The aikido technique iriminage against grip and strike attacks

Iriminage ("entering body throw") is one of the throwing techniques in aikido. The video above shows it against several grip and strike attacks. Explanations below.

       Iriminage is a very popular throwing technique among aikido practitioners. It's also one of my favorites. There's a delightful flow in it, as well as a charming simplicity — which doesn't mean it's that easy to do skillfully. But when you get accustomed to it, iriminage is definitely great fun to do.

       All aikido techniques are made with spiral movements, rarely straight lines. In iriminage, this is particularly evident.

Irimi and tenkan

Irimi means 'entering body', referring to the initial forward step towards the attacker's side. It's quite possible to do the iriminage throw directly, with one additional step behind the attacker. That can be done very quickly, indeed. Just take care, so you don't hurt your partner in the practice.

       But the technique is often done in a roundabout way, involving a tenkan (turning) step. It goes around, something like 180°, towards the attacker's back. You bring the attacker with you, spinning around, at the same time as you bring him or her closer to you. At the end of this turn, you throw with an additional step behind the attacker. Maybe this version of the throw should more rightly be called irimitenkannage, but I've never heard that.

       The name iriminage can be seen as describing the final step, at the very throw, which brings you towards the attacker's body, almost like a smooth kind of tackle.

       In the video, I show examples of both versions

Close to the body

Both versions of iriminage depend on you getting really close to the attacker's body, leading him or her to sort of twine around your own body — like a climbing plant on a tree, the trunk of the tree being your body.

       I also like to describe it as a merry-go-round, where the attacker is the center at first, but then you are, leading the attacker around and around.

       In the short version of iriminage, described above, there is not much of a merry-go-round, although you do sort of twine the attacker to your body, but in the tenkan version there sure can be. You can make several rotations before the throw. It's fun, though not mainly for the attacker.

       It's important that you strive to have close contact with the attacker's body. If there's a gap between you, the throw gets much harder to do. When the attacker is sort of twined around your body, you can do the technique with your whole body instead of just with your arms. Your steps and body turns are what make the technique, not so much your arm movements.

       That's actually true for every aikido technique.

Ukemi, the fall

There are mainly two ways of guiding the attacker in the throw at the end of iriminage. One leads to mae ukemi (forward fall), usually a high one similar to what's done in koshinage (hip throw). The other leads to ushiro ukemi (backward fall). On the video, I only do the latter.

       I have two main reasons for that. First, it's easier for the attacker to make the backward fall without much previous practice, and the one throwing (called tori or nage) can control the fall all through, adapting it to the skills of the attacker. The second reason is that I can avoid turning the attacker towards me at the throw. Normally, you don't want the attacker facing you again, once you've started your aikido technique. That increases the risk of additional attacks and counter moves.

       But that's my choice. Others do fine with mae ukemi endings to iriminage. Anyway, I'd say that both ways of doing iriminage are quite similar up to the moment of the throw.

Omote and ura

Like many aikido techniques, iriminage can be done both omote (front) and ura (behind). The difference is how you enter. In iriminage omote, you step by the attacker's front, and in ura you go behind. In the video, I only do the latter.

       I find the ura version the most trustworthy, and easily applicable against just about any attack form. Omote can be rather awkward in some cases, where it's difficult not to move away from the closeness needed in iriminage. In addition, the ura version holds more of the iriminage characteristics — the swirls and the twining mentioned above. It is my experience that the ura version is by far the favored one in most aikido dojos.


You can see on the video that I do the techniques with some variety, even when dealing with the same attack form. That may at times be a bit confusing, but it's normal in aikido. The techniques adapt slightly to the force and speed of the attack, the reactions of the attacker through the execution of the technique, and so on. So, I didn't want to edit it out.

       The core of each solution should still be visible, I hope.

       And now, some comments on each of the attack form applications in the video:

Aihanmi katatedori

Aihanmi katatedori is when the attacker grabs your wrist on the same hand — right on right, or left on left. It's the most typical starting position in just about every martial art — both have the same side extended towards their opponent. The basic guard. That's why it's a good idea to practice this relation frequently.

       I show four slightly different iriminage solutions to the aihanmi grip. The first two differ in how my hand moves initially. In the first one, I make a circle around the attacker's grip to be able to grab his or her wrist and extend it in the iriminage turn. In the second I simply lead it forward by changing the direction of my own hand to that of the attacking line. I tend to do the first one the most in practice, since it gives more control of the attacker. In the latter, the attacker might just let go in the middle of it. That shouldn't happen if you blend well with the attacker, but it can.

