Monday, 16 May 2011

Fundamentals of Contest Judo - Transition

So often when we practice Judo we do each segment of the Judo match in isolation- gripping is done separately from throwing, throwing from moving, tachiwaza from newaza. However, in a contest we have to be able to do all of these things seamlessly being able to grip, move, throw and transition into newaza without pausing significantly in between.

Coaches often therefore use training exercises to help people chain together the separate aspects that we usually train often in isolation. They will use drills where you break a grip, move, T-up and throw and as concerns this article they will use drills that try and replicate the transition from standing into groundwork. 

In between the application of a throw, tachiwaza, and the application of a roll, strangle, pin or armlock – newaza- is the transition. 

Conceptualising the transition

As I have been taught there are two key elements to the transition they are the connection and the catch. Note that I’m not referring to throwing situations where tori attempts a throw and lands in a pin or where uke becomes tori, during the throw, and lands in a pin. I’m talking about situations where a throw is not applied in a controlled fashion that lands tori in a position to apply a pin.

In these situations there are two key concepts:

The Connection
The Catch

The Connection

As Adams explains and demonstrates above after having performed a throw it is vital that tori remains in contact or connected to uke in order to place himself in the best place to then attack further in newaza.

Tori throws uke and releases his grip on the lapel, whilst maintaining hand contatct:

Tori’s hand moves from the lapel to uke’s lat muscle and retains control and grip of uke’s sleeve

As uke continues to roll from the throw, tori retains contact with his tsurite hand on uke’s lat muscle and his hikite hand moves to uke’s shoulder

As tori does so he manoeuvres around and with uke so that he retains contact.

Tori continues to stay with uke and finishes in a strong position ready to attack

Here are some examples of tori staying to uke in a contest situation

The Catch

Once you have stayed connected to uke its important that you’re able to attack swiftly and purposefully.

In order to go from being connected to uke and in a good control position to an attack you must ‘catch’ a control point.

A catch comes in many forms and some catches can lead to many techniques and entries.

A hook is a not the same as a catch.

Although a hook is often an excellent precursor to establishing the catch.

The catch is a grip on the collar or arm.

A common catch, for Judo, to start turnovers into pins and armlocks is on the collar

Another is on the forearm

And of course one of the most famous catches of all, in the crook of the elbow, for Adams Juji roll

Another common catch is to send the arm to catch the collar in order to tighten it for applying a strangle.

Tori grasps the collar slightly lower than normal

Tori then brings in the hand that he intends to apply the shimewaza with so that two hands are on the collar

Tori then uses the lower hand, that established the catch to tighten the jacket and thus the shimewaza

Staying connected to uke and getting the catch demonstrated in competition

Practicing the transition

In my opinion practicing the transition from tachiwaza to newaza is as important as practicing the respective parts of Judo. In every competition you enter at some point you will throw imperfectly and need to know how to effectively control the transition and then attack in newaza.

I believe the best way to practice the transition is progressively. That is to stay in a controlled and pre-determined way that builds fundamental skills and then develops them in a planned and structured way.

First and foremost is understanding how to throw and throw with control and to understand how to apply a selection of turnovers.

So once you know how to throw safely and in a controlled manner and have learnt a selection of turnovers you can begin practicing transition training. 

Normally the core of transition training is attacking the turtle performing uchikomi until all aspects of the attack against the turtle and well in grained

After that it’s important to practice the throw and connection

Once accomplished at those you begin practicing the entire sequence – throw, connect, catch, turn, pin/submit, ippon.

This training methodology can be refined, personalised and specified so that if a player is good at the turn in uchikomi and is good at connecting with uke in live situations, but struggles with the catch in live situations.

Then the drill can be refined so that it becomes; throw, connect, catch, reset thus drilling the catch reflex to improve it. 

This training can then shift phase, all above examples are of cooperative training, but as skill, competency and fluidity increase resistance can be progressively added to the drills until finally you reach a full randori situation with a continuation into groundwork permitted.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Tai Otoshi

Tai Otoshi is one of the hardest single techniques to master, in Judo, not least because it is so appallingly taught in many places. A big, powerful technique it requires a very good mastery of fundamental skills and a keen sense of debana and when executed expertly, as a pure tewaza, beautifully epitomises Ju Yoku Go O Seisu.

 So without further ado.


In my opinion there are 3 fundamental things that beginners need to get right in order to ensure correct Tai Otoshi practice, they are head, hands and legs.


As I have discussed previously the tsurikomi action is at the heart of almost all Judo and this is no less true than in the case of Tai otoshi.

The biggest error with the hands in Tai otoshi is incorrect usage of the tsurite/ lapel hand. The tsurite arm must have the forearm inserted into the ‘pocket’ created by uke’s armpit and chest:

Alot of problems, not only with throw, but also to people’s joints, tendons and muscles are caused by incorrect usage of the tsurite during Tai otoshi. 

