Thursday, February 26, 2015

Throwing in the Martial Arts. Are we doing it right?

To go or not to go…with the throw.  That is the question...

When you learn to do throws and break fall, you need to be pretty cautious.  You need your partner to be cooperative on both ends of the equation.  If you don’t then one of you is likely to get hurt. 

Once you get the hang of the mechanics, though, you need to start adjusting your technique.  When you are the one being thrown, it is easy to get in the habit of assisting your partner by ‘jumping’ into the throw even if it’s not being executed properly.  While a certain degree of cooperative effort is required, if you regularly leap into throws, you are doing your training partner a disservice.

A properly executed throw requires 'kuzushi', the breaking of the balance of the "throw-ee”.  When done properly, the person being thrown literally falls over you, and you just assist them in trajectory and force.  If you program yourself to assist too much, your partner will never master kuzushi.

In the real world, you either need this balance breaking or you need to ‘muscle’ the technique, which isn’t normally a good idea.  It tends to involve twisting and lifting at the same time, a nasty combination and a good recipe for injury.
Even if you do break someone’s balance, they may not react as smoothly as a trained uke.  You need to discover what it feels like if someone lilts to one side as they go over so you can learn to adapt and finish the technique effectively.

Don’t forget the fact that most throws and break falls are performed for the benefit of the one being thrown.  

When you examine most throws, the actual damaging portion usually occurs previous to the person hitting the ground.  The throw/break-fall is meant to protect the person being thrown.  

When you break down the throws, you’ll discover that there is normally a break of an arm or dislocation of a shoulder or other joint prior to the person going airborne.  

In fact, if you were to actually perform one of these techniques for real, there’s a fairly good chance that the person would appear more to crumple than to majestically fly through the air. 

When practicing throws, keep both points in mind.  As the thrower, the end goal is not always a big throw, and as a throw-ee, don’t be too quick to ‘go with it’.  
Both are problematic.

Food for thought.

Train well.


  1. I've written a chapter in my book on the mechanics of throws and takedowns, and have provided for the first time a definitive distinction between the two types of techniques.

    When understanding throws, one needs to understand both the biomechanics of balance and the mechanical concept of force.

    The target of the applied forces with a throw is the opponent's base of support with the forces being applied in an upward direction in order to remove both their feet off the ground.

  2. Hi John, I hope all is well with you. I know you've done a lot of work on this topic. So, do you agree with my overall assessment/comments?

  3. Great post and i agree very much With it. I practice Jiujitsu in Norway and will take the essense of this post With me to the dojo. Thank you

  4. jiu jitsu,

    I'm glad you enjoyed my post and could take something away from it. Thank you for the comment and train safely!