Your danger throw

As a Judo athlete, you need to have a danger throw. By this I mean you need to be able to scare your opponents. I don’t mean being a threatening scary person, I mean you have to have throws in your arsenal that are dangerous.

Sadly, not all of us have dangerous throws… at least not yet!

Watching a variety of levels of Judo over the last 18 months or so, at all levels; it has become clearer to me that without a dangerous throw lurking it is almost impossible to control or win a match in Judo. I have observed this with 12 year olds and all the way up to Olympic level. And it is an area where as an aspiring Judo athlete you can improve and make your own life easier.

The flaw I see is primarily players who are fit and strong and capable; but fail to ever threaten with a good attack. They are capable and often have good kumi kata, but once they settle in they never seem to be able to shake their opponents up at all. For me, this is not about the player being worse than their opponent. It is not about their opponent “shutting them down”, this is about them not having developed a throw that is a threat to virtually anyone.

The perfect place to see a dangerous throw is in the veterans competitions. These are not the elite athletes with amazing strength and conditioning. Often they are older, out of shape; but with decades of Judo behind them. Veterans Judo is the perfect place to watch an “oldtimer” catch someone with that one throw they can catch anyone with. That is their danger throw, the one that if they do it right is going to smash anyone. Veterans may only have one throw like it, but damn if they catch you you are in trouble! We see and feel their danger throw in the club all the time, it’s that throw that catches the 20-something year old “contender” for Ippon and leaves the young buck wondering what the heck happened.

But a danger trhow is not the exclusive domain of the Judo “Greybeards”, we can all develop one. And most of it is easy to do. Just identify that one throw that works for you and drill it till you can do it in your sleep. Develop it till you have it to such a state that everytime you attempt it, it feels like it might just work.

This may take some time, but it can and will happen if you focus on it. A simple way to develop it is to promise yourself you will try and throw someone with it in every randori you do.

You will have noticed that in the sentence above I said “attempt to throw”, not turn in for it. And that is an important point; you need to drill throwing with this danger throw, so that everytime you do it you are taking people to the floor with it. People in your training environment should reach a point where they know it’s coming; but still can’t get off it.

In competition context, this throw should be there whenever the opportunity arrises. It may be a throw you reserve whilst you work through your game plan and try other techniques. It is that throw that you just have sat in reserve and is there when you need it. You may never even use it in the competition, it’s just sitting their just under the surface like a shark, waiting to catch your opponent.

Over and over I see this pattern in high level and lower level competition. The winning athlete has “that throw” that makes the other person nervous, even if they don’t know what the throw is. They can sense that it is there, that it is threatening, that if they make one mistake they will be on their backs. They feel that you have something lurking, something scary and that often puts them off their game and allows the opportunities you need to win the match.

It is as much psychological as it is physical. The power of your danger throw is not necessarily in the throw itself but in having that throw there ready to make all the difference. The hours spent sharpening up this throw develop a faith in it that can give you an inner strength and self-confidence that makes all the difference. The faith leads you to dedicate more time to sharpening this danger throw and that in turn makes it even more dangerous and the cycle spirals upwards.

So your “homework” is to look at your Judo, consult with your coach, your partners and your opponents even and find out if you have a danger throw. If so, sharpen it. If not, develop one. It does not matter if you are training for your first match or your 100th, look for your danger throw and comment on this post to let me know if you know what it is and what it makes you feel.


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