       The third variation starts like an ikkyo ura entrance, leading the attacker's arm around. It's very common in aikido to start iriminage this way. But on some attack forms, it can be difficult.

       The fourth variation starts pretty much like the first one, with the circle around the attacker's grip. But then it goes sharply into what could be called kind of an omote entrance (but that's not how iriminage omote is done). You extend your arm to the other side of the attacker, and then throw. It can be done quite quickly.

Kata katatedori

Kata katatedori is when the attacker grabs both your wrist and your shoulder. I don't see it practiced much at all in aikido. But it's interesting, since it combines two basic attack forms, making the solution more complicated.

       I don't bother about the katadori shoulder grip at all, but move my hand and arm to sort of enclose it in the throw. You need to guide the attacker's body carefully, not to get stuck before the throw.

Morotedori (katate ryotedori)

Morotedori, also called katate ryotedori, is when the attacker grabs your lower arm with both hands. To protect from your free hand, the attacker needs to move behind you and hold your arm up in the way shown on the video.

       This iriminage solution makes sort of an ikkyo ura entrance, turning the attacker's arm around in a manner close to how you turn the steering wheel of a car with both hands. You need to step over to the attacker's side to do it, and not try to do the technique in front of him or her.

Gyakuhanmi katatedori

Gyakuhanmi katatedori is the reversed wrist grip — right on left, or left on right. It can be done with a start that resembles ikkyo ura, but here I show a solution that I prefer, because it's less complicated and avoids opening to additional attacks.

       I start with a taisabaki evasive move to the side of the attacker's grip, and steer the arm forward and up. At the same time I sneak my other hand in towards the attacker's elbow. At the moment I twist free of the grip, that other hand takes contact with the attacker's elbow to steer it on in the technique.


Ryotedori, when the attacker grabs both your wrists, is done just about exactly the same way as gyakuhanmi katatedori above. Both hands easily twist free of the grips, as the movement progresses. Pay attention to your hand movements, to make sure you really get free. I show it rather slowly for clarity, but it can be done much faster.


Katadori is when the attacker grabs your shoulder. It should really be done on the upper arm, not the top of the shoulder, so that the attacker can block you from using the arm to counter attack.

       But you can move your arm to the outside of the grip, the way shown on the video, at the same time as you turn and step to the side. Use your arm to sweep the attacker's arm down and forward with a curved movement. Use your lower arm, near the wrist, and not your hand. And not the upper arm, or you just get stuck.

       That sweeping move can be quite small — and fast. It breaks the attacker's balance and posture, making the entrance for the iriminage throw easy. Make sure to stand in a steady position at the end, to avoid being pulled down if the shoulder grip remains. Usually, when you speed up, it doesn't.


Munedori is a collar grip by your chest. It's not that easy to make aikido techniques on this grip, if it is firm. I show two solutions.

       In the first, I turn my body to the side, out of the direction of the attack. Then it's easy to lead the attacker forward, thereby getting in position to do iriminage. Remember to stand steady at the end, to avoid being pulled down if the grip remains. In the video, my uke (attacker) Stephan Schröder is trying it out, to the amusement of both of us.

       In the next version, I use the same entrance as in katadori above, sweeping the attacker's arm forward and down in a curved movement with my lower arm.

Ushiro ryotedori (jutai)

Ushiro ryotedori is grabbing both wrists from behind. The aikido technique starts a little differently in gotai (from a static position) and jutai (in movement). On the video, I only show the latter.

       There is an interesting rhythm to this ushiro. You want the attacker to continue trying to grab your second wrist. So, don't be too quick moving it out of reach. That comes when you turn to enter for the iriminage technique. Then you get your hand around to put it on the attacker's shoulder by the neck, in order to guide him or her into the iriminage spin. With your other hand, where the wrist is grabbed, you also steer the attacker into the throw. Notice how that hand is turned to guide the attacker along.

Ushiro ryokatadori (jutai)

In ushiro ryokatadori, the attacker grabs both your shoulders from behind. Like with the previous technique, iriminage starts a little differently in gotai and jutai. I show only the latter on the video.

       The solution is quite similar to that of ushiro ryotedori. You want the attacker to keep chasing for the second shoulder grip, until you turn to do iriminage. At that point you move your shoulder out of his or her reach, and pursue to enter into the throw. If the attacker manages to grab your second shoulder, you can still do the technique if you have a decent momentum. Otherwise, you'll have to go for the gotai solution.

