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Interview with

Suzuki Soma

鈴木

From Jiu Jitsu Today (aka ジウジツトウデイ)

Vol. 3, Fall 2022

Rising Star Soma Suzuki talks about his go-to Triangle Choke and other things

Translation and Commentaries by Roberto Pedreira

Posted April 1, 2024

InterviewerIntroductionSuzuki is someone who continues to come from Hokkaido to enter almost every tournament. Especially he wins a lot by submissions with a triangle choke. Here, we are asking him about his special go-to technique and other things.

Interview begins:

Q1. Recently, Suzuki Soma has complied an impressive, remarkable record. In every tournament, you are getting good results, aren’t you!?

Soma: Thank you very much Since I always enter every tournament, coming from Hokkaido, I feel that my results have been good and I have no regrets so far.

Q2. There must be a lot of difficulties coming from Hokkaido?

Soma: Indeed. Because I live in Hokkaido, a lot of travel expenses are required, and coming up with money is not easy. Finding time to do what I have to do and the trouble involved in making arrangements and so on cuts down on my training time. Really, it’s not easy.

Q3. It seems that you have had good results even though the process has been difficult.

Soma: I think that my good results have been related to my choice of favorite technique. When I go back to Hokkaido from Tokyo, I feel satisfied and don’t regret anything knowing that I did everything I should have done and the result was satisfactory.

Q4. In competitions, you often finish by triangle chokes. Since when has triangle choke been your specialty (得意技)?

Soma: On my first day of jiu-jitsu (柔術) training, my teacher (指導者), 阿仁鬼さんsaid “this technique might suit you, why don’t you give it a go” (キミに向かいてる技だからやってみたら?”) and he taught me the triangle choke. Ever since then I’ve been using it. As he said, when I tried it, it suited me well. Really, I feel that it is a compatible technique for me. I always “polish” it, and it has become my favorite, trademark, go-to technique. So in that sense it was “lucky” (ラッキ) for me that “aniki-san”  (阿仁鬼さん) gave me the “wise advice” (適確なアドバイス) that he did when he did.

Q5. Do you have any go-to move for the triangle choke?

Soma: Mostly I go for moves from closed guard. The reason is that mastering one thing thoroughly could lead me to other opportunities. So it’s a good thing that I focused and polished the triangle choke from closed guard, without trying various “that and this” moves, I think. 

Q6: That leads to finishes by triangle chokes, doesn’t it?

Soma: I’m not just a one-trick pony. My arsenal holds more than only triangle chokes. I have (other) techniques to win by submission. I don’t think about winning by the “point game.” I’m always looking to win by ippon (一本) in a contest. So if I enter a SJJIF World tournament, my objective will be to win the tournament “title” (優勝)by triangle choke.

Will Soma be the next level Rickson? You be the judge. Here are a few short videos of Soma in action:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMjaZUB7yXA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFXevtsbdCI

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGAzmByubEk

Translation Notes

The line over the top of a vowel (aka a macron) indicates that the vowel is twice as long as it would be without it. All syllables are equally long. You can create more or less the same effect by stressing it, as long as you otherwise avoid differentially stressing syllables, as in English.

Q1:The interviewer addresses Soma by his full name, which is typical in Japanese, in case a name is used at all. Generally names and pronouns are omitted unless absolutely necessary.

Q4: Soma refers to his teacher, mentor, whatever, as aniki-san,  阿仁鬼さん, see note below.]

Q5: Soma is talking about developing a firm foundation and building on it logically rather than dabbling in miscellaneous unconnected “that and this” (あれこれ) moves.] 

Soma refers to the person who taught him the triangle choke as “aniki-san”, using the kanji 阿仁鬼 + さん. Aniki means older brother. Aniki is how Kazushi Sakuraba referred to Rickson when he challenged him. Sakuraba was alluding to Rickson in terms of his “older brother” relation to Royce. Aniki would be written 兄貴in older books, or あにきorあにき depending on the reader demographic. (Japanese students learn their kanji in elementary and middle school in a particular nationally uniform sequence, so their age would predict what they would probably be able to comfortably read) and for whimsical reasons known best to the writer/editor/publisher. In this case Soma refers to aniki with the suffix “-san” which indicates that aniki isn’t biologically related. It also indicates that aniki is probably an older student at a club, not a “professor” or sensei (先生) at a dojo or academy. (Of course, the kanji were supplied by the editor, probably not Soma).

