With the development of many different types of guards in BJJ, practitioners are becoming more unconfident with their throws – especially the lighter weight classes. They prefer jumping into a closed guard or twisting into a de la riva guard. The mentality of the guard puller is actually more complicated than this, since a lot of these guys pull guard not only because of a lack of confidence in their takedown skills, but also to avoid their opponent pulling guard on them. Some athletes’ guards are so dangerous that having them pull guard first will put you at a serious disadvantage, even though you’re on top. Regardless of this new mentality in sport BJJ, no one should neglect to focus on judo – at least on a basic level.
Giving specific attention to judo will give a BJJ practitioner much deeper respect for things that could be overlooked in a regular BJJ class – not because of a lack of knowledge on the part of the instructor, but because BJJ classes can’t always dedicate the proper amount of time to just takedowns. By taking a series of judo classes you will learn the importance of gripping, footwork and movement control.
The gripping game on the feet is really an art. In judo, the first person to get his grips is the one who has the best chance of getting his throw. The combination of grips can really vary and the best judokas all have their favorite combos of grips that lead to many different throws. The same way BJJ black belts have a variety of tools in their arsenal to catch submissions and positions on the ground, judokas have a complicated web of throws and sweeps that strongly depend on the grips they get before their opponent. So for one, by picking up judo, you’ll know how to gain your grips quicker than your opponent, and also know how to break them in case you’re too slow to stop them from getting their grips first.
Footwork is as important to a judoka than any boxer or kickboxer. Each throw has specific footwork and has to be performed at lightning speed to be efficient. If you ever watch a judoka drilling their throws, you will see that the foot speed has to be precise and quick. The footwork can often be very confusing as well since you will need to squat cross-legged – you will almost feel like you are losing your balance. Like jiu-jitsu, the key to throwing someone is getting yourself under their center of gravity and using that leverage to lift them. For sweeps, footwork and timing are important to catch your opponent off guard and while they are trying to commit their weight to one foot. If your opponent isn’t moving enough, that’s when the grips kick-in – you can move your opponent around until you feel you can take him off balance. Training judo will not only give you confidence on the feet, but you will also enhance your understanding of how leverage works - it will help you with your sweeps on the ground for sure.