The Fleshy Way

Recently during nagekomi I got painfully whacked in the shin by a fellow doing sasae-tsurikomi-ashi. Of course the pain was not intentional, just a moment of sloppiness on his part. Who among us has never been sloppy, right? But it did remind me very vividly of the distinction between hard and soft parts of the leg — the bony and fleshy parts, if you like. Judo always uses the fleshy parts.

A sample of ashi-waza techniques illustrates what I mean:

  • In ashi-barai, sasae-tsurikomi-ashi, and hiza-guruma, you catch uke with the arch of your foot.
  • In ouchi-gari, you reap with your calf.
  • In osoto-gari, you reap with your hamstring.
  • In uchi-mata, you lift with your thigh.

In the various ashi-waza you might attack a hard part of your opponent, like the ankle or knee, but always with a soft part of yourself.

I feel this is representative of a fundamental difference between judo and the striking martial arts, where bony parts such as heels, knees, and shins are the primary weapons.

I can't think of many judo techniques where you apply force to your opponent with a hard part of your body. The best example that comes to mind is hadaka-jime, where the edge of your wrist presses painfully against uke's throat. There's also a choke whose name I don't know, where you slide your hands like knives along both sides of uke's neck. Maybe you could count tai-otoshi, where the knuckles of your lapel hand can press against the side of uke's face. Also maybe tomoe-nage, where the bottom of your foot supports your opponent's whole body for a moment.

This is just a handful of techniques out of the whole body of judo.

I'm ignoring atemi-waza, since it isn't relevant to how judo is practiced by anyone I know or know of.

There are some small tactical moves that use "hard parts". In newaza, pressing with a fist or elbow can be used to create discomfort in the opponent, or the side of the wrist can be wedged in like a crowbar to get an opponent's chin off their chest. In grip fighting, the edge of the wrist can be used to help strip the opponent's hand from a lapel. In high-level competition, fighters have been known to "accidentally" punch or bludgeon each other in the head while ostensibly reaching for a grip. I'm sure "accidental" shin-kicking happens too. But these moves are not full-blown textbook techniques. They're just tricks to gain a bit of advantage.

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