Soma also refers to aniki as his shidōsha (指導者) which loosely describes someone who provides guidance, supervision, or advice and isn’t more accurately described otherwise. (Mentor might be a good translation). The point being that people can learn jiu-jitsu almost anywhere and they can find success in the sport even without obsessively watching Youtube. It may sound counter-intuitive that more information is not always better. Sometimes less is more (equal or better results with less time, effort, cost, risk).

(See this, this, and this.)

Or below:

https://pure.mpg.de/rest/items/item_2099674/component/file_2099673/content;

https://pure.mpg.de/rest/items/item_2100099/component/file_2100098/content

https://pure.mpg.de/rest/items/item_2100211/component/file_2100210/content

Comments

As can be seen in the competition links, Somas application of the triangle is effective in some cases, less so in others. Back in the day (early to mid 90s) triangles were not taught as basic techniques (or if they were, they were taught as do at your own risk.) The reason wasnt that triangles are difficult to do. The reason was that attempting them without a well-rounded game can backfire, as we see in one of Somas bouts. Beginners are better served mastering more fundamental concepts. Jiu-jitsu is not an exception to all other fields of human endeavour, although you might think it was from Youtube. Compulsively going for a technique that isnt there, is not a roadmap for success. To quote Inosanto Academy instructor Chad Stahelksi, now a Hollywood action-movie director, the roadmap to success is fundamentals first.

Soma seems to subscribe to Rickson Gracies theory that submissions is what BJJ should be about. If there is no submission, it means there is no technique, Rickson feels (or said in an interview with Marcelo Alonso in OTatame). This is more than a bit inconsistent with Ricksons emphasis on self-defense. Holding someone down is a good way to self-defend, without getting arrested or sued for excessive force or accidentally choking someone to death. As activists, underemployed lawyers, and opportunistic media outlets will argue, if you could hold the miscreant down and prevent him/her/them, etc from battering you, why did you need to break his arm/her/etc or strangle him/her/etc? Granted you didnt intend to kill him/her/etc, but he/she/etc died anyway, so to the slammer you must go, for social justice. 

On the other hand, it is a legitimate question. Why did you need to break that arm or squeeze the mans neck area? Be careful about joelho na barriga! Do you fancy spending your valuable training time in police stations and law courts? The money that you will hand over to a lawyer could be spent at BJJ Fanatics!

Japanese people dont train for street fighting. They dont join gyms to learn how to beat people up or avoid being beaten up. BJJ is a sport here, or just a cool weird foreign fad to try, like mountain climbing or internet nuisance streaming. For some people, its a way to make money, or show off in a modest Japanese way. There is crime in Japan, but the sort that is better addressed by being a bit skeptical. Dont send money to someone who calls claiming to be a grandson who got himself arrested for grabbing a school girls ass on a crowded train. He needs cash quickly to bribe his way out of jail. At least make sure that you actually have a grandson.

Does this mean we must not train jiu-jitsu for self defense?

It does not. However, just as watching an online guitar lesson does not guarantee you a place in the Rock Guitar Hero Hall of Fame, neither does watching a BJJ self-defense video mean that you will not get beat down, or raped, or disrespected.

Jiu-jitsu teaches us to optimize outcomes (maximum effect with minimum force). Sometimes you have no real choice. The assailant is on top of you. Punching, stabbing, choking, raping, filming. Very common occurrences, we are told, or we infer. Who wouldnt be alarmed? If we are data-oriented  people, we might instead think that such extreme cases are not in fact common, they are uncommon. They happen seldom rather than routinely. Tsunami[s] (津波) happen in Japan, regularly and somewhat predictably. Most tsunami are so small that you wouldnt notice one if you were next to it. Then there are the Big Ones. Once every thirty years or so, in certain areas. The best official government advice for self-defense against the Big Ones is to promptly flee to high ground, or avoid the area in the first place. In other words, dont go there, but if you do, leave immediately. This is sound counsel in general. In relation to personal self-defense against a wide range of dangers and harms, there are options that are generally superior to watching videos. Examples are: spending more time in libraries and gyms; less time in dangerous places; avoiding people, animals, objects, activities, and situations that are statistically dangerous. (Garter snakes wont kill you, cobras might, kraits absolutely will unless you avoid them.) In other words, without blaming the victim, bad things happen in certain places, times, in association with certain people and types of people, things and so on. Therefore, use rather than ignore this readily available information. Spending time in libraries and gyms is recommended, although the author may be biased. Instead of buying a video, go to the gym and train, or to the library and browse the stacks. Neither is 100% safe but nothing is. Safer than the alternatives is safe enough for practical purposes.

