View Full Version : Judo Masterclass Techniques series

1/04/2010 8:22pm,
Everyone has heard of Ippon Books' series "Judo Masterclass Techniques". Every single book is written by someone who has conquered the judo scene with authority - be it during the Olympics, the World Championships or the All-Japan Judo Championships. It is thus expected that each writer is stellar at what he does best - and they all are. Who could forget Kashiwazaki's matwork, or Neil Adams' awesome Tai-Otoshi? These books are the absolute best, or extremely close to it, when it comes to their subject matter.

With the number of options, a question that is often read or heard is : "which ones are the best books?" The answer is that it mostly depends. It depends on you? Where are you strong? Where are you weak? What is your purpose for reading these books? Are you trying to make your stronger techniques even better, or are you trying to cover holes in your games?

At 5'9 and 158 pounds, I am not extremely imposing. In fact I am slightly shorter and lighter than mister everybody. But your choice will depend on more than your physical attributes. For one, my goal is well-roundedness. I'm competent on my feet but moreso on the ground. I have a lot of explosive power but my cardio tends to fail me quite quickly and my technique deteriorates then. My weakest attribute is that my methods of transition from tachiwaza to newaza aren't too hot, therefore I can't link both together as well as my style of play would like me to.

I chose to take a neutral ground, and pick up some books where I was weak to hide holes and others where I am strong to build on my game : I enjoy matwork a lot and it is currently my relative strength. Therefore the various newaza books seemed an obvious choice. I then decided to take Tomoe-Nage also, because mine isn't too awesome and yoko-tomoe is one of my go-to techniques for matwork transition. To round this up, I took Uchimata and Newaza II. I am explosive on my feet and uchimata has always been my tokui-waza. Lastly, Newaza II deals with o- and ko-uchi-gari, my favourite ashiwaza, although I would've liked sasae covered better than hiza-guruma, but one can't have everything.

Why is this relevent? This goes to show that your goals and attributes are certainly much different from mine. If I tell you that Kashiwazaki's books are the best and you hate newaza, I'm not going to help you much.

I chose to review the whole series as a whole in one shot because they almost all have the same format : foreword, personal stuff, history, techniques, competition footage, closing. All are between 96 and 112 pages - might not seem like a lot but keep in mind that this is on ONE subset of judo, be it a throw, Russian judo, grips or a newaza class of techniques.

Before reviewing the 6 books I own themselves, I would like to make this a common Bullshido effort. If you own any book of the series feel free to give your opinion also. I could not get them all because I'm a poor college student, therefore 6 have to suffice for now.

Author : Neil Adams
Rating : 9/10

Armlocks, like all books of the series, is printed in black and white, and both tori and uke wear white, but I did not find this to be detrimental for some reason. I get most of my submissions from armlocks so this was a no-brainer. Adams' book focuses largely on juji-gatame (but most classical armlocks are covered), the armbar, and has a lot of rolls into juji-gatame from the dreaded turtle position that judoka love so much. My method of breaking turtles relies hugely on shime-waza, and although I have been taught a few roll-overs into armlocks, I never took to them. However a large majority of the rollovers in the book were new stuff to me, and all were interesting. Armlocks certainly made me feel like adding a few rollovers to my arsenal as soon as judo season starts up again.

Author : Mike Swain
Rating : NA/10

I haven't got around to reading this one yet. Will update when I do.

Author : Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki
Rating : 9/10

Every judoka's ground game relies on the pin, therefore it is vital to develop this aspect of judo matwork. Fortunately, Kashiwazaki is an expert on matwork, and thanks God, uke wears blue! The book covers most of the classical pins, and a lot of variations thereof : so much it makes my head spin. My weakness in matwork are pin escapes (although it can be said that the best escape from a pin is don't get caught) ; boy was I delighted when I discovered sections on escapes from the various pins. This is, in fact, a rare thing, and out of all the judo books I own, Osaekomi is the only one that has them, and IMO is worth it just for that.

