View Full Version : The Iron Pill

16th August 2000, 03:17

Has the advocation of weight training offset the use of 'perfect' technique in modern Judo? What I mean is that large non-Japanese, using weight training, dominated the contest circuit at one time. How come the smaller competitor did not get under their center of gravity? Were they 'manhandled' by less than pure technique.

I raise these questions as we perfrom basic Judo moves in our eclectic study of Korean Karate and self-defense, and I myself, have muscled people over when my technique was off the mark. Then I was doing some research on Jon Bluming and Anton Geesic (spelling error, sorry my notes are not in front of me.)and saw that their size and dedication to the 'Iron Pill', as advocated by Donn Draeger, seemed to have an impact.

Please be aware, I am not putting down any of these Judo players, I am just curious about this. Can anyone voice an answer to my questions?


16th August 2000, 10:32
Hi, Tommy,
When I was only about thirteen, my teacher recommended weight and the Royal Canadian Air Force Excercise manual to somewhat overcome my lack of strength. While I don't advise weight training to my students now, as injury may occur, and can put an abrupt end to condtioning, I do push the anaerobic excercese, EG, moving the building over a few inches.:D Unfortunately or not, strength did overcome the use of great technique, especially in the cases of Geesink, Ruska, and many others from the Soviet Union, Finland, the Netherlands, etc. The Japanese were not so stupid as to say "waza wins all the time," as weight categories were established to minimize this seemingly invincible advantage. However, it still does not mean that strength overcomes technique in all cases. Matched evenly, opponents found thier advantage in size didn't always work, but it actually proved that the founders were correct that "perfect waza" overcomes strength. In other words, the little guy has a chance, but it must be taken quickly and decisively, if he is going to win. One mistake, and it is WHAM!. All gone. Bye, bye. But this is true of all MA and that size indeed, does matter, that the trained little guy can't slip up or it is over. Also, there is no more openweight categories in shiai (at the international level, anyway), because theose big guys won the medals. So in this way, yes, it has give n over to strength, but one still has a chance and that is all anyone really has. A slightly better chance of extricating oneself from a problem. I am afraid, though, as the USJA proved, that winning more often is geared toward strength. Muscling someone is not necessarily wrong. When strength is to be used, even those of long ago knew that some strength was needed, but that the center plays a big role in hitting the bell. Be soft, play easily, until the force is needed, and then, in short bursts, from the hips and shoulders, is where it should be applied. This goes for big guys as well as little ones.

Geesink was 6'6" and he used one nagewaza on both sides, and everyone knew it, and still he won. Uchimata was the nage, but with his length of legs, that was generally all that was needed. To counter him, you had to do yours first, and perfectly. Geesink was not undefeated so the possiblities were there, but make no mistake. His waza was very good, too. Someone like him may win all his matches without it, but it will be a long day and he will tire. Good technique is good. Great technique is better. It goes with size as well.

But the answer is yes, for the most part, and that is the specific reason for all the weight categories today. If this were the only rule of shiai, then it would be great technique which wins.

BTW: Look at dai nippon, world champioships, etc., of the eighties and there is fantastic technique. Three great and big guys come to mind and are Japanese who have won various major shiai in which they were matched up under the weight categories: Hitoshi Saito, Yasuhiro Yamashita, and Yoshimi Masaki. These could be said to be the "big three" of the Japanese big guys and their waza was as good, of not better, than others who relied on size and strenght. They appear on video a lot, not because of size, but because of waza.

16th August 2000, 16:29
Hi Mark,

Thanks for the well thought out reply. I brought it up, as our Chief Instructor emphasises technique, technique, technique, as in correct positioning and form. While this obviously is the right way to go, I remind you that ours is not a Judo school, but one of Self-Defense. Given this, in certain situations a basic Judo derived technique is the way to go, and if muscle needs to be put in fine. I was curious if, in your opinion, the emphasis on form is till appropriate in these cases?

Thanks again,

Jeff Cook
16th August 2000, 17:01
You can give a big strong guy, who's never touched a tool in his life, a hammer. Tell him to pound a nail with it. He will swing mightily all day, he may even hit the nail occasionally, but chances are he won't drive the nail in, as he has never held a hammer in his hands before.

Now take a carpenter, an expert with a hammer. Same nail. He can drive it in with 8 whacks. Take that carpenter, put him through some weight training specific to the job of swinging a hammer and driving nails, and let him pound that same nail.

Because he was already skilled with the hammer, his accuracy and timing is impeccable. Make him stronger, and he can slam it in with one whack - getting the same job done, but in a fraction of the time.

Jeff Cook

16th August 2000, 20:23
The way I have come to understand it, and the way I teach my students(who are of many sizes, from power lifters to not), is that there exists a power/technique ratio.
For any waza to be performed, a certain amount of power must be existing in the technique.
Yes, I even mean the aikido type of energy re-direction. If no external force was applied by the aiki principles, no change would affect the opponent.
If you have insufficient power, then it can be compensated for by an increase of technique.
If you have insufficient technique, then it can be compenstaed for by an increase of power.
If more than enough of both of these elements exist, the waza is performed that much better.
If neither of these elements exist sufficiently, the waza will fail.

Pardon me if it is simplistic, but in my experience it is a truism..