Since self-defense is one of those words that can mean almost anything, it is worth thinking about what it means to the person who wants it. Think of a self-defense system as a toolbox (using L. Wittgenstein's analogy to language). What are the tasks that these tools are designed to do? Moreover, what is the probability, that you will want to, or need, or be able, to do them.

BJJ might be a good self-defense system. It might or might not be better than others, depending on the stylist and the situation. Robertos opinion: All things considered, jiu-jitsu self-defense might be effective to the extent that the self-defence situation is similar to a BJJ sparring session or competition bout. Whether it is better than the null hypothesis is a different question (which has not yet been empirically researched.)

(For those who dont already know), the null hypothesis is that there is no effect. or in this case, not taking the optional extra step after securing the hold-down.)

And:

  1. Self-defense gurus who advise people to run away should find a better expression. Suggestion: Exit the scene expeditiously, after kicking perps ass. Running away might be good advice in some situations, but how many people would pay Rickson $400 for an hour private if his lesson consisted of telling them to run away? Actually, this is more or less what the Late Great Gene Lebell advised, but in more ego-preserving form: Never fight for free. Judo Gene did not charge $400 for this advice.
  1. Instead of telling us how many BJJ tournaments the instructor has won, tell us how many times he or she has personally used the techniques (that he or she is recommending) on the street or battlefield.
  1. If the instructor is a martial arts champion, and most of the rest of us are not, some hints on why we would be able to do what they imply that they can in the street, when we clearly cant do it in high level competitions, would be useful. Especially if the instructor is teaching ordinary girls and ladies (ordinary = biological non-fenom females) and is physically more  formidable than most men (and prettier than some). Maybe she could execute these techniques and actually has done so, but the average female?

Conclusion: Train because its the right thing (for you) to do. Self-defense might be a side-benefit. Learn to distinguish between hasnt been proven to work and hasnt been proven not to work. The latter is not logically equivalent to it will work. Avoiding conflict is usually pretty effective. But how to do that is the topic for another day.

More Vocabulary Notes

凄い すごい. sugoi = great, a lot, much, many

こだわり, kodawari = favorite, habitual, go-to techniqe.

結果 kekka = results

結果を残す kekka wo nokosu = leaving results. The verb (nokosu) will be inflected according to the specific case). を is the direct object particle, pronounced “o”, and often omitted.

Kk (kk)  and k are different sounds in Japanese and are used to distinguish words and meanings. As an experiment, type them into google translate and listen to the voice function (copy the letters below). They may sound the same to you, or not different enough to matter, but they sound diferent to Japanese speakers and they definitely matter.

  1. 毛か (keka) けか
  2. 結果 (kekka) けっか

(Obviously you can do this with other phoneme contrasts as well).

労力 ろうりょこ rōryoku = effort, trouble, work

好成績 kōseiseki = good results, good grades, good record

選手 senshu = athlete, competitor. Used after a name, as in Suzuki-senshu, it indicates that the individual is a competitor/athlete, without regard to age, sex, status, personal relationship, intmacy. affiliation, rank, etc.

実感 jikkan = real feeling, experience (note that jikkan 実感is a different word from jikan 時間 and is pronounced and used differently)

充足感にjūsokukan ni = fully

柔道jūdō = judo

michiru = to fill up (infinitive form, must be inflected for tense, aspect, etc.)

得意技 tokuiwaza = favorite technique, best technique, special technique, got-to technique

指導者 shidōsha = teacher, coach, advisor, guide, mentor

指導する shidō suru = verb form of shidō

指導 shidō = noun form of shidō suru

極める kimeru = submit

極め技 kime-waza = submission

考え kangae = think (apply mental effort)

思う omou = (think, as in think so, but not sure)

教える oshieru = teach

優勝 yūshō, tournament victory

優勝者 yūshōsha = tournament champion, or winner in a belt, weight, age, sex category

一本 ippon =one point, full point, match-winning point. In a BJJ contest, ippon ( 一本), refers to a submission

SJJIF = Sports Jiu-Jitsu International Federation (see forthcoming interviews with rising next-level superstar Taniguchi Minoru (谷口実) and marketing mastermind Iso Takehiro (磯毅寛).

Thanks to 近藤洋子 for checking and suggesting some improvements.

(c) 2024, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.

 

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