-gaeshi and O-uchi-gari was all I could muster though before matte was called.

Next up for me was Tim, a blue belt from Guildford Police JC. As Tim is considerably smaller than me I was able to take a dominant grip but despite being able to counter some of his attacks with successful throws I never really committed to anything myself for fear of being countered myself. This got me thinking about what I actually want to get out of Randori. Should I be bothered if Tim or anyone else throws me in Randori? Surely it would have been better to try and work on a specific throw and really commit to it and if I get countered it shouldn’t matter. Maybe my ego isn’t completely left at the door of the dojo when I practise Judo. I think, especially now I’m a brown belt, that I shouldn’t be getting “beat” or “thrown” by lower grades, which is a bit egotistical really and could hamper my development. So next time I do randori I’m gonna try things out and not care if I get countered as long as I’m learning that’s all that should matter.


  1. I like how you have emphasised the point that randori is a time to practice all elements of Judo without the fear of losing. Unfortunately that concept is lost on many and the ego gets in the way of good randori.

    1. If both people practice randori the right way then it works but too many people see it as shiai and try to "win at all costs". In the end though the person who takes randori as time to practice ones technique will improve a lot quicker than the person who only uses his favourite throw because he has to win.