The Classical O-Soto-Gari Judo Throw
Part 2: The Rebuttal
by Steve Cunningham
Editor's Note: This is a two
part series discussing the effectiveness of the classically taught major
outer reaping judo throw, O-soto-gari. Part
1 faults the classical method while a rebuttal to this
criticism follows in Part II. In a follow-up article the jujutsu and
combat roots to this same technique will be illustrated.
Ben Holmes' article on about the stupidity of "classical"
o-soot-gari is incorrect. The version of o-soot-gari that Holmes ridicules
bears little resemblance to anything I was ever taught as "classical"
judo. This may be one person's version of o-soto-gari, but it certainly
is not "the" classical o-soto-gari. The author argues that
the classical method has you attacking the unweighted leg. No way. I
don't even know anyone who would advocate that. It makes no sense, regardless
of your brand of judo.
The next step for a right-handed throw, according to the author, is
"Put your left foot outside his right foot," which we are
told is silly because your left foot is your driving leg. If your left
foot/driving leg is beside your opponent, then you have nothing to push
There are many problems with this characterization. First of all, this
assumes that both kinds of judo use the left leg as the driving leg.
You have two legs. I think the real difference here is that in classical
judo, you off-balance before you attempt kake (execution of a throw).
In the classical method, you are driving in while pushing with the right
leg, to drive your opponent off-balance while placing your left foot
beside him. That is where the driving is done. NOW that he is off-balanced,
you attempt to remove your opponent's standing leg, that is, his weighted
right leg. If you can't off-balance him, then you don't continue with
As the competition photographs show, the competitors have not off-balanced
their opponents. No wonder. These are extraordinarily skilled, internationally-ranked
competitors at the peak of their careers. It is not easy to get them
off-balanced. No argument there. But if you are going to try to drive
someone over their leg when they are NOT off-balance, then you had better
have the left leg in a driving position. You need to do this because
your opponent can muster a great deal of resistance to your attack when
he is not off-balanced.
But, of course, this means that by attacking an opponent where he is
strong and on balance, you are already engaging in an inefficient tactic.
You threw seiryoku zenyo out the window with your first move, so don't
tell me this is more efficient than the "classical method".
The idea is that you didn't have much choice because you were unable
to get your opponent off balance in the first place. Right?
If you are fighting with no time limits, you might be able to keep
working your opponent until you can catch him off-balance. When you
are fighting top-caliber judo people and are required to make an attack
every few seconds or get disqualified, however, you have a serious problem.
You are forced by the rules to engage in inefficient practices. That's
just the way it goes.
The author describes the hand actions of tori (person attempting a
throw) in the classical method as operating independently, which they
do not. He argues that the classical approach does not use the entire
right forearm against uke's (the person being thrown) chest, when that
is the only way I've seen it (when we didn't have a vice-grip on uke's
neck for self-defense). I always put my forearm against uke in randori
(practice) or shiai (contest).
"Lightly raise your right leg and swing it past your opponent's
right leg" -- It is hard to reap your opponent's leg forward until
you get your leg behind him." How far do you take it past before
coming back with the reap? I know I don't usually take it much past
the minimum distance necessary. So I don't get this one, either.
Mr. Holmes argues, "Notice, that in the classical version, the
pushing and pulling is done with your hands, whereas in the more effective
version, the pulling is still done with one hand, but the pushing is
done with your whole body, driving off a strongly set leg. What's more
efficient?" I have never heard of anyone in classical judo arguing
to do ANY pushing or pulling with just your hands. This is utter nonsense,
as is the rest of this. We do drive the hand movements with the dynamic
use of the entire body.
He further argues, "You will remain standing, which won't happen
in the dynamic form of o-soto-gari. And in order to remain standing,
and to execute this classical version, you have completely failed to
deliver the force needed, at the appropriate locations, with maximum
Wrong again. As I have already said, in the classical method, you drive
and off-balance on the entry, before the kake. That is the real difference.
Because of this, tori does not have to be off-balance at kake (although
tori might choose to be). There is more than one way to cause your opponent
to hit the ground hard with a throw.
One way is to just wrap up in him and fall with him. Classical Judo
people call that "makikomi." But there other ways. If I gave
you a sledgehammer and asked you to hit the ground with it as hard as
you could, would you cling to it and take a flying leap? I don't think
so. You'd probably take a stable stance, and swing it downward from
the handle with all your strength. You can do the same thing with your
opponent once he is off the ground.
Using your grip, you use the stability of your position to slam him
down into the mat, separate from yourself. I am not suggesting either
approach is the only way to do this, only that there is more than one
way. Moreover, believe it or not, classical Judoka do o-soto Makikomi,
If you are going to argue that something is wrong, you'd better first
know what it is. My guess is that the author is really arguing against
one person's written description of something that one person calls
"classical o-soto-gari". Extending the generalization to all
classical Judo just does not apply.
As a result of the rules, modern competition sets some real and important
constraints on players that may force them to do things that are, strictly
speaking, inefficient. This is just the way it is. Competitors have
adapted their methods accordingly, making their techniques work within
the modern competitive environment, and I have no argument with them
about it. That is not the purpose of my comments. You do, after all,
play to win.
Note: This article is an edited version of commentary about Ben Holmes'
writings on o-soto-gari. It appears here with the permission of Steve
Cunningham and Best Judo.
(1) This is a simply a follow-up technique to
O-soto-gari. When you try O-soto-gari, and you can't quite get it, you
can release your lapel hand, and take it up and over the head, and instead
of sweeping to the rear (that has been failing), you now drive straight
down, twisting away from uke as you do so. It's a sacrifice of your
body position to 'win' the throw.
About The Author:
Steve Cunningham is a holder of the rokudan (6th degree red and white
belt) in Judo and the shichidan (7th degree red and white belt) in
Takagi-Ryu Jujutsu. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the
United States Judo Association (USJA), and is also a member of the
United States Judo Inc. (USJI) and the United States Judo Federation
He was an uchideshi to Taizo Sone, who was a direct student of Jigoro
Kano, founder of Judo, Kotaro Okano and Hidekazu Nagaoka (10th dans
under Kano), and Zenpai Kondo (Jujutsu Menkyo Kaiden), among others.
Sone signed his keppan or blood oath at the Kodokan shortly after
the turn of the century.
Cunningham extended his Judo and Jujutsu training under several of
Sone's friends, including the current soke (grandmaster) of the Takagi-Ryu
Jujutsu. Cunningham has over 35 years experience in the martial arts,
and his students have gone on to win national and international competitions.
Cunningham teaches at the Ju Nan Shin Martial Arts Academy (also in
Connecticut), and travels and gives clinics upon invitation. See his
website at: http://members.aol.com/cunningham/index.htm