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UFC 104 Preview: Bloody Elbow Judo Chop: The Karate Kuzushi Waza Foot Sweeps of Lyoto Machida

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Picture_5_medium As I noted in our previous Lyoto Machida Judo Chop, if you take a brief survey of the Bloody Elbow Technique section, you'll see we've spent a lot of time discussing Machida. We've talked about his elusiveness, his karate wizardry, and the difficulty of mastering Shotokan Karate. We've reviewed his DVD set. And we've even discussed the more standard (Muay Thai and jiu jitsu) aspects of his MMA game.

But never fear fight geeks, we're just getting started. I've never discussed one of the aspects of Machida's game that has probably gotten the most attention: his foot sweeps. Even back in the days when most fans considered him boring people were sitting up and noticing his use of this standard karate technique in MMA. 

As Cage Potato wrote:

Double-leg takedowns are for the commoners - when a true martial artist wants to get you to the mat, he simply hooks his foot out and delicately pushes you over it. Yes, it's a little strange to see a technique from the karate classes of our youth being used to punk some of the world's top fighters. But Lyoto isn't concerned with inflicting more damage than anybody else, or finishing fights as quickly as possible. His only goal is to showcase the superiority of his style. He'd rather break an opponent down mentally than physically. Hence, the foot-sweep, which comes out of nowhere, turns your momentum against you, and frustrates you out of your gameplan. When performed by the Dragon, it's poetry.

It will be very interesting to see if Machida will be able to pull off his signature move against Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 104.

In the full entry we'll talk about some specific instances where Lyoto has used this family of moves to put opponents on the ground.


10qzz2q_mediumI asked BE's Micheal Fagan for his thoughts on Machida's use of sweep trips and this is what he said:

I think the most important (and obvious) thing is that Machida always sets his sweeps up with a strike, as in this instance against Sam Hoger. This is by design. And while setting up takedowns with strikes isn't a novel concept in the sport, I think it's a lot more effective with Machida's sweeps.

The reason being is this: when you set up a double leg with a strike, you still have to change levels, explode, and close the distance. Machida can accomplish the same goals in one near-fluid motion.


The other bit of genius is that when you set up a take down, you're usually throwing a feint and trying to get your opponent to react. Machida's sweeps allow him to actually throw a legitimate strike, which either a) hits the opponent and stuns him enough to be taken down or b) forces the opponent to react in a way that Machida can take advantage of.

The first Nakamura sweep always gets me. I've watched that sweep numerous times, and it doesn't look like Nakamura should fall down at all. Lyoto barely seems to put much force behind the upper body shove. But then you see how deep Machida's leg is behind Nakamura, and it all comes together. Absolutely brilliant.

Jaw9wl_mediumOn the right we see Machida's second trip sweep takedown of Nakamura. He got the first takedown above with about 75 seconds left in the first round. Here he gets another barely six seconds into the second round. Just as in the first sequence, Nakamura makes the first move, lunging forward but it's hard to tell what he intended since Machida immediately steps into his counter-attack. But there's a key difference. In the first sequence, Machida is in his native southpaw stance with his right leg as the lead. Here he's in orthodox stance and his left leg is the lead leg.

Watching Machida's fights to get ready for UFC 104, I am struck again and again by how often the key sequences come as a result of mid-range collisions where either Machida steps forward to foil an attack or his opponent steps into one of his. Here Machida steps in behind a right cross and immediately hooks his right leg behind Nakamura's left. The follow thru on the cross has left his right arm in perfect position to shove Nakamura over the tripping leg and follow him down with a punch to the face.

2ntd1rm_mediumOn the left we see Machida in the second round of his bout with Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. Sokoudjou attempts to come in, I'm guessing to throw a right kick. But Machida fires off a left hook and simultaneously steps his left leg forward and hooks Soko's left leg for the trip.

This is very similar to the trip he pulled off against Hoger. He's using his rear leg to hook Sokou's lead leg as a counter to a rear leg kick. In contrast to the two trip sweeps of Nakamura, he doesn't need to push off with his hands at all, because the opponent is off balance from throwing the kick, it's quite easy to drop them with just the foot sweep.

I'll be very curious to see if Machida uses this technique against Shogun. Rua's aggressiveness should certainly provide some opportunities for Machida to step into an attack and disrupt Shogun's game. But Rua also has exceptional balance and very long legs. If Shogun's smart, he's reviewing these fights closely and training with some kareteka who can simulate some of Machida's gambits.

Here's a video from YouTube showing a Shotokan sensei demonstrating the technique which they call kuzushi waza (HT BE Reader Flying Gogoplata):

Sensei Enoeda demonstrates kuzushi waza (unbalancing) in this rare JKA footage, with his usual Shotokan Tiger ferocity. This demonstration is featured in the Best Karate series of books in one of the Kumite editions.


GIFs by Chris Nelson.