Connection & Subtlety for Improving Effectiveness of Throws

This past weekend I attended the Canadian Jiu-jitsu Union Invitational Summer Camp held in Sicamous BC. In its fifth year, this camp is a great chance to learn from some really talented instructors. In the five years I’ve been attending this camp it’s grown, and yet the level of instruction is consistently excellent, with all instructors contributing a high level of expertise. It’s unlike any other event I’ve attended as there are no weak links at the instructor level, and all the instructors, despite their long years of experience, are approachable, affable, and still learning. Their enthusiasm not just for teaching, but for learning from each other is really great to see, and there’s never been any of the one-upsmanship or arrogance that has been on display at some of the other events I’ve attended over the years.

As always, I try and take away concepts from these events, rather than specific techniques because I find concepts easier to remember and often have greater impact on my overall development.

As anyone who attended knows from my constant whining about being sore, I spent two days as Andy Dobie Sensei’s uke, and although I spent that time being pounded into the mats, I did manage to pick up some concepts from his sessions that I would like to share. (I was also uke for one of Lori O’Connell Sensei’s sessions, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of that soreness, mostly in the anterior femoral region, was due to her thrashing as well.)

Get Close & Pin

In the last 6 months or so I’ve been really focused on exploring how my body movement and mechanics can affect a person’s balance with minimal effort. I penned an article about how to think of throwing more as tripping, to get the person’s mind off the idea of using strength. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to explain the idea of using minimal energy and my body’s movement to affect balance, and Andy Dobie Sensei finally gave me the overall concept: pin the person to you.

By connecting the person to you, and eliminating space, you can affect a person’s kusuhi (balance), with your own body movement without having to use strength. If you have someone at arm’s length you’re much more likely to try to use individual muscles to throw someone, rather than your body weight.

This doesn’t necessarily mean hugging a person to you, but connecting yourself in a way that you can feel their weight, and break their balance by shifting your body, rather than just using your arms or legs. This focuses not just on your own body structure and position but how you connect with, and affect your training partner’s body.

This connection of course needs to be moderated based on your circumstances, your size counter to your partner’s size, and whatever strikes you use to enter your throw. Certain throws favour certain body types and getting in close and using minimal body movement to throw someone much larger may not make much sense.

Subtlety in Throwing

The other concept I picked up was subtlety. In applying subtlety to throwing you’re affecting kuzushi in such a small manner that your training partner/opponent hasn’t realized they’re off balance. Large balance-breaking movements instinctively cause people to step, move or drop their weight and adjust to compensate. Someone performing a throw will often use speed to make up the difference and prevent someone from adapting. By only subtly breaking the balance, doing so in a way that keeps uke from realizing their balance is broken, you both minimize the energy required to perform the throw, and make it more difficult for your opponent to counter.

This can mean moving your partner’s balance onto the back right part of their heel in the example of Ko uchi gari (minor inner reaping). Obviously this is a very fine movement and applying this concept across throws takes some careful thought and likely a life time of practice, but I hope in another decade or so to have a good working knowledge of it.

Are there any concepts you’ve picked up at seminars or courses that have profoundly affected the way you look at Jiu-jitsu, or helped solve problems you’ve faced while training? Do you have any questions about these particular concepts? Please leave your questions and comments below.

Comments (2)

2 thoughts on “Connection & Subtlety for Improving Effectiveness of Throws

  1. At the summer camp, I learned a lot as well. I think the most important concepts I took away from the training was practicing realistic attacks and developing good muscle memory. If you’re not aiming to take off partner’s head (with control :P), then he or she is not learning to block real attacks. It’s really easy when training to fall into a routine of left/right straight punches, but if you get attacked on the street, your attacker would throw all kinds of punches at you.

    This also falls into developing muscle memory. You’re expecting a left, followed by a right punch so you start reacting before your partner punches. It’s extremely important to develop good muscle memory by using realistic, on-target attacks. In Shorinji Kan, we don’t wear cups and can’t always follow through with our strikes. So when working with partners in a different style who did wear cups, I found it very awkward to strike at first.

    The thing that really hit home with these concepts was doing knife defense with a purple belt. He pointed out that I kept handing back to the knife to him and told me to stop because in a real situation, I’d do the exact same thing. Even with that warning in mind, I still went to hand him the knife after disarming him, because of my “bad” muscle memory. In a real fight, I would do the exact same thing for my attacker. So good habits early: use realistic attacks and develop good muscle memory.

    1. A great point Lindsay. There are actually documented cases of police officers doing disarms and then handing the weapons back. It’s for that reason when we train any weapon disarming we teach either throwing the weapon away, dropping it, or if you’re going to hand it back, stopping and saying, “I give you this weapon for the purposes of training.” It helps add a mental block which prevents building the handing the weapon back into your muscle memory.

      I learned a number of other concepts, it was probably one of the best events I’ve ever attend for conceptual learning. I just decided to cover the throwing items here. Need material for future blog posts you know.

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