Throwing is the “Instant Guard Pass”

This video is a great demonstration of not only technique but the logic of how branches of technique are designed to fit together. Something so obvious but seems to be lost in a world of hyper-specialization in the combat sport world that isn’t true of the more traditional combative Japanese approach.

I’ve always said that traditional throwing of jujitsu / judo, aside from the damage it induces and the psychological disorientation, is the best instant “guard pass” there is. That isn’t a coincidence!

Modern sports based grappling, mainly in BJJ, as a sporting game has evolved MASSIVE series of systems and subsystems designed to “pass the guard” of the opponent. Against a competent grappler “passing the guard,” or getting past someone’s legs when you are facing their legs/feet or entangled by them, is task that requires serious skill if you are going to do it in the head-on direct sense. Legs are powerful! Whether it is in sportive contest or a true fight situation, one must approach cautiously and with skill.

Although the Japanese art of jujutsu ( as is evident in pre-WW2 era judo) has ALWAYS had a set of skills and strategies for passing the guard in the head-on sense, it is undeniable that the BJJ style of jujutsu pays more dedicated time and effort into developing this hyper-specialized skill more than any other grappling oriented style. Why might that be?

The de-emphasis on importance of standing fighting and loss of high level throwing skill is the prime reason. Classically, originating from true combative roots, throwing in the overwhelming majority of the cases IMMEDIATELY and IMPACTFULLY, clears the legs (“the guard”) away. The opponent is left with their upper body exposed post throw so that the Thrower can retreat, immediately ATTACK with strikes, pins, joint locks, or strangles (or some combination of the above)…WITHOUT having to go through the laborious and potentially time consuming process “getting past the guard” in the direct sense. Rather then “pass the guard” – the throw eliminates the possibility of a leg-defense guard to begin with (and causes physical damage).

The downside is that throwing skills take a long time to develop. Some Japanese judo sensei have been known to say, “Six years nage-waza, 6 months newaza.” The idea is that it takes a very long time to become a competent thrower. It is a long investment of time and effort…but like most long term investments, it is well worth it. Especially when one considers real self-defense and not “mat contests” where one can take minutes of time trying to get “past the guard.”

That same time by the way is just transferred from throwing (or the “instant guard pass) to learning a massive array of skills in order to pass the guard of a skilled opponent. BJJ is an art that happens on the ground…and if you don’t know how to throw…what ends up happening most of the time is people simply tackle their opponents with poor versions of wrestling single and double leg takedowns (assuming they even start standing and not on their knees). If those takedowns work, you still end up between the person’s legs on the ground…and thus “passing the guard” becomes a highly important skill and hyper-specialization begins to happen.

Again, passing the guard in the head-on sense is a real skill and has always exists in Japanese jujitsu and judo, but throwing has been the classical answer, especially those that still maintain combative roots.

Funnily enough, sometimes people say – “you should learn judo for throws and bjj for ground work.” It is almost like throwing (nage-waza) and groundwork (newaza) attacks should fit together as a whole…OH YEAH…they originally did and still do! Classically, this was always true! It is the development of lopsided emphasis on particular sporting contest rules of one style or the other that separates what was once a complete and LOGICAL whole.

This BJJ competition video clearly demonstrates how, even in the contest setting, the skilled thrower expertly and INSTANTLY passed the guard (via the throw), maintained control of the opponents body orientation post throw, and was in position to IMMEDIATELY attack with the armlock (juji-gatame) without any interference of the lower body (i.e. the guard). Throwing and ground work seamlessly tied together! The way it was designed before many not only specialized but hyper-specialized to the point of breaking the logical whole into pieces.

Credit to those who have never separated the art into pieces and endeavor to not just have the independent skills but have a sense of how they logically fit together.