Videos and Explanations of the Aikido Throwing Technique

Aikido video clip hereAt each heading, click on this symbol to see that video clip.

Kotegaeshi kotegaeshi

Kotegaeshi, "reversed wrist", is a very popular throwing technique in aikido. It seems rather easy to learn, and applicable against a number of attacks. But I remember my first Japanese teacher, Toshikazu Ichimura, warning us that it is not at all as easy as it may seem.

       Usually, the thing that aikido students focus on is the actual twisting of the attacker's wrist. That seems to be what kotegaeshi is about. But some people have sturdy wrists, indeed, and can resist the techniqe — at least enough for it to become awkward. Also, people react differently to the wrist twist, few falling elegantly and in exactly the direction tori, the one doing the technique, intended.

       Aikido is all about finding pleasant solutions, where neither tori nor uke is hurt. Finding a pleasant way of doing kotegaeshi is not easy, but to settle with anything less is rude, not to say brutal. There are many examples of it in the aikido community, even among high grade practicioners. Uke is forced to the fall, through the pain and the risk of hurting the wrist. It might work — though not as surely as it seems — but the result hardly leads to an aikido that inspires and stimulates peacefulness.

       Actually, I think that no aikido technique should involve pain or the threat of harm, when it is developed to its proper form.

       With kotegaeshi, I think that the trick is not in the wrist twist, but in the rhythm. The movement leading up to the actual wrist twist should be a wave, which sort of automatically leads to uke's fall. Uke is kind of sucked into the technique. In that respect, kotegaeshi is similar to some forms of kokyunage.

       Below are some examples of how I prefer to do kotegaeshi.

       In some aikido styles, kotegaeshi is done both omote and ura, whereas in other styles it is only done in one way — usually most similar to the ura form where they have both. In the videos below I show both omote and ura, as I perceive them, but I have to say that the ura form is generally the most trustworthy. Omote makes it necessary to pass in front of uke, in a way that can be a bit tricky.

       The most common way to do ukemi, the falling, in kotegaeshi, is the high one, similar but not identical to what is often called tobikoshi, falling over the hip, like in koshinage. It is often related to as "hard" falling — but that depends on uke's technique. As you can see on the videos below, my uke Mathias Hultman can fall very softly on kotegaeshi. I have to confess that it was exactly his beautiful ukemi that made me choose kotegaeshi as a theme, before other alternatives I have had in mind. When you see it, I am sure that you agree with me.
Video clip link      Notice that the little movie projector in every header is a link to a short video clip, usually about 800 KB in size, where I show how I do the kotegaeshi in question — the omote form two times, and then the ura form two times. Below each header are some of my views and pointers on it. I hope you find it of some interest. In the videos, the attacker with the elegant ukemi technique is Mathias Hultman from my dojo Enighet in Malmö, Sweden. Behind the camera is Nicklas Wikström from Shirakawa Aikido in Skellefteå.

Video clip here

Aihanmi katatedori

aihanmi katatedori Of course, there are several ways to do kotegaeshi — on aihanmi katatedori as well as other attacks. For example, the circular hand movement I do in the beginning of the technique on this video is not necessary, but it helps in getting a good kotegaeshi wrist grip "on the go".

       The movement can be compared to the kataratedo block gedan barai, but here it is done with a smaller circle, and not to push away the attacker's hand, but to bring it along into the technique. It is a very effective way of breaking free of uke's grip, as well, even if the grip is very strong.

       Observe that you need to make your taisabaki evasive step at the same time as you do the gedan barai circle with your hand, or uke can strike you with his or her free hand. In any aikido technique, always move out of the way, the very first thing you do! Actually, a good principle is to move your whole body at each phase of a technique, not just at the start of it. If you stand still too long, you are vulnerable to a counter attack.

       In the omote version, you step to the other side of uke than that of the grip. That is, if uke grabs you with the right hand you step to uke's left side, and vice versa. In the ura version, you step to the same side of uke as the grip, ie. to uke's right if uke grips with the right hand. Do not remain in front of uke, but make your taisabaki evasive move clearly to uke's side, out of the way of the attacking direction.

