Kirill Denisov’s lapel feed is the starting point to his most effective gripping sequence against opposite stance opponents.
Competing at the very highest level in international judo for over ten years, the lapel feed was a regular technique Denisov successfully employed.
Occasionally he would attack straight off the lapel feed.
But normally it was used as his gateway to catch and then pin his opponent’s sleeve.
If he was unable to get to the sleeve, Denisov used his lapel grip to apply pressure against the chest.
Quite often, with the opponent backed up against the edge of the area and feeling under threat, they would step out of the contest zone and give away a crucial penalty.
Here, in the semi final of the 2015 World Championships, is a very clear example of that, as Georgia’s Gviniashvili is pressured out of the area.
Against Uzbekistan’s Imamov in the 2016 Budapest Grand Prix, Denisov’s lapel feed allows him a high and dominant grip that is easily able to crush his opponent’s Sumi gaeshi attack.
But the ultimate outcome of the lapel feed was to transition into taking control of the sleeve.
Here’s a very fast transition from lapel feed into sleeve grip against Germany’s Odenthal, also in Budapest.
Three years later, and in the same competition, Denisov’s lapel feed enables him to catch and then pin the sleeve of his opponent, before bringing in the Ashi waza and movement that he is so well known for.
There’s the lapel being fed from left hand to right.
Now Denisov targets and catches the sleeve. By following up with the Ashi waza he is able to establish a stronger and more dominant sleeve grip.
At the 2019 World Team Championships in Tokyo, Denisov secures the sleeve grip, attacks with Ouchi gari, and then rotates his arm so that he is on top of the wrist.
The Ouchi shifts his opponent’s hand away from his lapel. And the arm rotation allows him to tighten up even more on the sleeve. With the sleeve now fully pinned he is in a much stronger position in which to throw.
Another quick transition from lapel feed to sleeve pin gives him the opportunity to attack with Ashi waza against Switzerland’s Grossklaus in the 2015 Rabat Masters.
And against Romania’s Matei in the 2018 Zagreb Grand Prix.
Generally, once Denisov is happy with the sleeve grip, that’s when he introduces his elbow tuck, which is designed to conserve his power until the right moment, and reduce the strength in his opponent.
Here’s a very good example of the elbow tuck, used against UAE’s Remarenco in the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.
At the 2017 World Championships you can clearly see that Denisov’s elbow tuck leaves Sweden’s Dvarby in a position where he is unable to release his arm and initiate any Tachi waza.
It means a second penalty for Dvarby, leaving Denisov in the driving seat.
In the quarter final of the 2017 Ekaterinburg Grand Slam Denisov uses the elbow tuck to pull down on the sleeve of Korell of the Netherlands. This prevents the Dutch fighter from having a strong lapel grip. As a result he feels unable to attack, which leads to a decisive disqualification
There’s the pull down on the sleeve, keeping the arm tight to the body.
Denisov uses a similar tactic in the 2018 Agadir Grand Prix, but this time combines the downwards pressure on the sleeve with a circular movement and Ashi waza. This does the job of breaking his opponent’s lapel grip.
He maintains the elbow tuck throughout the exchange, only extending the arm at the point he breaks the lapel grip. And then he’s back into the tuck position.
Against sleeve throwing specialist Gonzalez of Cuba, Denisov leads with a right handed lapel grip, in order to trap Gonzalez into giving him the sleeve.
Then he pulls in the Cuban and moves into the elbow tuck position. Gonzalez’s amazing ability to throw off the sleeve is now negated, and it’s Denisov that looks the more positive. Shido to Gonzalez.
Denisov initially tries to catch the sleeve outright, but Gonzalez keeps it out of range. So he reverts to the lapel, which forces Gonzalez to grip up. Denisov is now able to move onto the sleeve and pull him into the elbow tuck.
Up against Hungary’s Toth at the 2015 World Championships, Denisov this time leads with the sleeve grip and elbow tuck before taking a high and dominant grip with his left hand. It buckles Toth, who is forced into a negative posture, and is given the first penalty of the fight.
Two years later at the 2017 World Championships, Denisov uses the same strategy against Sweden’s Dvarby, leading with the elbow tuck, before taking a high grip.
Once again it forces a negative posture from the opponent, and the result, another penalty.
In this clip you can see just how effective the elbow tuck is in stopping attacks that require a strong pull on the sleeve, as Denisov easily prevents this drop Sode tsurikomi goshi from Greece’s Malliaropoulos.
Just look at how tight Denisov keeps that right arm to his body, which is a big factor in stopping the throw.
Fighting Brazil’s Concalves in the 2019 Brasilia Grand Slam, it’s elbow tuck, followed by lapel grip. But what’s really important to note is how effective the elbow tuck is when countering his opponent’s Uchi mata.
As a result Denisov puts himself into a very strong position in Ne waza.
He defends by pushing against the head with the lapel hand and keeping the elbow tucked as tightly as possible. Concalves, who is now in trouble, is forced to release the lapel and limit the damage. Denisov is now able to turn him in Ne waza from that very tight grip.
But the ultimate for Denisov is when it all comes together in sequence – the lapel feed, pinning of the sleeve and the elbow tuck. This gives him offensive and defensive options.
In Ekaterinburg 2019, fighting Kazakhstan’s Demyanenko, Denisov transitions very nicely from the lapel feed into the elbow tuck, before attacking with Tai otoshi and O guruma.
At the 2017 Hohhot Grand Prix, just look at how Denisov maintains his elbow tuck as he spins Hungary’s Ohat, before attacking with Ouchi gari.
The elbow tuck keeps Ohat close to him, forcing him to move with Denisov, and it’s this that creates the opening for the Ashi waza.
Another nice transition from lapel feed to sleeve catch and elbow tuck is performed here against Italy’s Loporchio in the bronze medal contest of the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Slam.
He follows it up with a nice Ashi waza combination, tapping the outside of Loporchio’s foot before skipping in with the Kouchi gari.
From this close up angle you can see just how tight the control is from that elbow tuck position.
In the 2011 Baku Masters against Lithuania’s Bauza, Denisov feeds the lapel and then waits for the right moment to catch the sleeve.
Once he has, he moves quickly into the elbow tuck position. Now he has his two strongest grips and is able to easily counter Bauza’s Sumi gaeshi, and move directly into Osaekomi waza.
Another good counter attack comes in the 2013 Samsun Grand Prix, as Denisov uses his two favourite grips to counter his opponent’s Uchi mata.
A great piece of Te waza from Denisov, as he fully extends his lapel arm and maintains the elbow tuck with the sleeve arm, rolling his opponent onto his side for Yuko.
Against Georgia’s Jugeli in the 2016 Baku Grand Slam, Denisov makes his Uchi mata counter attack look effortless, as he maintains a tight elbow tuck.
He moves immediately into Ne waza and secures an Ippon scoring Tate shiho gatame.
This example, more than any other, really shows the importance of keeping that arm in tight to the body.
And, finally, here’s a quite wonderful Kosoto gaeshi against China’s Erihemubatu in the 2019 Brasilia Grand Slam, with the elbow tuck being vital to its success.
Just look at the close control of the sleeve, as Denisov retains that tight elbow position. A great Ippon.