Where do you stand? “The Kotegaeshi Challenge” by Stanley Pranin

“Can you prevent your attacker from striking you?”

Kotegaeshi, aikido’s wrist twist technique, is a special case among the art’s basic techniques. It can be seen performed in practically everything aikido demonstration, usually with the attacker taking a high fall when thrown. The technique is a crowd favorite as it appears spectacular, but at the same time it has a potential vulnerability.

Take a look at the above photo of Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba performing kotegaeshi in a photo appearing in the Founder’s technical manual “Budo” from 1938. You will seldom see kotegaeshi executed this way today. What it unusual about this photo is that Morihei is positioned to uke’s blind spot; uke is off balanced to the rear, and his fist is balled up as kotegaeshi is applied.

An instructive exercise would be to do a Google search for “kotegaeshi” and observe the final stage of the technique. In virtually every case, you will see the attacker in the process of taking a high fall. However in the above photo of the Founder, uke cannot take such a high fall since he has lost his balance to the rear.

What is this potential vulnerability with kotegaeshi I mention above? Once again, I would refer you to the many images you will see resulting from your search for “kotegaeshi”. I would like you to focus on uke’s free hand just at the moment he is leaping into his high fall. This line drawing from “Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere” illustrates the problem.


Do you see where uke has an opportunity to strike nage with his free hand as he turns into the fall? This is often the case if you carefully study these photos. What happens typically is that the action is so fast that the average person cannot see what is occurring.

I have written about kotegaeshi on a number of occasions and made this video as well discussing this subject.

Nonetheless, there seems to be no consensus about allowing uke to turn and execute a high fall to escape kotegaeshi. Given this situation, I would like to solicit your opinions on this matter. To organize things somewhat, I propose that interested readers offer their comments as responses to these questions:

1. Is it desirable to allow the attacker to turn his body into you thereby allowing a high fall from kotegaeshi?

2. If yes, do you see any potential vulnerabilities in doing so?

3. If such vulnerabilities exist, how would you prevent them?

4. Is it preferable to set up the kotegaeshi throw as shown in the above photo of the Founder where uke has lost his balance to the diagonal rear?

5. In this case, how do you prevent uke’s natural tendency to turn inward toward you?

I welcome your input on this fascinating subject pertaining to one of aikido’s core basics.


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  1. I would put forth for experimentation and consideration that if you have an opportunity to fall high, you also have an opportunity to reverse. Another way of thinking about that would be if your reverse fails, your high fall is your last escape.

  2. Kevin Monte de Ramos says:

    I see, even in your video, the very concern to which you have dedicated this video. That is the uke is close enough to place his free hand upon your shoulder. That indicates a grave danger in my mind; the uke is able to scrape the face, hold the garment, or worse kick the head of the nage.

    As a low-ranking ni-kyu, my concern is whether or not I should make the nage aware of this vulnerability? If yes, then how best to do so without words (as I believe body awareness to be the best form of correction)?

    My thought about preventing this tendency is to extend ki, as in Tai no Henko; whereby, the uke is unable to walk around in face the nage. The way this effects uke is centrifugal throwing moving out from the nage, making it difficult for uke to penetrate when off-balanced. Another is to ‘push’ the wrist into compression versus the tendency to ‘torque’ the wrist into compression; whereby, the later pulls the uke uncomfortably close. I see from Saito Sensei that extending an atemi or a kiai also does the trick.

    So back to knowledge seeking. How does one inform the nage of such vulnerabilities in a safe and congenial manner consistent with modern Aikido practices?

    • Kevin, I have always thought that a light tap with a fist, simulating a punch was a good way to do this, but then I changed dojos and the first person I did this to burst into tears, so maybe it isn’t such a good idea. Good luck with that one!

      • Kevin Monte de Ramos says:

        Thanks for sharing and making me smile this Sunday evening, RB. It is so difficult to impart wisdom, humiliation, and humor with so few words. Nicely done!

      • John Hillson says:

        Nice idea, but I found that everyone got too afraid of the punch and either bailed on the technique or torqued fast and hard or locked an elbow. Kawahara Sensei had a very unlovely Jujigarami variation that used the Kotegaeshi hand to lock the punching elbow.

