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Rhadi is right

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In the open discussion section, a very interesting thread has been underway in response to the question, "Shouldn't Technique be Superior?" While people seem to agree that elite level shiai nowadays favors athleticism over pure, old fashioned Judo technique, the questions remain whether this is a good or bad thing or whether the trend will ever be reversed.
That doesn't seem likely, people would seem to fear, which raises an uncomfortable question: what is the purpose of studying all this Judo technique if it doesn't work when the heat is on?

Rhadi - I suppose - has an answer to this. He keeps his secrets close to his vest; that's the substance of his training and consulting business. However, he has made a few interesting points on that thread. His opponent is 'Loudenvier', who is making a case for the purity of technique. As I see it, the debate has veered in the direction of raw strength, but in a way they're both making the same point about the brand of control and awareness needed in shiai - and - it's the whole reason I bring this up - it's a point becoming clearer to me as I continue studying the Koshiki No Kata.

Rhadi Ferguson is a former world champ, an Olympian, a black belt in BJJ, and a strength and conditioning coach. A heavyweight, he's an incredible physical specimen, a bomb going off in the hands of his opponents, launching them skyward, which apparently traces back to his days as a collegiate football player and was enough to make the NFL express some interest.

I've not read his blog or seen any of his training videos, so the following is complete supposition on my part.
It could be a mistake to assume that his approach is solely based on muscle based bull rasslin'. He made an interesting point in one of his posts, when he was saying something like, 'Your eye is untrained. You're making the beginner's mistake of only looking at the throw.' Rhadi goes on, in that thread and elsewhere, to make points about gripping, power, and 'seeing,' which I would take to mean situational awareness or understanding your technical options at any given point.

I think I know what he's getting at. In football, his coaches went to great lengths to explain the game in terms of causality: The offensive linemen have to do [this.] The ends do this, the fullback that, and the quarterback [such and such]. A lot of things have to happen the right way in order for the halfback to score a touchdown.

The same is true with BJJ. Ask a BJJ guy, "How do you get that arm bar?" and he goes right into a step by step recitation. All the Gracie books, for that matter, are nothing but lots of pictures with numbers next to them.

Rhadi, wired to think in terms of causality, realizes something about the sport of Judo. All the techniques are great, but they're each a few steps removed from reality. A guy grabs you. He's fast and strong and means to do you harm. In any practical sense, how do you go about turning around and throwing him with an O goshi without getting killed? You can't expect a bad guy to become awe struck at the sheer dignity and clarity of what you're doing. If he realizes what you're attempting, you're in even more trouble.
Kuzushi? Is that an answer? Pull on his sleeve and lapel? You've got to be kidding.
These Judo guys are missing nine-tenths of the game, he must feel.
To Rhadi, a throw is the end result of an entirely different process, a gaining of control and leverage that is as purposeful as any football play diagrammed with X's, O's, and arrows.
This, I suppose, is the information he's selling in his seminars and videos.

In my view, the metamophosis in elite Judo directly follows the the advances in strength and conditioning science over the past decades. Though it pains me as a purist to say this, the Mifunes and Okanos of the past would be in big trouble against modern day elite players attacking with the speed and strength of locomotives. (Actually, Okano was ahead of his time in terms of conditioning.)
Rhadi is saying, in effect, this is the state of the sport. We're not going back.

So why would a Judo purist writing about kata agree with a modern shiai advocate like Rhadi Ferguson?

The thing is, I also agree with Loudenvier, who brings up the example of the great Koga, whose seoi nage can be done without extreme strength. The idea on this side of the debate is that if one does not want to lock horns in a strength match, their tai sabaki and technical knowledge should put them in a position in which they can make a throw without superhuman effort.
Koga did seem to be all about incredible timing and speed, shooting that leg so far under his opponents.

They're saying the same thing. Whether it is strength and leverage, or speed and timing, or some combination of all the above, the winning throw is a result of a certain TRACTION. Tori initiates a process, and something begins happening to uke right away.

How do I impart this concept of immediacy? If you stepped on your car's gas pedal, and it took a few seconds for the car to decide if and how fast it would respond, you'd take it to the repair shop. You demand an immediate response, immediate acceleration when you touch the pedal.

If you want to win at shiai, fighting gi to gi, you have to run a play. You take hold, grip fight to where you want him, and finish him off, is the idea. Progress begins at the get-go, and continues as surely as a football team makes its way down the field. If you're a cop, and you have to slap the cuffs on somebody dangerous, you need immediate cause and effect - immediate traction. You grab the bad guy, disable him, and get the cuffs on in no time flat. Lives depend on it. You can't afford to TRY things that might or might not work.

I remember those days of my shiai career. It was guesswork. I have to be completely honest. Matches were like high speed running monologues inside my head: "All right, here I am . . . we grabbed each other's lapels and I'm sort of gliding along . . . now I'm going to try THIS throw! . . . . oh, well, - . . how about this throw . . . . darn . . .. whoa! STIFF ARMS! . . . can't let him have that one! . . . . OK, Ready? let's see if I can . . .
You get the idea. I was leaving it all up to chance. I'd bet that for 90 percent of any given match, I had no idea what I was doing. I had no plan or 'plays' to run. I was mentally stymied, reacting or trying to think of something as time passed. I'd thrash; I wasn't doing nothing, but I certainly wasn't doing anything with any real purpose. Physically, I was quick and dogged and could get lucky now and then, but mainly I was waiting for the perfect openings.
Oddly enough, in the grand scheme of things, I held my own. Not many other people knew much better.

When I made the preposterous claim that the Koshiki No Kata was simple and effective, it was because the techniques afforded immediate traction. There's no guesswork and no ambiguity about these techniques. A bad guy attacks, - BOOM - you displace his center and get immediate results. Some of these techniques are pretty dicey stuff, like I said, things that have found their way into military manuals that place a lot of stock in direct results.
This is the stuff that interests me nowadays, the fighting techniques that would be of use to cops, Coast Guardsmen, and even ordinary citizens, and which, as it turns out, afford better perspective on my sporting career.

My buddy and I were just working on Techniques 7 and 8, Kodaore and Uchi Kudaki. In both, tori baits uke by approaching with arm extended. Uke grabs it, pulls it across his own front and tries a hip throw, yet in each case, tori maintains his center. Uke is the one who winds up broken. Instead of tori going over in a forward direction, uke goes over backward. Tori is solid; (Kodaore means "tree trunk.") In each case, tori drops to a knee to finish uke. (See the instructions for details and distinguishing characteristics.)

I would argue that these techniques, which are among the easier ones in the kata, illustrate the points above. Uke, in grabbing that arm and shooting for the hip throw, falls for what is too good to be true. He does not anticipate that tori is centered and solid; nor does he realize that his opportunism is hasty and that he's the one off balance. He established no control of tori or no stability for himself. He just went for it, TRYING something that looked like it might work.
Tori was the one with the purposeful movements, the football play to run. He knew exactly what uke was going to do, and he prepared himself and knew exactly what to aim for.

The throw was the end result of a process of traction on tori's part.

Rhadi Ferguson, Jimmy Pedro, Koga, and Loudenvier, the men of the moment, are in agreement with a 400 year old kata: You might not call it Judo, but this is how you fight, with broad technical awareness and immediate traction. Maybe 'JU' does not mean yielding like a willow all the time. How about, 'making the most intelligent interpretation of the circumstances'?

1 Comments On This Entry

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Dr. Rhadi Ferguson 

18 October 2010 - 02:10 AM
Nice Post. You got it bro!
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