The Challenges of Shimewaza
by Elie A. Morrell, Shichidan
Shimewaza is probably the most difficult branch of judo to master. Few judo practitioners will ever attain total mastery of shimewaza.
Shimewaza attacks must be precise. This requirement must be satisfied, especially if attacking an experienced player. More often than not, a player who submits to an apparent shimewaza has not been attacked properly. The player usually has submitted due to discomfort, minor pain, or a feeling of breathing difficulty due to undue pressure on the trachea.
Problem areas faced when attempting shimewaza include a small target (the carotid
artery), relative ease of defense by the opponent, frequently obscured vision of the target and attacking techniques requiring tori to overcome a struggling uke in order to gain control by using the legs.
The majority of shimewaza techniques require compression of the carotid artery. This is usually by pressure applied by the second thumb joint (knuckle) or the outer hand edge.
One notable exception to the foregoing is hadaka jime. This shimewaza typically results in a partial or direct pressure on the trachea. The result can be painful, not necessarily damaging. Trachea pressure decreases air flow to the lungs.
The basis for all chokes/strangles is to attempt to render the opponent unconscious. When the shimewaza is properly applied the opponent will usually become unconscious in approximately 8 to 14 seconds.
The carotid artery is protected by a thick muscular band called the sternocleidomastoid muscle. Typically, to facilitate the shimewaza, a slight twisting action is used to push the muscle to one side in order to bring a more direct pressure on the carotid artery.
Pressure on the superior carotid artery prevents oxygenated blood from reaching the cerebral cortex. Any resulting unconsciousness resulting from this applied pressure is temporary and the uke will normally come around naturally.If assistance is required, resuscitation techniques such as katsu or kappo may utilized.
Partial obstruction of blood flow to the brain results in hypoxia. A partial closure of the trachea results in asphyxia. All shimewaza techniques when applied will result in either one of these conditions or a combination thereof.
Based on the two foregoing definitions resulting from the application of shimewaza ,the use of the term ‘choke’ to define shimewaza is a misnomer. Furthermore, Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines the word ‘choke’ as follows: “To check normal breathing by compressing or obstructing the windpipe.” Webster’s defines the word ‘strangle’ as follows: “To choke to death by compressing the throat with something (as a hand or rope).
Based on the definition of the terms ‘choke’ and ‘strangle’ it would appear to be incorrect to call the majority of the shimewaza repertoire chokes or strangles. The most common exception would be hadaka jime. This shimewaza could correctly be called a choke. It could also be called an asphyxia technique.
One shimewaza stands out from all the rest because of its unique method of application It is sankaku jime and is worthy of mention here. This technique relies on the power of the legs surrounding the neck area to attain the desired effect. When properly applied, escape is extremely difficult, if not nearly impossible. Because of the power of this technique, submission by the uke is often the outcome. The writer has never witnessed a case where this technique was applied wherein the uke was rendered unconscious. The result was always submission!
The opening remarks of this article alluded to the difficulty of mastering shimewaza techniques. The remaining branches of judo essentially rely on natural talent. Tachi waza, osaekomi waza and kansetsu waza require hundreds or thousands of repetitions to attain proficiency. Shimewaza does not rely on natural talent. However, dedicated and constant practise should be the rule.
While practicing shimewaza, attack routines should be studied in order to become accustomed to the various defenses, counters and moves an opponent can make. It is important for one to recognize that the difference between success and failure during shimewaza attacks is often just a matter of fractions of an inch in placement of the hands.
In most cases one of the hands will play the dominant role. The other hand can be thought of as reinforcing the shimewaza.
The aim of this article has been to highlight some of the important points associated with the application of various shimewaza. Its brevity only discusses the subject in a superficial manner. No attempt is made at an in depth discussion. For a broader coverage of the subject, one should refer to published texts on the art of shimewaza. In essence, this article has attempted to present the differences between the various shimewaza and the proper methods of application.
Lastly, the misnomer in the nomenclature that currently defines shimewaza has been flagged. The writer certainly does not recommend any changes in these definitions. The world of judo has used these definitions for well over one hundred years and they are most likely here to stay.
Coaches should be aware of what constitutes an asphyxia technique and what constitutes a hypoxia technique. Coaches should point this out to students and indicate the meaning of hypoxia and asphyxia. He should also indicate the current definitions are here to stay.
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