I'm a Swedish writer and aikido instructor, 6 dan Aikikai Shihan, former Vice Chairman of the International Aikido Federation. I've practiced aikido since 1972. I also teach the sword art iaido. More about me here.
by Stefan Stenudd. The aikibatto sword and staff exercises for aikido students explained, with practical and spiritual aspects of the sword arts, equipment for training, and more. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
Increase your life energy, by Stefan Stenudd. The life energy qi (also chi or ki), with exercises on how to awaken, increase, and use it. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
Videos and Explanations of the Aikido Pinning Technique
At each heading, click on this symbol to see that video clip.
Sankyo, "the third technique", is one of the basic pinning techniques of aikido. It contains a wrist twist that can be quite painful, if done with too much force. For regular training in the dojo, it is important not to overdo the sankyo, or members of the dojo will soon get their wrists damaged. To improve your sankyo, work on how you control the whole of uke's body, instead of just twisting uke's wrist to induce pain.
Sankyo is slightly related to the sword technique yokogiri or do, the horizontal cut. The relation is not that obvious, but thinking of it can help you develop your sankyo, especially regarding your steps and how you position yourself compared to uke, the attacker.
The wrist twist is not complicated, but it is tricky to do sankyo in such a way that you keep control of your partner, all through. Some things are necessary to pay attention to, in order to control uke sufficiently.
What I feel to be most important is the angle of uke's arm. If it is much bent at the elbow, then uke is too close to tori, and it is quite easy for uke to get out of the sankyo wrist twist - simply by lowering the elbow. Uke's elbow should be almost straight, that is the same arch as in "the unbendable arm", the basic extension of the arm that is common for most Japanese martial arts. Uke has it in most attack forms, whether gripping or striking, as in shomenuchi.
I like to think of sankyo as forming a bridge between uke's center and my own, where our bodies are the pillars of that bridge, and uke's arm is the span. This helps in gaining control of the whole of uke's body, and in keeping uke's arm extended.
Uke's hand should be at a 90° angle to the lower arm in the sankyo wrist twist, as well as in the pinning at the end - whether it is done standing up or seated. If uke's hand is in line with the arm, then the wrist twist is not very efficient.
Sankyo can be done both omote and ura. Omote can either be done as little more than an ikkyo with a sankyo grip on uke's hand, or more elaborately, with a distinct application of the wrist twist, and so on. Because of these different approaches, I only show ura in the videos below. Also, tori can do the end pinning standing up or seated. Uke, of course, is always flat on the floor at the end pinning. In the videos below I only show the pinning standing up.
In the first three videos, the attacker is Nicklas Wikström from Shirakawa Aikido in Skellefteå. Behind the camera is Mathias Hultman from my dojo Enighet in Malmö, Sweden. The fourth video is from a seminar in the Czech Republic, filmed by Larry Kwolek. Uke is Gabika Markovicova from Slovakia.
Aihanmi katatedori is where uke's right hand grabs tori's right wrist, or uke's left hand grabs tori's left wrist. Here, the tricky thing is for tori to get the sankyo grip on uke's hand. It can be awkward, because of the position of uke's hand. You need to make a circular movement with your hand, to get uke's hand into the right position.
When you have applied the sankyo grip on uke's hand, your free hand moves around to help lead uke down in a spiral to the ground. This spiral continues all the way to the pinning at the end of the technique.
It is much easier to get to the sankyo grip on uke's hand if you do the uchikaiten solution, under uke's arm. It is the same way as shown on yokomenuchi below. On aihanmi katatedori, that way of doing sankyo is actually much easier than the one described above, but I don't believe that it is regarded as the basic way.
Gyakuhanmi katatedori is a reverse wrist grip, where uke's right hand grabs tori's left hand, or uke's left hand grabs tori's right hand. Here, the initial movement is slightly more complicated than on aihanmi above, but it is easier to get to the sankyo grip on uke's hand.
Once you have the sankyo grip, you make the same spiral movement all the way to the end pinning, as on aihanmi above.
Yokomenuchi is a strike to the side of the head. In aikido, this is often a weaponless simulation of the sword strike with the same name. You use the ridge of your hand instead of a sword. The strike can also be done with a knife. Whether armed or unarmed, sankyo against this attack looks pretty much the same.
You start with a taisabaki entrance on the inner side of the attack. Don't step to the front of uke, but to the other side of him or her, seen from the attacking arm. Your blocking movement is quite the same as the initial movement on gyakuhanmi above.
Control uke's elbow with one hand, and grab uke's hand with the other. When you have grabbed uke's hand, you can pass under the arm and turn toward uke. By this movement, you easily turn your hand grip into the sankyo position. It happens all by itself.
After you have passed under uke's arm and turned toward him or her, you can apply the sankyo wrist twist, and lead uke by it - just about any direction you want. I usually just continue with the spiral movement, where uke lands on the floor, and I can immediately apply the end pinning.
Shomenate is a forward attack to the head, with the hand ridge. It symbolizes a tsuki attack with a sword or a knife. But on this video, both the attack and the defense are done in a laid back manner, rather playfully, to show how to control uke with the sankyo grip.
Don't apply too much of a wrist twist, which will only cause pain and not that much control of uke's body. Instead, think of the sankyo grip as a point of contact - really between your center (tanden) and that of the partner.
If you relax, you can feel clearly how uke moves, and how to move uke in the direction of your choice - without the need of force.
Try to keep uke's arm extended, which helps in controlling uke's body, and keep it in an angle of about 90° from uke's body - that is, extended at shoulder height.
My Aikido Books
Basic Concepts of the Peaceful Martial Art, by Stefan Stenudd. Aikido principles, philosophy, and basic ideas. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.
How to do kogeki, the attack techniques, by Stefan Stenudd. All the attack techniques in aikido explained, and how to do them correctly. Click the image to see the book at Amazon.