Winning on the Mat: Judo, Freestyle Judo and Submission Grappling is the title of Steve Scott’s massive (over 400 pages) book on Judo. Scott, a key leader in AAU and Freestyle Judo, is like me a rebel with a cause and admirer of Geof Gleeson. He feels that Judo gets no respect and is headed in the wrong direction. About a month ago, out of the blue, Scott was kind enough to send me a copy of his book. In return, he asked for nothing.
Now that I’ve read the book, I feel compelled to say that Winning on the Mat should be mandatory reading for every coach. I say every coach because if every coach developed the mindset of Winning on the Mat, athletes wouldn’t have to read it. Since we know that all coaches won’t read it or that those who do read it won’t develop the mindset that the book advocates, everyone in Judo should buy the book and read it. Doing so will raise our collective understanding and level of Judo, and support a languishing Judo industry.
Outside of Gleeson’s Judo for the West, Anatomy of Judo, and Judo Inside Out, Scott’s Winning on the Mat might be the single most valuable, transformative Judo book on the market. Sure, it has a gazillion pictures of functional Judo techniques, including many not-so-classical ones that you won’t see in typical Judo encyclopedias. However, from my perspective as a coach mentor, the strength of Winning on the Mat lies in the text, especially the text that isn’t describing the pictures. Scott does a great job in weaving historical facts with the current reality of modern grappling sports.
Kodokan Judo’s tradition has been, from its inception, to provide the most useful and practical approach to skill training, physical education and character development. Innovation is part of Judo’s tradition.
He tackles myths that seem to have nine lives. Judo may be called the gentle art, but it’s nothing even close to the truth.
One of these erroneous opinions is that physical strength or fitness isn’t necessary for “good technique.” On the contrary, good technique relies on speed, strength, flexibility, excellent coordination and cardio-vascular fitness (among other things). Good technique doesn’t develop in a vacuum.
About the differences of opinion that plague our sport when it comes to aesthetically pleasing Judo vs functional Judo , Scott states:
The Soviet sambo attitude was utilitarian in every sense of the word. But then, didn’t Prof. Jigoro Kano do the same thing years before in Japan in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with his eclectic and newfangled Kodokan Judo?
Of all the techniques that Winning on the Mat covers, and it covers a whole lot of technical stuff, its study of defenses against throws, which lists some twelve different ways to defend against throws, is undoubtedly the best coverage I’ve ever seen in a single book.
If you’re still not sure what Freestyle Judo is, Winning on the Mat will fill in the blanks. It’s sure to get you thinking that had Kano lived longer, he may have embraced Freestyle Judo. Even if you can’t think that deeply, you’re bound to feel the need to do anything but IJF Judo.
One final, reiterative comment. Winning on the Mat is transformative. Yes, you’ll pick up some nifty moves here and there even if you’ve been involved in international Judo for years like I have, but more importantly your mindset will be affected, and hopefully you’ll see Judo in a different light.