Randori in Jukido Jujitsu
An Brief Explaination of the History, Development, & Benefits of Randori in Jukido Jujitsu
By George Rego, Sensei
Jujitsu historically is the most versatile martial art of all the combative arts. Including the techniques of throwing, joint locking, striking, choking, pressure points targeted to the body’s anatomical weak points, weapons integration, and more. Of the many systems and styles of the already versatile jujitsu – Jukido is among the most versatile and dynamically powerful styles of the art. Within the Jukido dojo one could see any number of training methods being utilized to increase the knowledge and proficiency of its practitioners. The practice of nage-waza or throwing techniques is a distinct feature of Kokondo’s jujitsu method and is highlighted often in the Jukido dojo. “Core” self-defense responses and completely random self-defense practice are always practiced in the Jukido dojo. Self-defense proficiency, of course, is the main focus in Kokondo system of martial arts and all other training methods revolve around it – including the demanding and fun practice of randori. Randori, often loosely translated as “free practice”, is to the arts of jujitsu & judo what sparring is to boxing. Although not the only form of freestyle practice – randori is the primary form of sparring in serious styles of jujitsu.
Some might wonder out loud how randori applies directly to self-defense. The likelihood of a self-defense encounter that resembles randori is unlikely (although wrestling and roughhousing are common and might look similar to the novice). There aren’t any rules and limitations in self-defense. Only sport-based martial arts and ways have the need for any serious study for randori, such as judo some might say. Then why do we include randori in Jukido Jujitsu? Yes, randori can be an extremely enjoyable activity, whether in the dojo or at shiai (competition), but there is more to this activity then just the fun and games of sport. As stated before, all training methods and procedures in Kokondo are based strategically on improving self-defense proficiency with realism, efficiency, and practicality in mind. Our founder’s inclusion of randori in the formula of Jukido is not unique in this regard.
History of Randori:
The founder of Kodokan Judo, Master Jigoro Kano is often times credited with the creation of randori, but this is done in error. It is true that Kano further developed what we know today as randori, particularly in judo, but he is not the creator of the method or the idea. Precursors to randori include the training methods kitoryu-midare and nokai ai (nokori-ai). In the more popular nokai-ai the uke would “attack” the tori with a throwing technique, if the the attack was weak or ineffective the tori could counter-attack. If the tori’s counter was weak, the partner could then attempt yet another counter – this method could see many throwing attempts exchanged before a successful throw was executed and declared ippon (full point).
Systems that practiced these training methods were Kito-ryu jujitsu and Tenshin Shin’yo ryu jujitsu. Master Kano studied both of these systems early in his life and was considered a master of each. Both Kito-ryu and Tenshin Shin’yo ryu were both jujitsu systems that greatly influenced Kodokan judo and were well known for the extensive use of nage-waza (throwing). It was Kito-ryu jujitsu that originally coined the term “randori.” The term randori does not translate nicely into English, but it is usually translated loosely as “free play.” Ran literally means “disorder,” “chaos,” or “random.” Dori does not translate well, but it means to “take hold of.” The disorder and randomness of randori was in contrast with the very formal and orderly kata (pre-arranged patterns of technique). Using terms that referred to chaos and randomness clearly set randori as the opposite side of the coin in comparison to traditional kata .
Early on Kano made modifications to the older jujitsu gi that was used in times past. The gi’s of old had short sleeves and gi pants that were closer to modern day shorts. Kano lengthened both the sleeves and pants of the jujitsu gi. This change enabled jujitsu and early judo practitioners to practice a greater number of throwing techniques with safety – some new favorites were sode tsurikomi goshi and other renraku-waza that involved sleeves.
