Dealing With The Stiff Arm With Travis Stevens!
In the tachi waza (standing technique) phase of grappling we often see a stiff arm used by people as a frame for an effective method of blocking movement by their opponent. In this video we have Silver medal Olympic Judoka and black belt under John Danaher Travis Stevens giving us a chain of grips and throws to deal with the stiff arm tactic.
To begin with we will look at the foundational approach to the ashi waza (foot technique) that Travis is using to overcome the opponents stiff arm and reap their lead leg, which is Kosoto Gake. From there we can see the systematic and chained approach Travis skilfully uses to go from a blocked Seoi Nage to get a successful Kosoto Gake.
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Kosoto Gake, meaning Minor Outer Hook, first developed as a variation of Kosoto Gari (Minor Outer Reap) but is now considered an independent technique of its own and a part of the third group of throws in the Kodokan Judo Gokyo. We begin in an orthodox right vs right or left vs left stance with our opponent and we then pull our opponent forward while stepping back ourselves in order to bring his back leg forwards. This will prompt our opponent to step again with the leg that is now behind and at this moment we break their balance (kuzushi) to their back by pushing back with the lapel and pulling down with the sleeve. From here our lead foot hooks behind their lead foot on the outside and we reap our leg backwards to complete the throw.
So now we understand the throw what is the reason Travis is using Kosoto Gake here? The original throw Travis is seeking is actually Seoi Nage and begins kumi kata (gripping) by taking a lapel grip, which his opponent is rightfully very weary of. The next step for Travis here would be to bring his other arm across his opponents body and under the arm on the side of the lapel grip to execute a Seoi Nage, but his opponent is stiff arming Travis to prevent him from doing this and moving the rear side of their body away.
To counter this stiff arm Travis retains the lapel grip and begins to break the stiff arm down by driving his body weight down into his own arm, which is on top of their stiff arm. Breaking the stiff arm down by using the lapel as leverage closes the distance between Travis and his opponent and creates the possibility for him to now reach over with with other hand and take a grip over their rear shoulder. Once Travis has this rear shoulder grip high over their back he can pull his opponent forward and set up the Seoi Nage.
Travis’ opponent however knows that giving Travis a dominant grip over their back is a really bad idea so they are defending against this with their free hand and body positioning so now Travis switches to attacking their lead leg with Kosoto Gake. To do this Travis creates kuzushi by pulling their lapel open and away from them so they are pulled diagonally backwards and as he does so hooks their lead leg with his own lead leg. As Travis’ lead foot is moving into the hook his rear hand and arm are moving over his opponents shoulder to club them backwards as he pulls diagonally down with the lapel grip.
Some details here are that the lapel grip is strongly pulling the opponents Judogi back and open to give control and the leg that is hooking the opponents lead leg chops into the back of their knee in order to collapse it. The arm that is going over can also be an underhook but Travis prefers going over the top of the shoulder as this further breaks down his opponents posture in line with the momentum of the reap.
This is where we see that a systematic approach to the standing game of grappling sets us up to win by chaining attacks and being able to respond to our opponents, using their defensive tactics against them to set up further throws. To recap, Travis’ opponent has gone from defending Seoi Nage to leaving their lead lead wide open for Kosoto Gake, and Travis shows us how to exploit this opening to the fullest!
For more game changing strategy and technique for your vital standing work see ‘The Judo Academy’ by Olympic medal winning Judoka Jimmy Pedro and Travis Stevens at Judo Fanatics here!