        It’s a pet peeve for me to move slowly and safely for a beginner only to have them take 12 steps to my one and throw a punch. The beginner tends to be the one to complain the most when I respond to keep safe.

  3. Steve Link says:

    I began my Aikido career doing Nihon Goshin Aikido, then moved to Iwama Ryu, and now I’m studying with an independent group which is highly influenced by Yoshinkan. The high fall version isn’t everywhere but if you spent much time looking around YouTube I can see how you would arrive at that conclusion. I can honestly say that I have never studied at a school which allowed uke to take a high fall out of this technique. I seem to recall someone saying that if uke is able to regain their balance enough to execute that high fall then they could just as easily execute a counter attack.

    As for dealing with uke turning toward you what I’ve been taught could best be summarized by “try to keep uke off balance”.

  4. Hi Stanley thanks for the tremendous work !!

    First, I would say “yes” it is desirable to allow uke to turn his body, thus allowing a high fall. At least in a dojo context ! Where we’re supposed to take care of each other, right ? We all do that, don’t we ? And when the attacker has not enough experience we allow a gentle ushiro ukemi.

    Otherwise I believe the ancient technique’s aim, was to break the wrist (or more) of the enemy. So there was no point in allowing a smooth escape with a big, impressive high fall … If uke understands that tori is being careful with not hurting him (her) then he (she) should not try to hit tori. It’s always so easy to counter a technique when you know it and/or if you have enough experience. I prefer to teach my students to feel in their body the “unbalance”, not to use their legs to regain their balance but rather, to turn their hips to face the direction of the throw.

    The picture of Ueshiba’s sensei, shows us the ideal, final stance of tori. There is no pushing or pulling uke’s arm which would start him (her) into a spinning motion ending with both partners facing each other. Once tori has performed tenkan, uke should be unbalanced otherwise it is useless. Then it is tori who moves around his front foot and throw his attacker. The throw, like for other aikido techniques, is related to a sword cut, or an atemi as you wish.

    Then, you should try to perform kote gaeshi without the usual tenkan. The final stance is the same but first you need to move on the side while changing hanmi and execute te sabaki in the same time. Most people find the te sabaki difficult to perform but try it, either with ai hanmi or gyaku hanmi katate dori.

    Friendly regards,


  5. Andrew Bedford says:

    I agree with the founder on this technique. Let me explain from a slightly different point of view if I may.

    In the normal way of doing kotogaeshi as you rightly point out you may get struck by ukes free hand, however I have herd it say by a few sensei that I have trained under, that this would only be a glancing blow and would not hurt a seasoned practitioner of martial arts, furthermore, during the technique if you continue to turn to ukes rear then the possibility is limited further, in other words you continue to turn into uke’s live side until he falls. This is acceptable until the realisation that uke may not be empty handed and may have concealed a weapon on his person, this glancing blow now becomes a slice to your jugular that would probably result in death.

    From the way the founder does it, if an atemi is applied first with either a closed fist or open palm uke is of balance because of the pressure of having a fist in his face, he cannot turn inward because his head is forced away from you, and you draw uke hand away from his body, in the opposite direction i.e. his head is going back and to the left whilst his wrist you have hold of is going forwards and to the right. To end the technique after the wrist has been turned outwards, step backwards as in the photo and apply pressure straight downwards, THIS IS SEVERE!! In this way, no you don’t get a spectacular fall, uke just crumbles to the floor. And there’s no way uke can turn to face you.

    For me this should be the basic, it’s not flashy and probably would not look good in a demo to the public, but it is brutally effective. In this way you leave absolutely nothing to chance, you have no openings.

    Thanks you Stan for letting us get involved, it’s a great topic.

  6. Andy Madrid says:

    Bring the lead hand to the mat, causing uke’s free hand to the mat to maintain his balance. This takes away the free hand. As uke regains balance or preferably before apply the kotegaeshi.

