My colleague Steve Scott, recently wrote in his newsletter, “As an interesting sidelight to how history repeats itself, a variety of these techniques are used in various forms of submission grappling and mixed martial arts, although they continue to be illegal in judo competition.” He was talking about various forms of shime waza or constricting techniques, not necessarily neck chokes. Not very long ago, one of my readers commented, “Please correct me if I’m wrong; wrestling, Brazilian jiujitsu, and competitive sambo will allow all Judo throws of the Kodokan in competition. With the IJF rules, Judo does not. This is a disgrace.” I couldn’t agree more.
Think about this for one moment. There may be more Judo in Brazilian jiujistu, sambo, and submission wrestling than there remains in IJF Judo. Although only a small portion of the judoplaying masses competes, most Judo instruction is based on what the IJF rules allow. So what we are left with is a very diluted version of the Judo curriculum. I’ll admit the IJF is not the only organization to blame for this. Little by little over the years, the Kodokan banned things left and right, often under the guise of making Judo safer, before the IJF even came into the picture.
For many of us, the history of the development of Judo rules elicits the same response many Americans utter when they actually read the Constitution of the United States: “I didn’t know that!” A few of us want to know what criteria were used to make the prohibited acts list. Safety is often used to forbid certain techniques, but as you will see, many of the banned techniques are no more dangerous than legal ones. So, let’s take a look at some of the more curious items in Article 26, Prohibited Acts and Penalties of the IJF rules.
Even if I’m attacking and not being defensive, I can’t “screw up” the sleeve, pistol grip it, pocket grip it, or put fingers inside the opponent’s sleeve end. But I can do that to my own sleeve. The same applies to grabbing inside the bottom of pants. It’s OK to do it to my pants, but not to my opponent’s. Seems to me that we should all be able to attack and defend from any and all grips, and use the gi as a weapon. If safety is the reason for some of these rules, then we should be responsible to decide for ourselves whether to use these grips or not.
I can bear hug my opponent from behind and from the side, but not from the front. Huh? The IJF wants us to believe this is not Judo, because the grip is “abnormal,” but just when you are in front. Get that?
I can put my hand in uke’s belt to escape from let’s say Kesa gatame, but can’t put my foot there. Why not?
I can use uke’s jacket to choke him, but I’ll be penalized if I use my jacket to do the same thing. Why?
I can figure-four (Sankaku) my opponent’s neck or trunk, but I can’t scissor (Dojime) them by stretching out my legs. This is the type of shime waza Steve Scott was alluding to.
I can encircle my opponent’s body with his belt or gi if less than 360 degrees, but if I go to 361 degrees, it’s not OK. What dangerous event occurred with that additional few degrees of encirclement?
I can’t lift my opponent off the mat from ne waza (Daki age) and drive him back onto the mat. However, if I am standing, can grab uke’s leg legally, then do O uchi gari to his supporting leg, then it’s OK even though both of us would more or less be in the same position as in the Daki age situation. By the way, if uke jumps onto me from the front (pulling guard) for some silly reason, I can slam him to the mat. Now I’m totally confused as to why Daki age is a no-no.
I can’t reap uke’s supporting leg from the inside while he is attempting to do Harai goshi, but apparently I can reap his leg (Ko soto) from the outside. What’s the difference? Same potential to hyperextend the leg.
I can’t fall backwards when uke is on my back, either from a Tachi waza or Ne waza position, but I can fall to the side or even do a forward roll. Say what?
These are just some of the silliest examples of what’s illegal in Judo today. I think it’s safe to say that Judo Ne waza would be strengthened if we removed all the above listed rules that pertain to ground grappling. And Judo would still remain a safe activity.
Judo would be more effective if we removed all of the gripping rules. Effectiveness should take precedence over how pretty Judo looks.
The pendulum has swung too far to the safety and aesthetics side. These rules are sanitizing Judo into irrelevance. It’s time to stop being so protective of judoplayers, and return to our martial roots. How can we continue to prohibit so many combative techniques while Brazilian jiujitsu, sambo, and submission wrestling embrace these same techniques? Can you see the logic of that? I can’t.