Judo Combat Phases

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Judo assumes that there are two main phases of combat: the standing (tachi-waza) and the ground (ne-waza) phase. Each phase requires its own mostly separate techniques, strategies, randori, conditioning and so on, although special training is devoted to “transitional” techniques to bridge the gap. JÅ«dōka may become quite skilled in one phase and be rather weak in the other, depending on where their interests most lie, although most are rather balanced between the two.

Sparring: Judo emphasizes a free-style sparring, called randori, as one of its main forms of training. A part of the combat time is spent sparring standing up, called tachi-waza, and the other part on the ground, called ne-waza. Sparring, even within safety rules, is much more effective than only practicing techniques.

Using full strength develops the muscles and cardio-vascular system on the physical side of things, and it develops strategy and reaction time on the mental side of things, and helps the practitioner learn to use techniques against a resisting opponent. A common saying among judoka is, “The best training for judo is judo.”

There are several types of sparring exercises , such as ju renshu (both judoka attacks in a very gentle way where no resistance is ever applied) and kakari geiko (only one judoka attacks while the other one relies solely on defensive and evasive techniques, without the use of sheer strength).

Balanced approach: Judo’s balance between both the standing and ground phases of combat gives judoka the ability to take down opponents who are standing up and then pin and submit them on the ground.

This balanced theory of combat has made Judo a popular choice of martial art or combat sport for many people.

Standing: In the standing phase, which has primacy according to the contest rules, the opponents attempt to throw each other. Although standing joint-lock and choke/strangulation submission techniques are legal in the standing phase, they are quite rare due to the fact that they are much harder to apply standing than throws are. Some jÅ«dōka, however, are very skilled in combining takedowns with submissions, where a submission technique is begun standing and finished on the ground. Strikes (i.e. punches, kicks, etc…) are not allowed due to their certainty of injury, but an athlete is supposed to “take them into consideration” while training by, for example, not fighting in a bent-over position for long, since this position is vulnerable to knee-strikes and other striking attacks.

The main purpose of the throwing techniques (nage waza) is to take an opponent who is standing on his feet, mobile and dangerous, down onto his back where he cannot move as effectively. Thus, the main reason for throwing the opponent is to control the opponent and to put oneself in a dominant position. In this way the practitioner has more potential to render a decisive outcome. Another reason to throw the opponent is to shock his body through smashing him forcefully onto the ground.

If an exponent executes a powerful yet fully controlled throw, he can win a match outright due to the theory that he has displayed enough superiority. In actual fact, this kind of victory is very difficult to achieve if the opponents are equally matched. Therefore points are given for lesser throws in the standing phase of combat. In a real fight, throwing an opponent in itself can also shock and injure them, and the impact can potentially knock the opponent unconscious (depending on the hardness of the fighting surface).

In keeping with Kano’s emphasis on scientific analysis and reasoning, the standard Kokokan judo pedagogy dictates that any throwing technique is theoretically a four phased event: off-balancing (kuzushi); body positioning (作り, tsukuri?); execution (掛け, kake); and finally the finish or coup de grâce (極め, kime). Practically, each phases follows the previous one with great rapidity. Ideally they happen almost simultaneously.

Ground: In the ground phase, which is considered the secondary phase of combat, the opponents try to pin each other, or to get the opponent to submit either by using armlocks (leglocks are not allowed due to safety regulations) or by chokes and strangulations.

Hold-downs and pins
Hold-downs and pins (押さえ込み, osaekomi) are important since in a real fight the person who has control of his opponent can hit him with punches, knees, headbutts, and other strikes. If osaekomi is held for twenty-five seconds, the person doing the pinning wins the match. (This time requirement is said to reflect the time necessary for a samurai to reach his knife or sword and dispatch his pinned opponent. It also reflects the combat reality that a fighter must immobilize his opponent for a substantial amount of time in order to strike effectively.) In a match, a pin must be held for ten seconds to gain any score; a pin of less than twenty-five seconds will score, but will not win the match. A pin may result in a submission if the opponent is exhausted or cannot endure the pressure from the pin. This occasionally happens in competition, usually if the pin places pressure on an already injured part of the body, like the ribs.

If the person being held down has wrapped his legs around any part of his opponent’s lower body or trunk, he is pinning his opponent as much as he is being pinned, as his opponent cannot get up and flee unless the bottom man lets go. While his legs are wrapped around his opponent, the bottom man can employ various attacking techniques, including strangles, armlocks and “body scissors” (do-jime), while tying the opponent so that he cannot effectively strike from above.

In this position, often referred to as the “guard” in English, the man on top does not have enough control over his adversary for the position to be considered osaekomi. (Note that while the guard is commonly used, do-jime is no longer legal in competition judo.) The man on top can try to pass his opponent’s legs and pin or submit him, or he may try to break out of his opponent’s guard and stand up. The bottom man can try to submit his opponent from his guard or roll his opponent over to get on top of him.

Scoring in judo consists of four grades of score: ippon, waza-ari, yuko, and koka. An ippon literally means “one point” and awards the match. This is awarded for (a) a throw that lands the opponent largely on their back in a controlled manner with speed and force; (b) for a mat hold of sufficient duration (twenty-five seconds), or (c) for opponent submission. A waza-ari is awarded for a throw that does not quite have enough power or control to be considered ippon, or for a hold of twenty seconds. It is a half-point, and if two are scored, they constitute the full point needed for the win. Yuko and koka are lower grades of score, and are only tie-breakers that are not cumulative with one another. Scoring is lexicographic; a waza-ari beats any number of yuko, but a waza-ari and a yuko beat a waza-ari with no yuko. It is not uncommon for a match to be decided based on koka. For example, consider 1W2Y2K vs. 1W2Y1K. If scores are identical at the end of a match, the clock is reset into a sudden death overtime, called a “Golden Score.”

The score for a pin is determined by how long the pin is held. A pin held for twenty-five seconds scores ippon, resulting in immediate victory. A score of waza-ari is given for a pin held for twenty seconds. A fifteen-second pin scores yuko and a ten-second pin scores koka. If the person pinning already has a waza-ari they only need to hold the pin for twenty seconds to score ippon by way of two waza-ari.

Joint locks: Joint locks (kansetsu-waza) are effective combat techniques because they enable a jÅ«dōka to control his opponent through pain-compliance, or if necessary, to cause breakage of the locked joint. Joint locks on the elbow are considered safe enough to perform at nearly full-force in competition to force submission from one’s opponent. Judo has, in the past, allowed leglocks, wristlocks, spinal locks and various other techniques which have since been disallowed in competition to protect athletes’ safety. It was decided that attacking those other joints would result in many injuries to the athletes and would cause a gradual deterioration of these joints. Even so, some jÅ«dōka still enjoy learning and fighting each other informally using these techniques that are banned from formal competitions, and many of these techniques are still actively used in other arts such as sambo and jujutsu.

Chokes and strangulations: Chokes and strangulations (締め技, shime-waza) enable the one applying the choke to force the adversary into unconsciousness and even death. Strangulation cuts off the blood supply to the brain via compression on the sides of the neck, while a choke blocks the airway from the front of the neck. The terms are frequently interchangeable in common usage, and a formal differentiation is not made by most jūdōka. In competition, the jūdōka wins if the opponent submits or becomes unconscious. A strangle, once properly locked in, can knock an opponent unconscious in 3 seconds. Although these are potentially lethal techniques, a properly-applied chokehold, if released promptly upon submission or unconsciousness, causes no injury or lasting discomfort.