In early Kodokan judo there were several methods of randori, some that were restrictive and stressed certain techniques and principles and others that were more free and random – similar to karate’s various methods of kumite (sparring). Some of these methods focused only on certain throws other variations were limited to ne-waza (katame-waza) or grappling techniques on the mat that focused on choking techniques (shime-waza) and arm bars (hiji-kansetsu-waza). Some of the less restrictive methods included both throwing and grappling techniques on the mat; however, Kano practiced this type of randori in a fashion that was balanced with the other methods. Kano often remarked that some of the free methods of randori made nage-waza weaker because of a reliance on strength and judo-ka wanting to do battle on the mat. Kano stressed that randori’s emphasis was and should always be primarily nage-waza . Kano further stressed that randori was a training method and tool not strictly a competition – in this way no one was afraid to attempt throws because they felt they might be countered, this was missing the point. The objective of randori was a type of “research and development” phase of practicing nage-waza. Kano did introduce a sporting side to randori and judo which was shiai (competition). Shiai allowed young competitive judo-ka to fulfill the human desire to compete, but do so in a respectful way with the learning experience as the main goal, not any material reward. Further shiai was a method of attracting more students to the art, which Kano felt would be a win-win situation for the art, the students, and Japanese society as a whole.
Although Kano’s intentions were noble, Judo grew out of his control after its introduction into the Olympic games – mainly because of the attractiveness of competitive judo randori – shiai. The further randori shiai went from Kano and the Kodokan the more the emphasis became on judo as a pure sport with shiai as its primary objective. No longer were the other methods of randori practiced and no longer was the stress on randori as a training tool for the research and development of throws – it was now about winning at shiai, never Master Kano’s intention.
Jukido’s Randori as Approach as Taught by Shihan Arel:
Staying true to randori’s original purpose Shihan Arel deemphasized the ne-waza (ground fighting) aspect of randori in Jukido and focused on the effective and proper use of nage-waza (newaza is often included later in dojo training once nage-waza proficiency is established). As is evident in modern judo the heavy emphasis on battling for grip from the beginning of the match and the use of ne-waza often creates sloppy throwing techniques. Many tournament judoka will purposely perform a sloppy throwing technique in order to get on the mat and battle for submission – the end result is sloppy throwing techniques in which often times spectators (and even officials judging the match) have no idea who threw who because both competitors are on the floor. It is obviously not the original intention of throwing techniques for the performer of the throwing technique to be on the floor (although there are exceptions for sutemi-waza). Shihan Arel developed Jukido’s randori so that the correct use of nage-waza and kumi-kata (gripping methods) were stressed. The development of Jukido’s randori forced Jukidoka to focus on correct form and technique if they wanted to throw. Randori in Jukido is a research and development tool that is used for measuring the effectiveness of one’s throwing techniques against another skilled practitioner who is unwilling to be thrown. This allows the Jukido-ka to know which throws he needs more work on and which throws might be most practical in certain situations – through trial and error. Not being thrown is not the number one mission of the Jukido-ka, it is throwing and if one is thrown he must learn from it – it is not about scoring and making points. It is a training tool – without regard to points or winning and losing. Just as one does not “win” or “lose” in sanbon kumite.
Jukido, like early Kodokan Judo, does have a shiai element that is true to Kano’s original idea of learning, having fun, and the willingness to try one’s best in order to learn – not avoiding techniques because of the fear of not winning a trophy or medal. This leads to students who hesitate in open situations and limits the numbers of throws they are willing to attempt – some rely to heavily on sutemi-waza because they are afraid to try other throws (black belts). Shihan Arel’s continued message kept true to the original methods of randori and its shiai element. Trying one’s best, respect for the art and its students, training hard, and having fun are Jukido’s shiai emphasis!
Benefits and Methods of Randori in Jukido Jujitsu:
Randori isn’t the primary goal of the Jukido student, rather it is one of the important tools in use getting to our primary goal (self-defense proficiency). It is beneficial for those who practice randori to do so with the idea of it being a research lab & testing field for certain aspects of our method of jujitsu. Students who practice randori in Jukido benefit from learning:
- Proper kuzushi, tsurkuri, & kake (off-balancing, positioning, and execution)
- Increased understanding of timing, distance, motion, resistance, & pressure
- Cardiovascular conditioning
- Best techniques for best situations in an “alive” setting
- Interception of attempted attacks and countering tactics
- Better use of practical renraku-waza waza (combination techniques)
- Working with a partner is physically stronger (faster, more athletic) will force the weaker partner to develop a strong technical base
- Proper use of hikite & tsurite (pulling & pushing mechanics)
- Fudoshin (immovable mind) through the lack of hesitation to attempt techniques. Students who FULLY commit to making the throw work are usually successful, as opposed to half hearted attempts because they worried about being thrown.
