Stanley Pranin’s Video Blog: “The Biggest Mistake in Kotegaeshi!”


“From a martial art standpoint, this is a major strategic blunder!”

In this video, Stanley Pranin describes a major error commonly seen in the application of aikido’s kotegaeshi, a wrist turn throw. This strategic mistake can be seen everywhere across the spectrum in modern aikido. This clip applies “The Zone Theory of Aikido” to analyzing this problem area in kotegaeshi techniques.

Basically, the first task of nage (defender) prior to applying kotegaeshi is to avoid the attack, and unbalance uke (attacker). But then as nage sets up to execute kotegaeshi, he spins uke around for the throw. Here, uke ends up facing nage square on. At this point, nage becomes vulnerable to uke’s counterattack and is only spared an unpleasant outcome by the cooperative nature of his interaction with uke. From a martial art standpoint, this is a major strategic blunder. Other problem areas exist in today’s aikido and should be addressed.


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  1. I like the methods you’ve shown.

    Kawahara Sensei had two types of practices for kotegaeshi that helped me:

    There would be a Suwari Waza practice with no leg work, with the goal of controlling Uke without body movement using their wrists to control their spine, hip and shoulders. This practice was done very slowly, to look for holes.

    The second practice I think he considered more advanced. Nage grabbed Uke by the sleeve, where there was no hope of controlling Uke by a lock. Whether or not Uke could strike or fell at all was completely dependent on body movement, flow and timing.

    • jose carlos escobar says:

      A big mistake is not doing what the founder did or thinking as he did. ¨More advanced¨ techniques should be cleaner, non violent techniques but people tend to confuse this. Besides there are activities to work for human development in Aikido not techniques (mechanical movements).

  2. Hi Stanley,

    I have seen this all over the world, from beginners to Shihan.
    Do you know the fable ‘The king with no clothes”?
    I believe it has a lot to do with your next grade. Co-operative uke are quickly promoted. Unco-operative uke, or ones who show the faults of nage, do not get promoted fast. Therefore everyone in the Dojo or organisation picks up on that rather quickly. Suddenly, everyone is doing it incorrect martially, but correct if you want to rise through the ranks. I doubt that it will change, as the people in charge would have to admit that they were wrong. Sadly, whenever anyone points out the glaring truth, they are chastised and usually thrown out. I just work at improving myself, my techniques, and showing my students the pitfalls of blindly following what other do.

    Enjoy the journey


    • Dear Paul,

      Good point.

      I was amused at your comment because as a late starter, 56 now started about 51, I would love to be a light uke. I work at being light, flexible, and able to take full force throws. I may not make it in this life, but I have colleagues and acquaintances who also started late and have made it ok. I was recently in Japan and met one chap who was 72 and started at 62. He is competent and very light so I have hope.

      You must know this, or at least the theory, to have written what you have, but coming from Shodokan Aikido, I am never sure what others believe, expect, understand. I reckon cooperative uke are required so that tori is able to experience using aikido full force, or close to. I notice that as I get better that sensei is both more likely to use me, and more likely to go a bit harder, but it is relative and he treats me appropriately to my experience, age and health. Sensei also spends quite a lot of time teaching us proper atemi – from the formal to the informal. He is clear that if the mai is no good then atemi is is the way to go. He also has had to teach us things about street fighting that I would not intuitively expect – things like always trying to stay upright, keeping my eye on the other person, and staying out of reach. Of course these are expressed in aikido in terms of mai, zanchen, metzke and such but …. not having been a fighter, how would I know. The movies give no clue as to a real fight.

      Yes, the truth is tricky for people. OF course the truth is tricky for me if it is some beloved idea of belief.

      Cheers and thanks for your thoughts

      Peter in Brisbane, Australia

  3. In jiyû randori (freestyle) where kaeshi waza and resistance are expected from a commited Uke, two common situations may occur:

    1- Uke follows Tori and lands in front of him following up with a footsweep, a strike or a sutemi waza. When Tori feels this happening, he will place an atemi in Uke’s face with his two hands in kotegaeshi position and continue with the technique;
    2- Uke hardly moves, his weight is on his heels, his arm aligned with his shoulders, Tori is placed in his blindspot and applies kotegashi.

    There is no perfect way as one discovers through the practice of jiyû randori. Every partner is different and we have to constantly review and polish our techniques.

    Please continue to question the value of what we tend to take for granted.

    Patrick Augé

  4. Leo Payne says:

    The speed at which you apply the kote gaeshi. A fast, powerful technique would render uke’s ability to strike you useless even if you were standing in front of them and not doing atemi

    Secondly, in Yoshinkan a strike to uke’s face is when turning back towards them is in all basic Kote Gaeshi techniques. The striking is nothing new. In fact it is essential for keeping uke’s balance broken before the throw

    Check out Takeno Sensei going through the basic technique from a shomen uchi. Look at the emphasis on the atemi


  5. Cliff Judge says:

    I don’t think this is that much of a problem, and it is not that hard to fix.

    For my part, even when I am practicing easy, after I have taken uke’s balance, I don’t simply turn in place – I either move way back, to open the ma’ai and make it more difficult for uke to reach me with their free hand, or I enter a bit as i turn, so that uke and I are not actually head on, but rather I am more in uke’s ura; either of these are ways to maintain a classic Aikido technique and yet remove yourself from danger of being hit by the other hand. I think kotegaeshi is a good “longer range” technique anyway.

    However if you really get uke’s balance and are connected to his center as you turn, rather than simply holding his wrist, then AS YOU TURN, you are throwing her. There is not much point in her trying to tag you with the other hand, she’s already going. I think the clip of Saito Sensei demonstrated this.

    Another way to fix the problem is to take uke’s wrist way down near the mat and NOT to let it come back up as you turn. In other words, if you’ve got a problem when you turn to throw because uke is facing you, you have probably given their balance back to them! Don’t do that!

  6. I think that collecting “mistakes” is something we’re pretty good at. The question is whether we incorporate them as part of our “style” or deride them as blunders. Mistakes of all sorts are pretty easy to see once you get the “decoder ring”. I believe that the true technique is bounded by mistakes, but is hard to see. If “it works” that is a clue, but not definitive unless you “it works” in a real situation. I don’t know about you but I don’t get real situations all that often. Anyway, because collecting mistakes is a pretty interesting and easy skill, I recommend it to everyone (with the proviso that everybody also keep an eye on some of those neat style points they’ve been working on).

  7. I missed this when it first came out! A very important point that we should not draw uke back into a position of advantage once we have taken balance, twisted the body and moved to a safe position out of uke’s field of view. Could this ‘modification’ be a consequence of those wanting to throw high falls and the ukemi is assisted by the poor habit of nage stepping back in front?

    I recently experienced the ‘elbow lock’ inadvertently from Sheila Barksdale. She had taken my hand almost to the mat (not what we normally do) and while her position was as you show so I could not come around for a counter move I was pinned on that elbow and it was uncomfortable enough that I bailed on the throw! It was much like a hard rokkyo. It is a possibility to be mindful of!


  1. […] y occidentales. Pero, ¿es siempre efectiva?. En el caso del Aikido, Stan Pranin realiza en una entrada de Aikidojournal una adecuada contextualización de la técnica, explicando uno de los errores más habituales, y […]

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