Types of throws
Overview on the various ways to throw.
There are two broad classes of throws, body throws where there is
torso to torso contact between the parties and some part of the defender is used
as an axis or rotation for the throw and projections throws where the
fact that we are two-legged is exploited by moving the attacker into a
point of unbalance (called shikaku in Japanese).
As a point of pedagogy, I like to start with the body throw (see descriptions below).
This is because these may be practiced statically (not in motion) and people with
absolutely no martial arts experience and who are just starting a first conditioning
program can do
this in an extremely safe way. They learn position, blending and all other aspects
of throwing with excellent safety. Projection throws come next since these really
must be done dynamically (I usually start with a sequence of sweeps). Remember that
good throws are often quite easy to do if set up well and a beginner can get badly slammed
until body sense for falling is developed. I want to avoid that and this is why I have laid it
out as I have.
All of these are normally practiced with a variety of grapples and in a variety
of directions. Once this becomes second nature, other options become available.
These include small enhancements to the basic throws, to dramatically up
the leverage. Other additions include adding locking techniques and falling. The
goal for all of throwing is simply blending with the receiver and helping him do
most of the work in finding the floor.
A little confusion of terms should be clarified. Throwing in Japanese is generally
lumped under the heading of nage. Our two main principles from the kata
are called nage, referring to projection throws and otoshi which
refers to body throws. Sometimes it can be confusing to know if a person is talking
only about throwing in a generic sense of it some specfic aspect of projection is
being references. I try hard to keep these separate.
The naming of throws.
The naming of throws is a difficult matter. We want some compact way of doing
it that is regular enough to get all of the variations, but should have the charming
feature that if we leave most of it out, it is still understandable in context.
One standard has been to use judo names everywhere, but a lot of times this
misrepresents the throw, since the mechanics are sometimes not the same, or leaves
blind spots where a couple of names collide and nobody is the wiser for using a
name. What's more, judo names are taken from several different older jujutsu
styles, so that while a kubi nage is indeed done be grappling the head,
a sukui nage refers to the actual motion of the throw and not to throwing
someone's shovel. A better way is to simply name the grapple and major action, so
judo's o goshi is better named koshi nage, where as judo's
harai goshi would be more descriptively called mae morote gari = forward
reap, grappling the lapels. The corresponding name for judo's morote gari,
which uses the hands to grab the legs and effect a throw (no, you aren't throwing
his hands) is ushiro morote ashi gari. There is too much momentum to change
how people refer to their throws, but it is helpful to think in the terms I've outlined.
Body throws (otoshi)
A body throw is a throw in which there is torso to torso contact of the parties
and the opponent is set in motion using the bodyweight of the defender.
At the simplest, this consists of grappling an opponent, moving his center of gravity
over one foot, use your body weight to set him in motion and then displacing his
body with yours while giving him an axis of rotation. If done right, the receiver
feels initially as if somebody yanks his head towards the floor, then lifts him
by the seat of the pants. A turning or twisting motion frequently follows this to
cause the opponent to fall off of you. The most normal orientation is with tori's
back to uke, although these work quite well from the side (uki goshi
in judo) or even from the front (ushiro goshi in judo). These
should be practiced exhaustively, since the initial positioning they require is
pretty much the same for any other throwing. They are good practice for setting
up other throws. In other words the time invested in them is time well spent.
The use of bodyweight is important, so that the largest person you can throw is
therefore at least a couple of times your own bodyweight. Far too many people try
to simply heave their opponent or try to slide under his center of gravity by spreading
their legs widely. This cannot be condemned strongly enough since in the former
case, anything but a highly cooperative partner defeats the throw and in the second,
the weight of both people concentrates often on one of tori's legs, causing
it to collapse. Either of these is a recipe for disaster. Use your legs together
like a powerful spring.
