Written by: AnnMaria De Mars
Best Judo Style For MMA Is The One You’ve Never Heard Of
The number of judo players who have made a successful transition to mixed martial arts in recent years can be named on one hand – Rick Hawn, Ronda Rousey, Manny Gamburyan, Karo Parisyan and Satoshi Ishii. Given the lack of money in judo, why aren’t more athletes making the jump?
Why is it that two of those with the most MMA experience, Manny and Karo, didn’t even compete in the Olympics? All of the players I’ve mentioned, except for Ishii, are not very typical judo players at all.
The fact is that new rule changes make Olympic judo less helpful for anyone planning to compete in MMA. Take Manny Gamburyan’s last fight, where he lifted his opponent several times and slammed him to the mat with a double leg take down. The double leg was also the favorite technique of Dr. Rhadi Ferguson, a 2004 judo Olympian, who also won a few matches in MMA. That move is now illegal in judo competition. A single leg take down, and any other move grabbing the opponent’s leg is no longer allowed in judo. Not only does it not score, but a player is disqualified for attempting it.
The types of grips that both Manny and Karo use frequently in throwing, grabbing the player behind the back, around the waist or over-hooking the arm are not considered “normal” grips and now will get you a penalty in a judo match. Here are a few more of the 33 acts that can get you a penalty in Olympic judo – holding on both sides of the gi, dragging your opponent to the mat without attempting a throw, an arm bar started from standing that goes directly to the mat and my favorite – tying your belt without the referee’s permission (I didn’t make this up).
What won’t get you a penalty in judo? There is no rule against stalling on the mat, so a common strategy if a player is ahead is to lay on his stomach or “turtle up” on all fours and wait for the referee to stop the action and stand both players back up.
If you watch many MMA matches and many judo matches, you’ll see that the typical judo style does not cross over very well to MMA. Freestyle Judo, a relatively new style out of the Midwest, is completely different story. There are both gi and no-gi divisions. In the gi division, there are no rules about illegal grips, or against grabbing a leg to throw. Any choke or arm lock that allows the opponent the chance to tap out or signal submission is permitted.
In the usual judo tournament, when players are given a penalty, the referee separates the competitors, and then sometimes has a discussion with the other two judges, so there are frequent stops in the action. The craziest part is when they do this because they think the players aren’t attacking enough.
When I watched the Freestyle national championships, I saw two penalties given the entire day. In one match where the players seemed too defensive to her, the referee warned them, “Action! Action! Come on, gentlemen, you want to win, don’t you?”
As Steve Scott, one of the founders of this style, says, “We feel the referees should get out of the way and let the players fight it out.” … Exactly!
(Photos by Steve Scott. Used with permission)
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