Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Wednesday 12/8/2015 (Kouchi Masterclass)

On Wednesday, I conducted the first ever Technique Masterclass where I devoted the entire session to covering every aspect of just one technique. The first technique to be given this treatment was Kouchi-Gari. I taught different types of kouchi (for different gripping situations), common combinations and typical counters. You could say it was the A to Z of Kouchi. To bolster their learning, I got the players to do lots of drills including static uchikomi, moving uchikomi, moving nagekomi and lastly, a Kouchi-only randori.


It is very important for tori to be very cognizant of the stance their uke prefers. If uke is left-handed and tori is right handed, they end up in a typical Kenka-Yotsu situation as depicted above (left vs right). In such a situation, certain versions of Kouchi can be applied.


However, if uke is a strong right hander and insists on adopting a right hand stance against an equally strong right-handed tori, you will end up with a classic Ai-Yotsu situation (right vs right). In such a case, a different type of Kouchi has to be used. (What works in a Kenka-Yotsu situation might not necessarily work in an Ai-Yotsu situation).

Skipping Kouchi (Kenka-Yotsu); Kouchi-Gake (Ai-Yotsu), Kouchi-Makikomi (Kenka-Yotsu)

It's important to know what kind of Kouchi works best for what kind of stance situation. I highlighted three effective variations (2 for Kenka-Yotsu and 1 for Ai-Yotsu).

The first version I demonstrated is for a Left vs Right situation. The technique is called Skipping Kouchi-Gari. It's called Skipping Kouchi because to effect the technique, you have to do a little skip towards your opponent's far leg. British World Champion Neil Adams used this to great effect. Among today's top competitors, the best proponent of the Skipping Kouchi is Japan's World Champion Naohisa Takato.

Here, we have a classic Kenka-Yotsu situation. Uke's far leg too far away for me to reach without making a skipping movement.

So, I take a step with my right leg, so that my right foot lands somewhere in front and in between Uke's two feet.

I follow that up by advancing my left leg. Notice how my right leg is ready to spring into action.

With Uke's right leg now within reach, I move in with a reaping action to catch Uke's right heel with my right foot.

One common mistake players make is to reap too high up. Here, Tori places his foot too high up, behind Uke's calf.

Ideally, the side of Tori's foot should be place on the heel of Uke's foot. This allows for an effective reaping action.

To get the players to understand the technique, I had them do moving uchikomi and nagekomi. Static uchikomi is not enough.

Here, you can see Suan Wah catching his partner's right foot, cupping it nicely with the side of his right foot and reaping it away.

With his right foot reaped away, Uke goes down, landing on his butt.

Suan Wah continues with the pushing action, causing his partner to fall on his back (which would have gotten a score).

The next version I taught was Kouchi-Gake, which is a rather unusual technique. It is seldom seen because Ai-Yotsu situations are a lot rarer than Kenka-Yotsu situations and so you don't have a lot of players doing this. Japan's double World Champion Hirotaka Okada famously used this technique to win his second world title. Among today's top players, France's David Larose is known to use this technique frequently.

In an extreme Right vs Right situation, there's not much room for skipping in with momentum. It's hard to execute a classic kouchi-gari.

Instead, this unusual looking Kouchi-Gake is used. It looks awkward but it's very effective when done right.

The awkwardness of the movement required me to literally help Tori get his leg in the right position.

Here, you can see the positioning from the other side.

Here, you can see Tori starting the technique by hooking in with his right leg. This is not a reaping action but a hooking action.

Once hooked in, Tori has to effect an almost Uchimata-type of movement.

The strong right arm action by Tori complements his Uchimata-like movement to cause Uke to bend over and lose balance.

If you just look at this single frame, you'd be forgiven for thinking Tori has just done an Uchimata. Neil Adams has referred to this technique as "Reverse Uchimata" in some of his video highlights commentaries because of how similar it is to Uchimata.

Earlier I had shown how a Skipping Kouchi can be used in a Kenka-Yotsu situation for Tori to attack Uke's right leg. Now, I show another Kouchi variation that can also be used to good effect in a Kenka-Yotsu situation. But this time, it is to attack Uke's left leg (not right leg).

Here, you see me in a classic Kenka-Yotsu situation. I could attack the right leg with Skipping Kouchi.

But as an alternative, I can also attack Uke's left leg with a wrapping "Makikomi" action that is more of a sacrifice throw than a Gari (reaping) or Gake (hooking) action. It requires me to thrown all my weight into attack and cling onto Uke's left leg.

Next up, Combinations. It's often quite difficult to throw your opponent with a direct attack. That's where combinations come in handy. You attack them with one technique and as they try to escape that one, you attack them immediately with a follow-up technique.

The first combination I showed them starts off as Kouchi but ends up with Deashi-Barai. This is quite a classic move that requires quick movement and good timing for it to work. You must practice this over and over again to get the timing right.

I start off by doing a typical Kouchi-Gari on Uke.

I initiate a reaping action to lift Uke's right foot slightly off the mat and towards me.

As Uke withdraws his right foot to place it back onto the mat, I quickly sweep away that foot before it is placed back on the mat.

The other combination I showed them was a movement that starts with Uchimata and ends with Kouchi-Gari. Also quite a classic movement but does not require as much timing and finesse as the Kouchi-Gari into Deashi-Barai combination I described earlier.

Tori enters into a typical Uchimata situation.

He lifts up Uke's left leg, causing all of Uke's weight to be balanced on his right leg.

Instead of continuing to lift Uke's left leg, Tori suddenly switches the attack into a Kouchi-Gari on Uke's right leg.

Any teaching of Kouchi would not be complete without Counters. The first one, Kouchi-Gaeshi, is useful for Skipping Kouchi-Gari type of attacks. It requires a good sense of timing though, so it's not commonly seen

Here, Uke attacks Tori with a standard Kouchi-Gari against Tori's left leg.

Tori anticipates this and immediately withdraws his left leg to avoid it being reaped.

Now, the technique becomes a hand movement (Te-Waza) with Tori wheeling Uke over just like turning a steering wheel.

When done correctly, it lands Uke flat on his back. This technique is not commonly seen but it does happen in international competitions.

Next, a counter against Kouchi-Makikomi.

Kouchi-Makikomi usually involves a slight Seoi-Nage feint, to get Uke to pull backwards.

One of the most common mistakes players make is to enter into this technique from too high a position.

Entering too high makes you susceptible to counters such as Ura-Nage and Tani-Otoshi.

One simple and effective way to avoid counters is to enter low. That way even if your attack fails, you are already on the ground and your opponent will have a difficult time countering you.

Kouchi-Gake is not commonly used and so the counter to it is even rarer. But a counter does exist. One of the most dramatic examples of this happened in a match between Japan's Takato and South Korea's Jang.

Takato and Jang in a classic Left vs Left (Kenka-Yotsu) situation.

Jang, who had thrown Takato with Kouchi-Gake before enters into the attack but Takato anticipates this and begins the counter-attack.

The counter is a Te-Waza. It's all hands, no legs involved at all. It's purely a hand throw. Very rare.

But it works like a charm and lands Jang flat on his back.

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