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.


  1. Hey, thank you very much for this indepth analysis of tai otoshi - very useful. I do have a question for you though, how do I get 70% of my weight onto the outstretched leg? My torso is far more over the other leg and consequently my weight shifts to that leg as well. I'll be talking to my sensei about it at the next session but if you've got some kind of tip then that'd be useful as you clearly know a lot about this throw!

  2. Hi John, glad you found the post useful.

    You don't have to get 70/30, 50/50 and of course anything in between, works just fine. Its only when more than 50% of your weight goes over the 'non throwing over leg' i.e for a right hander the left leg.

    50/50 can win you a world championship and olympic silver... lol.

    Also 70/30 isn't meant as an exact percentage its a guide figure.

    To get a majority of your weight on the throwing over leg i.e for a right hander the right leg.

    It starts with 3 toe kuzushi, if you break balance that way to be able to do that balance break you have to internally shift your weight over your right leg.

    Also, as outlined in the article, head positioning looking at the mat in front of your right foot will also help shift the weight.

    On top of that and more difficult to describe is the 'internal weight shift'. Don't really know how to explain it but you kind of move your weight without moving, if you know what I mean. Not sure how to explain that better, sorry.

    That any help?

    As I said if you can't manage it just go for 50/50 the key message is never have more than 50% on the non throwing over leg.

  3. Thanks for replying. I'm clearly going to have to put a lot more time into drilling the basics; the kuzushi and head positioning. I know what you mean about internal weight shift, though I suspect it'll take a damned long time before I can actually get that to work in randori. Still, you've given me a lot more to think about and work on, cheers :)

  4. Thank you sensei, this one of the best, if not the best, explanation and demonstration of tai otoshi available for public!
    One gets the impression of being at an advanced seminar or clinic, thank you so very much, your teaching and effort are MUCH appreciated!

    All the best sensei,
    from a grateful judoka

  5. My problem with this throw (well, ONE of my problems) concerns where to place my right foot in regards to the initial step. If I step into the point of the triangle, I end up "blocking" uke (i.e., standing in front of the person I'm trying to throw), so it was suggested for me to step to uke's left side (i.e., slightly to the outside of him), and then form the right angle with my feet, and then stick my right leg out and back and throw him over it.

    Does this advice make sense? It's certainly not what Adams does, who seems to take his initial right step directly in front of uke and yet not in any way get "stuck" or "block" himself. Indeed, I would go as far as to say Mr. Adams seems to have a better grasp on the throw than I do lol..

    Also, I've been told to "pull" (hikite) and "push" tsurite uke toward the side of the room, even though I'm ostensibly throwing him forward (in front of me). In other words- aim to throw uke not to his front, but to his right side, even though he'll END UP being thrown to his front.

    Is this sound advice as well?

    I hope my questions are clear...

    Anyway- wonderful as always. Thanks for all your output.

  6. Question...
    you say to have tsurite/lapel elbow in ukes arm pit. In the "tai otoshi-look where you throw" video at roughly seconds 12 and 23 and in the "de ashi barai tai otoshi" video at around second 29 it looks like tori's tsurite elbow is actually against uke's chest. Not blatantly across as in morete seoi but it surely is not inserted in the arm pit. What am I missing here??

  7. what about the leg staight or bent for avoiding injury??

  8. Is it humanly possible to have more than 50% of weight on the stretched leg?

  9. Beginner, yes it is. You just need some flexibility though not huge amounts.

  10. Thanks you Sensei! I have been practicing and trying (and failing ) Tai-otoshi alot in Randori and Shiai.
    Luckily our club filmed many of the fights and as I read your instructions and analyze my randori, I can specify alot of my mistakes in them!
    By reading your instruction, It should save me at least 1 year to discover all the mistakes I made on my own (lol). I hope I can sucecssfully execute Tai-Otoshi in next 3 months :)

  11. Get them up onto one leg and then wield them forwards over it. Helps if they are moving forward a touch of aiki always assists such matters. You can use an underhook even 2 hands on their forward arm at least Koreans can.

  12. Great analysis on a complex throw. Can´t wait to try it for the first time.

  13. Excellent breakdown of the mechanics and fundamentals necessary to throw tai otoshi, thanks