Thursday, May 28, 2015

What's The Difference Between Throws and Takedowns? Part 1

What is the difference between a throw and a takedown in the martial arts? This is the question that was asked on the Martial Arts Planet internet forum in 2007. The following is a summary of the responses received:

  • There is no official distinction.
  • A hard and fast definition is difficult because there is so much overlap between the two.
  • A throw ends a fight and a takedown takes the fight to the ground.
  • Both of the opponent's feet have to leave the ground with a throw and not a takedown.
  • A throw gets one or both feet off the ground and a takedown gets one or no feet off the ground.
  • It is martial art dependent. The same technique may be a throw in one martial art and a takedown in another.
  • In addition to throws and takedowns, there are slams, sweeps, reaps, and trips.
  • You go with the opponent to the ground with a takedown and not with a throw.
  • A distinction between the two techniques cannot be based solely on mechanics.
Despite the quality of the source of the information, the responses are a pretty good depiction of the different conceptions that are held within the martial arts community of the distinction between throws and takedowns. They also reflect the confusion that surrounds the issue.

'There is no offical distinction'
The book I initially proposed to write was a how-to book on the jujutsu taught by Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan. It was intended to contain difference chapters for each class of technique taught by Tsutsumi Hozan Ryu jujutsu/Jan de Jong jujutsu (and most other jujutsu systems) which included separate chapters for throws and takedowns. I wanted an authoritative definition(s) that distinguished between throwing techniques and takedown techniques for those chapters so I undertook a comprehensive review of the English-language martial arts and related fields literature. The results of that review was that, as respondent #1 above suggested, there is no official distinction between these two types of techniques within the martial arts literature.

Authoritative Distinction
The how-to book was shelved in favour of a book on the science behind martial arts/fighting techniques and the teaching thereof and a chapter was devoted to my failed search for an authoritative distinction between these two types of techniques. Within that chapter I also present, for the first time in the English-language martail arts and related literature, an authoritative distinction between these two types of techniques. This distinction then forms the basis for classifying all techniques that are designed to cause a person to fall to the ground.

I'm drafting an article about this issue for the Blitz martial arts magazine. Due to the limitations on the size of magazine articles, which I frequently exceed, I cannot detail this most interesting of journey's within the martial arts literature to find an authoritative distinction between these two types of techniques, so I thought I might share some of the journey with the readers of this blog.

The authoritative distinction between these two types of techniques I developed formed the basis of classifying all techniques that cause an opponent to the ground. When I discussed this classification with some senior martial artists I was generally met with bemusement. 'Why classify these or any other techniques?', they would ask. Rather than just assume I'm rightand my work is of importance, I went in search of an explanation of why classification is important. In researching this answer I came across 'the core of all learning.'

The Core of All Learning
The core of all learning is said to be the identification of similarities and differences. There seems to be consent as to the similarities between throws and takedowns - they are both types of techniques that cause a person to fall to the ground - but there is no consensus as to what separates them apart ... not until now.

Research has identified four forms of identifying similarities and differences that are highly effective: comparing, classifying, creating metaphors, and creating analogies. Each of those forms of identifying similarities and differences are seen by cognitive theorists as being more than simply linguistic or literary devices, rather, they are seen as being fundamental ways of thinking.

Rather than asking 'Why classify?', we should instead be asking why we don't classify. In the case of throws and takedowns it is probably because while the similarities between these two types of technique are understood, the differences are not.

We will see that classification can be used, as it is intended to be used, to preview the technique to be taught or learnt. For instance, what do you know if you were told you were going to be taught a throw? You'd know that you are about to be taught a technique were forces are applied to an opponent to cause them to fall to the ground. What would you know if you were told you were about to be
taught a te waza (hand technique) as per Jigoro Kano's classification of judo techniques? You'd know that you are about to learn a technique that is:
  1. a nage waza where forces are applied to an opponent to cause them to fall to the ground;
  2. a tachi waza where the thrower will be standing during and at the completion of the execution of the technique;
  3. a te waza where the thrower’s hand is the main body part that plays a central role in the execution of the technique; and
  4. similar to other te waza and different from all non-te waza techniques.
You'd know all this before you even knew the name of the technique let alone before you'd seen it demonstrated, just because the technique was classified as a te waza. This classification is already suggesting to you what the key elements in the technique are, the important elements to look for. You can call upon your background knowledge of similar techniques to understand and learn the new technique.

Judo and Takedowns
What would you know if you were told you were about to learn a takedown (taoshi waza) with reference to Kano's classification of judo techniques? You'd know you were not learning judo.

The judo classification does not include a class that refers to takedowns (taoshi waza). That means that either judo does not teach takedown techniques or that judo does teach takedown techniques but they are included in another class of technique. The latter explanation means that the similarities between takedown techniques and the other techniques in the class, e.g. nage waza, have been identified but either the differences are considered not material enough to warrant their own class or, as is the case, they are not understood.

Does judo teach takedown techniques? Geoff Thompson's The Throws and Take-Downs of Judo would suggest they do - but then why does Thompson not provide definitions that distinguish between these two similar types of techniques and refers to all the techniques in his book as throws?

 The journey continues in part 2.

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