Taking Flight

There are two things that seem to draw the “oohs” from the crowds at a fight: good punches and big throws. There were a couple of good throws Saturday night at Throwdown IV, and I managed to catch one of them on camera. In this case, one fighter lifted the other off the mat, got him shoulder high and turned him over to throw him back down to the mat, and the crowd let out a big “ooh!” of appreciation.

He believes he can fly

He believes he can fly

Here’s the thing about throws and sweeps, though: they’re not very painful. The first thing you learn in Judo is how to fall without hurting yourself, which includes when getting thrown. Throws like this do look spectacular, but the objective isn’t to inflict damage to your opponent, it’s to get them to the ground and get a superior position from which to work a submission (or to ground ‘n’ pound in an MMA match). Now, there are times one fighter will pick up another and slam him to the ground as hard as possible, and that can be painful, but in general a takedown itself isn’t going to end a fight.

That all said, I’ve been getting more and more interested in judo and its throws and sweeps myself. There’s some judo in the Shuri-ryu karate curriculum, and I picked up a copy of Kodokan Judo to get a more complete idea of what’s involved in the art. I’m also reading a book called Falling Hard, a great book written by a British journalist who took up judo at age 50. I’m about 70 pages in and I’ve already learned a lot of interesting things about the history of the art and its founder, Jigoro Kano.

My karate school offers judo classes as part of the karate membership, so I may take advantage of those classes later this year. I need to concentrate on making ikkyu (first-degree brown belt) first because the last stripe is going to be a tough one. This just would not be the right time to shake up my schedule. Judo should round out my skills, and should better prepare me for my black belt test when the time comes.

If I do hit those classes, though, it’ll sure feel odd to wear a white belt again.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

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  1. Jon F. Merz says:

    “but the objective isn’t to inflict damage to your opponent…”

    Dude, I have to disagree with you here to some extent. While in sport martial arts, that may be true, combative martial arts absolutely try to inflict heavy – if not lethal – damage when throwing someone. Don’t forget that Jigoro Kano was first a practitioner of serious koryu jujutsu prior to adapting the less-than-lethal aspects for Japanese physical education that became Judo. Traditional Jujutsu (not the sport BJJ/MMA stuff) is hardcore nastiness that seeks to dispatch your opponent by whatever means possible. Throwing someone in such a way that proper ukemi (breakfalls) is impossible means they land in all sorts of horrible ways that break necks, spines, and other bony assemblies.

    No disrespect intended, just a reminder that there’s a world of difference between sport and combat.


  2. Jon F. Merz says:

    I should also add one other quick note:

    Learning proper ukemi is an on-going process and some of what works on a padded floor in the dojo will most definitely not work on the street. Slapping out is one of those things that works just fine in the safe confines of a dojo. Try doing it when you slip on ice off the curb and into the street and you might end up breaking that arm. It’s a field of study in and of itself…

  3. Mike says:

    I completely agree — my thoughts above are just for the cage and the audience reaction. Yeah, you could try to injure an opponent with a throw and end the fight, but in that environment I think your chances are slim and you’re better off getting right in for a mount than risk giving your opponent that split second to recover.

    Now, if I were to get jumped in an alley and I managed, say, an ippon seoi nage (one-armed shoulder throw), chances are they’re going to break a few ribs on the asphalt. Same for jujutsu on the battlefield.

    My back fall has already has already come in handy (as green as it is), and a side fall saved my sensei some pain on a slip on some ice. Of course, he was also an aikido student so he’s had a lot more ukemi practice than I. My thinking for the moment is as long as I don’t break a wrist or crack my head, it’s a win. Heh.

  4. Jon F. Merz says:

    When we get together at a con or something, I’ll show you how to do one of the nasty throws we have in ninjutsu. Freakin’ ridiculous, but a ton of fun provided your training partner is nice and allows you to fall out of it. Otherwise…well it ain’t ever fun landing on your head, lol…

    Be well!