- Codes of Bushido – Courage, Honor, Politeness, Justice, and often Benevolence for seniors who work with junior students.
These are some of benefits that directly and indirectly help the Jukidoka in self-defense and daily life.
Various Randori Methods that can Utilized to Address Problem Areas:
- Limit randori to only left sided throws – increases comfort level and effectiveness of left sided throwing techniques.
- Limit randori to only hip throws or leg throws, foot sweeps, etc. – increases effectiveness of problem areas and helps students focus on certain categories of throwing techniques. Helps establish that randori is a training tool not only fun and games.
- Limiting the role of the partners. Sensei assigns one student to perform throws and the other can only attempt to stop them via counters, strong defense, and controlling their own center of gravity, etc.
- Limiting the amount of resistance. In this method students resist at “light resistance,” “semi-resistance” or “full resistance.” In the case of “semi-resistance” as an example, the uke will not allow the partner to throw if the throw isn’t clean and will resist, however, if the throw is a good attempt the uke will not resist and will cooperate with the throw.
- Trading throws. Moving around in randori fashion students trade throws back and forth with little to no resistance. Helps students learn formal throws moving in all directions. Good tool for warming up.
- Throwing only on Sensei’s command.
- Combine any of the methods or be creative – just make sure that the emphasis and benefit is well defined and clear.
Tips for Practicing & Benefiting from Randori:
- Don’t worry about winning or losing – just practicing and learning
- Do not attempt throws with raw strength. This is not only dangerous for everyone involved but is never the correct method of throwing in Jukido
- Be loose – move loosely in all directions and avoid being rigid. Self-defense requires that the student be loose enough to move and take advantage of the attackers weaknesses – being tight only occurs at the correct moments.
- Look for patterns in your partner’s offensive and develop a strategy with a variety of techniques utilizing the opponents patterns against him (mental kuzushi).
- Be patient and look for and create lapses in your opponents judgment
- If your opponent begins to attempt a throw but hesitates take advantage with your own throw or series of renzoku-waza. Take advantage of your partner’s unsuccessful technique or incorrect tsurkuri and kuzushi.
- Do not resort to only one type of technique (foot sweeps, sacrifice throws,etc.)
- Do not try techniques that have not been taught to you.
- If you are a senior student try to compete a level that is just a bit higher then the Jukido-ka your working with. For example, a shodan who is practicing randori with a green belt might practice at a brown belt level. This enables the junior student to push harder at a gradual pace and it enables the shodan to fine tune some of the techniques at that level as well as increase the teaching and learning involved. In this way both students are throwing and being thrown and everyone benefits.
- Have fun and try your best!
1. In the book The Father of Judo by Brain N. Watson (Page 58), Master Kano is referenced as having expressed this idea by saying, “If I were to compare jujutsu to a language, then kata would be like studying the grammar and randori would be like writing practice.”
2. “Looking back on these early days of the Kodokan, one sees that the primary emphasis was on throws…” Page 24 of Three Budo Masters by John Stevens.
3. “While randori is important, Kano made it clear that competition is only one aspect of the Kodokan Judo and it must not be over-emphasized.” Page 33 of Three Budo Masters by John Stevens.
Arel, Paul. Jukido Jujitsu; The Realistic Ryu: 1994
Mol, Serge. Classical Fighting Arts of Japan; A Complete Guide to Koryu Jujutsu: 2001
Stevens, John. Three Budo Masters: 1995
Todo, Yoshiaki. The History of Randori in Judo; The Origin and Development of Randori (Tsukuba University): 1994. http://www.bstkd.com/Bulletin3.htm
Watson, Brain N. The Father of Judo; A Biography of Jigoro Kano: 2000