These are a subclass of otoshi throws, where tori goes to the floor
either partially (such as dropping to one knee) or wholly and are a specific subset
of otoshi. Many of these can be extremely powerful but this is not alone
the reason to use them. One should only yield a standing position if there is no
choice, so these are most useful when tori has already been knocked off base
before or during a throw and in particular when trying to control a landing. Alternately,
their great power can be an attractive way to throw a much larger person.
These are normally classified as advanced throws. This is not because they require some
special trick to do, but tori must be fully committed and uke must
have very good landing skills. There is often no way to water down such a throw
and if both parties are not at a sufficient level, the result can be very bad. In
practice, they are not much harder for the defender to do than ukemi.
Floor work is normally required after a throw of this sort, and while that can
be a fun sport, it is also a very bad idea to grapple an opponent on the floor in
a real life fight. You should plan on extracting yourself immediately after a throw.
Generally there are
4 ways to fall, front, back, side and rolling, so the sacrifice throws are divided
according to these. Again, these are done with respect to a grapple, and as not
every fall in every direction is advisable, limiting safe options for
these. The important features are that the receiver not land on the thrower,
the thrower can perform a recognized safe ukemi and that the thrower lands
above all, in an advantageous position.
Projection throws (aiki nage)
At a slightly greater distance are projection throws.
Essentially, you get your
opponent to stumble in some direction and with timing or an enhancement you throw.
These come about either by design or by attempting to make a body throw and not
quite being in position for it.
At a very high level, throwing may be done simply by virtue of excellent timing
and positioning. This is very elegant and should be writ large as a goal. These
are called air throws or kuki nage (some people refer to these as
choshi nage which means literally "timing throws") in Japanese
since they require no close physical contact or levering action. These are distinct
from joint locking throws, since those do use leverage against the body. A classic
example is the aiki jujutsu throw called irimi nage, where the entry
is very similar to a judo throw like o soto gari but no reaping action is
needed, since tori times the entry such that uke cannot recover his
balance. A well-executed air throw is beautiful to watch and every bit as potent
as a body throw, but these take many years of diligent practice to perfect. These
are the reference standard to train against and everyone is helped by practicing
Joint locks in throws (kansetsu waza)
Joint locking techniques are widely used to throw and to assist throwing and
are usually a special case of projection throws. These
should fold up the receiver into an unstable position so that his center of gravity
is outside his body, when a slight downward pressure will effect the takedown. The
tactical advantage with using joint locks is that this is the furthest you may be
from the receiver and still throw which is offset by having much more overhead to
setup. They do have another advantage that they often attack where the receiver is
weakest, such as the wrist and these are often preferred by smaller more nimble
people. A large misconception is that one actually throws using a joint lock. No.
The lock controls the person and guides them as you use either projection, dropping or both.
You cannot throw anyone with a joint lock if you haven't mastered the types of throwing.
Joint locks rely on shearing applied in a small area as other types of leverage,
most notably, tori using his arm as a wheel and axle. This is, however, style
specific and many other styles simply use locks to inhibit motion in the limb (properly
called joint binds to differentiate them from a full lock), then sling the
receiver, relying on a direction change to effect the throw. This is mechanically
sound if pursued zealously, but practically can require a pretty large clear area
to execute. Such slinging is also pretty easy for uke to stumble out of,
whether by chance or choice.
Using joint binds do not fully realize the potential for a joint lock in restricting
motion. A joint bind is often quite easy to foil and can leave the applier in a
bad defensive position. Therefore, many systems that misname them as locks deem
them to be ineffective at best or simply wishful thinking. This is why some people
claim that joint locks have no effect and indeed, such systems describe what they
themselves do accurately. Solid locking techniques, however, can be the mainstay of an effective
system. Aiki jujutsu is quite famous for its locking techniques and practitioners
from other styles often end up studying the system just to learn these.
Incidentally, a good training strategy for helping your partner do aerial falls
is to put on the lock and do a hip throw. This gives your partner something to lean
on and can slow down the descent. After this has been mastered, your partner should
attempt to minimize contact with the hip and then the hip should be removed.
