The Essentials of Throwing.
Here is a checklist of what must happen for a throw to occur. In other words, if
you meet the elements in this checklist, you are in a position to apply a technique
vs. just trying to overpower the receiver. These are quite classical and as useful
today as ever. This is not a procedural manual, so do not think that you will apply
this list as is to every throw, it simply represents a pretty average sequence of
events. All throwing has these, refined or not. The final three elements (kuzushi
- kake - nage) are more or less fixed, but the rest of the list may shuffle
the order or even combine the elements in a single movement. This gives you a high-level
way to analyze your throwing, which in turn makes it more effective or can be used
to troubleshoot a particular throw you are having difficulties with. Since there
are many variations of throws, the question shifts from how to force the specific
form for a throw to how to ensure that you can reliably get all components together.
If you cannot name a concept, it in some capacity does not exist for you. By breaking
down the elements in this fashion you will be able to see which if any are absent.
As I said, in practice many of these coalesce, but it is good to realize, say, that
having a grapple does not mean that you have your opponent off-balance or have off-lined
to avoid a further attack.
A note on offensive throwing.
This list covers defensive uses of throwing,
i.e., reacting to then dealing with an attack that has massive body commitment
behind it. To use throwing offensively,
only the final three elements need to be present, plus a good bit of surprise, but
ambushing your opponent, most probably being a form of aggravated assault, is not
something we advise on legal or ethical grounds, so we won't treat it here.
rules (such as in judo) require an attack within a certain amount of time
or penalities accrue. This requires a different mindset to what we have, and speed
plus power are usually the deciding factors -- exactly the type of training you
wish to avoid for a street encounter. This is why so often in Ultimate Fighting Competitions
and similar no-holds-barred sporting meets the throws essentially turn into quick
wrestling dumps. This is the best way to make a speedy frontal assault on
an opponent who is very close to your own size and conditioning level. While it gets
the opponent on the floor in a big hurry, it often lacks power and is
essentially little more than a lead-in to floorwork, which is again something to be
strongly avoided in a self-defense situation.
Here is the checklist itself.
A few sample analyses
Yield to the attack (tai sabaki).
The initial attack should not be resisted, it should be avoided. You should have
some respect for the attacker, in that he or she would not be doing this technique
unless there is a fair chance of success, therefore simply resisting the attack
might well mean that you are at a disadvantage. The basic method for this is moving
off the line of attack and either stop the technique before it can generate power,
or avoid it until it has finished at which point it may be intercepted.
Once the attack has been intercepted, it is necessary to position oneself correctly.
The best way to do this is classically called joining centers (hara is the
Japanese word for center of gravity and you will hear this used an awful lot). This
practically means that you will match the motion of the receiver's torso with your
own. For example, if the the attacker is throwing a haymaker, defender and attacker
rotate around a common axis,
matching the speed exactly. Now, the next question
is which grapple to use? This is a lot easier than it seems. Once you have matched
speed with the attacker, reach for the slowest moving and closest part of him. Arms
and legs move quite quickly at their ends, but near the torso the speed is much
slower. This is why our grapples all start near the opponent's body and sweep out
to the actual point of application. Note that grapples should be practiced softly,
rather than as power techniques. This is not to say that a grapple can't be ferociously
powerful once applied, but too often people make the error of seizing so violently
as to knock the body away, forcing the opponent to react and maybe having to physically
chase him down. This is counter productive and will require an on-the-fly change
to your technique. It is easy to avoid having to do this, so why put yourself to
the extra trouble?
Continue in or slightly alter direction (ju)
Once the grapple has been applied, you should then move with the opponent, either
continuing in the direction of travel or diverging at a small angle where he has
no stability. Reversing direction can be very labor intensive and should be avoided
(unless initiated by the receiver). If direction must be changed, it is best done
by forcing the attacker to react to a counter attack. You should be aware of the
attacker and follow him at all times.
Transfer momentum through the connection (aiki).
You should move the attacker by having him caught in your momentum flow, that
is to say, he becomes part of you and where you go, he goes. One instructor of mine
said that the goal at this point is being able to ignore the attacker, so that he
is simply another appendage.
