“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.