Thursday, 27 January 2011

Tokuiwaza


 One of the most common questions asked by beginners is ‘What should my tokuiwaza be?’ normally followed by a description of how tall, heavy, long legged etc... they are.

The first thing that a beginner should be aware of is that your tokuiwaza isn’t the holy grail it isn’t some technique that will suddenly unlock for you the world of Judo. Indeed your tokuiwaza needn’t be one single technique. Nor does the fact you haven’t ‘found’ your tokuiwaza yet matter much. Over the course of your Judo development your tokuiwaza will naturally emerge, but if you’re a yellow or orange belt etc... and still don’t really feel like you have one then don’t fret it will come.

The second thing is not to obsess over your body type or particular physical attributes and assume that certain techniques will forever be off limits to you because you’re a certain size. Its often said that Uchimata is a tall mans throw, yet some of the most spectacular Uchimata that I have been thrown with have been by people smaller than me and conversely I have been thrown with enormous standing Ippon seoi nages by people who are taller than me.

That is not to say that body type or attributes doesn’t play a role in what tokuiwaza you will likely gravitate towards. They way body type impacts your ability to perform a throw is in that it either increases or decreases your margin for error. Margin for error is the, probably unscientifically quantifiable, gap whereby your physical attributes allow you to compensate for the technical deficiencies of a throw. There is no set formula whereby for every inch of height, pound of weight and unit of strength your margin for error for throw Y increases or decreases by X percent. However, in general the taller, heavier and stronger you are the greater your margin for error with the majority of throws will be. This is why the legend of Judo and BJJ that the smaller man can beat a bigger man is only true when the skill level is very strongly in favour of the smaller man. A small man fighting a bigger one with equal skill level will nearly always result in the smaller man losing. A small man fighting a bigger man where the bigger man has the higher skill lever will always result in the small man losing, barring some freak occurrence.

Another issue with beginners struggling to find their tokuiwaza is that very often beginners are subjected to a technique tsunami. Constantly shown different techniques every two weeks and with each dan grade they ask showing them their own personal variations on those techniques and some even showing techniques they have made up themselves...

As a beginner there is no need for you to look any further than the Dai Ikkyo and Dai Nikyo of the Gokyo. And stick to the kihon waza – the core/basic - forms of the gokyo, if you’re a kyu grade please don’t start fucking about with a two hands on single sleeve style Tai otoshi, just because you’ve seen it on a Lee Won-Hee highlight reel and think it is cool.

Dai Ikkyo
De ashi barai
Hiza guruma
Sasae tsurikomi ashi
Uki goshi
O soto gari
O goshi
O uchi gari
Seoi nage

Dai Nikyo
Ko soto gari
Ko uchi gari
Koshi guruma
Tsurikomi goshi
Okuri ashi barai
Tai otoshi
Harai goshi
Uchi mata

Contained within these two groups are all the throwing options that a beginner would need.

Also it is important to note that the Gokyo was ordered according to the difficult of the ukemi from a throw, so you will see De ashi barai is the first technique because it is a simple Yoko ukemi. So by sticking to the first two sets of the Gokyo you will be also ensuring the safety of whoever, you as a beginner, practice with because the falls will be easy for other beginners to take and the higher grades will have confidence in allowing you to achieve and throw them, due to there being less chance of a beginner messing it up. This is not the case for throws that come later in the Gokyo like Kata Guruma, Harai makikomi, Ura nage and Yoko gake.

In addition no matter what Judo club you attend and no matter in what country, your coach should be familiar with and be able to teach all of these techniques and there will be plenty of experienced players who can help you with these techniques.
So once you have looked down the above list of techniques there are probably some that jump out at you as techniques that you’re good at, or that feel ‘right’ more so than others.
You should then take those standout techniques and fit them into the following catergories:

Major forward technique
Complimentary ashiwaza

Major backwards technique
Complimentary ashiwaza

Looking back at the two sets of the Gokyo you will notice that there is a wide selection of ‘major’ techniques and ashiwaza to go with them.

