Judo Olympian, Matt D’Aquino, On Adapting Judo For BJJ

Meet Matt D’Aquino, an Olympian and third-degree black belt in judo. Studying Japan’s “soft way” for over 23 years, Matt also has competed in BJJ and has a deep understanding of training stand-up for both judo and jiu-jitsu tournaments.

The Jiu-Jitsu Times asked Matt about how jiu-jitsu guys must adapt their takedowns.

Here is the insight Matt had to share.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: Matt, you come from a competitive judo background, but you also train and compete in BJJ tournaments. How do you use your judo effectively in the context of a BJJ tournament where you can not win by ippon (ippon denotes a full point score, which is an automatic win in judo). Many BJJ players will just jump to guard to avoid giving up two takedown points to a superior judo player. What can a guy with strong judo do to counteract this guard jumping strategy?

Matt D’Aquino: One of the best ways I use my judo is by simply getting a throw and gaining an advantageous position on the ground. This is usually side control or knee ride. To train for this, I simply train by getting a knee ride or side control after each throw in judo practice. You see, a lot of judoka in training perform the throw but no follow-up ground technique, and so many are not trained in the transition aspect of grappling.

In BJJ comps where I know guys will likely pull guard or jump guard, I do two things.
The first is walk backwards. By doing this I can create space between my opponent and I, which means they have to jump a long, long way in order to land in guard. This means that I have to work a lot of long range open guard passes, which can get me in trouble with De La Riva, single leg x guards, etc. But at least I am not stuck in a strong closed guard.

The other avenue I take is to try and ensure my opponent doesn’t have a lapel grip. If they have a lapel grip my BJJ opponents can control my posture and can either pull guard rather strongly or perform a Marcelo Garcia style lapel drag, which is very hard to stop. So, if I can ensure my opponent doesn’t have a grip on me, then this stops a strong guard pull.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: In judo, there are many grip restrictions to prevent stalling tactics. In BJJ rules, there are no such prohibitions. Are there any gripping or strategy tactics that would be illegal under judo rules that a BJJ competitor can use?

Matt D’Aquino: As of December 2016, the international judo federation has just lifted all bans on gripping. So now like BJJ, judo is a free for all. You can grip two on one, pistol grips, cuff grips, and one-sided grips for up to 45 seconds before attacking. So, this has really opened up a different gripping game in judo. However, you still cannot grab the legs in competition.

Although, if you are after some good grip fighting videos for both Judo and BJJ then check out this YT video HERE:

Jiu-Jitsu Times: When I ask many skilled judo players for advice on throws, their answers are often limited to tactics that are legal for judo. For example, I ask about a technique or grip, and the automatic response is, “You can’t do that in competition!” How would you describe the basic difference in philosophy and strategy for judo for BJJ vs. Olympic judo rules?

Matt D’Aquino: Judo for BJJ is a lot different to that of Olympic style judo simply because of the rules around Olympic style judo. In the end, Kodokan Judo (and BJJ for that matter) is about getting a grip and throwing your opponent onto the ground where you can finish with a submission of some sort.  In this regard judo and BJJ are the exact same. However, Olympic style rules dictate a different take on the art of judo. But in terms of judo for BJJ and Kodokan Judo, they are in themselves the same.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: Certain throws are high-scoring in international judo competition – for example, the drop seoi nage – but they leave the BJJ competitor vulnerable to a back take. Do you discourage BJJ competitors from using certain throws for this reason? Is it possible to adapt some throws – haraigoshi or uchimata – to minimize the chance of exposing the back if the throw fails?

Matt D’Aquino: Any throw done incorrectly can lead to the attacker being countered or thrown. So it is not the throw itself, but, in fact, the execution of it that will determine a good or bad technique.

So, yes, a bad drop seoi nage will result in your back being taken, but a good one will land you in a great position. Often people ask me this exact question: can I do an uchimata or harai goshi without exposing my back, and the answer is both yes and no. A harai goshi and uchimata require you to rotate and show your back. Without this, the throw cannot be performed. However, if you do these techniques with an underhook, you will find that your opponent cannot take your back because of the underhook. So, if you do any judo style throw with a headlock, you will land in scarf hold and probably get your back taken. But an underhook can prevent this from happening.

Jiu-Jitsu Times: How can BJJ guys who want to learn more stand-up grappling find out more information about your training resources?

Matt D’Aquino: I also have heaps of videos on my YouTube channel. I also have some BJJ takedowns specific stuff at www.bjjtakedowns.com and www.nogitakedowns.com

Read also on the Jiu-jitsu Times: My Takedowns Suck! What To Do About It


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