Welcome to Part 2b of this series about the takeaways of having a Judo background. This post will be dealing with the practical application of Judo throws in MMA, and I'll be attempting to give comprehensive examples of such techniques working their magic in actual fights. Disclaimer: I'm not a grappling expert, so feel free to disagree with what I'm saying and show me the error of my ways. Otherwise, enjoy!
As stated in Part 2a, Judo's best chance during the standing phase of MMA is in the clinch. The classical Judo gi-grip being unavailable, you need to make the best of your adversary's neck, arms or waist. Now, because the clinch is the closest you're ever going to get to your opponent, and because he isn't wearing a gi, techniques belonging to the Te Waza group may prove to be a lot harder to pull off. A major exception here is the Double Leg Takedown, Morote Gari, a move classified as belonging to this group, if you'll recall the discussion in the previous installment of this series.
Since this type of takedown is present in many other forms of wrestling and has been a fixture in MMA for what seems like ages, I won't go into detail regarding its merits. What is interesting to note is that Judokas probably have a shorter range on it than wrestlers, and you most likely won't see many people with Judo backgrounds shooting in from way outside unless they've trained this specifically for MMA or non-Judo competition. As for other options from Te Waza, a Fireman's Carry (Kata Guruma) or a Seoi Nage type move may be possible, and the latter has been pulled off, but, often enough, there are other more viable options out there, within the Koshi, Ashi and Sutemi Waza.
Bellator 33 HIghlight: Rick Hawn Judo Throw TKO (via BellatorMMA)
In the lead-up to the move, Hawn, former Olympian Judoka, goes for a high-kick (around the 1:40 mark of the video), but the kick is caught by Maynard who immediately attempts to take Hawn down. The latter does fall, but tries to quickly get back up to his feet. Maynard jumps on his back, unaware of what is about to happen, and just like that finds himself on the floor.
What happens here is Hawn recognizes the danger of giving up his back and instead of trying to get out of the position, grabs hold of his opponent's left arm, places his shoulder in Maynard's armpit for leverage and pulls on the arm, propelling him over said shoulder (the 1:43 mark) with what is called an Ippon Seoi Nage. Caught completely off guard and possibly stunned by the landing, Maynard is unable to mount much of a defense and succumbs to the ensuing barrage of punches.
It all looks a lot simpler than it is, as there are quite a good deal of things that can go wrong, particularly if you don't have Mr. Hawn's experience (not every Judoka has an Olympic background, after all). With the Ippon Seoi Nage, you've got to make sure your back is up against the opponent's chest, and that you're low enough to be under his center of gravity. Your bodies have to be well-aligned, otherwise there is the risk of him slipping to the side. Your grip is not going to be as secure, because in traditional Judo matches you can grab on to the gi just below the adversary's shoulder, whereas in MMA, you're have to make do with holding on to the arm as best you can. This can be particularly difficult if sweat's already started flowing. And since you can't rely on your grip as well as you would in Judo, you're going to have to do your best in the posture department for this to work at all.
Moving on, it's worth noting that one of the huge takeaways of having practiced Judo is that you learn how to read your opponent's movement patterns, since you're both in constant contact during a match and often rely on each others' missteps in order to score. After a brief period of assessment, one begins to figure out how his adversary times his steps. This is Ashi Waza heaven and can easily be adapted to the clinch. Since you can sweep, hook or trip the foot from both outside and inside, you have a wide variety of moves at your disposal.
Below is a good example of how to use another outside move courtesy of non-Judoka Martin Kampmann.
In terms of technique, there is a debate on whether Kampmann is using an outside trip (Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi) or a sweep (Harai Tsurikomi Ashi), and one can swing towards the latter upon close inspection of the Danish fighter's slight motion on the executing foot, but the sweep usually involves lifting the executing foot in a much more visible manner, so my personal pick would be the Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi. The principle behind these two similar moves is to get your opponent to have to shift his weight on one foot (lead foot when available or either if they're in a straight line, but never back foot, which applies to most throws), and take it out from under him just as he's shifting his weight on it, by forcing his upper body to the same side as your executing foot in slightly circular fashion.
As previously stated, the difference between Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi and Harai Tsurikomi Ashi comes from the former requiring you to block the foot at as low a point as possible (ankle or lower), while the latter has you outright sweeping it. Since the sweep requires one added motion on your part, it may be more detrimental to your balance - you are on one leg after all - but what with this being a clinch situation, chances are you're going to end up on the ground either way. As far as Kampmann's move goes, there's a very fine Judo Chop here on BE from not long ago, brought to you by Ben Thapa and Tom Grant, so check it out for more insight.
What happens hear is that "The Barbarian" walks his opponent backward, firmly planting himself on the lead leg for a split second to generate a good deal of forward momentum, then thrusts his right shoulder into Ring's chest while simultaneously sweeping his lead leg from under him. Redneck Judo at its finest. As a small addendum, when setting up O Soto Gari, instead of going directly forward, one can attempt to step in a diagonal line toward the outside (making sure never to lose upper body contact), and pull the adversary's body at a somewhat downward angle before going for the sweep. This leaves the opponent in an even less stable position and lessens the risk of a counter (one of O Soto Gari's biggest counters is itself). For more of Boetsch's work in the fight against Nick Ring - an MMA Judo-heavy fight that shows just how effective this Japanese Martial Art can be when properly adapted - your go-to piece is KJ Gould and Dan Pedersen's Judo Chop.
