At the age of 35, after doing judo my whole life, I can honestly say that I never thought until last Summer that I would start doing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. By no means am I moving away from coaching judo. Some have asked me why I’m bothering. My main motivation is to become a more well-rounded judo coach.
I’m working with 3rd degree BJJ black belt Omar Salvosa, who is a monster on the ground, and we trade private lessons. I teach him tachi waza for approximately an hour once a week followed by him teaching me BJJ for an hour. I have found the process thoroughly enjoyable. Once you get past the arguments about which one is better, who cares? (Isn‘t BJJ just judo by another name anyway?) I view BJJ as judo with an intense focus on one aspect of our sport, which has created a lot of very enthusiastic technical practitioners over the years.
This new endeavour allows me to be a student again. It’s refreshing to be the student after so many years of always being the coach. For an hour a week, I get to be selfish, working on my own skills and not worrying about a class full of students and their training. I’m in the same mental place I was when I first fell in love with judo.
Learning BJJ allows me to look at judo newaza from a different perspective. Although Judo has some great practitioners of newaza, it gets less glory because the throwing ippon is such a beautiful moment. I believe it’s more than just a coincidence that the most dominant country in the world in judo (Japan) also has the best newaza. Japan had significantly more scores as well as the most ippons in newaza in the world at the Rio Olympic Games (15 total scores, 9 ippons). The single technique used for the most ippons in the Rio Olympics was juji gatame to a count of 18 followed by uchi mata to a total of 16. The success rate of an attack in newaza at Rio was fully 2.5 times greater than an attack in tachi waza (28% compared to 11% for tachi waza).
As judoka we put so much emphasis on tachi waza, with gripping practise and countless hours working on our throws, movement, and doing endless rounds of tachi waza randori, that I believe we don’t think about newaza in the same way, or work on it with the same structure. I can with certainty say that I myself have been guilty of undervaluing or underemphasizing newaza.
*Rio Olympics data sourced from Thierry Loison
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