Thursday, May 28, 2015

What's The Difference Between Throws and Takedowns? Part 1

What is the difference between a throw and a takedown in the martial arts? This is the question that was asked on the Martial Arts Planet internet forum in 2007. The following is a summary of the responses received:

  • There is no official distinction.
  • A hard and fast definition is difficult because there is so much overlap between the two.
  • A throw ends a fight and a takedown takes the fight to the ground.
  • Both of the opponent's feet have to leave the ground with a throw and not a takedown.
  • A throw gets one or both feet off the ground and a takedown gets one or no feet off the ground.
  • It is martial art dependent. The same technique may be a throw in one martial art and a takedown in another.
  • In addition to throws and takedowns, there are slams, sweeps, reaps, and trips.
  • You go with the opponent to the ground with a takedown and not with a throw.
  • A distinction between the two techniques cannot be based solely on mechanics.
Despite the quality of the source of the information, the responses are a pretty good depiction of the different conceptions that are held within the martial arts community of the distinction between throws and takedowns. They also reflect the confusion that surrounds the issue.

'There is no offical distinction'
The book I initially proposed to write was a how-to book on the jujutsu taught by Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan. It was intended to contain difference chapters for each class of technique taught by Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu jujutsu/Jan de Jong jujutsu (and most other jujutsu systems) which included separate chapters for throws and takedowns. I wanted an authoritative definition(s) that distinguished between throwing techniques and takedown techniques for those chapters so I undertook a comprehensive review of the English-language martial arts and related fields literature. The results of that review was that, as respondent #1 above suggested, there is no official distinction between these two types of techniques within the martial arts literature.

Authoritative Distinction
The how-to book was shelved in favour of a book on the science behind martial arts/fighting techniques and the teaching thereof and a chapter was devoted to my failed search for an authoritative distinction between these two types of techniques. Within that chapter I also present, for the first time in the English-language martail arts and related literature, an authoritative distinction between these two types of techniques. This distinction then forms the basis for classifying all techniques that are designed to cause a person to fall to the ground.

I'm drafting an article about this issue for the Blitz martial arts magazine. Due to the limitations on the size of magazine articles, which I frequently exceed, I cannot detail this most interesting of journey's within the martial arts literature to find an authoritative distinction between these two types of techniques, so I thought I might share some of the journey with the readers of this blog.

The authoritative distinction between these two types of techniques I developed formed the basis of classifying all techniques that cause an opponent to the ground. When I discussed this classification with some senior martial artists I was generally met with bemusement. 'Why classify these or any other techniques?', they would ask. Rather than just assume I'm rightand my work is of importance, I went in search of an explanation of why classification is important. In researching this answer I came across 'the core of all learning.'

The Core of All Learning
The core of all learning is said to be the identification of similarities and differences. There seems to be consent as to the similarities between throws and takedowns - they are both types of techniques that cause a person to fall to the ground - but there is no consensus as to what separates them apart ... not until now.

Research has identified four forms of identifying similarities and differences that are highly effective: comparing, classifying, creating metaphors, and creating analogies. Each of those forms of identifying similarities and differences are seen by cognitive theorists as being more than simply linguistic or literary devices, rather, they are seen as being fundamental ways of thinking.

Rather than asking 'Why classify?', we should instead be asking why we don't classify. In the case of throws and takedowns it is probably because while the similarities between these two types of technique are understood, the differences are not.

We will see that classification can be used, as it is intended to be used, to preview the technique to be taught or learnt. For instance, what do you know if you were told you were going to be taught a throw? You'd know that you are about to be taught a technique were forces are applied to an opponent to cause them to fall to the ground. What would you know if you were told you were about to be
taught a te waza (hand technique) as per Jigoro Kano's classification of judo techniques? You'd know that you are about to learn a technique that is:
  1. a nage waza where forces are applied to an opponent to cause them to fall to the ground;
  2. a tachi waza where the thrower will be standing during and at the completion of the execution of the technique;
  3. a te waza where the thrower’s hand is the main body part that plays a central role in the execution of the technique; and
  4. similar to other te waza and different from all non-te waza techniques.
You'd know all this before you even knew the name of the technique let alone before you'd seen it demonstrated, just because the technique was classified as a te waza. This classification is already suggesting to you what the key elements in the technique are, the important elements to look for. You can call upon your background knowledge of similar techniques to understand and learn the new technique.

