Meet Matt D’Aquino, a judo Olympian and 3rd-degree black belt in judo.
Studying judo for over 23 years, Matt also has competed in BJJ and has a deep understanding of training stand-up for both judo and BJJ tournaments.
The Jiu-jitsu Times asked Matt about how jiu-jitsu guys can improve their takedowns and Matt shared some great advice.
Jiu-jitsu Times: Matt, we see a hole in the stand-up grappling skills in many BJJ schools where training starts from the knees. Why is it important for BJJ students to incorporate some judo into their jiu-jitsu training?
Matt D’Aquino: Starting to learn judo and takedowns is really important for all BJJ practitioners, especially if you are looking at competing. Every match starts standing and if you have a few simple trips and takedowns you can start most fights with a 2-point takedown advantage. And often, two points is all you need to secure a win.
I encourage all BJJ clubs to start a majority of their rolls on their feet purely because this is also part of the art. At my academy, we start most of our rolls standing and a few months ago we had a purple belt who was shocked that we started standing and was immediately out of his depth against people who had only trained for about six months.
Jiu-jitsu Times: If a student of BJJ is looking to improve their stand-up grappling, what simple advice do you have to get started? What techniques should they look to start with?
Matt D’Aquino: First off, I would encourage them to learn how to fall. So basic break falls should become a part of their weekly training schedule. Often we train takedowns but we first need to know how to land safely and avoid injury when being thrown. Once this is established we can then look at moving into learning basic techniques.
My second bit of advice is to just get started. Head to a judo, wrestling, or Sambo club and get started. Take it easy and focus on one to two techniques. My advice would be to focus on basic trips such as ouchi gari and osoto gari and basic leg picks such as kuchki taoshi and gradually build up to learning more advanced techniques such as sumi gaeshi.
My last bit of advice would be just to get started. The earlier you start the better you will become. It’s that simple.
Judo for BJJ: Leg grab takedown options
Jiu-jitsu Times: How do you think judo for judo competition rules differ from the application of judo for BJJ rules and strategy? What adaptations does the BJJ student need to make for sports judo?
Matt D’Aquino: Often, rules do dictate both the style of the takedowns you choose to use as well as the finish of the takedown. For example in judo if someone attacks me with a throw and they don’t succeed and I take their back, I got no points. However, in both BJJ and wrestling, if you take the back, you get points.
So, in BJJ we try to stick to throws that don’t expose your back, just in case you miss the throw and get your back taken.
So, in a BJJ competition, a judoka would have to be very careful of not showing their back and conceding points.
Another massive habit judoka need to avoid in BJJ tournaments is the rolling to turtle habit. Rolling to turtle is okay, but it is a transition position, not a stalling position. But time and time again I see judoka (including myself at times) turtle up and get their back taken. If you are Eduardo Telles, then yes, turtle all day long. But for us normal folk, I urge you to avoid it at all costs.
In terms of the ground game, the biggest rule difference between judo and BJJ is time allowed on the ground. A judoka tends to use up 110% energy and effort for 20 seconds on the ground and if they do the same level of aggression in a BJJ competition, their fitness and strength will not last the match. So, a judoka must have to learn to relax and save energy if they are looking at competing in BJJ competitions.
The biggest problem I have with BJJ guys in judo competitions is their lack of explosiveness on the ground. So, in BJJ comps, a judoka needs to learn to slow down, and in judo comps, a BJJ guy needs to learn to speed up.
Often times, a BJJ grappler switches from position to position and the referee (unfortunately) stops the match and returns the grapplers to their feet. Although this is frustrating, BJJ competitors need to learn how to be more explosive and look at finishing the fight ASAP as opposed to taking your time for a position before submission style grappling. Often, you see judoka sacrifice position for a submission in a judo match simply due to the time restraints.
Jiu-jitsu Times: What principle(s) of judo (ex. kuzushi, kumi kata) can BJJ guys learn and benefit from understanding?
Matt D’Aquino: There are a number of principles that will help BJJ guys and that is the idea of off-balancing your opponent, the transition from throws to takedowns and grip fighting.
Once you learn how to read your opponents’ stance and off balance them, they become a lot easier to throw and take down.
The next step is learning and understanding the space between the takedown and the ground game. If you can get a good understanding of that, then often your stand-up game will lead directly into your ground game. For example, you might do an ankle pick into a knee ride, or a tomoe nage into armbar. Once you understand this transition space, your game will improve immensely.
And lastly, the grip fighting game. Once you learn basic gripping strategies, you will be able to control your opponent, enter for your throws more easily, and avoid being thrown by your opponent. Grip fighting is 90% of the judo game, and once you get a basic understanding of it, you will start to dominate BJJ guys in the stand up.
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 have a ton of resources that will help BJJ guys improve their stand-up game. One is my “Takedowns for BJJ” package that can be found at www.bjjtakedowns.com and the other is my “No-gi Takedowns” DVD package that is coming out in a few months time. I’m actually recording it at the moment.
I also have a ton of grappling-related material on techniques, strength, and conditioning and more at my website, beyondgrappling.com