Monday, December 29, 2014

Overview of Takato's judo

For the past two weeks, I've been studying the judo of Japan's Naohisa Takato, watching his fights from the time he competed in the 2009 Budapest Cadets World Championships right up to the 2014 Chelyabinsk World Championships.

He is one of the most fascinating judo players around because of the wide range of techniques in his arsenal. I've heard many people, including video commentators as saying his judo is very un-traditional and even somewhat European. I think that's only partially true. His yoko-sutemi and utsuri-goshi are indeed uncommon and usually associated with European judo. But, he does a wide range of traditional judo techniques as well.

Most people are familiar with his well-known tokui-waza. He does yoko-sutemi (left), kouchi-gari (left), sode-tsuri-komi-goshi (right) and utsuri-goshi (right) extremely well. And these are the techniques we see him score big with in the highlights videos.

What's less known are his other techniques, and he does quite a lot of other stuff. For example he is known to try uchimata (left) quite regularly and sometimes scores with it too. Another technique that he likes to try very often is sumi-gaeshi (left). He has less success with that. But he seems to like it a lot.

On occasions, he does an hugging, driving ouchi-gari which works fairly well, probably because it's usually done as an opportunistic, timely attack. 

He's not really a seoi-nage man although like many Japanese players of today's generation, he has a reverse seoi-nage (left) in his arsenal. He also occasionally tries morote-seoi-nage (left) but doesn't have much luck scoring with that. As for ippon-seoi-nage, I've seen him try it once so far (and it didn't work). So, seoi-nage is not really his thing.

Back in the day when leg grabs following an initial non-leg grab attack was allowed he tried doing one-handed sode (left), which entailed grabbing the opponent's right leg. But he's abandoned that technique now that all forms of leg grabs are prohibited.

Takato doesn't seem to like newaza very much and he seldom engages in it but when he does he usually aims for osaekomi. On occasions he has been able to pull off some very slick ground manoeuvres that score, which makes you wonder why he doesn't do them more often. Perhaps he just likes to throw more.

Speaking of throws, let's return to his tokui-waza and examine his favorite throwing techniques in detail

He's one of the few Japanese who likes to do this very European-style technique. The only other Japanese player I've seen done this was Tadahiro Nomura, who did it infrequently. Takato, in contrast, does it all the time. And most of the times, it fails. But when it works, it's quite spectacular.

In the early days, he would do it in combination with a leg grab. He would enter first in a kata-guruma styled fashion but without the leg grab. Once the opponent is loaded on his shoulders he would grab the opponent's right leg and drive him down. With the leg grab now illegal, he has adapted just like other side takedown specialists and is able to execute the technique without the leg grab.

This is one of his minor techniques. He doesn't usually score big with this but he scores often with it and even when he doesn't score, he usually knocks down his opponents. In the early days, he would employ a leg grab but of course he doesn't do this anymore these days. His kouchi is still very effective though, even without the leg grab. He is a specialist in this technique.

From his extreme left-sided kenka-yotsu stance he would suddenly twist in and launch his opponent with this hip throw. He tries this in almost every match so it's definitely a favorite of his.

This is a technique seldom seen in competition because it's such an unusual technique that involves switching the attack from a backwards throw (ura-nage) to a forward throw (ogoshi), all in one seamless movement. Takato has had some major wins with this one. As in the case of his sode, he starts by adopting an extreme left kenka-yotsu stance. When the time is right, he will twist in and load his opponent onto his right hip before smashing him to the ground. It's a very effective technique that's gaining in popularity especially amongst the Europeans. Ukraine's Georgii Zantaraia and Hungary's Krisztian Toth have been known to do the exact same technique.

One thing that's not so obvious from the highlight clips is that for every successful time he executes his favorite throws, he has many more failed attacks. You just don't see those in the highlight clips, which only shows the big, successful throws. But Takato is a workhorse and constantly attacks with various techniques. Most of the time, they don't work but he keeps plugging away until something does work. It's an approach that has worked well for him.

In the coming days, I shall be posting up various clips showcasing the judo of Takato. I'll also be working on my a judo e-book entitled "The Judo of Takato" where all his techniques are broken down in step-by-step movements. It'll be a first book of its kind and hopefully the first of many such e-books to come.


  1. I want to read your book. I am very interested in Takato's waza.

  2. Same here,very interesting breakdown.