16th August 2000, 20:50
We seem to be having similar converstion again and again, my opinion on strength verses technique;
I am reasonably strong, but frequently come up against people who are stronger.An untrained Herculese holds no fear for me :laugh: I know eventually, my skill will enable me to avoid them and wear them down, untill through fatigue our might will be equal. As my skill level does not diminish, I will win :cool:
If however I come up against someone of equal or better skill, then I'm in trouble :eek:
I think what I am trying to say is, strength is not a bad thing, but if thats all you have, it will desert you :wave:
So train hard to build both your strength and your skill, they will complement one another very nicely:)
BTW I have just dicovered how to use the smilies:p

17th August 2000, 10:02
Geez, Ray, ya think?:idea:

I suppose I was speaking too much to think out my well-thought out answer. Jeff literally hit the "nail on the head," and the follow ups are far more eloquent, but yes, technique plays a role in self-defense, even if it is to know when to smash someones foot with a hammer. Without technique (and I did work which included a hammer at one time), you miss the nail over and over. I had to be taught to not choke up on the hammer, to watch the nail and swing with an outstreched arm. It is amazing what you can accomplish in seemingly unskilled labor.

I think if you are teaching purely self defense, then different types of technique are necessary. I did just give you the big v. little, and that is not what you wanted. You still must be good with whatever technique the little guy uses over the big guy, but there may be differences in what you use. But I still believe, as Jeff and the other said, that a certain amount of technique is necessary. Yes, Muscling will work, but there may only be one time, and if that doesn't get the job done, then you must rely on good instinct and condtioned reflex. Center, breathe, and relax. It is difficult, but anyone who can master this, can do anything. The problem arises when you use so much muscle that you tire too quickly, but if you center, use good technique and short bursts of strength, it may be over quickly, but if not, you can still maintain strength in reserve.

I hope that is of better use. I have to read posts more carefully. I tend to ramble a lot. Judo has been with me for a long time, so I aologize for not thinking your post through before I didn't think my post through:cry:

Brian Griffin
20th August 2000, 07:27
Originally posted by Jeff Cook

Now take a carpenter, an expert with a hammer. Same nail. He can drive it in with 8 whacks. Take that carpenter, put him through some weight training specific to the job of swinging a hammer and driving nails, and let him pound that same nail.

Because he was already skilled with the hammer, his accuracy and timing is impeccable. Make him stronger, and he can slam it in with one whack - getting the same job done, but in a fraction of the time.

Jeff Cook
My grandfather was a master carpenter and cabinetmaker, trained in England in the 'teens.
A man of slender build, he never did any formal exercise, much less weightlifting.
Driving a nail in one whack was a matter of course for him.
One of his sons (my Uncle Fred) is likewise a slimly built master carpenter with no history of weight training.
One whack--no more. All waza; no muscle.
Then again, they both learned their trade in the days before pneumatic nailguns:)

Joseph Svinth
20th August 2000, 09:26
And John Henry was a steel driving man, with a hammer in his hands.

Form is nice, but if you take a really good lightweight and put him up against a really good heavyweight, bet the heavyweight. Think Kenji Yamada against Gene Lebell -- Yamada lasted nine minutes in the finals, but Lebell still won the grand championship.

Anyway, the man who introduced weights into judo is none other than Jigoro Kano, who is also remembered as the father of Olympic weightlifting in Japan. (Following the 1936 Olympics he shipped complete weight sets from Germany. The weight room was above the dojo at the old Kodokan, and it was where Donn Draeger and his crew trained during the 1950s and 1960s.)

And with the government sponsorship of judo, size began mattering well before World War II. For example, in 1938 the members of the Keio University team coached by Iizuka-s averaged about 5'8" and 200 pounds, and upon being asked about this in August 1938, they told Bill Hosokawa, "We left some of the big boys at home because they had to take important examinations." (Okay, by modern standards 5'8", 200, is small, but this was the Depression, remember.)

Anyway, precedents and history aside, it is my belief that the problem isn't the iron, it's letting the iron become the primary emphasis. As Hal Connolly, a United States Olympic hammer thrower who took steroids during the mid-1960s, puts it, "I think I was just spending too much time getting strong and not enough time improving speed and technique."

As I understand the Draeger methodology in practice, then about an eighth of an advanced student's training time is devoted to strength training and conditioning (e.g., weights). Another eighth is devoted to perfecting technique (e.g., doing kata). The rest is devoted to randori, teaching, and (dare I say it?) research.

3rd September 2000, 16:12
Hi, All.

Just a note on Anton Geesink: Don't hold his size against him. Anyone who spends time training with Kudo Sensei, can't be all strength.

4th September 2000, 10:33
I've never underestimated his skill. I actually understated his heighth, though. He is closer to 6'9" and he had an absolutely flawless uchi mata. He has been beaten many times, but not nearly enough:) His katami and particularly, his osae komi waza was exellent, and he won with that as well.

The match with LeBell that Joe referred to, was not just that the big man won, it was because of a mistake by the little man. It was not brute strength on the part of LeBell. He didn't need it as the guy was a lightweight, literally. Tall guys will underestimate most little guys and there is your first "in." Morote gari and its variations are great against a tall player. While Kano may have thought weight training was good, he didn't think muscle size was. Many of the earlier judoka had stubby fingers from using a good grip. Strength was to be used sparingly, and at all other times, you were to be a soft player. "Waza is everything!"