Please note this article has now been revised and updated.
The new article Positioning for Nagewaza can be found here:
The original article is still here in case anyone still wants to read it.
Combination practice and the stringing together of techniques is probably one of the most important things to be able to do in Judo. It is also a staple of practice from white belts to high dan grades. However, it is so often done poorly and taught badly.
Here's an extreme example of bad combination practice
Here's an example of good combination practice
One of the most common problems beginners encounter when they practice combinations be it renraku waza or renzoku waza is that after the initial attack they find themselves completely out of position to launch the second attack, when they do attempt it are totally off balance and end up producing a poor bodged throw. As always your sensei tells you its because you need more kuzushi, it usually isn’t.
Here is an example of a combination where tori tries to make up for really poor positioning as a result of the first throw:
Now as you’ll remember from previous posts control over yourself is critical followed by control over uke, which is dependent on control over yourself.
I introduced the concept of the triangle as an aide memoir for correct spacing between tori and uke and tori maintaining control over himself- tai sabaki.
This week you need to keep the concept of the triangle in mind and remember that controlling the space between tori and uke is central to good combination training.
The concept under discussion in this thread is ‘T-ing up’. This refers to tori ‘T-ing up’ in relation to uke, I’m sure this concept has many other names and descriptions, but the T is how it was best described to me and so the T is how I will continue to describe it.
Imagine that there is an invisible line running between uke’s toes and that it is bisected by another invisible line that runs between tori’s feet. These lines bisect each other in such a way that the line between uke’s feet forms the horizontal cross bar of a T shape and that the line between tori’s feet forms the vertical upright bar of the T.
Katanishi starts explaining how they will be working on dealing with an ai yotsu situation – right hander on right hander- where both have the right foot advanced. They will learn how to achieve the ideal position for tori in relation to uke.
For the first minute and a half he is basically asking them when they're standing in ai-yotsu who has the superior grip and the superior positioning. They conclude that they both have the same opportunities and neither has the advantage.
He then explains how tori now has superior kumikata and a superior position to attempt a throw.
He then gets them to practice 'T-ing up' on the move until about 2:53
9 times out of 10 the reason beginner attempts at combination practice are a disaster is because they don’t understand any of this basic tai sabaki then you pile onto that not understanding the importance of space –the triangle – or how to effectively off balance uke – tsurikomi – and you have a layering of problems which hinder practice and will lead to permanently flawed technique.
So whenever you practice combinations it is vital to reposition yourself so that you’re stable, have superior positioning and a superior grip to uke BEFORE you attempt the second throw.
When practicing uchikomi and nagekomi, it is perfectly ok to attack with your first technique and then pause in the ‘T’ position before launching the second attack.
In these two videos Kuldin Evgeny explains how to T up from first a Kenkya yotsu situation and then an Ai yotsu situation. He uses the first couple of minutes of each to explain this concept then moves onto other stuff.
Ko soto gari into Tai otoshi using the T to reposition for effective combinations.
T-ing up Kenka yotsu
Now its important to remember that this concept of ‘T-ing up’ is a training concept. It is therefore to ensure you maintain good tai sabaki whilst practicing combinations so that you can then practice the techniques. ‘T-ing up’ is not something you will see happen often, if at all, in competitions because which the challenges of a resisting opponent and your reaction depending upon their action/reaction it would be silly and ineffective to pause and T-up in between throws. However, as a training aide to ensure you have good tai sabaki and can effectively apply kuzushi as a result of good tsurikomi remembering to control yourself and uke using the ‘T-ing up’ concept is a very useful aide memoir.
When in a randori or competiton situation you pretty much never 'hang out' in the T-ed up position and doing so will generally get you footswept. However, T-ing up is used all the time in randori and competition for resolving situations just in a more advanced form.
From 1:18 of this video Neil Adams shows how you T-up to resolve a Kenka yotsu situation and attack with Ko uchi gari
Neil Adams resolves the kenka yotsu situation and Ts-up before launching his Ko uchi gari. He takes a small inital step with his right foot followed by a step with his left foot that leaves him T-ed up relative to his uke.
He starts from a kenka yotsu situation:
Now if you were to just fire a ko uchi from here you would be way of balance and get easily and humiliatingly countered.
Instead Adams does a inital step with his right foot:
However as he's busy executing a technique he modifies the position slightly and launches the foot sweep as soon as the back leg is planted:
So hopefully now you will be able to practice your combinations more effectively and apply the T-ing up concept to resolve difficult situations in your tachiwaza randori.