Judo In MMA With Kayla Harrison
The martial art of Judo has a rich history, which begins in the late 1800’s during what is known as the Meiji era of Japan. The Meiji era was a time for Japan of a great deal of cultural change, which included a Westernization of many Japanese institutions.
It was during this time that Jigaro Kano sought to make what was often seen as the disreputable practice of Jujitsu, a general term that applied to many methods of unarmed combat, into a reputable martial practice and way of life.
The ‘do’ in Judo means Way, and has explicitly spiritual connotations for the Japanese alongside other ‘do’ such as Chado (the Way of Tea), Kyudo (the Way of Archery), Kado (the Way of Flower Arranging) or Kendo (the Way of the Sword).
As Judo was both responding to the changing times and drawing from a deep well-spring of Japanese martial culture it originally included a consideration that went beyond only grappling to include striking (atemi) and even a worst case scenario of being unarmed but facing an armed opponent.
Many early Judoka were also Kendoka, or practitioners of Kendo, and had a core philosophy of body and mind that was applicable to all forms of combat and to daily living.
For this and other reasons it’s so great to see America’s greatest ever Judoka, twice Gold Olympic medalist Kayla Harrison and Judo Fanatics tutor, move into the world of Mixed Martial Arts and represent Judo within this context.
In this fight Kayla’s opponent Moriel Charneski has a 4.5 inch reach advantage and has never been stopped in her career. She wisely says that her strategy going into this fight is to use her angles and reach to take Kayla into a drawn out striking match.
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The difficulty with this strategy is that when you’re in the ring with a twice Olympic Gold medal winning Judoka who wants to close the distance its very difficult to keep them away from you!
Within the first 5 seconds Kayla has begun to establish vertical grappling range, which she uses to deploy a leg kick and a clean knee to the body of Charneski. 4 seconds after this Kayla is setting up an Osoto Gari, which Charneski circles away from and so Kayla switches to an O Goshi (Large Hip Throw), landing in a dominant Kesa Gatame (scarf hold) and transitioning swiftly to full mount to begin some furious ground and pound.
O Goshi is a throw Kayla loves and has described as her bread and butter throw. It’s a throw that she’s practised over 100,000 times against a resisting opponent, and we can see the ease that she lands O Goshi against Charneski in their fight. Let’s take a deeper look at O Goshi and what made Kayla’s O Goshi so effective.
O Goshi (Large Hip Throw) is a powerful throw that lends itself to landing directly into kesa gatame (scarf hold), which is a powerful pin and even submission by itself if used to compress the diaphragm and not allow our opponent to breathe.
O goshi lends itself to both gi and no gi work, as shown in Kayla’s victory over Charneski, and is incredibly effective in both contexts.
The orthodox and foundational kuzushi (breaking balance) for O goshi is that we want to pull our opponent forward and to their right before loading our opponent onto our hip, where we can then rotate through the throw.
To create this breaking of balance in the gi we can pull on the opponents sleeve with a ‘looking at our wristwatch’ movement. At the same time we also reach around our opponents back underneath their arm and take a grip on the gi above their belt. With this grip we also lift our opponent so that they are on the balls of their feet.
Without the gi kuzushi can be secured with an underhook or by controlling the head and by grabbing and trapping the opponents’ arm.
As we create this off balancing from our upper body work our lead leg steps in between our opponents feet and our rear foot follows. From here our hips are going all the way across our opponent so we ‘load’ their weight onto us. From here we rotate through the throw and in a competition setting land directly into kesa gatame.
Kayla has noted that she has strong hips and low center of gravity so this makes O Goshi very available for her, but a key to her success is drilling this technique against a resisting uke (training partner receiving a technique). This training against resistance recreates what Kayla will feel in competition and as we can see in her fight with Charneski it paid off.
Following the O Goshi Kayla lands in direct heavy top control and proceeds to completely dominate her opponent. Kayla decisively finished an opponent in the first round who hadn’t ever previously been stopped, and it was thanks to her Judo.
Whether you are interested in MMA, BJJ, Judo, gi or no gi contexts O Goshi is a great technique that can pay huge dividends if trained to be executed under pressure. Thankfully for us we have Kayla Harrison as a tutor here at Judo Fanatics and you can see her full course ‘The Real Judo Chop and Other Favourites’ here!