Judo and Takedowns
What would you know if you were told you were about to learn a takedown (taoshi waza) with reference to Kano's classification of judo techniques? You'd know you were not learning judo.

The judo classification does not include a class that refers to takedowns (taoshi waza). That means that either judo does not teach takedown techniques or that judo does teach takedown techniques but they are included in another class of technique. The latter explanation means that the similarities between takedown techniques and the other techniques in the class, e.g. nage waza, have been identified but either the differences are considered not material enough to warrant their own class or, as is the case, they are not understood.

Does judo teach takedown techniques? Geoff Thompson's The Throws and Take-Downs of Judo would suggest they do - but then why does Thompson not provide definitions that distinguish between these two similar types of techniques and refers to all the techniques in his book as throws?

 The journey continues in part 2.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Blitz June Edition - What is Jujutsu? - My article published

The front cover of the June Blitz magazine with my article - What is Jujutsu? - included within.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Latest Contribution to Blitz - What is Jujutsu?

It would appear that I am becoming a regular contributor to Australia's premier martial arts magazine, Blitz.

My latest contribution which is to be published in a two part series starting next month is titled: 'What is Jujutsu?'

What is jujutsu? One of the best places to begin any enquiry into the Japanese martial arts is with the works of Donn F. Draeger. He was one of the first to write in any detail on the Japanese martial arts in the English-language literature, and he provided definitions and descriptions that continue to be widely accepted by Western practitioners. Draeger consistently explained jujutsu in terms of:

·       the generic nature of the term;

·       its history;

·       its technical content; and

·       the application of the philosophical concept of ju. 

Each of these elements are essential to any meaningful understanding of jujutsu.

The editor of Blitz has approached me for more articles. I may have access to a photographer and/or a graphic designer (although other offers would be gratefully accepted) which means I can write and share how-to articles and articles that require graphics in order to fully appreciate the message. For instance, articles that for the first time provide a physiological explanation of joint-locking techniques; articles that for the first time provide a definitive distinction between throwing and takedown techniques; articles that provide how-to instruction that was in demand world-wide from Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan and which I have provided greater insights into through the application of biomechanics.

Please contact me with any of your questions as it may provide the basis for another article to be published by Australia's premier martial arts magazine - Blitz.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Treating PTSD and the Martial Arts

The following program will be broadcast on ABC RN on 26 April 2015: Trauma Treatment. The website contains the transcript now. The following is the introduction on the website:

When people are deeply traumatised by war, disaster or abuse their reality is distinctly different from those around them and it’s like they live on another planet. We hear from a pioneering researcher who says that the most powerful way to treat psychological trauma is not through the mind, but through the body. His approach may be unconventional—but could it heal ? 

 Bessel van der Kolk, author of The Body Keeps the Score, and promoter of the idea that PTSD can be treated using the mind-body connection, has this to say about the use of martial arts in this regard:

Well, the whole issue of self-regulation and calming your brain down and helping your brain to be focussed in the present is central. And the key brain area that is necessary to be on line to get over your trauma is your capacity to observe yourself and to notice yourself. And so any intervention that helps you to really know where you are and that you are and what you're feeling would be helpful. That may range as far as martial arts, where you need to know exactly where your body is in order to do it well, to mindfulness meditation, where also you're focussing yourself.

This mind-body connection is best understood through the use of what I call our evolved survival process or mechanism. I have integrated emotion, stress, and fight-or-flight theory to develop a comprehensive understanding of our survival process. Unfortunately I have not had access to a graphic designer to produce a graphic representation of this process/mechanism as yet.

The process involves a stimuli that is appraised through an unconscious appraisal process. Depending on that appraisal, a feeling and physiological response are elicited which motivates and supports an urge to act whose enactment is intended to effect the initiating stimulus. The feeling response motivates the behaviour and the associated physiological response prepares the body to enact the motivated behaviour that is designed to promote an individual's survival.