Techniques that are generally considered ‘major’:
Uki goshi
O soto gari
O goshi
Seoi nage
Koshi guruma
Tsurikomi goshi
Tai otoshi
Uchi mata
Harai goshi

Techniques that are generally considered complimentary ashiwaza:
De ashi barai
Hiza guruma
Sasae tsurikomi ashi
O uchi gari
Ko soto gari
Ko uchi gari
Okuri ashi barai

There are some cross overs but this is a rough division.

So let’s look at a few examples of technique tables you could build:

Major forward technique – Uchi mata
Complimentary ashiwaza – O uchi gari

Major backwards technique – O soto gari
Complimentary ashiwaza – Sasae tsurikomi ashi

-------------------------------------------------

Major forward technique – Tai otoshi
Complimentary ashiwaza – Ko uchi gari

Major backwards technique - O uchi gari
Complimentary ashiwaza – Ko uchi gari

-------------------------------------------------

Major forward technique – Harai goshi
Complimentary ashiwaza – O soto gari

Major backwards technique – O uchi gari
Complimentary ashiwaza – Okui ashi barai

The reason that you should try and fit the techniques that standout for you into the catergories as above is that it allows you to create not only a idea of techniques that you are going to concentrate on but it gets you to think about linking techniques and developing effective combinations. The logic behind which techniques you combine with others is to take advantage of the likely potential actions and reactions of your opponent. So an O soto gari is likely to get a resisting forward reaction which can then be capitalised on with a Sasae tsurikomi ashi etc...

The quick witted and the lazy amongst you will have noticed that you can effectively halve your workload by being smart about which techniques you choose. 

For example you can have:

Major forward technique – Uchi mata
Complimentary ashiwaza – O uchi gari

Major backwards technique – O soto gari
Complimentary ashiwaza – O uchi gari

Thus you only have three techniques that you need to concentrate on and all the three techniques can be used as either a primary or secondary attack for the other. I can attack with O uchi gari and then with O soto gari, O soto gari then Uchi mata, Uchi mata then O uchi gari etc... etc...

Reducing your workload as such can be helpful because it means you always know what you’re going to work on during uchikomi and nagekomi, when it comes to combination practice you never have to stop and try and work out what to combine with what you just practice your set of combinable techniques.

However, it can become boring for some and attacking with only three throws in randori can mean that people take steps just to kill your chances of using those three throws. So it is often a good idea to add in an extra technique to your practice every once in a while to keep things interesting and your opponents on their toes/heels.

Many of you will have noticed that I have outlined a plan for developing not just one technique, but a group of techniques as part of finding your tokuiwaza. This is because often a beginner will pick one throw that they think works for them and then become dead-set on it being their tokuiwaza even if it isn’t really suited for them, for whatever reason. So it is best to have a family of techniques that form your tokuiwaza, because as you progress and develop you my find you move about within the family before settling on a technique that you didn’t think was your best one. So in the above example of O uchi gari, O soto gari and Uchimata initially you may consider O uchi gari to be your best technique but as you practice it may shift to Uchimata and then end up being O soto gari.

This process means that not only do you avoid a potential technique dead-end, but also you will have spent time ensuring you have a good grasp of three throws that work well together not just one throw in isolation, so that if you encounter someone who can nullify one or two of your techniques you always have another attack.

Also that I split up the techniques into major forward and major backwards techniques so you’re building into your training the principles of action-reaction as you learn the interplay between the complimentary ashiwaza and the ‘major’ techniques.

I have in this post concentrated exclusively on standing tokuiwaza, however, the principle behind my approach of developing a family of complimentary tokuiwaza based around action-reaction should also be applied to how you approach finding a newaza tokuiwaza.

1 comment:

  1. Just discovered your blog and the explanations of everything are very insightful and detailed. Could you explain at some point how you use complementary ashiwaza? Do you see the ashiwaza as being used to set up the major throw, or as a follow-up to the throw if it fails? So, if someone is unbalanced backward, would you attack with your backward throw and then try the complementary ashiwaza if it failss, or instead try a backward ashiwaza like o uchi, and then switch to a forward throw if that fails because they switch to pushing forward? Sorry for such basic questions!

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