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What’s so ‘floaty’ about floating throws?

In the Tomiki scheme of things there is a class of throws called ukiwaza (floating throws). This class of throws includes maeotoshi (forward drop), sumiotoshi (corner drop), and hikiotoshi (pulling drop). In our class we have divided maeotoshi into two motions and commonly practice them as two floating throws with the first motion called kotetaoshi (forearm pushdown).
But after practicing these throws a while, you can’t help but wonder, “what is so floaty about these techniques that Tomiki put them into a group together?” For instance, the throw in kotegaeshi happens with similar mechanics to that of the floating throws but kotegaeshi is not one of the floating throws. Also, the kata form of the floating throws is done with the same evasion and offbalance as shihonage but shihonage doesn’t count as a floating throw.
I posed this question to a bunch of instructors a lot smarter than me a while back, and one of the answers that made the most sense regarding the kotegaeshi problem was that on kotegaeshi we use the wrist as insurance as we float uke into a fall but in the rest of the ukiwaza there is no insurance. I see this point with regard to sumiotoshi and hikiotoshi, but there is definitely elbow insurance on maeotoshi – uke can either float or get his elbow jacked.
Anyway, I don’t know what all Tomiki was thinking when he grouped the techniques like he did, but here’s what I think I know about the floating throws:
  • They demonstrate otoshi motion – that is, catching uke dropping his center and keeping him moving downward.

  • They happen by extending one of uke’s steps so that the center of mass floats out over a foot farther then they expected.

  • In the Pat scheme of things, I would call kotegaeshi a floating throw too. When you come down to it, all or most of the throws in aikido use this floating mechanic in some form, but the ukiwaza (and kotegaeshi) demonstrate it more obviously.


  1. Im definitely with you on the kotegaeshi, Pat. Thats actually something I've been working on-- the floating extension aspect of the technique as opposed to the ripping apart uke's wrist until he decides to jump over himself version of kotegaeshi :)

  2. The "insurance" idea is on the mark. Mac used to say that people fall from anticipation of pain in the kotegaeshi lock, and it hurts for real if they resist so they reflex away from the pain into the technique. All techniques SHOULD be floating in aikido, witness the "wicked gedan-ate". In mae-otoshi the elbow lock is a setup; you don't use the lock to throw. The hand under the elbow isn't even necessary (e.g. the 2nd counter throw in Yon kata). In the jointlock throws you transmit power from your center to affect uke's center by commuted locks.

  3. in scott allbright's book Aikido and Randori he notes that Tomiki's idea of "floating" related to the effect of bringing uke up on thier toes--i.e. provoked body rise