Fear: Man with knife > appraised as a threat > fear and fear physiological response > urge to flee > flight > puts distance between appraised threat and individual thus reducing the threat posed by the initiating stimulus.

One important aspect of our evolved survival process/mechanism is that each of the elements are interconnected - change one and you can change another or all of them.

'Stress' is an ambiguous concept. If you think you know what stress is, then pay heed to the father of stress research, Hans Selye, when he said that everybody knows what stress is, but nobody really knows.

When we talk of stress we are really talking about our evolved survival process/mechanism. Most times we are in fact talking about anxiety-fear. This root understanding is lost because of the fractured nature of our sciences and the different interests in the base survival process/mechanism of the different disciplines that study the concept.

PTSD refers to our survival process/mechanism being damaged so that it has become dysfunctional and no longer promotes our survival. Stimuli that are not actually a threat to our survival are appraised by a faulty appraisal process in our survival process/mechanism as a threat and elicit a response accordingly.

Van der Kolk's mind-body approach to treating PTSD relies on the interconnectedness of all of the elements in the process/mechanism in order to fix the faulty appraisal process. Intervene in the behavioural response in order to intervene and fix the faulty appraisal process.

The survival process/mechanism theory that I have developed can be used to understand all of the methods that have been developed by all Survival Activities (martial arts, military, law enforcement, etc) because those methods are all interventions in our evolved survival process/mechanism.

My work in this regard makes a unique contribution to the general body of knowledge.
Please contact me for more information on this subject as it regards Survival Activities if you'd like to know more.

Saturday, February 28, 2015


The following is the introduction to my chapter on injury, which also references pain, in my book on the science behind fighting/self-defence techniques:

A distinction is made between offensive and defensive aggression. Offensive aggression is when a person seeks to inflict injury or pain upon a person who is or has not been attempting to inflict injury or pain upon them. Defensive aggression is when a person seeks to inflict injury or pain upon a person who is or has been attempting to inflict injury or pain upon them. Offensive and defensive aggression are at the heart of all activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter (‘Survival Activities’). Injury and pain are at the heart of offensive and defensive aggression, therefore, injury and pain are at the heart of all Survival Activities methods. What are the two subjects that are never explicitly studied in any Survival Activities text? Injury and pain.

My book is unique in explicitly studying pain and injury, both of which are at the heart of martial arts methods.

SBS Insight had a fascinating episode on pain with the forum being comprised of the members of the general public, professional sports people, and experts on pain from various disciplines.

The opening of the topic involves a professional Australian cricketer and a female boxer who won gold at the Olympics. They show vision of her in the ring being repeatedly hit in the face, head, and body, but she informs the audience that she has only ever felt pain twice in the ring in her career. It's not because she has a high pain threshold because she explains how it hurts like hell when she stubs her toe at home.

I was pleased to see that my description of pain was in accord with the pain experts, however, I go further in that it is focused on interpersonal violence.

It is fascinating viewing and I highly recommend it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sexual Harassment and Martial Arts Instruction and Training

The martial arts is a physical activity and some martial arts, e.g. the grappling arts, involve frequent intimate physical contact. This intimate physical contact could involve sexual harassment or be construed by the female student as constituting sexual harassment.

Do you have a sexual harassment policy that all instructors and students are familiar with? If not, why not? Do you even know what sexual harassment is? Not think you know but actually know from study and with authority to support your knowledge.

All instructors in the largely amateur activity of the martial arts should be able to answer these questions in the affirmative in order to protect the welfare of both students and instructors. The protection of the welfare of students and instructors takes priority in my view over the legal risks associated with the issue.

The Australian Human Rights Commission defines sexual harassment as: Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature which makes a person feel offended, humiliated and/or intimidated where that reaction is reasonable in the circumstances.