       The first grip you get on uke's wrist, with your thumb firmly on the back of uke's hand, you should keep all through the technique and the pinning at the end. If you grab uke's right hand it is done with your left, and vice versa.

       The actual throw of the kotegaeshi technique should come as the natural end of a wave you create by the preceding movements. That means you accelerate through it, and you move uke along in an inward spiral, where the throw appears in the center of it. You can see the circular-spiral form of it, if you look at how uke's attacking hand is moving. It is particularly clear in the omote form on the video.

       Also uke's hand should be formed into the spiral shape, as much as can be done. It is the center of the spiral. Don't think about forcing uke down by a wrist twist, but let the big spiral movement go towards uke's hand, and the kotegaeshi wrist twist will be quite natural, painless, and smooth.

       Don't make the circular-spiral movement too big, or uke might be able to break free of it. You can actually make it quite small, little more than a spinning at belly height. It should never be so big that the circle reaches higher than uke's head, where you will have little control left.

       You don't have a similar risk of losing control if you go deep down in the spiral movement. Many do this to get additional spin in the technique — especially in the ura form. So, if you go too high you lose control, but if you go deep down you can gain momentum.

       Keep good control of uke's hand through the throw, preferably with both your hands. Don't let go.

       After uke's fall, you need to spin uke around on his or her belly. The wrist twist of the kotegaeshi grip helps you with this. It is easy if you do it in immediate connection to the throw. If uke has landed and come to a halt on his or her back, it gets more complicated. You have to use one of your hands to help push uke around, by applying pressure to uke's arm by the elbow. It is a circular move, somewhat like wiping the inside of a bowl.

       When you do this, to spin uke around, you should make sure that uke is starting to turn over, before you go around to the other side. If not, uke can reach you with the free arm as well as with a kick. I have seen so many aikido practicioners neglect this. They stand right above uke, while uke is flat on the back and can reach them with a punch to the groin or a kick to the face. Maybe your uke is far too kind to do anything like that, but you should be aware of the risk. A pinning technique should be done with full control.

       Also for the reason of control, make sure that you keep the wrist grip firmly all through. When uke lies on the back and when you turn uke over on the belly, uke's arm should be in a curve, not straight, or uke can pull it down.

       In the pinning at the end of the technique, the hand you first grabbed uke's wrist with is the one remaining. With it, you press uke's hand so that the fingers of it point towards uke's neck. The pinning is the most effective if uke's arm has a slight curve, the arm form used in the exercise "the unbendable arm". If the arm is bent more than that, the wrist twist loses its effect, and if the arm is straight uke can snatch it away by bringing the elbow down to the body. Apply additional pressure with your knee to uke's wrist.

       Your position during the pinning at the end should be to uke's side, parallel to uke's body. That's where the pinning works the best, and you have the most control.

       All through the technique you should have your grip on uke's hand in front of your center — never out to your side. If you are sloppy with this, uke can probably stop the movement or pull the hand back.

       In the ura form, make sure to have your spirit forward even when you step back. Otherwise you easily get out of balance. This is true for every aikido technique — your spirit should always go forward, whatever direction you move.

       In the ura form you also need to pay attention to keeping uke's hand in front of your center, not out to the side. Uke's hand should go first in the movement — not you. You push uke's hand in front of you, all through. To be able to do that, you need to keep uke's hand in front of you.

       There's also a trick to where uke's hand is directed — never at you. Try it by letting uke hold a tanto. The knife should never point right at you, not at any moment. This you accomplish by your grip on uke's wrist, as well as with how you move through the technique.

       Both omote and ura are on the video clip, two of each.

Video clip here

Gyakuhanmi katatedori

gyakuhanmi katatedori In the omote form of gyakuhanmi katatedori, it works fine to use the circular gedan barai hand movement mentioned above, in the text about aihanmi katatedori. Here, though, it is done by the other hand than the one grabbed by uke. The latter, you move upward to extend uke's grip, partially opening and weakening it. Then you can easily do the circular gedan barai with your other hand, to get free of the grip and lead uke's hand along into the technique.

