No Mark Zones, Double Handler Coverage, And Other Unconventional Styles From The 2014 Japan Open Final

Japanese ultimate looks very different to the game played in other areas of the world. The 2014 Japan Open final — recently posted on YouTube — shows off some of these features. Given that many Western teams play a very similar style, the opportunity to analyse a different approach to the game is well worth the time.

Shifting Zone Defences

Probably the second most famous feature of Japanese ultimate is the shifting zone defence which never applies pressure on the thrower — and often features no mark — but nevertheless generates a large number of turnovers.

Buzz shifting defence

Shutting Down Handler Offenses

When not tackling a zone, Japanese offences love to exploit isolations near the disc. Once they gain momentum, they are hard to stop. This is why you’ll see teams willing to double (or even triple) team players who are isolated near the disc. Both teams do a great job of forcing their opponent into high risk, high stall throws throughout the game using highly coordinated dump defences; the bulk of the turns come from resets and hucks.

Loquitos dump defence

Buzz dump defence

Striking When The Iron Is Hot

When your opponent constantly poaches and clogs the lanes, you need to be able to take advantage of any chance to move the disc. Case in point: this really unusual bladey outside in backhand huck, which is followed up by a speedy conversion play before Buzz can clog the lanes any more. To learn a variety of ultimate throwing drills with different shaped throws, see Flik.

Bladey backhand huck

Finely Tuned Continuation

You’d expect an offence that relies on pace to work on timing not just one continuation option, but several. Perfectly executed flow offence is a feature of the best Japanese teams; keep an eye on Buzz #97 to the right of the screen and you’ll see him adjusting early, keeping his defender busy, waiting not for the next cut, but the cut in two passes time. This is a great example of the Cyclone offence, available on Flik.

Buzz flow cutting

It’s a really interesting game to watch; both teams play with a lot of pace – and there are a lot of clumsy turnovers as a result – but its evident that the offences and defences on display have evolved together.

Plus, you get to watch some big plays like this:

Big layout grab

  1. Sion "Brummie" Scone
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    Sion "Brummie" Scone coached GB Open from 2010-2012, and also coached the GB World Games team in 2013, and the u24 Men in 2018. He has been running skills clinics in the UK and around the world since 2005. He played GB Open 2007-12, and GB World Games 2009. He lives in Birmingham, UK. You can reach him by email (sionscone@gmail.com) or on Twitter (@sionscone).

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