Uki Waza – The Way to Otoshi

Author: Eddy Wolput °1948 – 7th dan Aikido (JAA-Tokyo/Japan) – 5th dan Iaido – 5th dan Jodo. 
Part of the material in this article is not directly linked to the Japan Aikido Association (NPO) program or Shodokan approach. Other concepts are incorporated into the study of the subject presented.

Standard Method

Standard methods are methodological approaches to create a baseline for a given category of project activities in order to simplify the development of individual projects.

3 Standard Tomiki Aikido Uki Waza

For randori purposes, Kenji Tomiki selected 3 “otoshi” throws also known as floating throws.
These throws are executed in three zones seen from Tori’s perspective. The throwing power, generated by Koshi mawari (lower back and hip power) and unsoku (footwork) is executed in 1 of the 3 zones.

Uki waza are also included in Koryu no kata, traditional kata techniques in the Tomiki system.
Most Koryu no kata techniques have their roots in the pre-war martial arts studies of Kenji Tomiki and Hideo Ohba. If we compare Koryu no kata with the pre-war techniques of Morihei Ueshiba, there are many similarities.

A Basic Footwork, one of the many

Proper footwork is a key factor for effective floating kuzushi and subsequent throwing. The pictures below give you an indication how doing basic footwork. When basic footwork is well understood, creativity is needed to develop a more convenient footwork.
Always remember the relationship to the training partner or opponent. Some opponents have longer arms than average, or some have short arms……………….

Kodokan Judo Connection

In Kodokan Judo we find similar techniques with a floating (uki) and dropping (otoshi) characteristics.

Uki otoshi (Kodokan Judo) performed by Senta Yamada

Judo throws are executed by using a standard grip on the dogi.
Of course, during Judo randori, many variations will be applied. This is called “grip fighting” or Kumi Kata.

During Tomiki Aikido Randori, Kumi Kata (Judo) must be avoided. For this reason wrist and elbow grabbing is the standardized procedure.

Standarized methods

If you follow only 1 teacher, you will usually find 1 core method. When the teacher is the head of a larger organization, the teacher’s method is the norm. An international organisation obviously needs representatives and this is where the differentiation of methods lies. They have their own interpretation.

Standardised methods cannot be regarded as a fixed method, there will always be interpretations and modifications.
When we understand “form, function and meaning”, the differences in the method of grasping, throwing or other things can be considered a personal approach.
While the basic shape is present, minor differences are the result of mechanical and/or mental images and will have a positive impact on performance.

Uki Waza Grabbing Method

A Living Martial Art is always the subject of change and Aikido is not an exception.
As with most standard methods, there are always some modifications for example in the method to grab uke’s arm.

The demonstration of Kenji Tomiki (1975) and the explanation of Tadayuki Satoh (around 2014) is slightly different.
The concept of “kuzushi” is of course the same and you will find this also in Kodokan Judo.

Kenji Tomiki’s method

Sumi otoshi and hiki otoshi have a 2hands grip on Uke’s wrist. Mae otoshi has a hold of one hand on the wrist while the other arm pushes the elbow.

Tadayuki Satoh’s method

Mae otoshi is similar to Kenji Tomiki’s approach.
Sumi otoshi and Hiki otoshi have one hand on the wrist, the other hand is at the elbow.

Full coverage of Basic 17 by Tadayuki Satoh

Mae Otoshi Method

A couple more interpretations of “Mae otoshi”by Shogo Yamaguchi, Ryuchi Omori, T.Kobayashi and Konoka.

Sumi Otoshi Method

Sumi otoshi methods by Konoka, Shogo Yamaguchi, Ryuchi Omori and T.Kobayashi

Hiki Otoshi Method

Hiki otoshi methods by Konoka and Shogo Yamaguchi

Uki waza and weapons

Weapon handling uses the same body movements as for unarmed combat. In the Tomiki system the Koryu no kata (classic aikido techniques) introduces basic weapon handling. Bokuto, jo (yari) and tanto are used to teach the basics of these weapons.

The use the Jo is used to explain kuzushi. The example here is the use of the jo (yari) during sumi otoshi kuzushi.

Basic arm movements (tegatana dosa tandoku undo) can be used to introduce basic weapon handling. Using a weapon during tegatana dosa can be very challenging to do the correct body movements.
Tomiki aikido training includes unarmed combat as well as armed combat (softanto). Basic kata, is performed unarmed or with tanto (softanto).
Of course, if you like to go deeper into the science of swordfighting or other weapon system, you need a qualified instructor.