       Notice that your first taisabaki step is not to uke's front, but to the other side of uke from that of uke's grip. That is, if uke grabs you with the right arm, you go over to uke's left side, and vice versa.

       In the ura form, you need to do slightly different hand movements, because of the way you're going in your taisabaki step. The hand that uke has grabbed, you turn to point in the direction uke is headed — right at you, before you made the taisabaki. This turn of your hand loosens uke's grip on it, gets uke slightly out of balance, and opens up for the gedan barai circular move you do next, with your other hand.

       Notice that you start your taisabaki evasive move at the same time as you do your first hand movement. Never wait with the taisabaki.

       Apart from the above, what is said about aihanmi katatedori applies also to gyakuhanmi katatedori.

       See the text on aihanmi katatedori above for additional details. Both omote and ura are on the video clip, two of each.

Video clip here


katadori On this video, kotegaeshi is done in jutai ("soft body") tempo, which begins right before uke has reached to apply the shoulder grip. In gotai ("hard body") tempo, uke gets to apply the grip before tori starts moving. The latter is much more difficult, but the movement is identical with that in jutai.

       The gedan barai circular hand movement, described above, is used here as well. In jutai it is done to lead uke's arm into the technique. In gotai it is also the way to break free of uke's shoulder grip. For that, it needs to be done with more speed and distinction.

       Before the gedan barai circular hand movement, you extend uke by turning your body to the side in a taisabaki evasive move, and by the upward circular movement of the hand on the side where your shoulder is grabbed. By extending uke this way, it is much easier to break free of the shoulder grip, even when it is applied with strength. Still, in gotai you need to make it suddenly and with sharp distinction.

       In the gedan barai circular movement, make sure to bring uke's arm down, and turn your own body with the movement. From the gedan barai and on, uke's hand should be in front of your center, never to your side.

       Generally, kotegaeshi on katadori is done in the same way as on gyakuhanmi katatedori above, and yokomenuchi below.

       See the text on aihanmi katatedori above for additional details. Both omote and ura are on the video clip, two of each.

Video clip here


shomenuchi Basically, there are two ways of doing kotegaeshi on shomenuchi. One way, using the gedan barai circular hand move described above, is shown on this video. The other way, which is probably the most commonly used, starts by tori going to the outside of uke's attacking arm and grabbing uke's wrist from above, as it sweeps down in the shomen strike.

       I'll try to remember to make a video of the latter solution for kotegaeshi on shomenuchi. The chudan tsuki video below is quite the same as the solution to shomenuchi that I refer to here.

       The solution to shomenuchi kotegaeshi shown on this video begins with a taisabaki step and tori's hand reversed when meeting uke's attacking arm, in a way which is very similar to the sword parry uke nagashi. So, it is good to think of your hand as a sword — tegatana in aikido terms, "hand sword".

       The tegatana parry is not done to block the attack, but to take contact with it. Let uke complete the shomen striking move, just meet it softly with your tegatana hand at uke's wrist. I do the same in ikkyo against shomenuchi.

       Next, you spin your hand around to the other side of uke's wrist, keeping in touch with it. Then lead uke's hand down in a circular movement, resembling gedan barai mentioned above. Don't try to grab uke's wrist with your other hand until you have got it down in front of your center. Otherwise you get a grip that you need to change later on in the technique.

       The rest of the technique is the same as the ones above.

       See the text on aihanmi katatedori above for additional details. Both omote and ura are on the video clip, two of each.

Video clip here


yokomenuchi Kotegaeshi on yokomenuchi resembles that on gyakuhanmi katatedori and katadori. You start by an advancing taisabaki evasive movement, that brings you to the side and very near uke. You should be so near that the yokomenuchi striking hand would get behind your neck if you did not do the parrying hand movement. So, get really close — but to the side, not in front of uke.

       At the same time you do a circular movement upwards with one arm, pushing uke's attack forward a bit, and with your other arm you can make an atemi, "strike", to uke's face. You can use the same entrance and parry movement against for example the sideways hook punch of boxing.

