Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Throwing Down

Last week when I was in Singapore, I stopped by KM HQ to join some classes and see my brothers and sisters there.

Unexpectedly I got asked to run some beginner and intermediate/advanced classes with the other instructors. Always a pleasure, we found some cool things to show.

MG Guillaume specifically asked me if I would focus on locking and throwing, given these are a large part of my martial arts history prior to starting KM.

We worked on several variations of a common theme around Koshi Nage/Koshi Gurumua/Oguruma and Seioinage.  As a follow up, I summarize the integral parts of throwing below.  I will use japanese vocabulary, but leave out the Kanji, feel free to contact me if you want to know them.

1) Distraction (Atemi)
Often overlooked, all throws really start with striking the opponent.  Atemi can be done with actual hand strikes (slaps, palm heels, punches, elbows), as well as any other weapons including headbutts, knees, low-kicks and even using the biceps, shoulders, or torso (Tai Atari).  This step is important, since we need to divert the opponent's attention from the rest of the movement.

For some styles of judo/aikido, the atemi is de-emphasized, minimized, or removed and this then loses combat effectiveness in my opinion.  The atemi need not end the fight (although this is OK, too), but it must disrupt the opponent's focus and start the process of destroying the balance/structure that will ultimately take the opponent through the rest of the technique. Atemi are generally aimed at the head/neck, but can work against the body/legs provided they disrupt the attacker's balance as explained above.

2) Contact (Sekkin)
For any throwing technique to be effective, we need to get (and maintain) contact with the opponent.  This means closing distance, and generally involves being body-to-body in some orientation (back to front or front to front) Very often, this contact begins with a touchpoint on the arms.  In sport judo, we see the competitors locked up in grabs on the dogi, similar to pummeling in wrestling.  This contact point facilitates the subsequent steps and a typical defense/reversal against throwing is to deny the opponent sekkin by pushing their hips or body away.

3. Entry (Irimi)
The entry is achieved when we have made body to body contact.  This is generally done in a very ballistic manner, with the express intent of displacing the opponent's hips with our own, in effect "punching with the hips" (see "Kuzushi", below).  In some situations, the first three steps (atemi, sekkin, irimi) are done as a single motion, but they should be understood as distinct components with separate objectives.  When entering, we generally seek to establish contact with our center of gravity (Tan dien) lower than our opponent's.  To succed, it is important to have the opponent's hips completely displaced, which means driving our hips fully across theirs.  Partial displacement usually results in the opponent sliding off to one side or otherwise failing to have the balance broken or be loaded.

4. Breaking the Balance (Kuzushi)
In order to throw the opponent, it is necessary to break the balance, which is done by destroying the structure.  This can be done by moving/twisting the head/neck/spine, but also can be achieved by sweeping the legs or reaping the legs (ashi barai/ashigari).  In some cases, a clothesline is done with the arms, while in others the opponent is made to trip over the extended leg.  Failure to achieve proper Kuzushi is probably the single most common reason why throws fail (the other is probably the failure to use Atemi).

5. Loading (Mochiage)
Loading is the process by which, having displaced the opponent's hips with our own, we put the opponent's center of gravity (hips) onto ours.  This is done with the legs bent, so that the actual lift is achieved by straightening the legs, NOT by pulling/lifting with the arms.  Judo is like rock climbing in that the arms are used for balance/contact and the legs are used for drive/lift. Loading can be hard to see when it is done as part of a reaping throw (Osotogari, for example), but if you watch carefully, you should be able to see where the hips are loaded.

6. Execution (Nage)
Now that the opponent's body is loaded and under control, we DRIVE.  A properly done throw should combine our body weight with our opponent's and drive them ballistically through the ground, not merely "toss/release".  When we extend our legs and bend forward, we also want to establish a new connection (usually through the shoulder or hip) that will anchor our bodyweight to the opponent and allow us to drive our weight through them into the ground.

Aikido tends to use controls/locks and projections, the difference being that when we project, we release the opponent, who then contacts the ground on their own - without our bodyweight added.  When throwing, at no point should we release the opponent, and we strongly intend to add our body weight, sandwiching the opponent between us and the ground when we land.

7. Control (Shime/Osae/Newaza)
While projections are generally designed to toss/release the opponent, throws intend the opponent to contact the ground in close proximity, preferably with our bodyweight on top.  This facilitates a variety of mounts such as top mount, side mount, and scarf hold, which lead us into controls/submissions/finishes including breaks, dislocations, chokes, and strangles.  Done properly, the throw is a strong shock and jolt to the opponent which may already render them unconscious or winded, but which in any case causes a moment of pause on impact which can be exploited to move directly into a control or finish..  In some cases, the throw alone can cause concussion or serious injury, particularly when combined with a lock applied before throwing.

Throws can be a very important part of a good fighter's arsenal, and change the CQB dynamic considerably.  However, like any good technique, the proper principles need to be followed to get the right result.

These are my views on the important components to good throwing.  I encourage you to research on your own.

See you on the mats.

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