The aikido technique kokyunage, breath throw, against different attacks

Kokyunage ("breath throw") is one of the throwing techniques in aikido. The video above shows it applied against several grip and strike attacks, both from a static position (gotai) and in movement (jutai). Explanations below.

       Kokyunage is a throw with numerous variations and not really one basic form. Therefore, I show several different versions on this video.

       I mostly show it rather slowly for clarity, usually gotai (from a static starting point). But there is also some jutai (moving as the attack approaches). In most cases, there is little difference between gotai and jutai versions of kokyunage, except the timing.

Breath throw

Kokyunage simply means “breath throw”, indicating that it is more about rhythm and flow than about force. Still, the throws can be quite powerful.

       The kokyu breath is abdominal breathing where you focus on your center (tanden). This is the power breathing used in all budo. In aikido, it's often called kokyu ryoku, which simply means breath power.

       Kokyu actually means breathing out and breathing in. That's how breathing is done, of course, but it also says something about how kokyunage works: You sort of take in the attacker's force and then return it in the throw.

       You should not need to grab the attacker to be able to throw him or her in kokyunage. Instead, use the momentum of the attack for the throw, or the attacker’s commitment to a grab. Sure, that can be said about most aikido techniques, if not all of them – but it’s particularly evident in kokyunage.

Strikes vs. grabs

When the attack is a strike, there is no gotai version, from a static position. You need to initiate before the attack reaches, which is jutai. The rhythm of it is essential in kokyunage, with an acceleration at the end, when you make the throw. It is almost the rhythm of a whip.

       On grip attacks, both gotai and jutai are possible. It's good to practice both. If you only practice jutai, you may get stuck if the attacker happens to grab you. If you only practice gotai, you will have difficulty learning the rhythm of the kokyunage throw.

       There is little difference between the gotai and jutai versions of kokyunage, except for the beginning. In both you start by the taisabaki evasive move and joining with the force of the attack in the spirit of breathing in - whether you actually inhale or not. Then you redirect it into the throw while breathing out - and you should definitely exhale at that point.

Ki nagare

Kokyunage is an excellent technique for ki nagare, where you just keep going instead of stopping after each throw. The flow comes quite naturally with this aikido technique. It's like waves continuing forever to roll in from the sea.

       That means kokyunage is also a good choice for taninzugake, defense against several attackers. On aikido demonstrations it's very common to use just kokyunage on ryo katadori (double shoulder grip) attacks, when taninzugake is shown. Also on dan gradings.

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