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This website is about Brazilian jiu jitsu (BJJ). I'm a black belt who started in 2006, teaching and training at Artemis BJJ in Bristol, UK. All content ©Can Sönmez

06 October 2008

06/10/2008 - Judo

Class #4

Warwick Judo (Judo), Iain Cunningham, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK - 06/10/2008

Before I get onto the judo, just wanted to mention that The Grapplers Guide (which I reviewed last week) is shifting its fee structure. It began with a $47 annual fee, then moved to a $9.95 per month, and is about to go to a $127 lifetime subscription. So, if you want to give it a trial for $9.95 rather than jumping straight in with the lifetime fee, sign up before the 10th October. IIRC, if you like the site you can then upgrade to a lifetime membership for $40. Pricey stuff, but if you're interested, take a look at my review for an idea of what you get for all that cash (I'll need to update that again when the fee structure changes).

I've had a rather busy week up until now, having moved house over the course of several days, with lots of box-unpacking to look forward to. I took two days off work so I could spend the whole week helping my girlfriend with settling in after we initially got our stuff over (those extra days have proved very handy, as she has been quite ill for the last few days), which meant that I didn't get in any BJJ.

However, now that I'm nearer to University, I can finally give the Warwick Judo club another try. My last attempt three years ago was cut short, as I got injured in my third lesson and wasn't able to train for roughly seven months afterwards. This time, I'm hoping that my grappling experience from RGA will help me stay safe: I wasn't going to be taking any chances!

Monday sessions are in the Cryfield Pavilion, which I haven't been to for a good six years: last occasion was a brief stint at ballroom dancing with my girlfriend when she was still an undergrad and during my MA. Changing rooms are off the far side, and randomly separated in numbered rooms, rather than one big area for changing. The actual lesson takes place upstairs.

Had a chance to chat to some people beforehand, like Adam (who I spoke to at the Sports Fair last week), a few fellow new people (although one of them, Graham, is a brown belt, so just new to that club rather than the sport), and Sophie, the sole female judoka there tonight. She mentioned that there are about five or six girls around, so hopefully there will be several training: my girlfriend said she'd come down when she's feeling better, so would be good to have some other women to help her ease into the sport.

The warm-up was fairly brief and light, loosening up the neck, breakfalling and some cartwheels, after which the instructor, Iain, moved into the first throw. Can't remember what its called, but it starts with the usual grip, with one hand holding the same side sleeve by the elbow, while the other hand holds the same side collar. Swivel in so your back is pressed against your partner, pulling their arm and collar over the same shoulder, pressing the elbow of the collar-grabbing hand up under their armpit. Squat, lift, then drop them over your shoulder.

Iain followed up that throw by dropping into north south: basically plop onto their chest, scooping your elbows under their arms and pulling in close to restrict their movement. You can also switch to reverse scarf hold, by bringing one arm under theirs and gripping behind the neck, shifting your hips to the other side of their head, then stepping through with your rear leg. Pull up their other arm, then settle into the pin.

He also demonstrated how to hold standard scarf hold, then showed us an escape from scarf hold. This is a little similar to what I've seen in BJJ, where you try and isolate the floating rib, but with the far more straightforward approach of grabbing their belt with both hands, around the side. Move your legs in close to their body, then bridge up and back, aiming to drive their head into the floor. Roll over your own shoulders, bringing them over the top of you, ending up in scarf hold yourself.

To prevent your partner escaping your scarf hold that easily, use the variation Dan showed me a while back, where you grab your own leg. Remember to actually grip the fabric of your trousers, not just hold your leg like I was doing. Apparently this is called 'pillow scarf hold' or something like in Japanese: began with M? Meh: I can always have a good read through JudoInfo to get the terminology down.

I may be mixing up the order here, but either before or after that we went through two trips - osoto-gari, I think? Again you have that collar and sleeve grip, but this time step out with your outside leg, so that you can then swing your other leg through, reap their leg, and drive them to the floor by pulling the elbow and pushing the shoulder. Points to note are to stay close, knocking them with your shoulder, keeping your hip tight.

Iain then demonstrated the 'minor' version of that, which I think he said was kosoto-gari, but may have misheard. Instead of stepping out with your outside leg, you step in, then sweep your other leg sideways and back, knocking out their other leg. You also push on the shoulder differently: rather than holding and dragging across, push the collar right over their shoulder and drive them forward to the floor.

