Bridging the Gap


It seems that in many dojos the practice of standup techniques has fallen out of fashion. Oftentimes there is a reluctance to train them out of an unwarranted fear of injury, or just as common, the training environment to develop them is insufficient.  What is needed is a proper understanding of Judo principles, which unfortunately, are lacking in many clubs. Beginners must learn how to practice, and it is the responsibility of the initiated to impart this culture.  Without a mutual understanding between training partners and a firm commitment to refining not only one’s own abilities, but also those of the collective, a positive training environment will remain elusive. Finding this balance can be tricky. How do we remain martially authentic while at the same time not stifling technical development?
Train for competition. Do not have a competition every time you train.  There is a need for high intensity bouts. They keep us honest and are a source of motivation. However, when every randori session devolves into pitiful attempts at poorly executed takedowns, which are unsafe and foster aversion to practice, expect technical incompetence and injury to follow.  The result is a rigidity and apprehension that will quickly stifle any growth.
Bridge the gap between form and function, but never compromise either. You must have a firm understanding of any technique you plan to use in a live situation. This is accomplished through many uchi-komi. However, technical competence is only brought to full fruition through extensive amounts of randori (the good kind). Entry, timing, and speed are essential. Repeated trials are necessary to develop timing and to learn to exploit the opponent’s balance. You will never develop this skill with a rigid uke, or by moving from one technique to next without focus and perseverance. This can be likened to digging a well: Dig until you reach water – what good are a dozen half-dug wells?
Lastly, try to remain relaxed and supple. There is strength in suppleness.  I am seldom concerned when an opponent grips me roughly and assumes a defensive posture.  It is easy to read his intent and nearly impossible for him to cover the distance needed to generate the leverage to complete the throw.  Rigidity in the posture limits speed and fine motor coordination, which are essential in breaking the opponents balance and generating momentum. The importance of speed cannot be overemphasized.
An appreciation of these ideas will yield dividends immediately. Short bouts of high intensity ego driven competition will give way to more frequent and longer training periods. This in turn will lead the development of competent technicians who can throw with skill. What once seemed dangerous will prove to be a safe, enjoyable, and essential facet of grappling.

Robert Burge, MA

Contributor Bio – Robert is a judo nidan, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, and has a master’s in mental health counseling. He is the head instructor of the University of Kentucky judo club and a member of the Valhalla Grappling Academy.

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