Time to Revisit Submissions

I’d like to start off my first post in 2013 by wishing you a Happy New Year, and by thanking you for your continued interest and support of my blog.

You’re probably not going to hear me say this very often, but the IJF’s latest decision to allow armbars for 15-16 year olds is a good move for a change.  USA Judo promptly followed suit since it never preempts or contradicts the IJF.  Players competing in the Juvenile B (USA Judo) or IJF Cadet division can now do what thousands of BJJ fighters and submission wrestlers participants have been doing all along- straightening arms out or bending them.  Participants in these divisions must hold the rank of sankyu though.

While I’m happy for the age change, I have to ask the question.  What ever happened to the often repeated mantra that armbars are too dangerous for kids under 17?  Have 15- and 16-year olds become so much more mature in the last few years that it’s now safe for them to crank arms?  What about those growth plates?  Here’s the rationale from the IJF.

Cadets are, for many of them, on the eve of an international career.  Therefore, it seems obvious that they can practice the arm-locks, in order to prepare for the juniors. In fact, as soon as they enter in the juniors, athletes can participate in senior competitions. They need to be ready.

The justification makes sense.  Coaches don’t typically send their players into international competition without having them practice required skills like armbars well before they are authorized to use said skills in sanctioned tournaments.  As many juniors are in fact fighting in senior divisions, they need to be able to ply their skills at a younger age.

Now that 15- and 16-year olds can officially perform armbars in competition, it means that they will be practicing these skills in their home clubs at 13 or 14.  Again this makes sense.  So, what’s my point you might ask?  Well, why not start even sooner?

A few days ago I had an interesting conversation with my son-in-law, Israel Hernandez, double Olympic bronze medalist.  He indicated to me that back in Cuba when he was a boy, he can remember young kids, much younger than 15 or 16, being allowed to do armbars and chokes in tournaments with one caveat.  They were not allowed to make the skills effective enough to force a tap out or make their partner pass out.  Referees would stop the action once the proper position had been obtained. No need to go past a 90 degree angle when applying Juji gatame.  In addition to developing proper ne waza biomechanics and positions, this policy led to early recognition of armbar and choke opportunities without the fear of injuries.

I’m a firm believer in the early introduction of these ne waza skills for all ages with, of course, age-appropriate restrictions.  Like the Cuban model, recognition of opportunity and proper body positioning are the focal points.  For most of my kids, armbars and chokes are stopped short of effectiveness.  And they produce no injuries.

It’s important they we come to grips with what the grappling community is doing if Judo is to remain relevant.  We must quit infantilizing Judo and start thinking outside the box.  If kids in submission wrestling and BJJ can do Judo ne waza skills, why can’t Judo kids do Judo ne waza skills?

I’d like to encourage coaches to experiment with an outside-the-box approach to teaching armbars and chokes during practices before rejecting the notion entirely.  If you’re like me, you’ll find out that the practice is quite safe provided the restrictions are in place and the focus is on positioning and not effectiveness.

While I have little confidence that this approach will be recognized and implemented by any of the national organizations, perhaps Freestyle Judo will bite.  Let’s reverse the model for change from top down to bottom up.  For those of you who host your own in-house tournaments or friendly meets, this would be a great opportunity to experiment, and a great way to make Judo relevant.  Let’s start a new tradition in 2013.

Happy New Year!

5 thoughts on “Time to Revisit Submissions

  1. first I dont spell well but her I go, been doing judo for 38 years & it keeps going from bad to worst. What IJF has now, I would not call judo we have lost throws armbars & mat work this is really sad. We just had a small AAU shia in Dec it went well. We had no penelties. Only 2 or 3 refs disconsion. We ran 30 players in 2 hours, great shi the refs were great, lots of grappling, chocks, armbars, & good throws. I come to beleive 80% of IFJ refs are out there for there for there them selfs & NOT THE PLAYERS. I went to a shia and to the ref meeting it was told that we had to look good out there, needed to stick together, make each other look good as a ref and sensi (not coach). I was always under the impersion we were to ref independently & fair I only see about 20% of the refs being honest & fair or ther own person. What happen to honor as I believe when most of us got our black belt that honor went with it. I am so gladd for aau & hope more players find they want to play judo & not some thing IFJ is calling judo have fun & keep playing aau judo

  2. We have 4 kids 2 of them are in judo. I would like my girls to be in as many competitions as time and money allow. We did enjoy the AAU shia and will really try and make it to those events in the future. The scoring and rule set seem more realistic and fun. I will be adding this website to my reading.

  3. the aau shiai are slowly growing and i belive they waill as ijf takes away from judo as i have sad before i dont belive what ijf is doing can be called judo they dont let novise adults to do are bars because thier club may not be theachig them submissions yet this is something ijf is breading poor judo if this some thing coaches are doing they should go back to being a sensi please teach all of judo NOT just the parts ijf wants us to do or limit us to or we lose the whole of judo KEEP PLAYING AAU JUDO AND HAVE FUN

  4. Time to revisit submissions – Lafon’s blog – January 3, 2013.

    Hello, Gerald! At Aberdeen Judo, we have junior-aged competitors in the 13 – 15 year age range that attend senior practices, and are competing in the U15 & U18 age categories in Canada. I have 5 that compete in the National Championships, and to prepare them properly, they work shime & kansetsu-waza at every practice. They work with all skill levels of judoka, and go until their partner taps in both cases – and we have never experienced any injuries as everyone is practicing to improve their judo abilities, and knows the realities of a good practice session with mutual welfare & benefit. I prescrib to the mindset that for them to develop their judo properly, they must develop an awareness of the shime & kansetsu waza and therfore must always be mindful of their partners or opponents ability to catch them if they are not careful!


  5. AAU judo rules lowered choking age to 11 and arm bar age to 15 in 1998. Maybe rest of world will catch up with us.

    I have always taught chokes and arm bars to youngsters of ALL ages without dire consequences. Like any aspect of judo, appropriate instruction minimizes unwanted injury.

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