That meant it was now time for randori, starting with standing. It was great being a white belt again, as all the seniors were told to go lightly on us beginners. The sparring was also fairly restrained (at least with the senior belts: as usual, over-enthusiastic white belts were a different story), with the instructor telling us to stay light, going throw for throw. Again proved the maxim that its best to stick with the higher belts, as they don't go nuts, carefully placing you on the floor rather than attempting to slam you through the mats.

As ever, I stayed passive, which was even easier than normal due to the throw-for-throw thing. I think we did about four rounds of three minutes, with a line-up where you stepped one to the right in order to train with a different person each time (I prefer picking my training partners, like at RGA, as that means I can avoid people who are injury risks, but meh).

Having covered stand-up, it was time for another few rounds of randori, this time on the ground. Naturally I was a lot more comfortable there, though there were two major differences to what I'm used to from BJJ: you start back to back rather than facing each other, and no strangles or armlocks allowed against beginners.

Of course, I'm still more interested in escapes than submissions anyway, so that restriction suited me fine: it meant I spent most of the sparring holding to other person either in guard or half-guard. The seniors were taking it easy, which made for very relaxed sparring: they also didn't mind if I popped up on their back, but then given the lack of submissions, that was a bit of a pointless place to be. So, next time I'll aim to get in side control or mount, or underneath to work escapes.

I was vaguely looking to work some sweeps, as I was in guard, but didn't really get anywhere. Also found it interesting to spar with people who weren't going for the usual techniques: in BJJ, they'd be standing up and driving their hips forward, whereas the beginners here were obviously unfamiliar with the ground, so haven't yet got a clear goal when rolling.

The sparring wasn't all back to back, as the very last roll was done with one knee up, so sort of like combat base. That made it even easier for me to go straight to half-guard, by which point I was trying to work back to full guard rather than go round to my partner's back. Will definitely try to have a better plan of action next session: should be interesting to see how (if?) escapes differ when you're in a judo class.

Iain finished up with a warm-down, stretching, then a quick bit of exercise (press-ups, sit-ups and – more randomly – skipping with our belts). Having taken off our belts, it seemed that the done thing was to take off your jacket too. I couldn't help thinking when everyone was stretching and thrusting their chests out that it must have looked very silly to the lone female there, as a bunch of half-naked blokes stood around posing. ;)

Always good to warm-down though, which is a plus point for any class: especially important as you get older, though that isn't much of a concern for university classes. I could have stayed on for another hour of fitness, but wanted to get back to my girlfriend, who was lying ill in bed (seems to be improving though, so hopefully we'll be able to walk onto campus tomorrow to check out the second day of the Societies Fair).


  1. My friend Chris from the University of Liverpool Ju Jitsu club I used to train at is starting a 4 year medicine degree at Warwick, after a bit of persuading he agreed to try out the judo club as a change. You may have bumped into him in training, as he said that he went along to the first session of term and it was good but knackering.

    I got to run a few sessions for the UoL JJ club last year going through basic positioning, guard, escapes and passing, so everyone got an introduction to BJJ style groundwork. He is a pretty nice guy but is incredibly tall, once he gets the hang of foot sweeps and uchimata ( it will be an absolute nightmare trying to close the distance on him for any throw.

    I was quite surprised to find out that the lockdown is actually a traditional judo technique which can be used to set up leg locks, but is used in modern competitions to avoid getting pinned and stall out time on the bottom until the referee stands it back up…

    Glad you made it to the Warwick club it sounds like their coaching style is pretty decent, the topless skipping is a rather “unique” way of warming down.


  2. Heh - yeah, may keep my jacket on next time. Though in practical terms, is more comfortable doing it the semi-nudist way. :p

    Think I did meet Chris, and spar with him too: there was a very tall guy there who had done ju jitsu, and was also doing a medical degree. He was friends with the brown belt I mentioned, presumably from living with him or something.

    Yeah, I read in the Eddie Bravo book that the lockdown is from judo, so will be interesting to see if the judoka there have some incredibly painful counter to it or something. Although I don't tend to use it to just sit there, but rather to help move the trapped leg about (i.e., knock them off balance if they're gearing up to pass).