  7. “Cut it low and KEEP it there” is what I was taught and still teach. We also distinguish kotegaeshi which is ALWAYS kept low, from udegaeshi which may be higher. The former returns uke’s energy through the wrist; the latter uses the forearm. This distinction seems missing in the videos. The former works every time, causing uke to fall backwards; the latter works wonderfully well in demonstrations (which we do not present) and, theoretically, works for certain overly powerful over-balanced attacks, such as, with a wild cudgel. So to address your questions: 1. No; 2. n/a; 3. n/a; 4. yes, but even lower for uke’s sake; 5. He can’t when he is falling backwards, concerned about his screaming wrist and almost to the ground with his knees well bent. It is this combination that keeps uke from turning to face sh’te.

  8. Hi Stan,

    Two thoughts about high falls that uke goes into without collusion.

    In the basic Iwama Style, in a static application, when you tenkan back and take the hand down between the knees this can stick uke down on his inside hip which draws the outside foot up. If you then tenkan again quickly you can take uke off the other foot as well and depending on how wide you tenkan this can take uke out quite a ways and the centrifugal force of the second tenkan causes uke to splay outward as he descends to the mat. You just have to let him go after a wide stance tenkan. I’m sure you can find Saito Sensei throwing Hitohiro this way in the All Japan Demonstrations. If this is done on a tsuki, the forward momentum of ukes body as the foot comes up allows his body to change relative position to the first tenkan with uke then turned as he comes off the second foot. A centrifugal force from the first tenkan causes uke’s outside hand to slap the shoulder of nage as he is going by just before the centrifugal force of the second tenkan causes uke’s body to splay outward in the fall.

    The second way uke can be taken off the feet is from Nishio Sensei’s way of throwing. He would create an up and down wave pattern that takes uke’s body up on the crest of the second up wave. The second tenkan then flips uke to land on his side. At high speed the ups and downs are quite vigorous and uke’s body just flys. When I got home from Japan I could do this regularly, but if the uke is inexperienced, I don’t recommend it. I have not had students stay with me long enough to really learn the Nishio stuff, so I’m way out of practice with this. Most of the time I just take uke down easily and not at the high speed. This is for the “genki” male college students, not for the older folks. In Nishio Sensei’s classes the 3rd and 4th Dans were most numerous, so you could get lots of practice with this at Mach 3. Very few people here in the U.S. have any clue about this level of practice.

  9. John Hillson says:

    I was recently told an old name for Shihonage was Tenkai Kotegaeshi. While it makes sense, I am not sure what to do with that info. But, Shihonage done poorly has the same vulnerability that you are talking about and maybe there are lessons there. Gyaku Kotegaeshi maybe has the same issues and some lessons too. I am not clear why Kotegaeshi is neither one of the Nage techniques nor one of the -Kyo techniques, and I would love to hear what you know about this.

    Kawahara Sensei had an exercise where we sat in seiza knee to knee, struck Yokomenuchi and got thrown in Kotegaeshi without any footwork. The lock and lead of the handwork turned Uke past the point of hitting. The importance of knowing a “wrist lock” was supposed to lock several joints in the body, and control was more important than just pain.

    For Tanto Dori, we were shown a way of locking the elbow across the hip, or shown to drive the hand into the ground to disarm.

    An exercise he only showed a few times but that I see from Hal Lehrman regularly is to do the lead and footwork while almost ignoring the hand. The lead into kuzushi and then the sudden reverse in momentum, and no tunnel vision on the wrist lock. I find I need to make my tenkan a little more shallow than the 180, then my stepping is also moving me to the outside edge of Uke’s strength.

    After the two exercises, I then bring the hands and feet together.

    Advanced – like the one Yoshinkan variation, an atemi is being done and maybe a Shomenate. All of the different wrist holds like Kotegaeshi eventually being substituted for Katatedori in things like Koshinage or Iriminage. Techniques within techniques.

  10. Justin Craft says:


  11. This debate seems to be an exercise in futility. What everyone appears to be missing is the fact that the salient movements of this very subtle technique will happen so fast at the level of the wrist and with such immediate pain that I doubt anyone will be thinking about throwing a punch. This discussion is only relevant when discussing kotegashi as a traditional exercise where uke and nage cooperate with one another. High falls are irrelevant in reality-based conflicts. Anyone with half a brain knows that at the decisive moment this waza is executed the wrist, elbow and possibly the shoulder will dislocate, ligaments and tendons will rupture, soft tissue will pull and bruise, great vessels with be traumatized and nerves will severe with the lost of many variable anatomical functioning. Your concerns are academic, not practical. Own Your Space (OYS).

