Monday, May 14, 2007

Core techniques in judo

I posted earlier that the old masters didn’t give us much clue about how to structure the piles of techniques that they left us so we could teach them effectively. That’s not entirely true – they did give us a couple of hints – the kata and the divisions. In this post I want to talk about the divisions and use them to develop a set of core techniques to be practiced regularly (though not as often as kihon.)
The Kodokan divides all throwing techniques into several groups, or divisions:
  • Foot throws – the action mainly happens with the foot
  • Hip throws – the action mainly happens with the hips
  • Hand throws – the action mainly happens with the hands
  • Sacrifices – tori sacrifices his upright posture to attain the throw
I think it is useful to divide some of these groups into a system like the following:
  • Slips – leg throws that move uke’s unweighted foot as he tries to bear weight on it
  • Trips – leg throws that stop uke’s moving foot as he tries to weightbear with it
  • Reaps – leg throws that move uke’s weightbearing leg
  • Hooks – leg throws that break down uke’s weightbearing leg
  • Small hip throws – throws based on or mechanically similar to ukigoshi
  • Large hip throws – throws based on or mechanically similar to ogoshi
  • Floating hand throws – timing throws, typically otoshi motions, like sumiotoshi
  • Pick-up hand throws – lifting throws like teguruma
  • Back sacrifices – like tomoe nage
  • Side sacrifices – like yoko gake
For a core set of techniques to practice, one would want most of these groups represented. In most cases it is pretty easy to come up with the representative technique for each group. For instance, when I say, “Name a leg throw that moves uke’s weightbearing leg.” Most folks probably immediately think of osotogari. For some of the groups (e.g. Large hip throws) there may be some debate as to which technique is most representative of that class of throw. Some may reasonably argue for ogoshi, tsurigoshi, kubinage, or others.
Following is my list of the techniques I consider to be the core of judo. I teach all of these before green belt as the basis of all the other throws. For the sake of brevity and simplicity of this set of core techniques, I have excluded sacrifices, pick-ups, and hooks. If I absolutely had to choose a pickup and a sacrifice, I’d choose the single-leg pick and yoko tomoenage. Also, because of personal preference you will see that the slip-class and trip-class throws are over-represented. If I had to only pick one slip and one trip they would be deashibarai and hizaguruma.
  • Osotogari (reap)
  • Hizaguruma (trip)
  • Kosotogari (trip)
  • Ouchigari (slip)
  • Kouchigari (slip)
  • Deashibarai (slip)
  • Ukigoshi (small hip throw)
  • Kubinage (large hip throw)
  • Seoinage (floating hand throw)
If you check out the gokyonowaza you will see that the above 9 throws are very much representative of the vast majority of the first three kyo and parts of the rest of the syllabus (with the exception of pickups and sacrifices). Most of the throws can be considered variations on the above.
This is an unordered list. It can be taught in pretty much any order you like. Also, I have not specified any certain variation or version of each technique. These are really core principles. You might work on one variant of osotogari on week and next time you come back to it, work on a different variation.
After warming up and running through the kihon I almost always spend some time in each class working on one of these core techniques. Doesn’t have to be a lot of time – maybe just 5 minutes. Maybe just 25 reps of one of these core techniques as a review each class.. A good way to do it is work on the first one for a week, then move to the next one for a week, and so on… In this way you get through the entire core of judo every nine weeks. Another good point of cycling through the list like this is you don’t use up all of your class time repping core techniques so you save time in each class for randori and/or tokuiwaza.


  1. hi pat -- your core list here pretty close to the old standard uchikomis common at KG's dojo in the 80's and 90's -- same ashiwaza: osoto, hiza, ouchi, kouchi, deashi, with the addition of okuriashiharai,--the koshi waza was different : tsurikomigoshi and sodetsurikomigoshi and finally sukuinage was paired to the sodetsuri
    -- we adopted these at windsong in the 90's and are still using them as the core issues in our work

  2. Thanks, Nick, for all your great comments. You are a wealth of info and you are great at helping keep me on track.

    It's good to hear that I'm not too far off of how the big dogs are thinking. I'll have to spend some more time on (sode)tsurikomigoshi and sukuinage. We do practice okuriashi a good bit.

    Thanks for your great comments...

  3. What a fantastic blog! I'm a Tomiki practitioner and I love the discussion. Judo, knife randori...excellent. Keep up the good work.


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