By an enhancement we mean some other action either to augment or change the leverage on the receiver
for a throw. Many of these can be added quite easily and may be used to vastly increase
the power of the throw or to offset poor position or distance or to move a much
larger opponent. We refer to these
as enhancements because they are additions to good throwing dynamics. It is not
the case that these alone can throw the person usually. We are trying to counter
the idea that these are specific throws in an of themselves. Commonly people see
a reap or a sweep and assume that the leg is all that matters and find that the
technique does not work. Kicking the person repeatedly in the leg
might eventually get them down on the ground but not as a throw.
In point of fact, just getting in the habit of setting
up a good throw and clipping a leg (or whatever is handy) is the way to use these,
since you only need worry about the same sorts of motions for any throw, which tremendously
simplifies throwing rather than have dozens of special cases.
These may be added to any type of throw, body, projection or joint locking. Some
are good closer or further away, but often this is quite situational and the actual
enhancement is dependent upon many factors.
Legs (ashi waza)
Oriental martial arts, like karate trumpet the use of hands and feet. This
is not quite so, since the normal sequence is to use hands and then the feet or
vice versa. Jujutsu uses the feet and hands simultaneously. This takes some
practice, but the big payoff is that most people, including many other martial artists,
find this mix to be overwhelming -- they cannot process so much happening at once.
Ideally, you should be attacking uke's
legs continuously. All leg techniques (ashi waza) require that uke
be off-balanced in an appropriate way. These are not simply kicks to the leg, since
leg kicks are normally not too effective in throwing someone -- although they can
be fairly good at disabling someone, which is why you should not simply be kicking
your partner's leg. Our goal is to derange the opponent's posture, which is an awful
lot easier to do than breaking his leg. All of these are simply applications of
basic limb manipulations.
Ankle bites (ashikubi jime). These are another
type of hook in which the ankle is caught and used as a lever. It is extremely useful
as a follow-up to most sweeps or foot blocks, since uke is already off-balance.
There are 4 types of these, following the usual o-ko and soto-uchi nomenclature:
Between uke's feet is uchi and if tori's toes point to the
inside it is termed o vs. pointing to the outside, which is termed ko.
So e.g., ko uchi ashikubi jime is one such technique.) Care must be taken
with those where uke could simply reverse the effect and lock tori,
since a poor position can endanger tori's knee. Uke must always have
his balance thoroughly compromised first.
Blocking (sasae ashi). This simply means the normal motion of stepping
is inhibited. The feeling of being blocked is like attempting to step, but having
one's foot caught in something. The muscles used are the usually inner thigh muscles
to execute this. Often if you are too far away to use a foot pin, a block can be
reasonably substituted. Note that we do not use the whole leg for a block,
such as is found in judo's tai otoshi. There is a safety issue here.
When executed properly, tai otoshi is a beautiful and relatively safe throw,
but there is a lot that can go wrong and any such throw where a limb is braced with
the opponent's body weight poised above it is not generally recommended. Most of
the people I've known who have received severe knee injuries in throwing have done
so off a failed tai otoshi. Interestingly enough, while tai otoshi
is now one fo the most beloved judo throws, the original system by Kano did not
use the leg as a block. This was added later. You can, incidentally, get much the
same effect with the same body placement and a sweep, which is called ashi garuma,
Dropping (sage). This consists of dropping one of uke's knees
(usually with one of yours, causing it to buckle. Since this is an application of otoshi, the
effect is as if uke were to be violently pulled towards the floor. This is also
an excellent setup for a strike.
Hooking (gake). This consists of locking the foot and using it to
capture then displace uke's leg. The hook is normally at uke's ankle.
