Kumikata - The Fight For The Grip In Shiai.
I was recently tending to an all-day miniature exhibit of Judo at the local Buddhist Temple’s Obon Festival… and one of the things I like to put up is a large screen T.V. with Judo videos that play constantly.
So needless to say, I got to watch a lot of Judo in the 8 hours that I was standing around, answering any questions about Judo. I spent quite a bit of time with a video of the 2004 All Japan Championships, and I discovered an extreme interest in determining who was winning the gripping fight.
It was fun to watch one particular competitor who liked a right handed high collar grip - as that happens to be a favorite of mine as well. It was interesting to see how he was fended off from time to time, his opponent cocking his head to the left to stop the hand from finding a grip.
But what’s interesting, is that this fight for the grip is so decisive… each time I could identify one person as having the overwhelming advantage of being able to establish his favorite grip - that was the person who almost invariably won the match. You could visibly see some Judoka completely dominating their opponent’s with just their gripping ability.
As an example from my own Judo: A favorite tactic of mine is the stopping of my opponent’s power hand… if both Judoka take a standard right-hand grip - now, take your left hand, and instead of gripping the bottom or outside of your opponent’s sleeve, move it to the upper inside sleeve of your opponent’s same sleeve. You’ll note that your opponent can no longer -plant- his forearm against your chest to initiate most throws.
It’s a sly move, and I saw a battle in one match over exactly this sort of arm positioning. Beginners virtually never catch on, and I’ve even caught a few brown belts & black belts napping on this particular grip. For as long as you hold it, you can’t be thrown by quite a number of throws that rely on the power arm being ’set’.
(By the way, this Gleesonian expression sometimes doesn't mean anything to more traditional Judoka unless it's explained... "setting the power arm" is really a simple idea - take, for example, your standard right-hand Osotogari - your right forearm should be placed firmly against your opponent's chest... so that any movement of your body is instantly projected against uke. This is the idea of "setting the power arm".)
If your Judo seems ’stalled’, perhaps you can spend more time learning how to take your favorite grip - and perhaps even look at different grips that you might enjoy. I’ve always liked the high collar grip - it works well with the throws I like, and it really irritates many of my opponents… and an irritated opponent is easy to beat! This high collar grip also gives you great control of uke’s head… which is a big plus in my books.