The floating feature – Uki

The feeling of “floating” situation can be felt as standing on an “unstable” surface.

Uke’s arm is lifted up high and is rotated (torsion) inward or outward (hineri/gaeshi). This creates a disconnection between the upperbody and the lower body.
Floating can be created as a defensive action when opponent is grabbing you at the wrist. Some formal “kuzushi” exercises developped in the Tomiki system make often use of this situation (for example 7-hon no kuzushi).
When using an offensive method, the grasping method on Uke’s arm has an important role to fullfill.
In general, basic arm movement will be used to create kuzushi (floating action) and followed by a throw (otoshi)

The features of a fall – Otoshi

Otoshi techniques can be found in different martial arts. The idea brought forward is the image of a waterfall.

Iaido has a Taki Otoshi kata. If you use your imagination, you’ll see the waterfall.

Jodo Maki Otoshi is a fundamental technique for quickly dropping the opponent’s sword with a Jo.

In general, all aikido techniques can be performed as a throw. Even kansetsu waza (hiji waza and tekubi waza) can be a throwing technique.
Uki waza uses the skill of “otoshi”, the quickly dropping down of uke’s body. Tori’s power is generated with correct body movement synchronised with gravity.
If only arm power is used, our technique will fail and the opponent will take over the initiative.
Remember, the origin of our power comes from koshi mawari (lower back and hip movement) and unsoku (footwork).

Stationary and dynamic training of Uki Waza

Before we can use “uki waza” as an application in randori or sparring, we must learn:

Form, function an understanding

First we learn the form in a basic format starting from tegatana awase postures. It is about how to use our body without moving around. Some footwork is included in the performance of Tori.
Uke does’t move or doesn’t resist. Uke is just lending his body and do the appropriate “ukemi”.
Afer some training, the function of the different elements (footwork, grasping skills…) will be understood and the separate body movements are transformed into a basic technique.

The introduction of footwork into the tegatana awase, a dynamic basic format of training creates the next step. The dynamic format gives a extra dimension to the training.
Of course this is not yet “randori”, all the elements of the training are programmed. Uke is using footwork, but still lend his body and uses no resistance.
The form is further investigated, the function of the form gives a broader scope of applications and the understanding will open the door to creativity in the training of randori.

Junanahon no kata, the starting point

There are many version of basic 17, all of them have the same techniques using the same concepts. These concepts are discussed in many articles and posts on this blog.
In the unarmed versions, the physical meeting (tegatana awase) is the starting point of the stationary training method mentioned earlier.

Find here an older version of basic 17 (1989).

A dilemma, Ai-gamae or Gyaku-gamae

Kamae, the fighting position

There is an interesting aspect connected to the fighting position of Tomiki Aikido method. In randori no kata, Tori always stands with his right foot in front: migi-gamae. The same applies for Uke. Of course this situation applies for right-handed persons.

But where does the systematic use of the right-sided position, migi-gamae, come from?
First of all we have to understand that randori no kata do not represent a boxing attitude to the fighting situation. We are dealing with classical bujutsu, especially Japanese fencing, kenjutsu. The swordsman always puts his right leg in front. In western boxing or Japanese karate a right-handed person in general takes the left stance. Some Tomiki Aikido competitors use this kamae also during their randori.
The basic kamae in randori no kata mimics that Tori and Uke have a sword in their hands. Randori no kata promotes the basic concepts of kenjutsu. These concepts are how to shift the body away from the line of attack (tai-sabaki) and keep a safe distance (rikakutaisei). There are 2 basic methods to step out of the attacking line.

  • you can avoid the line of attack to the inner side or
  • to the outer side of the line of attack

aigamae gyaku gamaeAi-gamae and gyaku-gamae

The basic method to practise randori no kata is by using ai-gamae. Both perform a kamae with the right foot in front or with the left foot if the practise is focussing on left handed performance.

The exercise of tegatana awase (see on the left) can be practised with ai-gamae or gyaku-gamae. In gyaku-gamae, tori can put tegatana on the inside of uke’s arm or on the outside.

Touching the tegatana of the opponent is the starting of a waza while practising randori no kata.

awase basic 17

 

basis15 nr1-2Using gyaku-hanmi in randori no kata

In basic 15 (randori no kata), the position of gyaku-gamae is used in to some “waza”. Gyaku-gamae-ate is such an example.

In the beginning of this article we stated: Tori always stands with his right foot in front: migi-gamae. Why is Tomiki sensei changing his posture to hidari-gamae? It is more logical if Uke is changing his posture, because this creates a training opportunity for Tori to practise against a left-handed attack. Of course we can practise randori-no-kata from a left-handed situation. But we cannot forget the origin of the right-handed posture: Japanese swordmanship.

