People who see judo contests at an arena or on television marvel at the grace and the fluidity of Judo techniques or at the speed and energy of the throws. What they don't see is the hard trainings and sometimes repetitive workouts that judo players undertake over many years to bring their techniques to perfection. Judo techniques don't just happen. They are carefully worked out, practised combinations of basic movements, postures and holds.
The basic posture in judo is the natural posture, or Shizentai. This simply means that you stand in a natural way. From shizentai you can move into various other postures.
There are three natural postures shizen hontai (basic natural posture) , migi shizentai (right natural posture) and hidari shizentai (left natural posture).
Jigotai, or defensive posture, is taken by spreading the feet a bit wider than in shizentai and bending both knees to lower the body's center of gravity. Jigotai also has three forms jigo hontai (basic defensive posture ), migi jigotai (right defensive posture)and hidari jigotai [left defensive posture].
Jigotai is used when defending yourself from the opponent's attack and is not very effective for attacking . If you must assume this posture for a time to defend yourself , be sure to switch back to shizentai as soon as you can.
All attack and defence techniques derive from postures. It is extremely important, therefore, that you maintain correct posture at all times.
Shizen Hontai : Spread both heels shoulder width apart (about 30 cm). Point the toes of your feet naturally outward and place the weight of your body equally on both feet. Your knees and hips should be relaxed so that you can, at any time, step freely forward or backward. This is the fundamental judo posture.
Migi Shizentai : From shizen hontai, move your right foot forward about 30 cm.
Hidari Shizentai : From shizentai hontai, move your left foot forward about 30 cm.
Jigo Hontai : Stand with both feet wider apart than shizen hontai. Bend your knees to lower your hips.
Migi Jigotai : Take one step forward from jigo hontai with your right leg.
Hidari Hontai : Take one step forward from jigo hontai with your left leg.
Tai sabaki (body movement control) means changing the position and direction of your body while maintaining a stable posture. The basis of nage waza (throwing techniques) lies in keeping your opponent off balance by executing excellent tai sabaki. This will determine whether or not your throw will be successful. There are three major types of tai sabaki.
Mae sabaki : (front movement control): Shift your position by advancing one foot and withdrawing the other at a right angle to your opponent.
Ushiro sabaki : (back movement control): Shift your position by retreating one foot and pivoting on the other at a right angle to your opponent.
Mae-mawari sabaki : (front turn movement control): shift your position, advancing one foot diagonally in front of your opponent ; pivot on that foot and withdraw the other until you have made a complete 180 degree turn.
There are two ways of walking in judo tsugi ashi and ayumi ashi. Both involve Suri ashi, a manner of walking in which the soles of your feet slide over the floor.
These two ways of walking are used to move your body forward or backward, to the right or left, or in any other direction. Be sure to maintain shizentai as you move.
Ayumi ashi :This is the ordinary pattern of walking in which you move forward alternately with each foot.
Tsugi ashi :This involves moving by bringing one foot up to the other after each advance.
The basic grips (Kumi kata) in judo are taken from shizentai (natural posture) and jigotai (defensive posture) by grasping the lapel of the opponent's jacket with one hand and the sleeve with the other .
There are many variations of the basic holds, such as a double lapel grip or a double sleeve grip. When gripping the opponent, put strength in your ring and little fingers, and let your thumb rest lightly on the fabric of the jacket.
Hiki te : Sleeve or Pulling hand
Tsuri te : Lapel or Lifting hand
Kuzushi (breaking) in Judo means forcing the opponent into an unbalanced position. This is an important factor in executing effective nage waza (throwing techniques),
for when the opponent is off balance and unable to use their strength aggressively and is virtually under your control.
Kuzushi can be performed in eight different directions (happo no kuzushi). Although you can use a variety of techniques, such as pushing , pulling or going around the opponent, you should always execute kuzushi not with your hands alone but with your entire body. You must also consider the distance between you and your opponent.
Tsukuri and Kake
Tsukuri is the entry and proper fitting of your body into the position taken just before the moment required for completion of your throwing technique.
Necessarily, the off balancing (kuzushi) of your opponent takes place at the same time as tsukuri so that they are helpless and easily controlled. Kake is the completing movement of your technique.
Judo techniques work best when these three elements work together almost instantaneously to become a single entity. If any one of them is inadequate or late in coming, your attempt to throw the opponent will most likely fail.
Ukemi is a series of techniques that enable you to fall or be thrown down in relative safety, avoiding shock or injury from a violent impact against the mat.
The important points in ukemi are striking the mat strongly with your entire arm and curling up your body when you hit the mat to lessen the impact. Doing this will prevent injury to your head and neck and other vital parts of your body.
In Judo, numerous techniques such as holding, cocking and locking the joints are also used, but for practising the throwing techniques it is essential that you master ukemi to soften the fall.
If you master the fundamentals of ukemi, you will not be scared of being thrown by your opponent and you will be able to continue practice aggressively and with correct posture. Ukemi gets you used to the mat and is therefore one of the first steps to Judo. Your mastery of it will contribute much to improving all your Judo techniques. It is said in Judo “learn the techniques by learning how to be thrown”.
There are four kinds of ukemi:
Ushiro ukemi - Backward falling
Yoko ukemi - Sideways falling
Mae ukemi - Forward falling
Mae-mawari ukemi - Forward rolling falling
When you have mastered the basics of various ukemi, practice them while you are in motion, or with a partner or an obstacle. The important thing is for you to learn to execute ukemi correctly no matter what way you fall.