    • Keith McInnis says:

      Agreed that most high falls aren’t realistic representations of ‘street encounters.’

      I prefer not to rely upon pain compliance as the primary element of a technique. Pain compliance is easily defeatable by amped up attackers. When we teach cops and civilians defense techniques we start the instruction and select the techniques and methods of teaching with the assumption that ‘the attacker will not respond to pain.’

      We recently taught a group of 100 police officers kotegaeshi-ura from tsuki in a course we called ‘Aikido for Cops, armed attackers and ambush attacks’

      These healthy cops were well able to muscle up against the initial application of kotegaeshi and able to withstand both pain and any attempt to damage arm joints.

      What they couldn’t do was defeat the force of gravity; they were unalbe to handle balance taking and spine twisting. Once off-balanced they were more concerned with handling falling than fighting the technique. Kuzushi and atemi were key to off-balancing their mind and body.

      Regarding the assertion that lots of anatomical damage will occur that can be true. I have found that dislocating a shoulder or popping and elbow or both while effective for taking that limb out of the fight also deprives me of a limb to use in controlling the attacker b/c once that shoulder is out the entire arm us unusable by me to complete a pin.

  12. Interesting though if you look at the video excerpt from a day or 2 ago:


    in the Video trailer for Morihei’s “Takemusu Aikido” … around 23/24s the first technique is Morihei doing kotegaeshi and (I think) Koichi Tohei taking a high fall. The interesting thing is Koichi runs around looking away or in the opposite direction, which looks more conducive to playing the theatrical, good, uke role, rather than actively looking to come out of off-balance and counter.

    If you stop the video at 25s you can see the point of Koichi starting on the point of being thrown from looking in the opposite direction to turning inwards ready for the fall, is actually very near Morihei and could have possibly landed a punch/swung an arm, etc.

    This is not a negative comment – just an observation of what I am interpreting seeing – I’m sure others will interpret the action in many different ways. I understand the point raised but in my limited experience, wouldn’t in a real situation:

    a. uke as your attacker would have no idea what technique is being executed

    b. after the first off balancing move and with continuous action and at speed have very little or no chance to counter – as that point of re-balancing is a very temporary point being passed through from one off-balance point to another (being thrown).

    One option I don’t see very often (maybe only beginner’s level) is that at your first point of off-balancing you would keep turning another 180 degrees, spiraling uke’s hand to the mat. That point is held and if (and as) uke tries to stand up to re-balance you immediately go into the throw using uke’s rising momentum to take them through the throw.

    Another option (although I don’t know how technically correct) is as you draw uke inwards for the throw you drive your centre downwards and keep spiraling the back foot at the same time as executing the wrist action, so that even if uke swings at you, it’s a moving target and in the process of losing balance with the throw or at least under the influence of the wrist action, reducing any potential impact. Rather than stopping dead and then executing the throw. Of course this depends on continuous momentum (and may not be applicable in all circumstances) but is one limiting option?

    • Jacques Pepin says:

      I have not commented before. The reason being message boards like these are relics. And then there is the fact of the little significances, if any, my opinion has to the limited few who read comments any more.

      My rank and file opinion will clearly overlap others, yet I hope it offers insight from rank and file.

      The practice of Aikido is a living spirituality that its doctrine is demonstrated in both words and movement. Aikido then has a paradigm of instruction where teaching is the goal. In teaching, one of the most effective devices relied upon is modeling/demonstrations. Aikido constitution being derived from preserving feudal military ways and means to frame its spirituality creates a demonstration art.

      Aikido being a wonderful demonstration art elicits and holds to a paradigm of teaching and spirituality rather than the simple application in combat. Techniques then must function in the paradigm and are modified to fit the paradigm. Kotegaeshi, it is argued, originally is thought to be used against a sword or knife wheeling attacker.

      If that is to be true, Kotegaeshi then has a whole new set of dynamics and challenges. New approaches aare needed to pull the waza off successfully. Now, Kotegaeshi has been modified to be an open hand grab of the attacker – an attempt in grabbing in say lapel. Which is far more difficult in my opinion to get it to work successfully. The solution then is the creation and demonstration of a variety of different ways to demonstrate the waza. Look at the picture of the Founder, who does it that way! Clearly, not everyone.