The role of Uke

In randori-no kata, the role of Uke is an offensive one. Mind and body must reflect the intention to attack. When Uke lift his “tegatana” up and towards Tori, there must be an intention to attack. For training purposes, Uke can physically attack with shomen-uchi without lifting the hand to jodan posture.

The role of Tori

The role of Tori will depend on the action of Uke and can be performed according 3 specific situations:

  • go-no-sen (reactive initiative)
  • sen-no-sen (simultaneous initiative)
  • sensen-no-sen (pre-emptive initiative)

As previously mentioned, tegatana-awase is the start of the physical performance of a waza. But it is also possible by “not touching” tegatana, Uke’s mind is of course offensive, there is no physical attack. The previous example of gyaku-gamae-ate is such a situation.

Timing or Sen

Mostly in tanto-randori no kata (basic 17) a specific kind of timing is used: go-no-sen. This means reactive timing. The opponent performs an attack and the defender reacts to this and deals with it with the help of a body shift with simultaneous a nagashi movement (sliding parry) followed by a counterattack. There are two rhythms connected to this timing. The rhythm can be one-two, for example in a case of aigamae-ate, or it can be one, which means that parry and counter attack are performed at the same time. Hiki-otoshi is such an example.

Can we use other timing situation in basic kata for randori (randori no kata)?

Sen-no-sen: This means simultaneous timing. This needs a different state of mind. Tori tries to sense the intention of the attacker and starts to move simultaneously with him. In Tanto-randori-no-kata, a sen-no-sen action can be used when a tanto-strike is at the beginning of the action.

Sensen-no-sen: This means pre-emptive timing and it is the most demanding to perform. To perform it correctly would mean that Tori should be able to feel the movement of Uke before it takes any physical movement. In Japanese budo there is lots of material to be found about this timing: to pre-emptive strike at the point when Uke is still planning his own attack. In this level you take the initiative when you sense the intention of the attack in the opponent’s mind or in his ki, as the Japanese say.

The game in Randori-no-kata

By changing posture and situation, we stimulate the creativity of the practitioners. And to make it more interesting, playing with 3 kinds of timing is multiplying your numbers of possible waza.

Next step is to use all your waza in randori (kakari geiko, hikitate geiko and randori geiko)

 

17-hon no kata

17-hon no kata

Kata in general consist mainly of offensive and defensive methods. Although there is no visible attack (for the untrained eyes) in the 17-hon no kata “toshu” method , there has to be an offensive and defensive action.

  • Uke’s attitude towards Tori has to be an offensive one. Uke is projecting his attacking mind forward in the direction of Tori.
  • Tori attitude towards Uke has to be a controlling one. Tori is grasping the attacking mind and neutralize it.

17-hon awase movement

Tegatana awase

nocquet tegatana011Tegatana awase is mostly referred as a sensitivity exercise when Tori and Uke have their tegatana together. This is not only the case in Tomiki Aikido but in all Aikido methods where Tegatana Awase is used.
Morihei Ueshiba & André Nocquet putting together the tegatana.

Touching the tegatana in 17-hon no kata is an important part of the performance. It is the first physical contact with Uke. Losing the fight starts here.

Benefits of kata training

When kata is done with the correct attitude, the are a lot of benefits for body and mind. The attitude of offensive and defensive actions is one of the most important elements in the kata training. Without these actions kata becomes an empty performance, a display without a soul.

Kata can be very beneficial as physical training, especially if Uke accept the many stretching movements during the performance.

ukemi forwardUkemi can be very demanding and is a form of cardio training. It is the task of Tori to keep always control of Uke, even when Uke is performing ukemi.

Throwing Uke in a violent way has to be avoided. Controlling Uke with pain is not the preferred way and shows a lack of skill in controlling violence.

Because the roles of Tori and Uke are set, precision becomes another element in the performance of the kata. Without proper technical and mental skill, kata becomes a dull and boring training tool. Learning precision is an important benefit of proper kata training.

17-hon no kata – Uki-waza

Uki waza

The integration of our bodywork exercises into Uki Waza will generate extra power into the technique. This power is derived from Tenshikeiî or the power generated through internal body turning, stretching and releasing. This internal turning follows a diagonal spiral line or in other words: diagonal tension.

Mae  otoshi

The setup for mae otoshi is creating diagonal tension. By stepping forward the tension can be released and becomes kinetic power.