As far as inside Ashi techniques go, one of the most useful moves is Ouchi Gari. I refer here to Ms. Rousey, who seems to have a penchant for the Ouchi Gari, as you can see in her amateur MMA debut against Hayden Munoz (the overall video quality is quite poor so you may have to watch it a few times, preferably on mute). In the video you can (hopefully) see Rousey catch the kick and drive forward, hooking her adversary's remaining leg from the inside to secure a takedown.
The interesting thing about moves like Ouchi Gari is that, while fine on their own, you can also easily use them to set up other moves, because your forward momentum and the threat of the takedown put your adversary off balance by having him go backward. In her controversial fight with Sarah D'Alelio, the former Judoka uses the Ouchi Gari as more of a setup move, particularly twice, at the beginning of the bout. As you can see, Rousey doesn't commit to the move, but by threatening to use it she manages to impose her will on D'Alelio, backing her up against the cage with a Morote Gari before taking her to her knees with a low Uchi Mata and going for a flying armbar, or Tobi Juji Gatame.
And since I've mentioned Rounda Rousey and Uchi Mata in the same paragraph, I might as well throw in the gif of her demonstrating it on Nick Diaz when they trained together:
What we have here is a good way of using this move in MMA. When your adversary gets your back while standing and is attempting to sweep or drop you in whatever way, what you can do is slide briefly to one side (or if that's impossible, turn slightly as shown in the gif above), get the arm that's on your opponent's side around his neck or shoulder for leverage. Afterwards, you can drive your torso slightly downward in order to get him to follow and break his balance and immediately use that same momentum to scoop him up and to your side, by lifting your leg against his inner thigh (the straighter the leg is, the better).
Now let's have a look at this video again:
Judo / Wrestling Throws and Trips in MMA - Volumes 1-5 (via TheJudoMMA)
Throughout the duration of this video we get to see a lot of Judo action, but more importantly, one can notice two moves having particular success, the Harai Goshi and O Guruma. Both are visually similar, particularly to the untrained eye. Based on standard classification, Harai Goshi is a hip technique, so it belongs to Koshi Waza, and O Guruma is a foot technique, as part of Ashi Waza. That means that the former involves close hip contact, the opponent being thrown over it, with the leg only there for the brief sweep, while the latter has the leg fulfilling both roles.
What makes these two techniques so effective is taking advantage of the clinch situation. When someone clinches with you, he's likely going to want to control you through your upper body. He'll probably try to push you towards the cage or in some other direction. A good tactic is to oppose him at first so as to make him push harder, then suddenly shift direction, taking all his momentum with you and initiating the throw.
So this is an MMA-Judo post, right? Well then why haven't I mentioned Karo Parisyan yet? Truth be told I was saving him for last. Karo's grappling prowess is a beautiful thing to watch, and one can plainly tell he's a gifted Judoka. That being said, his downfall was a sad thing to behold, and he'll probably go down in history as another wasted talent. But let us take this opportunity to remember the good things about Parisyan and his style.
Karo Parisyan Highlight (via Hayuje)
A Kickboxing god Karo is not, that much is plain to see. His strong suit, however, is taking the fight to the ground, with a good variety of throws. We're not interested in all of them, however. For the purpose of this article, we're limiting ourselves to two moments on this highlight reel. Please turn your attention to 0:50 and 2:08 of the video. Remember the discussion about Sutemi Waza techniques? For those that haven't read Part 2a, Sutemi Waza means "sacrifice techniques". These are the kind of moves you execute when you either want to counter your opponent's throw, or feel you need to get out of a certain position and into a more favorable one. What makes them special is that you typically abandon your own balance in order to pull them off (e.g. you drop on your back).
What Mr. Parisyan seems to be doing in both instances is called Hikikomi Gaeshi. He does this by grabbing his adversaries' arm, propping his knee into their abdomen and propelling them overhead by pulling them and rolling backward as he extends his leg. The knee has to be down the middle for this to work (otherwise it might slip to the side) and if the opponent has no forward momentum you have to be particularly careful to hold on as you're pulling, otherwise the lack of a gi combined with sweat can make the execution difficult, but then again that's something you have to watch out for most of the time. Keep in mind when executing this move to never settle for rolling the other person off of you - some people are athletic enough to explode up and be on top of you before you can finish congratulating yourself - but rather try to gain top position and work for submissions or ground-and-pound from there.
As you can see, the principles of Judo can be applied to taking your opponent down in MMA in quite a few situations, whether you're initiating the attack, countering or simply trying to improve your position. Timing, proper posture and speed are crucial, but such things come with practice and experience. The better your grasp of the other person's movement patterns, rhythm, and skill set, the better chance you have of setting him up for a throw. When correctly executed, a Judo technique is beautiful to watch, and it's always good to combine efficiency with an aesthetically pleasing style in order to be successful in Mixed Martial Arts (as long as you don't get too caught up in looks, that is).
We're nearing the end of our Judo-journey, but stay tuned for the last installment of this series, where we'll be looking at the Ne Waza, or ground game, in order to see what it comprises, and how it can be adapted and applied to mixed martial arts.
Posts belonging to this series:
The Takeaways Of A Judo Background. Part 1 (Break-falling technique and physical conditioning)
The Takeaways Of A Judo Background. Part 2a (Throws: theoretical approach)
The Takeaways Of A Judo Background. Part 2b (Throws: integrating them into MMA)
The Takeaways Of A Judo Background. Part 3 (The ground game)