Transition from Standing to Groundwork with Israel Hernandez
A massive contribution that Judo makes to the grappling arts is a strong foundation in transitioning from standing to dominant groundwork positions that establish either powerful pins or tight submissions. In these two videos Cuban Judo legend Israel Hernandez shows how to chain moves from the snap down to a range of throws, pins and submissions.
The first thing Israel stresses with the snap down is intention. The snap down is breaking someone’s posture down to break their balance (kuzushi) and as such needs an element of explosiveness. You may even want to chain multiple snap downs together to get someone’s knees to the mat. For this reason Israel recommends that we visualise for this movement our opponent as our enemy, as someone we actively don’t like. Think of this person as someone who wants to take your victory away from you. Think of this person as someone who wants to steal away all the hard work you’ve been putting into the mats. Then take that intensity and SNAP. THEM. DOWN! With this mentality you’re seeing the snap down as a set up for strong transitions to throws, pins, submissions, and Victory!
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When we see the sequence Israel is using we see him first gain a dominant inside sleeve and high lapel grip to control his opponents head. This is quickly followed by a strong step backwards and snap down with the arms so that Israel’s entire body is breaking his opponents posture down and getting their knee to the mat.
Here it’s important to note Israel says repeatedly this situation of the opponent having their knee on the ground is still part of tachi-waza (standing technique). From here Israel encourages us to use Tai-otoshi to throw, and to keep control of the arm to transition into kesa gatame, which as well as being a powerful pin has been shown at the highest levels of competition to be a crushing submission hold when used to restrict the diaphragm of our opponent as a wind choke.
With this sequence we can see a strong tactical and intentional progression from dominating the inside grip on the sleeve and collar, to an explosive full-body snap down, to throwing from tachi-waza (standing technique) and transitioning to a dominant position in ne-waza (ground technique), which sets us up for pins, submissions, and Victory.
For Israel judo is something that is best kept simple, which means working the foundations strongly so that our movements and game plan isn’t overly complicated and we have a high percentage chance of successfully executing our strategy. This is something in the military they have an acronym for; K.I.S.S - Keep It Simple (Stupid). This means that in the dynamic, intense, rapidly changing situation of combat (or grappling competition) there are less moving parts that can break down or go wrong. A straightforward plan executed with clarity of intention gives us a roadmap to success.
In the next video we see Israel giving us even more options from the snap down by demonstrating Sumi Otoshi (corner drop) and Uki Otoshi (floating drop throw), which have both been proven at the highest levels of competition.
Have you ever felt frustrated being stuck in someone’s guard? Mastering this systematic attack from standing means that you pass the person’s guard before you even hit the ground!
Following the snap down we have our opponent on their knees, which is still part of tachi-waza (standing technique) and as such we can still score with throws or set ourselves up to put our opponents at a disadvantage on the ground. Instead of using Tai-otoshi as in the previous video Israel now shows us the four different directions we can go using either Sumi-Otoshi or Uki-otoshi.
Starting from a neutral position when his opponent is on their knees following the snap down Israel takes a sleeve and collar grip. Then to begin Sumi-otoshi Israel breaks his opponents balance (kuzushi) by taking a step back and pulling their sleeve using the momentum of the backwards step and his whole body. At the same time the opposite side collar grip raises up to pull the other side of their body upwards to create the dynamic movement needed to throw our opponent onto their back.
A crucial detail here is the twist of the wrist on the lapel, which is called the “looking at your watch” position. As you pull the lapel your wrist twists as if someone had asked you what the time was and you are looking at your wrist watch. This tightens the lapel and gives you more control of the throw, as well as giving the added benefit of engaging your head movement in the direction of the throw. Both hands and arms are working together here and the opposite hand drives the opponents elbow upwards to complete the throw.
Maintaining control of the sleeve arm as you complete the throw creates the perfect position for you now to execute a deep Juji Gatame (cross armlock).
If you want to deepen your skills in taking your standing game to a dominant ground game then check out Judo legend Israel Hernandez course Judo Building Blocks here.