Part 4

By Mark Lonsdale

Note: the following discussion addresses the right handed judoka, so lefties will need to make the necessary adjustments.     

This article follows on from the previous three articles defining the term “judo technician,” which can be found in Growing Judo’s October & November 2012 issues, and January 2013.  

After decades of judo, earning the coveted black belt and just when you thought you knew it all, can you learn something new?

If your answer is in the negative, then you are deceiving yourself, or your ego is blocking your thought process. As with any living organism, we either grow or die. Anything in nature that is not growing is dead, dying, or fossilized, and no one likes to be thought of as a fossil or dinosaur, even though we have a few of those in judo.     

Recently, while teaching a senior judo class, I introduced the students to several variations of osoto-gari, including a basic counter to osoto-gari which is osoto-gaeshi. My preferred version of osoto-gaeshi simply blocks the attacker’s osoto-gari by stepping back on the right leg and then countering with osoto-gari. This is how I was taught by my Sensei, and also how it is illustrated in the Kodokan Judo manual and Judo Unleashed by Neil Ohlenkamp.

But while teaching the class, the Head Sensei of the dojo interjected with his version of osoto-gaeshi. This was quite different to mine in that after the osoto-gari attack, he stepped back on the left foot, pivoting to the left on the right foot, and turned the counter into more of a tai-otoshi move, to his left. The movement was clean and effective, but never-the-less different to how I had been taught. However, as a technician with a love of all things judo, my curiosity was aroused.   

That evening I pulled out Toshiro Daigo’s Kodokan Judo Throwing Techniques to find that he also had a different take on this technique. Daigo shows several counters to osoto-gari, each classified as osoto-gaeshi. These included a version of ushiro-goshi, osoto-gari, and osoto-otoshi, collectively classified as osoto-gaeshi since they all served to counter the osoto-gari attack.

The point to all this, is that even after 40 years on the mat teaching judo, I am still able to continue learning and growing. And even though there are only 67 throwing techniques recognized by the Kodokan, there are literally hundreds of variations, counters, and combinations for a serious technician to research, study and practice.  In addition, in the process of researching osoto-gaeshi, I came across a Kodokan video of a very effective osoto-gari transition to an osoto-guruma. So while I will not be teaching these to my yellow belts next week, this will make a very worthwhile block of instruction for my senior kyu-grades or next coaching development clinic.

The lesson to be learned here is that any time a respected instructor introduces you to a new technique, take the time to explore it, study it, and then try it on the mat. Don’t simply discount it because it was different to how you were originally taught. Keep in mind that there are judoka who come from a variety of judo backgrounds: Japanese, Korean, French, Russian, Cuban and Brazilian, so it is worth taking the time to see if they have valid and effective variations of the fundamental judo techniques.  You may not find a “Neil Adams Arm-bar” in the original Kodokan Judo manual, but you can bet that it is both valid and effective, as are the 2-on-1 sleeve attacks taught by Mark Huizinga in his DVD Total Judo. And if you have been following international judo championships, you will have noted that the Mongolians and Uzbeks are taking a significant number of medals, so their style of judo, while not traditional, is worth studying.

So in pushing coaches to become better technicians, the trick is to get judoka in general to take a real interest in exploring techniques, variations and combinations. Since most judoka should know all the Kodokan tachi-waza by Sandan or Yodan, the next phase of their education should be studying the most common techniques in some depth. While this common in Europe, it is a shift in thinking that has not been promoted to any great extent in the US. If you have attended a training clinic with a Japanese champion, you will also notice that he or she will focus on one or two fairly basic techniques (i.e., osoto-gari, harai-goshi or uchi-mata), but with the emphasis on the various setups and combinations they have built around that technique.   


Finally, if you wear a black belt and do not understand the Japanese terminology or techniques mentioned in this article, or do not own the books listed above, then shame on you. Get the books and start teaching yourself ALL the techniques recognized by the Kodokan and IJF.  

Remember, GROW or DIE!   


Mark Lonsdale is a former international competitor; currently a World Masters Competitor and Coach; and member of the USJA Coach Education & Certification Committee. Email:

About Mark V

Dedicated shooter, seeker, traveler, teacher, trainer, educator
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