Tachiwaza vs. Newaza - Striking The Correct Balance.


When I began Judo, getting close to 40 years ago now… most Judo clubs spent no more than 10-20% of their time on Newaza. But even back then, Olympic and International competitors felt the need for greater training in Newaza, and often worked on adding to their skill on the mat. Anton Geesink, in his autobiographical book on Judo, mentions his desire to gain better and more skillful Newaza.

When I trained at San Jose State - which at the time had won 17 straight Collegiate titles for their Judo Team, we spent perhaps 90% of our time in Newaza, and the other 10% in Tachiwaza. Granted, we were, for the most part, all black belts, and already had throwing skills. But it was clear that the skill that needed polishing was our matwork.

Today, with the publicity that BJJ has given the martial arts world, I’ve seen clubs boost their Newaza time, and I think that it’s about time. For ever since I trained with San Jose, I’ve been of the opinion that Newaza should account for no less than 50% of the time that randori is practiced. Others may fudge the percentages a tad, say 30%, or 40%; but ground skills are just as necessary as throwing skills.

I think most Judoka realize that if they are afraid of Newaza, that their throwing ability will be affected. Who wants to dive in on a throw if they are afraid that if they don’t get Ippon for the throw, that they’ll be pinned for the score? The more comfortable you are on the mat, the more relaxed your throwing skills will become - since you’ll never be concerned that you might end up in a bad position on the mat.

Another advantage for instructors, is that beginners can’t start right in with Tachiwaza, they need to be comfortable with ukemi first - but the only thing beginners need for Newaza is to learn not to bite, stick fingers in the eyes, grab the hair, or stand up.  And, of course, how to tap.  You can teach a beginner everything he needs to begin Newaza randori in 10 minutes or less.

My own opinion - 30% is the absolute minimum randori time that should be devoted to Newaza, and 50-60% is the optimum.