Videos and Explanations of the Aikido Pinning Technique

Sankyo is one of the basic pinning techniques in aikido. The video above shows it against several different strike and grip attacks. Explanations below.

Sankyo Sankyo

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.

       When uke's arm is extended like this, all through the sankyo pinning and take-down, tori should be able to control uke in a trustworthy way. I also find it best to keep uke's arm at shoulder height, all through the technique. If tori brings it down, then uke regains control and can resist. When you apply the sankyo wrist twist, uke's arm is extended 90° from the body, and that angle is kept all the way to the floor.

       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.

Stefan Stenudd

Aihanmi katatedori

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.
       The circular movement you make with your hand, also makes it easier to remove your wrist from uke's grip. So, the movement has two functions: getting uke's hand in position for the sankyo grip, and releasing your wrist from uke's initial grip.

       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

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.

       Start by making taisabaki to the side and extending uke's arm at the same time. Then, you go over to the other side of uke, while you spin your hand around to be able to do the sankyo grip on uke's hand. It is quite a natural way of getting to it, as you can see on the video.

       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.

       Basically, there are two ways of doing sankyo. One can be called sotokaiten, outer rotation — that is, on the outside of uke's arm. That is done quite the same as on gyakuhanmi above. The other way is uchikaiten, inner rotation, where you pass under uke's arm. The latter is shown on this video clip.

       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.

This short video is from a seminar in the Czech Republic, filmed by Larry Kwolek back in 2003. Uke is Gabika Markovicova from Slovakia.

       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.

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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.