The biggest,  most common and most painful error is inserting the elbow of the tsurite/lapel arm across uke’s chest in a Morote seoi nage style:

and even worse...

Because uke isn’t properly loaded onto the back as in Morote seoi nage and instead in a halfway house between tori’s hip and upper thigh and because tori’s hands have fallen behind their head. This is a very weak position and to then attempt to complete the throw requires a lot of power to be extracted from joints that aren’t in the correct position to provide power, the result is very weak and will result in injury when attempted on a resisting opponent.

Tori’s tsurite hand should never fall behind their ear

Tori should ensure that the tsurite is inserted into the pocket and that it doesn’t fall behind their head.
Whilst keeping the tsurite forearm tucked into the pocket and not allowing it to fall behind the head. The action of the hikite/ sleeve arm should be that of a smooth and continuous upward pull.

Tori’s pull on the sleeve arm should remain high and not slacken off until the end of the throw.

If the tsurite arm is not slotted into the pocket and falls behind the head and if the hikite arm doesn’t have a good, continuous upward pull then uke will be drawn onto the hip and tori’s body will be put out of alignment

Tsurite in the pocket and hikite kept high is vital to a correct hand action.

Flaws in the hand action often lead to flaws in the positioning of the legs and the head and cause major structural problems with the throw.


There are two main schools of thought on the use of the legs in Tai otoshi. I call them the ‘Adams school’ and the ‘Japanese school’ the central difference between them is how tori’s weight is distributed between the two legs.

The ‘Adams school’ advocates a 50/50 weight distribution between the legs

The ‘Japanese school’ advocates a 70/30 weight distribution with the majority of the weight being put on the outstretched leg

It doesn’t really matter which school you adhere to, advocate or emulate. However, there is one constant between the two schools which is a fundamental principle of Tai otoshi, which must be adhered to no matter which school you prefer.

That you must never have more than 50% of your weight on the leg which you don’t throw uke over.

Here Nicholas Gill demonstrates how incorrect weight distribution puts uke back on balance and tori off balance.

Another major issue that people encounter with Tai otoshi which causes them to have incorrect weight distribution between the legs is the exaggerated backswing of the planted foot.

In Judo for uchikomi we start opposite our partners

Then step to the peak of the triangle

It is at this point, in Tai otoshi, that the exaggerated backswing tends to appear.

This tends to shift all of tori’s weight onto the non-throwing over leg, pulls their hands out   of alignment and shifts their head over their non-throwing over leg.


Where the head goes the weight follows. Not a revolutionary new diet regime, but a simple maxim for understanding weight distribution in Judo. In order for the legs to have the correct weight distribution and thus the upper body to be in the correct position for proper use of the hands the head must be used correctly.
Here Neil Adams explains the importance of head positioning for weight distribution.

If you over rotate your head and cause it to be over your non-throwing leg or ‘wrong leg’ as Adams calls it this will shift the weight distribution of your legs, pull your upper body out of alignment and ruin your hand action.


Head must be either central or over the ‘throwing over leg’ never over the ‘non-throwing over leg’.

You weight must be at least 50/50 between the two legs and never more than 50% on the ‘non-throwing over leg’.

Your hands must not fall behind your head, your tsurite/ lapel forearm must fit into the pocket of uke’s armpit and your hikite/sleeve arm must keep pulling upwards until the last minute.


Uke to tori, not tori to uke

In the fundamentals section I outlined some of the core things necessary for a good Tai otoshi and covered some of the major and most common errors found in Tai otoshi. In this section I will cover some of the refinements on the core principles of Tai otoshi. As I’m not a Tai otoshi expert, far from it, I have chosen to call this refinements rather than ‘intermediate’ or ‘advanced’, because I think it reflects better the level of the advice.

Tai otoshi is a forwards technique, however, in practice we normal practice and learn it with what I call a ‘backwards pivot’, this means that tori advances with his foot to the peak of the triangle

And the brings his trailing foot to meet it, tori’s feet represented by red Ts and tori’s hips by a red circle

This, however, often causes a lot of problems for beginners with crashing their hips into uke and undoing their own kuzushi:

To avoid this it is vital that tori observes the triangle when breaking uke’s balance and entering and concentrates on bring uke towards him rather than himself towards uke.

When practicing Tai otoshi during moving uchikomi and nagekomi it is usually beneficial to concentrate on practicing it with a forward pivot whilst retreating.

3 toe kuzushi

Often for forward throws we are taught as part of our standard tsurikomi to break uke’s balance forward. In the case of Tai otoshi, however, this can often be counter productive.
Breaking uke’s balance directly over their big toes allows uke to utilise their hips to push forward and hip block the technique

If, however, you conceptualise your kuzushi as breaking uke’s balance over their three smallest toes instead of over their big toe it becomes much harder for uke to regain their balance.

