Judo randori: right and wrong

Critique of Judo randori has been started by Dr. Kano himself. His point was that randori diverted toward sport away from combat application where strikes, that banned in randori, playing significant role.

So, maybe we need to leave all notions of using sport in combat and self-defense training and just go back to jujutsu roots?

This is “case against randori”.

Now “case for randori”:

Complex technical skills need to be trained. Judo randori due to its no-strikes limitation creates targeted training ground to perfect non-striking grappling techniques, first of all – throws.

In traditional circular view of Eastern philosophy the relations between three types of techniques (striking - throwing - joint locks, chokes, and point pressure) seen as use throwing against strikes – use joint locks against throws – use strikes against joint locks. If you leaving only throws in standing randori (case of all modern sport Judo styles) you perfecting throwing and defense from it in the most technically challenging scenario. If you can do it the hard way, the transition to combat application would not be out of your reach.

Judo randori training is not that simple as it looks: just-go-and-do-it. In each randori you have to train very specific skills or technical elements. Judoka should have very particular goals, such doing specific technique(s) or using very particular tactic. This makes winning randori more difficult and, indeed, secondary task. 

The most memorable randori I ever had was with Sergei Zverev – Master of Sport of the Soviet Union in SAMBO. He was “only” Master of Sport because he was “forever second” (silver winner) for one of the greatest SAMBO masters of 1980th in 62 kilogram category (140 pounds) Victor Astahov (multi-time gold winner in USSR and World SAMBO championships) from SAMBO-70 David Rudman’s school and therefore had not enough international record to be promoted to the higher ranking.

I was no match for Sergei. In first two minutes of six minutes randori he “did his lesson”: two clean throws, pin, and arm lock. In next four minutes he taught me in a way I never had before, no after. I learned more in those four minutes then I could in a year: he showed me all my technical and tactical mistakes from the first two minutes, showed the fix, and let me to do it the right way while controlling the correctness. It was my only one-on-one encounter with Sergei and I’m grateful for those six minutes of my life till today – 30 years later.

I always tried to replicate what Sergei did for me, when I played the “strong hand” in randori (with various degree of success). The key, I want to repeat, that randori is not about winning, it’s about learning.

Other important thing is that it’s critical to have cross-training with new and unfamiliar partners and you can learn a lot from good master even in a short randori (I got especially lucky as masters on Sergei level, cream-of-the-cream, are very few).

Home Judo randori in self-defense training

Read about randory in article by Kazuzo Kudo "Judo Training Methods"