When you love judo, you can talk about it forever, no time limit, no getting tired of it, just a constant flow of subject after subject: observations, analyses, opinions, plans. The technical analysis for day 4 of the 2024 Abu Dhabi World Championships is a 3-way conversation between Dr Sanda Corak, IJF EC member and chair of the Gender Equality Commission, Nicolas Messner, IJF Media and Judo for Peace Director, and Jo Crowley, IJF Publishing Editor.

Margaux Pinot’s tactical mastery against Tanaka (JPN) was impressive. From the first ‘hajime’ to the final bell she made no mistakes and neutralised any possibility for the Japanese to fully engage with her technical judo. The French athlete applied at least a dozen seoi-otoshi attacks, controlling the rhythm and keeping her ahead in every way.

Actually both the French athletes had a slow start but by the time they reached the final 8 they brought incredible pace and power.

Pinot (FRA) vs Gahie (FRA).

To have Majdov in a final again after being the winner in 2017, was a little bit of magic, some 7 years later. It takes a lot of resilience, belief and patience to stick with it for so long and today he had his reward.

The Majdov (SRB)-Tajima (JPN) final.

However, Majdov was beaten in the final by Tajima. It shows the quality of Japanese judo when Goki Tajima, who has just two medals on the World Judo Tour, can make the world final, although with a little more research we find he has also won the All Japan Championships the last two years in a row at -90 kg. He may not have too much visibility but he certainly has pedigree.

He applied so many techniques through the day against different styles of opponent. From sode-tsuri-komi-goshi to then throwing with an uki-otoshi to uchi-mata combination against Macedo (BRA), concluding with a brilliant hara-gatame, an arm lock we very rarely see at all. He performed a right ko-uchi in his first fight and a left seoi-otoshi later in the day; throwing to both sides and with shoulder throws and ashi-waza, transitioning to simple and effective ne-waza techniques. What an arsenal.

Tajima throws Macedo (BRA).

Sagaipov (LBN) went all the way to the semi-final. No-one thought the Lebanese judoka would get passed his first contest having drawn last week’s gold medallist from the Qasaqstan Barysy Grand Slam, Varapayeu (AIN). He countered first and then threw with his own kata-guruma. If that wasn’t impressive enough he then held Toth down, putting the number one seed out, before passing 2019 world champion Van t’End (NED) via a disqualification.

Sagaipov (LBN) knocks out the number one seed, Toth (HUN).

The Dutchman had attempted to throw Saigapov with an armlock on, two hands on his one sleeve. In the post-preliminary run-down by the IJF commentators, Dennis Van Der Geest, himself a world champion, said, “Regardless of the rules and any discussions we may want to have around them, the rules are the rules and if judoka are being disqualified repeatedly for throwing with two hands on one sleeve, stop doing it, just stop doing it!” Many athletes are still practising this kind of technique and when applied at the top level, it is being picked up by the world’s best referees. Dangerous actions must be rewarded with the appropriate penalty.

Sagaipov (LBN) vs Van t'End (NED).

We mentioned Tajima’s transition but the continuation of actions, throwing into ne-waza, seems to be among the most important factors for success. It was certainly Szymanska’s key on day 3 but the theme continued on day 4, particularly with Tajima but also with Tcheuemeo and Reid.

It can seem sometimes that we are expecting the Japanese to deliver clean, pure techniques and they do, a high percentage of the time. More countries must focus on the basics, on building their foundation to be able to work in all directions and with an upright posture. Looking for the unorthodox techniques can be spectacular and can, of course, win contests but the pure style is the most awe-inspiring judo we can witness and we want more of it.

On day 5, no doubt there will be a lot more to discuss. Take a look at the draw in advance, make your predictions and get ready to enjoy the live feed on JudoTV.

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