  • Use the same setup as for tenkai kote gaeshi
  • Slide the arm closer to Uke’s armpit while turningin hineri fashion
  • Releaese and drop the power generated by the diagonal tension
  • When stepping forward, use rolling foot skill

Sumi otoshi

Sumi otoshi is an almost exaggerated example of “tenshikei”.

sumi otoshi diagonal tension

  • Use setup footwork from tenkai kote hineri
  • Don’t squeeze the wrist of Uke
  • When creating diagonal tension, keep koshi stable
  • Releaese and drop the power generated by the diagonal tension

Hiki otoshi

Remark the footwork to improve the diagonal tension. When releasing the tension and stepping back, tenshikei becomes kinetic power.

  • Don’t squeeze the wrist of Uke
  • When creating diagonal tension, keep koshi stable
  • Releaese and drop the power generated by the diagonal tension

17-hon no kata – Tekubi-waza

Tegatana no mune

 Tegatana (Japanese for hand sword) is a term that refers to the idea the hand and the arm are in the shape of a Japanese sword.
During training, uke and tori often face each other with their respective tegatana that touch each other. From this position, considered the ideal distance for two unarmed opponents, many balance breaking, striking and throwing techniques can be applied.
The inside of the tegatana is called “tegatana no mune”, and can be used in techniques like tenkai kote gaeshi.

Mawari foot movement

mawari foot movement

This kind of foot movement you will find in tenkai kote hineri or sumi otoshi.
A similar foot movement can be used in tenkai kote gaeshi.

Kote hineri

  • Tori avoid by sideways Tsugi Ashi and contact Uke’s wrist from the side with the free hand (Mune edge)
  • Tori, at the same time, and with the thumb in the palm of the hand, twist Uke’s wrist. This is done by Tori using a diagonal spiral in the Torso.  This action is used to drive Tori’s elbow so that it can then drive Uke’s elbow so that it is above the shoulder line.
  • As Uke’s elbow reaches the peak, Tori reinforce this position by sliding the hand up to the elbow, thumb into Uke’s inner elbow joint.
  • Tori push Uke to the ground, maintaining the wrist lock.
  • Once Uke is under control on the ground, change posture by moving the outside leg forward.

Kote gaeshi

  • Use the same start as in Kote Hineri.
  • Tori change direction once Uke’s elbow approaches the peak.
  • Tori turn from the Torso and step to the side and onto Uke’s weak line. (Don’t step towards Uke,  Don’t pull Uke)
  • Tori slip the hand gripping Uke’s wrist from the outside to the inside.
  • Tori use Hikimawari Ashi footwork and apply the wrist turn in the direction of Uke’s side to create the effect of Kaeshi.
  • Uke’s arm and wrist must have the shape 90° and 90° respectively.  Tori use the thumb and the palm of the hand to implement this.
  • The throw is achieved using a diagonal spiral in the Torso.
  • The preferred method of Ukemi is not to jump or roll around before the throw has happened.
  • Tori maintain the lock on Uke’s wrist and use Hikimawari Ashi foot to finish.

Tenkai kote hineri

  • Tori step to the side and use Hikimawari Ashi footwork.
  • Tori keep Uke’s arm at Chudan level.  Use a diagonal spiral in the Torso to achieve this.
  • Tori’s leading hand grips Uke’s arm above the wrist using skin effect.
  • Tori step and turn Demawari Ashi and apply a twist to Uke’s wrist and bring it down to Uke’s hip. This creates the effect of Hineri in Uke.
  • The lock on Uke’s wrist must be maintained throughout the action.
  • Bring Uke down onto their front to finish.

Tenkai kote gaeshi

  • Tori bring the free hand up and under the Tegatana hand and on the inside of Uke’s Tegatana and sweep the arm down and across.
  • At the same time Tori Tsugi Ashi to the side.
  • Tori, and with a curved step forwards, raise Uke’s arm.
  • This action is a diagonal spiral in the Torso of Tori which create the effect of Kaeshi in Uke.
  • Tori now turn and create Tenkai to reinforce the effect of Kaeshi in Uke.
  • Tori then relax the diagonal spiral stretch to throw

17-hon no kata – Hiji-waza

Skin-effect

skin-effect

When grasping the wrist of Uke it is only grasping the skin and underlying tissue. It is not grasping the bones. Grasping the skin has an effect on the fascia system.