Author : Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki
Rating : 7/10

IMO this is the worst of those I have. Kashiwazaki is an excellent technician, extremely strong matwork expert and brilliant teacher, the fault does not lie with him. It lies in the production. Black and white photos, and tori and uke both wear white! Especially in defense (and the breaking thereof), judo shime-waza often features entwined arms, and the white judogi made it so hands were seemingly coming out of nowhere. The photos thus were quite difficult to follow. The techniques themselves are very solid and an asset, and I especially found kata-ha-jime variations very interesting as I never had been able to find an use for it due to my inexperience.

Author : Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki
Rating : 8/10

As a matwork expert, Kashiwazaki obviously needs a means to bring his opponents to the mat. Tomoe-nage is his answer. The truth is that few people do regular tomoe-nage anymore : the most common is yoko-tomoe-nage. Tomoe-nage is an encyclopedia on the throw, mostly concentrated on the side sacrifice variation. I honestly found the photos a little confusing (so I docked a point), but that can (and obviously SHOULD! MUST!) be supplemented by actual training so there is no big worry. Tomoe-nage focuses less on the single technique than Uchimata does and more onto newaza follow-ups and combos. All of it was very interesting and definitively an addition to my weak tomoe-nage.

Author : Hitoshi Sugai
Rating : 10/10

This is my favourite of the bunch. Sugai is left-handed while I am right-handed (what a little conformist I am), so I need to flip almost everything the other way around for the book to make sense, but the effort is well-worth it. Sugai is rigorous and goes over ashi-uchimata, koshi-uchimata, uchimata from same side grips, opposite side grips, belt-grip uchimata, jumping uchimata, single-side uchimata, uchimata counters, uchimata combos, hell, even one handed uchimata is in there. If you have even a fleeting interest in uchimata then you should absolutely get this book. Nowhere else will you get this much information on the single throw in a single reference.


If such things matter to you, I found that Sugai and Kashiwazaki took their subjects with a bit more abandon : there is definitively humor to be found in those books (I especially liked how Kashiwaza was commenting, on a small technical change in Shimewaza, that not much had changed on the photo, except the opponent's facial expression).

1/05/2010 1:53am,
I have a few of these myself. i have found them to be excellent. my fave is van de Walle's book, even though i don't really do pick ups much. it was a bit of a ground-breaking book when it came out. it's a shame as it will probably never go into a re-print.

i had these as my 'coffee table' books for years, and read bits and pieces of it over and over and over and over, little at a time. when i first bought them, i was never good at duplicating what was shown in pictures, but i think years later, the sequences kind of looped up in my brain and i could 'almost' play them if i visualize them. i might not do all the throws, but recognizing what your opponent does is a big part of judo, so these have been invaluable to me as a judoka. i read some other books, like the russian judo, but owning them and skimming them are two different things. i'l love to buy a few more of these.

a few of my qualms of the IPPON books i own.
Ashiwaza II Mike Swain (actually i can't really think of anything bad to say about this one)
Pick-Ups Robert van de Walle (everything is VERY good in this book, EXCEPT he demonstrates the WORST version of standing kata guruma ever put into print)
Seoi-Nage Hidetoshi Nakanishi (i have the revised version, only to find out later that the original was THICKER! what did they take out? i'd never know...)
Tomoe-Nage Katsuhiko Kashiwazaki (very comprehensive, but i think he could have covered more sacrifice techniques off of the back)

1/05/2010 3:37pm,
First, get them all. One day you will not be able to.

Second, I HIGHLY suggest "Attacking Judo."

1/07/2010 5:37pm,
I actually received a copy of osoto-gari by Yasuhiro Yamashita the other day. 96 pages, so I'll post my review soon.

9/02/2010 10:11am,

9/02/2010 10:44am,
I bought 'Attacking Judo' a logn while back thanks to MTripp's recommendation and have never regretted it, it is an awesome book.

I have russian judo, and pickups from the masterclass series.. of course some of the moves are redundant now, and I'm working on fitting some of them in to combinations but the knowledge is valuable regardless of the rules.