So what is Tsugi ashi?
Tsugi ashi refers to a stepping pattern in Judo where one foot replaces the other before that foot can move. So that the trailing foot moves to the front foot then the front foot advances or the front foot retreats to the trailing foot then the trailing foot retreats.
The basic movement looks like this
Broken down we see that tori starts in a sort of T-ed upposition
Tori then moves his trailing foot to his front foot
And advances with his front foot
The whole movement looks like this:
Throughout the movement tori keeps his hips central and his head roughly above his hips.
The same process is repeated when retreating, the advanced foot retreats first to the position of the trailing foot. Then the trailing foot retreats.
The core of the tsugi ashi movement lies in the production and transference of power from the advanced or trailing foot through the hips into the upper body of tori. Normally, however, the power generation is from the trailing foot through the hips as tsugi ashi is rarely used in competition or randori going backwards.
One of the few exceptions is this classic tsurikomi/ kuzushi drill, which I do a few sets of every session and I would urge others to do as well:
One of the major flaws with beginners attempting the tsugi ashi movement comes when advancing. 9 times out of 10 a beginner will take a little step with their advanced foot first and then bring their trailing foot up to the advanced foot. This is natural as we are used to going forward by stepping with the advanced foot, it just makes sense. However, the movement, tsugi ashi, in Judo is very specific and serves a purpose to maximise forward transference of power and speedy entry. So it is vital that you ensure you only move the trailing foot first when advancing and only move the advanced foot first when retreating. Otherwise the movement fails.
Applying Tsugi ashi
Here Okano sensei demonstrates various applications of tsugi ashi:
Katanishi sensei demonstrates how tsugi ashi can be applied to the action- reaction sequence for forward throws:
Katanishi sensei demonstrates tsugi ashi as a ‘hip bump’ as part of the action-reaction sequence. This use of tsugi ashi was a favourite of Neil Adams albeit usually for Tai otoshi.
Here the applicability of the tsugi ashi movement for various throws including Ko uchi makikomi and Sukui nage is demonstrated:
Here for Ko uchi gari:
And here for Tai otoshi