      There is the real challenge in my mind. Everyone teaches how they think Kotegaeshi works best from their approach, angle and understanding of Aikido’s paradigm as a demonstrative art. The expectation is it should to be effective outside Aikido’s paradigm. It is impossible to expect anything more than zero when reseting a paradigm. Yet, that is the expectation of so many in Aikido to have learned a waza from a demonstratation platform of Aikido’s paradigm. The issue is, Kotegaeshi is expected it to work outside that demonstration paradigm. How can it when there are unrealised variations and challenges created by different approaches to Kotegaeshi base on individual interpretation of demonstration? Does anyone know how many ways Aikido practitioners apply Kotegaeshi differently from each other, all claiming their way is right?

      Everyone’s way of applying Kotegaeshi is right, when held to a demonstration approach. The real challenge then to to see if that application works outside the Aikido paradigm and its demonstration platform. The only challenge there is to perform the waza and make it work outside the individual interpretations of the demonstrator as within the Aikido paradigm and the art being demonstrative. In my opinion, being in that convention is fine. Unless you want to go change conventions within Aikido’s paradigm or go beyond the Aikido convention and apply it to a real world situation. Then changes need to be made to fit the new goal. For me this is the greatest challenge, is being able to adapt to change. As no one approach to Kotegaeshi is universally applicable to all variables one may face.

      Being a demonstrative art isn’t bad. By using one model to Kotegaeshi in terms of a demonstration philosophy reduces the initial slope of the learning curve. Presenting too many different models of Kotegaeshi steepens the initial learning curve slope too much creating for unproductive learning. Yet on the other hand, if a student is held strictly to the model too long overtime it stunts development of the waza. Then there is the quality of the model. A poor model makes poor results. There is also stagnation of the model, the model is never questioned because the model is based on a cooperative working approach.

      As I see it there are a lot of challenges to Kotegaeshi then simply technical theory of application.

  13. John Hillson says:

    The study of the classical reversals is a study of the holes in an individual technique. To clearly see and feel where the reversals are is to learn how to close a hole up.

    With some students, I’ll have them exaggerate the motion upwards slowly so that they feel when I have my balance and control and they feel when they are losing their control and balance. Let that feeling inform their technique. Find the other holes, slowly plug them up.

    Sensei had an interesting Henka waza, letting Uke punch then taking Hiji Kime or using the Kotegaeshi hand to lock the punching elbow. I don’t know that there is a solid method of controlling every possible variable so completely that Henka Waza is never going to be necessary. Trying to force a failing technique and clinging to a kata no matter what the circumstances I think leads to many of your concerns in Aikido today like resorting to force.

  14. Well, I’m still a relative beginner in Aikido, but I have experience in other martial arts and military experience. I have to admit, I have a partiality to ura techniques because of this very reason. Most of the omote techniques have this flaw, as you step to the front, and there is a brief exposure. For the average person you might be fighting, this won’t matter as they won’t even know what is happening, but for an experienced fighter, this could be disastrous, as they will seize any opportunity given.

    I also think that we need to practice more atemi in Aikido, and not just soft gestures, but actual hits. Doesn’t have to be full force, but people need to know what it feels like to actually be hit.

    I know that I am in the minority with that view.


    • It really depends on your reason for training in the first place.

      A couple of genuine contacts between fist and face are ok – and natural – at times.

      I think anyone who wants to call aikido a martial art and practice it as such needs to be aware of how it is to get hit once or twice.

      Even a successful technique can catch a glancing blow on the way in – the trick is to not let that distract/effect your pursuit of the outcome.

      Imagine someone that never ever got hit before, and then got into a struggle, that first hit is going to be VERY distracting!

      If anyone thinks they are so fast at any ‘martial’ art / budo that they simply won’t ever get hit is dreaming. If this worries you, go to a boxing gym and practice sparring – learn to take a few – will remove your fear of getting hit.

  15. As uke turns, atemi, then kotegaeshi.

  16. As an Aikido Ronin who has studied and practiced in a lot of Dojos while moving and traveling this is one of the most disputed techniques I’ve encountered and it almost all comes down to where you’re pointing Uke’s fingers before the take-down.

