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Background:

Age 34, I'm a 6ft 2 inch, 95kg mesomorph and have been at 3rd kyu for about a year now. For the most part, I am an ambidextrous player, with little preference as to which side I attack from.

I love judo and train twice a week. I regularly watch videos on youtube and study combinations and counters on my lunch breaks.

I find myself unable to pick which techniques I should focus on: I have a reasonable seoi-nage and seoi-otoshi, passable suma geishi, tai otoshi and o soto gari/gake, but I find myself unable to focus on a particular throw as I enjoy them all...

My Question: How do you pick which throws you specialise in? (and secondly: how [if at all] would your choice be affected by body type)

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2 Answers

The role of body type in deciding tokuiwaza

The shape, strengths, mobilities, and capabilities most certainly have an effect on which techniques are most appropriate to use and develop. However, it is difficult to determine the preferences of one's body before choosing.

One must also be alert to the body rejecting certain techniques due to a fixable physical pathology. That is, not being able to squat down to the ground is a good reason to be bad at seoinage, but should be fixed because all humans should be capable of squatting to the ground and all athletes should be capable of standing up from a squat with weight on their back. The process of fixing these problems likely lies outside the scope of judo practice, and might indicate a need for supplementary yoga or weightlifting or doctor's visits.

How to pick a tokuiwaza

I (and more convincingly, my coach) prefer the approach of teaching low-ranked (non-black-belt) judoka a wide variety of the basics and seeing which ones stick. Those basics might include osotogari, kouchigari, seoinage, haraigoshi, uchimata, and tai-otoshi. Other instructors might prefer a different list, for instance sumi-gaeshi, tomoe-nage, kosotogake, kataguruma, sotomakikomi, and koshiguruma. A wide variety of techniques can be fundamental, depending on the curriculum.

When I was having trouble finding a true tokuiwaza, my approach was to spend three to twelve months on a given technique before switching. Several times I would circle back to a technique I had already done a "cycle" of. So for instance, as I very roughly remember it:

  • For the first year, I was all over the place
  • For six months or so I worked on kouchigari
  • For six months I worked on seoinage
  • I spent a year hopping between tai-otoshi, seoinage, haraigoshi, and kouchigari
  • I spent a few months on osotogari and osoto-otoshi
  • I returned to kouchigari for a few months
  • I focused on tai-otoshi for a few months

During this time a given technique would rise and fall in its efficacy--sometimes without working on it! Over time I found that left-side osoto-otoshi and an ambidextrous kouchigari were working well for me, and so I started drilling variations, set-ups, and complementary techniques for them. This worked okay; my judo is still thoroughly a beginner's.

This method ended up being a combination of following what worked, doing remedial work on weak points, and developing complementary techniques to what was working. That's the best answer I know for how to develop a tokuiwaza, however, for me it didn't really create the kind of singular powerhouse tokuiwaza that judo is most effective with.

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Thanks very much. I also found this blog post which supplemented your reply nicely. :) –  Nathan May 24 '13 at 12:01
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How do you pick which throws you specialise in?

You are asking the wrong question. You are trying to force not only on yourself but on your opponent a technique. Chances are this will not work. Instead, here's a controversial statement: Let your opponent decide which throw you use.

If they push, you pull. If they pull, you push. Let their movement guide you into doing the right technique that will throw them. It will take (a lot of) time and training to become good at this but there are exercises which can help: start slow, concentrate of just a few throw, get thrown yourself. Do not specialise in any one throw but learn how to apply them.

After a whole, you'll notice that you start falling into patterns and using the same few techniques over and over again. Congratulations, they are your weapons of choice.

How [if at all] would your choice be affected by body type

Your body type or your opponent's?

The former is easy: do more of what comes naturally. The latter is harder and will require you to practice with them. In fact, judo having weight and male/female categories makes that somewhat fairer and harder. Try to practice against women and men, both smaller and larger. See what works for you.


As a side note: I view kata as learning basic principles done in a rigid way as opposed to randori that take those principles of kata and and makes them your own. In turn, randori improves your understanding of kata. No one can teach you how to be a good randori player. You have to learn it yourself by doing it and by understanding kata. Thus, to my mind you are asking the wrong question. Of course, the question is interesting and should be asked.

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Thanks for your answer, but it strikes me that the question was how to decide which throw(s) to practice [see the title], not which throws to use in randori/comp and/or how to use them ... see what I mean? –  Nathan May 23 '13 at 13:29
    
It is really hard to force a throw on someone. It is easy to adapt a throw to someone giving you the right move. –  Sardathrion May 24 '13 at 6:31
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Very true, but that's still not an answer to the question asked. –  Nathan May 24 '13 at 11:54
    
Clearly you are not getting it thus I am not explaining myself clearly enough. I am sorry, does the edit make things less confused? –  Sardathrion May 24 '13 at 13:09
    
@Sardathrion The disconnect here is between your advice--"do what is appropriate for the situation", relating to choosing a throw for a particular randori/shiai situation--and the question, "how do I know which technique to focus one's practice time on" The best judoka pick one or two three throws as their favored technique (tokuiwaza) and make it into an apply-from-any-movement-and-many-setups beast. Of course they'll be opportunists for other techniques when the time is right, but a judoka without a single power throw chosen from the o-waza is always going to be second-rate. –  Dave Liepmann May 24 '13 at 13:23
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