Oshi-taoshi

  • Tori use skin effect on Uke’s wrist.
  • Tori using a diagonal spiral in the torso move from the elbow to drive Uke’s elbow up to above their shoulder level.
  • Tori push their thumb into Uke’s inner elbow joint; very slightly release the grip on the wrist to allow Tori to rotate their hand from palm in to palm out.  Re-grip Uke’s wrist.
  • Tori control Uke before bring them down.  Don’t be tempted to push Uke laterally away or use them as a prop.
  • Control Uke on the ground, chest down, Their palm up, wrist below the knee cap, Tori’s palm down, stretching the arm.

Ude-gaeshi

  • Start as per Oshi-taoshi.
  • Tori make contact with Uke’s elbow; use Inside Turn action, Mune then Tegatana.
  • Tori Tsugi Ashi forwards so that the hips are alongside Uke’s.
  • Tori stretch and release to throw with rolling foot

Hiki-taoshi

  • Tori avoid to the side whilst rotating the upper body in order place the free hand palm up under Uke’s wrist. (Here again the upper and lower body are doing different things)
  • Use Outside Sweep action to start moving Uke’s hand down and across to Tori’s other hand which continues the movement with Inside Sweep action.
  • Tori grip Uke’s elbow and bring Uke down whilst using Hikimawari Ashi footwork, which sweep Uke off their feet. (This is stepping back with a circular foot movement is initiated by turning of the Koshi and Tanden)

Ude-hineri (Ude-garami)

  • Use the same start as in Hikitaoshi.
  • Tori make contact with Uke’s elbow use Outside Turn action, Mune then Tegatana.
  • Tori, with their other hand on the wrist of Uke, use Inside Turn action driven from the turning of the Torso, above the hips.
  • Tori focus the direction of Uke’s hand to the region above their spine.
  • Tori complete the throw which will induce a spiral effect into Uke’s Ukemi.

Waki-gatame

  • Tori avoid by turning the Torso and grip Uke’s wrist from the underside (Ulna side of the arm).
  • Tori keep the interface of the three arms and Tsugi Ashi to the side and keep Chudan level.
  • Tori then Torso rotate towards Uke and stretch the arm towards Uke, connect with Uke’s arm and release the stretch to apply the lock.
  • Tori turn towards Uke to secure the lock.

17-hon no kata – Atemi-waza

The integration of our exercises, discussed in this blog, have of course a great influence on the performance of our waza in kata and randori.
Major influences are:

  • stretching the body
  • diagonal tension
  • twisting and untwisting
  • rolling feet
  • and other elements…

Shomen ate

  • Tori stretch the body as the arm is raised as a threat.
  • Attack Uke’s arm as the stretch is released.
  • Tori use gravity effect and step before touching Uke’s chin.
  • Use rolling foot skill as you touch and push Uke.

Ai-gamae ate

  • Avoid in reverse posture along the line of Uke’s feet.
  • Use Inside Turn action on Uke’s upper arm, close to the elbow (Don’t grip).
  • Lightly grip Uke’s skin at the wrist.
  • Use gravity effect and step into regular posture and control Uke before moving the leg and then touching the chin.

Gyaku-gamae ate

  • Avoid in regular posture as Uke’s wrist is lightly gripped (skin effect).
  • Tori stretch the body as the arm is raised as a threat.
  • Attack to the face but lightly land on the chest of Uke.
  • Use skin effect on Uke’s upper body.
  • Gravity effect, Step with rolling foot and tsugi ashi and throw.

Gedan ate

  • Avoid in regular posture as Uke’s wrist is lightly gripped (skin effect).
  • Tori stretch the body as the arm is raised as a threat.
  • Uke closes down the options to an upper body attack by slightly turning and raising their arm.
  • Tori then drop to gedan and form a sword-drawing-like shape with the attacking arm.
  • Use skin effect on Uke’s lower body.
  • Gravity effect, Step with rolling foot and tsugi ashi and throw

Ushiro ate

  • Tori using the Mune action from Inside Turn, place the hand onto Uke’s upper arm.
  • Tori lightly grip the skin of Uke’s wrist and with both hands and using a diagonal spiral in the torso; slightly rotate the arm and Tsugi Ashi to rotate Uke.
  • This is an example of Tori’s upper and lower body being separate as the action is made.
  • Tori then, using a similar movement, Tsugi Ashi sideways across Uke’s back and touch the hands onto Uke’s shoulders.
  • By bringing down the elbows and rotating the hands; rather like rotating a Jo which is situated along the shoulder line.
  • Uke will be fixed in a stretched falling rearwards position.  Tori momentarily keep this before moving back.  Donít be tempted to pull Uke back.

You’ll find the complete Basic 17 here