Pinning the foot (ashi osae). These are effected by simply stepping
on uke's foot. The actual pinning movement is called fumikomi. They are extremely
useful for setting up throws since they inhibit the opponent from moving otherwise,
permitted a much better entry for the throw. Care must be taken, however, since
if uke falls in any direction other then straight to his back, the shearing force
on a pinned ankle might well be severe enough to break it. Be sure to disengage
at the appropriate time for safety. A favorite usage is to tread on the foot as
you move into position for a throw, then use a reaping or springing motion on uke's
pinned leg. This is even better if you use a reverse grip, causing uke to be twisted
much like a dishrag before launch. This is, however, an advanced throw not because
it is difficult to execute, but because even in the best of circumstances the landing
is quite awkward.
Reaping (gari). Using the leg in a scything action to remove the sole
supporting leg of uke. This uses either the entire leg (major reaps) to the entire
leg or just the calf to the opponent's calf (minor reaps). Be sure uke's weight
is over the leg to be reaped or you will simply assist him in taking a step. The
way all reaps work is by shifting uke's
weight past the leg to be swept in such a way that you only must move the
leg, rather than the person. This is why reaps are very good if the opponent is
Scooping (age). This occurs when the opponent's leg is lifted. You
may use either your hands or legs to lift uke's leg.
The correct point of application is directly behind
uke's leg or from the side, so that the leg folds naturally with it. It is applied
to the whole leg. Scooping from the front can be done, be is very dangerous to uke's
Springing (hane). This is done by using the muscles on the outside
of the leg. It is most often used when tori is perpendicular to uke and there is
not otherwise quite enough power to completely throw uke. This is a type of reap
with a bent leg. If done properly, it can be an impressively powerful throw.
Sweeping (harai/barai). A sweep occurs if the defender times moving
the opponent's foot just as he is attempting to place weight on it. This is applied
to the opponent's foot. If done well, this permits a small person to topple a much
larger one. The feeling is much like stepping on a banana peel. Matching rhythm
is the trick here as is "walking" through your opponent. Sweeps cannot be
practiced all that well statically, so both parties should be in motion.
Wrapping (maki komi). This consists of intertwining or grapevining
uke's leg with your own. Caution must be used here, since while this often means
a throw, it also very likely means that you will fall with the opponent. This is
particularly effective at stopping leg attacks against you or countering a leg kick.
In the latter case, great caution should be used, since uke might not be able to
adjust to a sudden grapple, with serious consequences for his supporting leg.
One may also do limb manipulations with the hands and in particular against the legs.
One could view joint locks as enhancers to various throws, as head turns.
Uses against the legs, such as scoop
or reap, or any other handy body part, such as the head are all valid. This may done for most
any throw. One may add this along with leg techniques. For instance capturing one
leg with a hand while reaping the other leg is common and very useful. This is also
useful when throwing at funny angles, e.g., when throwing a springing technique
across the receiver's body, one can spring against one leg and scoop the other,
making a throw with impressive height and power. Another possibility is to start
a footsweep which knocks the receiver off-balance, then move closer to execute a
kao dori (face grab) to finish the takedown. Finally, another common strategy is
to use hands as a follow-up to a failed leg technique, since often the receiver
will step raising the knee high to avoid the technique, putting it in easy reach
for a manipulation. Some people, especially taller ones, use sweeps and reaps almost
exclusively to enable them to hoist a leg high enough to grab, then do some throw.
Which one of these do I use?
In actuality, throws rarely if ever rely on a single type of leverage or action.
By separating the concepts and being able to practice them directly, you will develop
a good feeling for when to apply them. Many throwing sports require that for scoring,
only an identified throw is valid, which makes throwing much harder in general,
since having half a dozen juxtaposed leveraging techniques leaves too much room
for interpretation. This raises the skill level dramatically as is desired in such
events and appropriately enough encourages stamina and strength training as a basis
for the event. A good many systems that teach throwing actually got it from a martial
sport (most usually judo) and this thinking persists. Learn the components well,
then concentrate on getting your opponent down however it feels natural and easy
for you to do so.