    At a lot of Dojos they turn Uke’s fingers out to the side inviting a fancy high break fall. But as pointed out, this also invites a (hook) punch to Nage’s head. The way I originally learned it (and prefer it) is similar to the picture of O’Sensei at the top where the fingers go down or back into Uke’s body, this takes Uke’s “3rd leg” away and makes it almost impossible for Uke to punch into the lock (or your head).

    I’m not sure I explained it clearly, it’d be easier to show you how it feels. :-)

  17. Glonnell says:

    I’m glad that Tom Huffman Sensei weighed in and I hope to get up to Gainesville to train with him again if time allows. His Nishio style and Iwama Ryu (or “O-Sensei Ryu” as he calls it) Aikido is pretty neat!

    First a question: Has anyone seen kotegaeshi used in an aggressive three-uke randori? It seems like it is a technique (like shihonage and other to-the-rear stuff) that always takes a few more milliseconds than most others.

    When I used kotegaeshi to defend myself I used it as a lock that kept the attacker on his knees for a minute until he cried out in pain. He didn’t really try to reverse it and I think in the street it would be rare to find someone who could. As for training, most of my teachers over the years emphasized a curved arm that locks the shoulders to the wrist and lowering the center. I once trained with a guy who was double jointed at the wrist and if I remember correctly it didn’t really matter too much where his fingers were pointed, but if I got that arm curve right and moved to his rear, he went down. Even though he could almost press his palm against the inside of his forearm, once you began to rotate the wrist with the right bend in his elbow it all came together. Folks with a Ki-Aikido background can really drop that center on you, but no one has three legs! :)

    YouTube: “Kevin Choate Chain Theory,” and you will also see how a breakfall that is low enough is not really escapable when nage’s centermind brings everything downward. Wazza made a good point above about O-Sensei throwing Tohei-Shihan in the Takemusu Aiki video. The Master seemingly doesn’t take Tohei down as far as he could with the tenkan because he allows a slight bend in his own arm, but possibly this is so that he can supply us (the viewer) with a dramatic breakfall. The Master gives Tohei a deep swinging spiral behind the third leg when he steps in and that takes all of uke’s momentum from his shoulders on down (YouTube: “Morihei Ueshiba – Takemusu Aiki DVD,” minute 3:26). I’ve heard and read that Saito Shihan often emphasized O-Sensei hid his real technique in demonstrations….

    As far as allowing uke to brush you with the fall goes….is that really martial? If I might paraphrase The Founder: ‘The old ways of the sword taught that if your enemy cuts your skin, you cut his bone….But now, we should not even allow our enemy to cut our skin.’ Combined with the 1938 picture of O-Sensei above it seems clear where he stood on this! I always found that if uke brushed me during a kotegaeshi fall it was either because I didn’t really get kuzushi (and they were acting out a throw) or because I was leaning too far forward.

  18. I decided that it would be quicker to make a video discussing this important topic instead of trying to type it all out. Here is the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TSMU9S2sE8

  19. Stan,

    I would like to add that Inoue Noriaki (Hoken? I can’t keep up!) does kotegaeshi exactly as you describe, in a fashion more similar to Morihei than basically any I’ve seen. The closest would be Saito, of course.

    Also I’d like to link this to your recent article about shihonage. I notice in later videos Morihei would sometimes use only one hand. However, Inoue always uses two and is much more like the old Budo manual and seems to do it very consistently, again just like Morihei.

    I thought it worth mentioning because I see Morihei, Inoue and also Saito as very important links to the technical legacy of aikido and Daito Ryu. The observations of Inoue come from an old video made in, I think, the 1970 (he doesn’t appear to move with as much difficulty as in later videos). I’m sure you’re familiar with such material.

    Just wanted to add this often-forgotten technical source to reinforce your points.

    All the best.

  20. Steve Link says:

    I found a guy on YouTube who does a good job of getting uke off balance and keeping him that way. He doesn’t spin uke around at all which seems to be the source of the dreaded atemi. Instead of trying to turn a linear motion (a tsuki in this case) into a circle he continues the linear motion beyond where uke had intended to go and beyond where uke can keep his balance.

    https://youtu.be/JtD1Hlp1ow4?t=334 from 5:40 to around 6:40 or so.