3 toe kuzushi being practiced in uchikomi

Look where you throw

The phrase ‘look where you throw’ is issued to beginners so often it becomes cliché, however, often despite this constant repetition either through instructor ignorance or beginner incompetence, when it comes to Tai otoshi the advice ‘look where you throw’ is valmorphanized into ‘look where your chi might project uke if this were an aikijokers wet dream’


When beginners perform Tai otoshi, they have a tendency to over rotate their head, this was touched upon earlier, but I wanted to revisit it to emphasis how you should use your head.

All too often beginners have a tendency to turn and look as if they were throwing uke into the blue box, which is obviously impossible

Instead, in reality, you throw uke into the red box.

Adams demonstrates the correct head movement and how to properly look where you throw:

As a stand alone technique Tai otoshi is very difficult to score with, however, when combined with other techniques opportunities for it open up a lot more and your success rate increases exponentially. Not only this, but Tai otoshi has a myriad of techniques that can accompany it making it one of the most versatile forward throws.

De ashi barai into Tai otoshi

Ko uchi gari into Tai otoshi

O uchi gari into Tai otoshi

Note how when performing the ashiwaza combinations Tori maintains the triangle and appropriate spacing.
I hope this has been useful and that people have got something out of it.

Monday, 2 May 2011

What’s the difference Seoi nage vs Seoi otoshi?

Two of the commonly most confused throws are Seoi nage and Seoi otoshi, in particular this confusion arises amongst beginners who see a wide range of throws being referred to as ‘drop seoi nage’ and much fewer, but much more varied collection of throws referred to as seoi otoshi. 

So let’s examine some common confusions

These are variously referred to as Seoi otoshi:

These as Seoi nage

And these as drop seoi nage

This proliferation of seemingly conflicting and disunified throws is further compounded by commentators branding various throws various names in the heat of the moment and then having that split second judgement treated as gospel or the enshrining of various techniques as such as such in grading syllabuses and becoming gospel.

Judo principles

However, the differences are relatively easily discernible if we apply simple Judo principles.

Is the throwing action effected by ‘nageru’ or ‘otosu’?

If the throwing action is effected by ‘nageru’ then it must involve an element of projection by tori.

If the throwing action is effected by ‘otosu’ then it must involve an element of dropping by tori.

Terminology reference

In the case of Seoi nage vs Seoi otoshi, however, we must dive in a little further and explore some of the ancilliary terms. 

The most prominent of which is ‘seoi’. Seoi in Japanese means ‘to load onto the back’, thus a Seoi nage or Seoi otoshi must involve an element of loading of uke onto tori’s back. 

We can delve deeper still, into the positioning of tori’s arms. 

If tori’s arm is clamped under and around uke’s shoulder joint the grip is described as ‘ippon’

If tori’s arm is gripping uke’s lapel and the elbow is inserted into uke’s armpit the grip is described as ‘morote’.

Seoi Nage

So by the application of Judo principles and an awareness of the terminology we can understand that a throw is a Seoi nage, when it involves the loading of uke onto tori’s back, accompanied by either an ippon or morote grip and then the throwing action effected by the projection of uke.

Seoi Otoshi

So by the application of Judo principles and an awareness of the terminology we can understand that a throw is a Seoi otoshi, when it involves the loading of uke onto tori’s back, accompanied by either an ippon or morote grip and then the throwing action effected by the dropping of tori.

Common confusions

The main source of confusion comes from coaches and commentators whereby both Seoi otoshi and Seoi nage are refered to as ‘drop seoi nage’. 

The confusion, commonly, arises during a dynamic situation where tori drops down to their knees and then springs back up to complete the throw. As tori has dropped many people assume it to be a ‘Seoi otoshi’, however, as tori springs back and up and effects the throwing action by sprining back up and projecting uke it is ‘Seoi nage’.

The other common source of confusion comes from grading syllabuses like the BJA’s describing Seoi nage as Seoi otoshi.

The BJA and many other syllabuses consider this to be Seoi otoshi:

Whereas it is an application of Seoi nage, in particular, Morote seoi nage. As uke is loaded onto the back and the throw effected by projecting uke, rather than tori’s body dropping.

Further confusion is created by coaches drawing artificial distinctions between Seoi otoshi and ‘drop seoi nage’ depending on whether one or two knees is touching the mat.

Whether one knee or two is touching the mat is irrelevant as I have mentioned above it is how the throw is effected that distinguishes ‘Otoshi’ from ‘Nage’.

This is such a problem that the Kodokan has gone to the length of special creating some English webpages to correct the issue, they can be found here: