Wednesday, 26 January 2011


If you said tsurikomi was the core of all Judo you would probably not be to far wrong. Tsurikomi is pivotal to nearly every forwards throw and is so important in some throws that it even makes its way into the name – Sase tsurikomi ashi, Harai tsurikomi goshi, Tsurikomi goshi etc...

Understanding how to do tsurikomi and its importance is therefore pivotal for every Judoka, it is fundamental in every sense of the word.

So what is tsurikomi?

Tsurikomi is the generation of power from the lower body and hips and channelling of it through kinetic linking to the arms to lift uke off balance and bind him to tori’s body ready for a throw.

Firstly the arms, correct use of the arms is vital to good tsurikomi. Tori should grip uke in the normal manner taking sleeve and lapel. Tori should hold uke’s sleeve underneath the elbow with his hikite hand and hold uke’s lapel around the centre of the pectoral so that tori’s little finger is just above uke’s nipple. Tori should grip the lapel firmly with the bottom three fingers and relax the index finger and thumb, whilst still maintain a grip with them.

The sleeve action is then performed by rotating the hand as you draw back the elbow so that the palm is facing downwards towards the mate. Uke’s sleeve arm should be drawn out high enough so that it is at least level with tori’s forehead. Tori should aim to have uke’s arm higher than his head to achieve maximum effect.

Action of the hikite hand:

The lapel action is bringing the elbow and forearm in so that they fit into uke’s armpit whilst simultaneously lifting upwards and forwards. Tori’s wrist should not flex forward or backwards and should remain in alignment with the forearm

Action of the tsurite hand:

Both the actions of the hikite and tsurite should be performed simultaneously and should be performed smoothly rather than in a jerking action. At all times the hands must be coordinated and working together at the top of the initial motion of tsurkiomi the thumbs of the hikite and tsurite hand should be in alignment to show that they have both been working together and the adequate lift has been achieved by the action of the hands.

It is crucial that tori’s forearm be fitted into the pocket created by uke’s armpit. As this will ensure that throughout the rest of the motion tori’s elbow will be in the right place.

Level thumbs:
 The power and impetus for the lift with the arms is generated in the hips and the lower body. The tsurikomi action is a whole body movement designed at coordinating not only tori's body to off balance uke but also to coordinate transfer of power from the lower to the upper body. The simplest analogy is that of a boxer a boxer doesn’t punch from the shoulders he punches using his whole body to generate power in the same way the Judoka uses his hips and legs to generate power for his upper body.

Tori commences this power generation by either leaning into uke or swinging back the leg he will plant first to generate momentum. In this process tori deliberately transfers weight to uke:

 By weighting uke tori provides himself with added impetus by inducing an upwards reaction from uke when the pressure is released so aiding toris off balancing pull.

Tori then makes his inital step forward and begins to initiate the lifting action with the arms
 Tori observes the triangle rule with his initial foot placement to ensure that there is space for uke to be off balanced into and for his own body to fit.

When just practicing the tsurikomi action itself and in a static situation the common foot pattern is to leave the initially planted foot in place and bring the other foot in behind it, closes to uke, to bring the hips into contact with uke
Tori usually aims to place his hip bone against uke’s illiacus muscle
However, as a directly transferable stepping pattern this is only really suited to Uchi mata and Harai goshi. Where the ‘binding’ part of tsurikomi can be seen most clearly

However, this stepping pattern is obviously inappropriate to Seoi nage, Tai otoshi and throws with tsurikomi in the title like Sasae and Harai tsurikomi ashi where each throw has its own stepping patterns but the key principles of the arm action of ‘tsurikomi’ are still vital in off balancing uke.

Tsurikomi. You’re doing it wrong!

Where people fail so often with tsurikomi is their elbow positioning, because of the chain of factors outlined above beginning with stepping in to close, not lifting uke sufficiently and not understanding the importance of the positioning of the tsurite and hikite arms.

This can have a myriad of consequences from failed throws right the way up to major injuries like rotator cuff tears and other serious shoulder complications. Because ignorance of proper tsurikomi is so widespread you see a number of solutions brought in to try and get round the problems caused by failure to do it properly these include, but are not limited to Tai otoshi with Morote seoi nage arm positioning, Uchi mata with the elbow pointed to the ceiling and of course the most common solution removing the tsurikomi element entirely and taking a high collar or round the head or round the back grip which offer less complex ways of gaining leverage and offer a greater margin for error than the sleeve lapel grip does.

The two best examples of why failing to understand and use tsurikomi can be bad for you and will ruin your Judo are Tai otoshi and Morote seoi nage.

Here is a classic example of someone trying to cheat their way around bad tsurikomi:

 Now hopefully tori’s errors and problems should be immediately apparent to you if not...

 Tori’s elbow management is far from perfect and he has failed to keep his forearm tucked into uke’s armpit – pocket – and as such has been forced to send his elbow to the ceiling, because, well it has to go somewhere. This is a very unnatural and weak position for the elbow and shoulder to be in. Just stand up and position yourself with your elbow upwards and your arm behind your body just standing in that position feels awkward and you look like an idiot. This is not only a totally inadequate position to get any lift from but trying to throw uke with an arm like this puts immense strain on the shoulder and is incredible difficult to do unless uke’s incredible light or jumps.

Tori’s arm is on his own hip, uke’s sleeve is wrapped around his own body and as a result there is minimal effective off balancing and the only reason he was able to get to this position is because uke is being cooperative.

As a result tori’s own balance has been ruined and uke although bent over at the waist could easily block the throw attempt if he resisted even the slightest. As tori has failed to break uke’s balance properly he has had to drag uke into him and as a result has sent almost the entirety of his weight onto the wrong foot and has massively off balanced himself to the extent that his outstretched foot is coming off the floor.

 Compare that Tai otoshi to this one:

Tori has good elbow management as a result of proper tsurikomi his elbow has remained in the pocket of uke’s armpit and thus allows him to maintain his kuzushi throughout the throw and properly off balance uke. Also his hikite arm remains high with the sleeve drawn out so that uke’s balance is utterly destroyed.

Tori’s hand remains level with his ear and has not fallen behind his head which can lead to severe stress on the wrist, elbow and shoulder joint and is a prime cause of injury in Tai otoshi and Morote seoi nage.

Here tori has maintained his balance and is completely stable

Almost all because of effective tsurikomi and good elbow management.

Thats about all I can manage to type for now. I hope this will have been helpful to some people and that at the least it will promote some positive discussion.


  1. Very nice write up. It did actually explain/provide a solution for my issues with sleeve/lapel throws. Now I just have to practice it :)

  2. Great fundamental article, Thanks very much!

  3. Excellent- very clear!

  4. You said "The two best examples of why failing to understand and use tsurikomi can be bad for you and will ruin your Judo are Tai otoshi and Morote seoi nage."

    and then explained tai otoshi but not morote seoi nage. Are you suggesting that morote seoi nage uses a tsurikomi action too?

  5. No need for power generation windup if you have established kuzushi by movement or a preliminary attack

  6. Great contribution to understanding proper movements!