  21. Virtually all of the issues with kotegaeshi, and almost every other technique in Aikido, is the result of terrible ukemi practices. Students have been taught an ukemi that is basically designed to make their teacher’s technique work.

    On top of insincere initial attacks, you seldom see the uke trying to position himself to follow up the initial attack with the off hand. Usually they are not even in a position to do so, not because nage has positioned himself or herself properly, but because the attacker has an un-integrated physical body resulting in weak attacks with bad positioning and no ability to follow up. Aikido ukes frequently allow themselves to be put in physical positions that no other martial arts practitioner would allow. Ukes attack believing that their job is to take the fall for the partner rather than to deliver a sensible attack, including delivering strikes whenever the nage is “open”.

    Often, you will hear people suggest that something called “resistant” training is the solution to this problem. I think that is wrong. Training one’s body / mind for “aiki” requires a kind of relaxation that the tension involved with what most people call “resistant” training makes impossible to develop. What needs to happen is that the ukes fix their postures, understand that their job is to continue an attack until positioning and balance make their attacks untenable and taking the fall is the safest option. A mistake on nage’s part should result in his being struck or reversed. That way uke is not training dysfunctional habits from a martial perspective.

    Teachers need to constantly monitor their students to make sure they aren’t just “tanking” on their ukemi. They should frequently act as uke for their students and show where the openings are in their techniques. None of Aikido’s current technical issues will be fixed until we fix our approach to ukemi.

  22. Here’s another thought problem that you can take to the mat. I was once taught a way to do kotegaeshi which basically avoided locking the wrist joint, but effortlessly unbalanced uke. The most succinct way I can describe it is to start compressing uke”s fist starting with the little finger. Consider shaping uke’s hand and arm so as to form a downward spiral pointing through an area just behind and outside the elbow toward a place behind and between uke’s feet. If you do it right, not easy, a high fall becomes extremely difficult if not impossible. As the joint is not locked there is little pain and uke will even have a hard time understanding how and why their balance is gone. I’ve been working on this for years and get it more frequently than I used to.

  23. You can’t tell from a 2 dimensional cartoon where the uke is going. I think it’s a case of fitting what’s in your minds eye to the diagram. In fact if you look at the cartoon of uke alone what I see is uke falling straight back and not over a flying forward roll. Even in the first cartoon he seems to be thrown straight back. Their is training and their is combat. In the training environment we have deep seated trust that uke will be looked after by nage and that nage will be given with full commitment an uke. Both work together. Uke trains to absorb and feel the response, nage trains to feel the execution. So in some instances it looks as though uke could hit nage on the way through. Nage knows this, uke knows this, both are looking out for the over so that it minimises injury and allows the uke to train another day. Senior instructors know this.

    The biggest mistake might then be instructors that don’t understand this and don’t adjust training or explanation for the level of student they are instructing.

    If seen this approach to kotegaeshi in jiyuwaza. In this case it’s the overall flow and management of the five people by the nage that counts. This type of throw among the many variations demonstrates care of the uke. Just my thoughts.

  24. Hi Stan, completely agree with what you say about Kotegaeshi. Andy Hathaway Sensei of The London Aikido Club has always taught it as you say.

    He also makes the point that when done properly it is very difficult to take a high fall out of it.

    Best Wishes


  25. Hi Stan – I think you have nicely identified a problem with the way kotegaeshi is done in many Aikido dojo/styles – For me, the issue is three-fold – one, positioning is unacceptable in most executions of the technique, two, kotegaeshi is not a wrist technique, but an opportunity for kuzushi, which eliminates the problem, and three, the big issue, in most Aikido practice, there is No real kuzushi in the first place (in Most techniques.)

    Kuzushi – not in the sense of how to break someone’s balance but how to allow them to Lose their balance in accordance with their intention and how that manifests in movement etc. – can happen basically at four different places, depending. One – if the situation is static, at the “discretion” of the “defender.” Two – at the Instant of contact. Three – in the flow of the movement after the initial attack. And Four – at the moment of the execution of the technique, or, really, an instant before.

    A lot of this is lost in modern Aiki practice, and the art is much the less for it.

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