Judging by the bruises, welts and patches of raw skin covering my arms today, it’s fairly obvious that I did judo last night. Don’t get me wrong though – it was a massive amount of fun!
The aim of judo is to throw, take down or immobilise your opponent, or make them submit using joint locks and strangle holds. The class I attended was ground work (ne-waza) at Wycombe Judo Centre, so we focused on holding people down on their backs or making them tap out.
We started by learning a few moves; a couple of ways to spin somebody onto their back from their hands and knees (for all those lovers out there) and an armbar from full guard (for those wannabe lovers out there, who could benefit from a little more persuasive power).
By the way, full guard is a position whereby you are on your back with your opponent between your legs – it’s common in grappling sports.
After practising this for a while, it was time to fight. Starting from our knees, it was much like practising MMA and BJJ (as you’d expect), but with more Gi to grab than in MMA and no leg or ankle locks allowed. To that extent, although I didn’t know many (or any) judo moves, I could still hold my own using techniques from MMA and wrestling, as well as the general balance, kinaesthetics and proprioception that develop unbidden over years of training, grappling and fighting.
That’s not to say it wasn’t hard, however. Judo felt calmer than BJJ and less explosive than wrestling but, in terms of sheer strength and utility of technique, it was incredible.
In wrestling, a pin occurs after a single second of holding the opponent’s shoulders to the ground. This requires speed, technique and a degree of power that is incomparable to any other sport I’ve tried. In judo, however, you don’t score a pin unless you hold your opponent’s back to the ground for 25 seconds! The control and strength required to do this to a determined opponent is simply staggering.
What’s more, wearing a Gi meant that some moves – which make use of the clothing itself to trap you – are like being caught in a vice. Add to that techniques honed over a lifetime and you’ve got yourselves some very, very wily opponents.
Now I’ve done ground judo, I’d love to try the standing version. I’d intrigued by the differences to wrestling and excited to put techniques from one sport to use in another.