       The hand you used for atemi is the one you do the gedan barai sweeping circle with, leading uke's hand into the technique.

       The rest of the technique is quite the same as the ones above.

       See the text on aihanmi katatedori above for additional details. Both omote and ura are on the video clip, two of each.

Video clip here

Chudan tsuki

chudan tsuki
On the video, I do a blocking move with the arm before I grab uke's wrist. You can skip it, but it's a very easy and practical way of meeting a sudden striking attack. It is quick, and not that hard to train so that it becomes a reflex. It's not knocking the striking arm out of the way, but done in the direction of the strike, so that uke gets slightly out of balance. You help the strike along.

       Immediately after this blocking move, you grab uke's wrist from above, and pull it on into the technique. You need to be quick with the pulling, or uke can draw the arm back for a new strike.

       It's not that difficult to grab the wrist, even if uke's attack is very quick. You need to be relaxed in your hand at first — almost like a wet rag — and slide along uke's lower arm until you feel the widening of the hand. Then you grab firmly. Since this is a movement in the direction of uke's strike, it will stop uke from retrieving the hand for a new strike, and it will help getting uke off balance.

       In the omote form, don't step over to uke's other side before you feel that you have a good grip on uke's wrist. By this grip and an initial wrist twist, you can make sure that uke stays off balance, and is quite unable to strike effectively with the other hand or do a kick.

       Expect uke to keep the hand closed into a fist, all through the technique. It can be quite difficult to do kotegaeshi on a strong fist, so you have to pay attention to the rhythm of the technique, doing it as a wave of sorts, where uke is thrown by the spin of it all, rather than by the twisting of the wrist. When you come across a really strong wrist, you must extend uke's arm by your wrist grip, before doing the kotegaeshi twist. It's a bit like squeezing the hand away from the wrist. Still, the spiral spin of the technique as a whole is much more trustworthy than the wrist twist.

       Both in the omote and the ura form, it is good to drag uke along a bit, before turning and making the actual throw. The stronger and more powerful the attack is, the more you might need to extend it before the throw. You also need some time to adjust your wrist grip, so that it will be correct and good enough to do the throw.

       If uke's hand is still closed into a fist when it's time to do the pinning at the end — and that's what you should expect — you need to do the pinning correctly and with good control, or uke's hand may slip out of your grip. Here, you are also likely to need the additional force of your knee, for the pinning to work. It's hard for just the fingers of your hand to make the wrist twist needed on a strong fist.

       Remember to have your spirit forward, no matter what way you are moving. Uke's hand should always go first, so you need to keep it in front of you — never to your side.

       See the text on aihanmi katatedori above for additional details. Both omote and ura are on the video clip, two of each.

Video clip here

Jodan tsuki

jodan tsuki
Of course, you can do jodan tsuki kotegaeshi the same way as for chudan tsuki above. The difference between jodan and chudan is just a few decimeters, so the same movement works fine. Also, it is impossible to tell in advance where uke will hit, and the strike is too fast for you to adjust during it.

       For that reason it is equally possible to do kotegaeshi the way shown on this video, applying the gedan barai circular hand movement described above, on jodan as well as chudan tsuki. Simply put: Whatever solution you choose for kotegaeshi on tsuki, it must work just as well on jodan as on chudan tsuki.

       The solution on this video is actually the same as for yokomenuchi above. In your first step, remember to enter very close to uke, so that it would also work well on a sideways hook punch.

       In every form of kotegaeshi, no matter what the attack is, you are in a hurry up to the point when you have secured your wrist grip. By that grip in itself you can actually control uke, and prevent uke from attacking anew, so you're no longer in that much of a hurry. On this and the other videos I don't move so fast, because that would make it very hard to see what I do. When you practice the technique, though, you should try to be as quick as possible up to the point when you have grabbed uke's wrist.

       See the text on aihanmi katatedori above for additional details. Both omote and ura are on the video clip, two of each.

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Stefan Stenudd

Stefan Stenudd

About me
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.