When a male instructor or student executes a bear-hug attack from behind or in front of a female student, which involves intimate physical contact of both bodies, and which makes said student feel uncomfortable, is that sexual harassment? Could it be construed by said student as being sexual harassment? Demonstrating a scooping throw (sukui nage) where the defender puts their arm between an opponent's legs when that action makes her feel uncomfortable, is that sexual harassment?

I don't know, but thinking about sexual harassment and how it is dependent upon how the conduct and contact makes the other person feel alerts us to a greater awareness of how we conduct classes.

I became acutely aware of this issue when I was conducting many private lessons with female students. I developed my own way of dealing with the issue because the school I taught for did not have a sexual harassment policy nor instructed instructors on how to deal with this issue.

With all female students, whether in a class or in a private lesson, I'd inform them that they should feel free to inform me if any particular attack or technique made them feel uncomfortable. I'd also inform them of the physical contact ,if the attack or technique involved intimate physical contact, prior to the contact.

I have discuss the above with some male martial artists who dismiss the idea. They suggest that the female student should expect and accept intimate physical contact when training. That is dismissive of the concerns of the student and there are better ways of dealing with the issue.

What remedial action do you take if sexual harassment happens? Without having thought about the issue of sexual harassment prior to teaching, which would include the drafting of a sexual harassment policy, there is no way of knowing what to do in these circumstances.

I was giving private lessons to three female students because they felt 'uncomfortable' with one of the male instructors and the 'attention' he paid them. They decided upon private lessons rather than attending his class. Naively, and ashamedly, I did not take their concerns as seriously as I should have, however, ultimately I did inform the management of the school. The manager's response was to chastise me for saying such things and the claims were never investigated nor the welfare of the women asked after (and please don't confuse manager with principal).

There were failings in this regard in the school I taught at, however, they are common failings because the martial arts industry is essentially amateur in nature and lacks poor governance. The way to rectify this particular failing is to understand the issues associated with sexual harassment and develop a sexual harassment policy that deals with ways to prevent it from happening and how to take remedial action if it does happen, and to ensure that all instructors and students are aware of the policy.

The reference to writing a policy may sound overly officious or ureaucratic to some, however, the discipline of drafting a policy forces one to study and understand the issues involved with sexual harassment. If for no other reason it is a worthy exercise.

A very good start is with the concise information brochure on the subject published by the Australian Human Rights Commission: Effectively Preventing and Responding to Sexual Harassment: A Quick Guide.

A rare example of the martial arts attempting to address this issue is the Australian Ju Jitsu Association's sexual harassment policy. This and other OH&S policies were written by the late Brierley Bailey who was the National Secretary of the AJJA for many years. He was attuned to the need for good governance in order to protect the welfare of students and instructors.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Self Discipline II

Stu provided some comments on the last post. Stu was dead right when he wrote that the Cambridge Dictionary definition of self-discipline was simplistic. It is. And that is precisely the reason I referred to it, because it would be controversial and promote thinking and discussion. And it has.

I've corresponded about the issue of self-discipline with three intelligent, thoughtful, and experienced martial artists and each has responded with different ideas on the subject. Wonderful. One is for it, another rejecting it, and the other in between. Let's keep this discussion going.

Stu has raised the issue of balance. That martial arts teaches you balance.

I do not disagree, but I also do not agree. It is a complex mix of instructor and student.

I was an exceptional practitioner of jujutsu. I have an above average understanding of the technical elements of jujutsu. Did I ever have 'balance' - God no! In fact, my philosophy was that in order to excel at anything you had to have absolutely no balance. Extreme = unique excellence. There is no Olympic athlete that is 'balanced.'

Mas Oyama wandering off to a forest for a few years to commune with goblins in order to found Kyukoshin kai karate is not the poster child for balance. Musashi living in a cave for years is not a poster child for balance. They are, however, poster children for unique excellence.

This leads to philosophical questions, which unfortunately instructors cannot, or at least should not, shy away from. Can you attain greatness by being balanced? Can you advance anything by being balanced? And ultimately, as I now understand, what is the price you pay for greatness by not being balanced? Is it worth it?

I may not have all the answers dear readers, but I do have the questions.

Balance or unique excellence?