Break the posture (kuzushi).
The attacker should be moved off his base, so that he is unstable. This is done
in any of several ways, but essentially, since the body's joints rotate easily
in certain ways, you should move these. From top to bottom, you may
Any combination of these is, of course, valid.
- turn the head,
- lift or drop one or both shoulders, causing the upper body to rotate horizontally,
- move one or both shoulders forward
or backwards, causing a vertical rotation.
- displace the hips by moving them off the base.
- may displace the legs by fouling or collapsing the knees together
- inhibit the feet, by either anchoring them or displacing them.
Initiate the fall (kake)
Really you should never throw the person, in the sense
of the word meaning "toss" or "hurl" What I mean is that throwing
him like a sack of potatoes will make you work very hard and will limit the size
of the person that can be thrown. What you should do, after all of the setup we
have discussed, is to simply let gravity assert its surly tug and help the opponent
to the floor. This part is also referred to as the "lift", where the receiver
begins his journey to the ground, his feet usually leaving the floor. Fit-ins for
throwing (uchi komi) stop at this point.
Finish the throw (nage).
By this it is meant that you be sure that the opponent reaches the ground as
you anticipate and that you are in an advantageous position. You may or may not
follow-up at your discretion (e.g., you simply want to stun an assailant
and escape to sure safety), but should be able to do so. Too many people assume
that they are done as soon as the receiver's feet leave the floor. This is a really
bad habit to get into. Concentrate throughout the throw until the receiver is on
the ground as you intend him to be and check your finishing position. You should
also be aware of controlling the receiver all the way to the floor. This will prevent
an opponent who has had some special training (such as gymnastics) from freeing
himself in flight (especially a danger when neophytes are being thrown the first
time and do not realize how dangerous this maneuver could be for them) and will
also train you so that should you wish to power someone into the floor, you will
be able to.
Here I'm going to give a couple of examples to show how this can be applied.
Case 1. Bubba tries to hit Joe Bob with a haymaker. Joe Bob ducks
the punch (tai sabaki) then goes for a twisting tackle (called "rhino"
by barroom bouncers). To do the tackle he moves to encircle Bubba's waist (tsukuri).
He encircles the waist driving his shoulder in (aiki) and while following
the more or less forward movement (ju), drives his shoulder in to Bubba's
mid section (kuzushi) and with a twisting motion of his own hips, knocks
Bubba off his feet (kake). Joe Bob rides Bubba to the ground and lands on
him (nage). Seeing this in action would just look like a nice solid takedown.
No fancy martial arts, no over the top techniques, just good body dynamics. Note
that the order is not the same as the list and the off-balance, yielding and grapple
all occur at almost the same time.
Case 2. A defense against a front overarm bear hug. Uke
grabs tori, who sinks his weight back immediately while making a double fist
at his groin to avoid a knee, and putting his head on uke's shoulder, to
avoid a head butt. This is tai sabaki. Uke then draws back to try
and regain control and tori then follows, bringing his arms up to effect
a waist hold on the same side as tori's head to do a koshi nage This
is the tsukuri as well as the ju. The grapple takes effect and, for
instance, tori now has his head on uke's right shoulder and his left
arm around uke's right side. Tori then turns to his own right, knocking
uke not backwards (the direction of travel for uke) but at at 45 degree
angle to this, putting uke over one foot. Tori pushes using his arms
and pushing with the side of his body, using his own head to assist as well. This
is the aiki part and it leads straight into kuzushi. Tori then
drops his center of gravity, launching uke (kake) and proceeds to
finish the throw (nage).
Case 3. The receiver grabs the thrower's wrist and attempts to
strike with his free hand. The thrower moves off -line (tai sabaki) to the
receiver's outside (ju), collaring the wrist (tsukuri).
He then drops his body weight moving the receiver's elbow well below his hips (kuzushi).
The thrower turns his body, rolling the elbow onto the back of the hand, causing
the te kagami lock (aiki). The receiver is compromised and
a downward strike by the thrower effects the throw (kake). The motion
continues to the floor (nage).