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...
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’
NOTE THIS ADVICE REFERS TO HEAD TURN DURING THE TSUKURI PHASE NOT KAKE
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.