Katatedori kubishime

Katatedori kubishime is when the attacker makes a choke from behind, also grabbing one of your wrists to stop you from striking. You need to start by getting your grabbed arm forward, or you will be stuck. It's done with a hip twist, getting your hand on the hip. Then you can get it forward by turning your hip back. That's your whole body against the attacker's arm, so it should work even against strong attackers.

       Notice how I use the hand to direct the attacker into the spin. It points the way. Because the attacker grabs that wrist, his or her whole body is affected by the hand movement.

       Twisting you body to get out of the choke should be done close to the attacker's body. Don't bend forward, or the choke will get you. If you sort of lean into the attacker, the choke loses much of its power and you can spin out of it to the side. Notice what side you go to. Don't spin the other way, towards the elbow, or you just help the attacker with the choke.


Kakaedori is a bear hug around your body. It can be done around the arms, to catch them as well, or under the arms. In the video I show the latter. The former is more complicated, and I'm not sure that iriminage is the best follow-up on that attack, although it's possible. Furthermore, this under the arms kakaedori is not practiced that much in aikido, as far as I know, so I thought it could be interesting.

       My double elbow moves are atemi, distraction strikes. If you do just one, the attacker is safe behind your back. But if you follow up quickly with another on the other side, you can hit his or her head, because it will be in reach after the first atemi. Of course, you are not supposed to hit in regular practice. But it's good to know how it works.

       I use the two atemi to get the attacker out of balance and distracted, so that it's easier to do the next move. I grab the attacker's little finger, not the whole hand, and turn it upwards. That movement continues into sort of an ikkyo ura entrance, moving the attacker's arm around. Don't try it on the whole hand, because usually the attacker can resist that. Focus on the little finger. Your hand against one finger should suffice, especially when you turn your whole body accordingly.

       Generally speaking, the bear hug is not that easy to get out of. You need the element of surprise and a few tricks up your sleeve.

Katadori menuchi

Katadori menuchi is a combined attack: a shoulder grip and a shomen strike. When you do the aikido technique, you treat it as either or, not both. But you have to make the right choice. With some techniques, it's much better to do the katadori version, with others the shomen uchi. If you make the wrong choice, you can easily get stuck.

       There are several ways to do iriminage against this attack. In my choice on the video, you do iriminage via the attacker's shomen arm, but not exactly as in the shomen uchi solution below. You make an atemi movement with your hand between the arms of the attacker. Then you continue by sweeping the attacker's arm around as you enter for the throw. You don't have to worry about the shoulder grip, since it's not in the way of the technique.

Jodan tsuki

Jodan tsuki, the strike to the face, is treated the same as the shomen uchi attack below. You go to the outer side of the punching arm, using both your hands to take contact and guide it along — first the one and then the other. When you spin the attacker's arm around, do it by the elbow to make sure that your movement affects his or her whole body.

       Timing is important in striking attacks. Try to whisk the punch along before it stops, to prolong it a little beyond the attacker's balance. That also gives you a small amount of extra time for the rest. There should be little pause between the entry and the turn, where you spin the attacker's arm around. If you are too slow, the attacker will have time to pull the arm back. Once you've started spinning the both of you around, there is not so much hurry.

Shomen uchi

Shomen uchi is a striking attack from above, similar to a sword cut. That's where it is from, which stresses the importance of getting out of the way and not trying to block the attack. You enter and use your hands the same way as in jodan tsuki above. Remember to go for the elbow, so that the attacker's whole body is affected by the sweeping movement with his or her arm.

       The other hand, on the shoulder by the neck, is not pushing. It is pulling the attacker closer to you as you spin around, at the same time bringing him or her a bit down.

Yokomen uchi

Yokomen uchi is a strike to the side of the head. Like shomen uchi, it is mainly compared to a sword or knife attack in aikido, but the defense should work as well on sideway punches like shuto in karatedo or the hook in boxing.

       At the entry, you turn and open your arms to both sides. It's a combination of the atemi distracting strike to the face and an extension of the yokomen attack. When you spin the attacker's arm around, go for the elbow to make sure the attacker's whole body is affected.

       Next, you spin the attacker around your body as you make a tenkan step, preferably a full 180°. Do it so that the attacker gets really close to you. That way, you can make the throw with your whole body, and not just your arms.

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Stefan Stenudd

Stefan Stenudd

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I'm a Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction books in both English and Swedish. I'm also an artist, a historian of ideas, and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihan aikido instructor. Click the header to read my full bio.