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Judo Foundations With Travis Stevens

Judo Foundations With Travis Stevens

As the name suggests foundations are the building blocks of any endeavour we undertake. Without foundations only either minimal or highly erratic progress can be made, if any at all. If we think of the foundations to learning a musical instrument we first must understand the principles and building blocks of movement, which then allow us to be creative and improvise later on. In this blog we will look at two foundational throws as demonstrated by Olympian Judoka Silver medalist and BJJ black belt under John Danaher, Travis Stevens. 

Ouchi Gari (meaning Big Inner Reap in English) is a staple of the Judo takedowns, and is included in the original forty throws developed and employed by Judo founder Jigoro Kano. It belongs in the Dai Ikkyo (first group) of traditional throws of Kodokan Judo, and as such is amongst the first throws a Judoka will learn. When Judo was founded in Japan it became so popular precisely because the Kodokan Judo was so incredibly dominant in the throwing game.

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Travis shows the standard Ouchi Gari executed from the sleeve and lapel grip that is the bedrock of much Judo tachi waza (standing technique). From this grip the kuzushi (breaking of balance) that is used is pulling our opponent forward so that their weight is on the balls of our opponents feet.

Once this part of kuzushi has been achieved the footwork for Ouch Gari now comes into play, with our lead foot stepping to the tip of an imaginary triangle formed by the straight line of our opponents feet and our lead foot. This step and the pulling forward of our opponent brings us into chest to chest contact. 

Following this step our back foot pulls in behind our lead foot and our lead foot is then able to drive forward in a reaping motion behind our opponents leg that they now have their weight on. It’s now that both upper and lower body work together to both push their chest backwards and pull their leg forward to complete Ouchi Gari. 

The second throw we’ll look at is Ippon Seoi Nage, a spectacular and powerful shoulder throw if executed correctly. 

Seoi Nage (meaning shoulder throw in English) is one of the core forty throws in Jigoro Kano’s Gokyo of Kodokan Judo. It’s a part of the Dai Ikkyo (first group) of techniques that all Judoka learn and therefore is a staple of Judo’s tachi waza (standing techniques). Seoi Nage is a very powerful throw with great transitional options for ne waza (ground techniques).

Travis demonstrates that a traditional Seoi Nage is executed from an orthodox sleeve and lapel grip with kuzushi (breaking balance) attained by pulling your opponent forward onto the balls of their feet or forward and to their right. This pulling is done using both sleeve and lapel to draw your opponent towards you and upwards.

As you break balance your lapel side foot moves to it’s opposite side as you rotate so that your back is against you opponents chest. Your lapel grip arm’s elbow moves deeply through to the opposite side of your opponents body and your sleeve grip maintains tight control of your opponents arm close in to your body. 

As you step through to gain back to chest contact with your opponent it is important that you maintain your own weight in the balls of your feet so that it’s easier for you to sink your hips down underneath your opponents center of gravity. A common way of thinking about this is to make sure your belt line is below your opponents belt line. A second reason it’s good to slightly float your heels and stay on the balls of your feet is that if while stepping through for the throw your weight is in your heels you will tend to lose your balance backward and be vulnerable to counter throws from your opponent. 

Now your opponent is loaded onto your back and their balance is broken we are in the perfect position to finish Seoi Nage. We bring both arms and hands through the throw with a circular motion pulling our opponent through the throw to complete our shoulder throw. One important point to note here is working on this with a partner is to pull them upwards as they land to reduce the impact on your partner. This also ingrains the positive habit of maintaining control of your opponents arm for transitions to ne waza (ground techniques).  

As we become more advanced Judo or BJJ players we can become more creative with these two techniques. We might fake an Ouchi Gari attack so that our opponent shifts their weight forwards, which then offers us the ideal transition to Seoi Nage. Or we might do the reverse and feint Seoi Nage in order to cause our opponent to defensively move backwards from us and create an opening for Ouchi Gari. 

Other than feinting attacks we may learn to chain throws together so that as our opponent successfully defends one throw they are become more susceptible to a further throw by us. All of these options however are only there if we understand the foundational techniques with a depth and clarity that allow us creative use of them. 

The Judo Academy by Jimmy Pedro and Travis Stevens

For a full range of Judo taught at the highest levels by Travis Stevens see his full course ‘The Judo Academy by Jimmy Pedro and Travis Stevens’ here!