Fundamentals of Judo - Tsurikomi and the Triangle
Inspired by a recent post on Judoforum and my own experience of seeing literally hundreds of people not understand the important of the triangle or doing Tsurikomi correctly. As well as the dearth of technical information and discussion on Bullshido in general I decided to put together this explanation so beginners can hopefully learn something from it and the more experienced offer their perspectives and help.
I originally thought about having two separate topics for these two things then decided as they were integral to each other that I would combine them, so without further ado.
How do Judo fundamentals 1 - The Triangle
What is the triangle?
It is a very simple learning tool for remembering to have adequate space between tori and uke for forward throws. It is applicable to pretty much every forward throw I can think of - Uchi mata, Tai otoshi, Seoi nage, Harai Goshi etc...
The triangle refers to a set of three imaginary lines on the mat. The base line for the triangle runs between uke's toes and its peak's height changes according to the size of you and your uke.
As you will notice the Judoka above has positioned himself so that the natural lines of the edge of the mat correspond to the imaginary lines of the triangle. This makes it so much easier for beginners as they have a constant reference point for where the peak of the triangle should be.
What do you do with it?
The triangle is a point of reference for the first step tori will make with his foot when he attempts the entry for a throw. Normally this step is made simultaneously with the tsurikomi action as tori commences his kuzushi and begins his tsurkuri.
Using the triangle for entry to Seoi nage:
I have reduced the triangle to a simple line to show the distance between the intial step by tori and uke's feet.
If you don't step on the peak of the triangle and instead step on the base line that runs between uke's toes then this is the result:
Your hips crash into uke, because there is no space. This is bad enough if you haven't moved uke, however, if you do this as you have just done a big pull of uke to bring them onto their toes then instantaneously you will have rocked uke back onto their heels. The result will be stillborn kuzushi and your own body and that of uke both trying to fit into the same space.
The placement of your initial foot on the peak of the triangle therefore means that even with your application of kuzushi to uke there will still be space for your hips and body to fit into.
Toriís initial step for Seoi nage:
Toriís right foot has remained exactly where it was when he first planted it and has merely pivoted on the ball of his foot:
There is space for toriís body to pivot into and uke remains off balanced.
Now if you havenít already seen them go and watch these excellent videos on Tai otoshi and Seoi nage:
YouTube - 5 tai otoshi
YouTube - seoi nage
Look how much attention the two toriís devote to explaining the importance of leaving space and using the triangle. At 1:44 in the Tai otoshi video Nobuyuki Sato gets down on the floor and sketches out the triangle on the mat with his hands.
So every time you go to uchikomi for forward throws remember to observe the triangle and remember to leave yourself enough space to both off balance uke and fit in your own body.
Because this lack of space is such a common problem amongst beginners you see many of them doing things to try and compensate for the problems caused by being to close, without actually addressing the underlying symptoms. A common method is what I call Ďelbow slipí toriís elbow of the lapel arm slides mid way across ukeís chest as tori is so close to ukeís body the elbow has to go somewhere otherwise the shoulder would pop so its slid across ukeís body to the middle of the chest.
Using this as a solution is both a failure to understand importance of space and a failure to understand the importance and correct practice of tsurikomi...
How do Judo fundamentals 2 Ė Tsurikomi
If you said tsurikomi was the core of all Judo you would probably not be too far wrong. Tsurikomi is pivotal to nearly every forwards throw and is so important in some throws that it even makes its way into the name Ė Sase tsurikomi ashi, Harai tsurikomi goshi, Tsurikomi goshi etc...
Understanding how to do tsurikomi and its importance is therefore pivotal for every Judoka it is fundamental in every sense of the word.
Tsuri(吊り) komi(込み) in Japanese means roughly Ďlifting bindingí note this tsuri(吊り) is not this tsuri( 釣り)which means fishing. It is important to know this meaning because conceptualising tsurikomi as a lifting and binding, becomes very clear once you start practicing the action.
So what is tsurikomi?
Tsurikomi is the generation of power from the lower body and hips and channelling of it through kinetic linking to the arms to lift uke off balance and bind him to toriís body ready for a throw.
Firstly the arms, correct use of the arms is vital to good tsurikomi. Tori should grip uke in the normal manner taking sleeve and lapel. Tori should hold ukeís sleeve underneath the elbow with his hikite hand and hold ukeís lapel around the centre of the pectoral so that toriís little finger is just above ukeís nipple. Tori should grip the lapel firmly with the bottom three fingers and relax the index finger and thumb, whilst still maintain a grip with them.
The sleeve action is then performed by rotating the hand as you draw back the elbow so that the palm is facing downwards towards the mate. Ukeís sleeve arm should be drawn out high enough so that it is at least level with toriís forehead. Tori should aim to have ukeís arm higher than his head to achieve maximum effect.
Action of the hikite hand:
The lapel action is bringing the elbow and forearm in so that they fit into ukeís armpit whilst simultaneously lifting upwards and forwards. Toriís wrist should not flex forward or backwards and should remain in alignment with the forearm
Action of the tsurite hand:
Both the actions of the hikite and tsurite should be performed simultaneously and should be performed smoothly rather than in a jerking action. At all times the hands must be coordinated and working together at the top of the inital motion of tsurkiomi the thumbs of the hikite and tsurite hand should be in alignment to show that they have both been working together and the adequate lift has been achieved by the action of the hands.
It is crucial that toriís forearm be fitted into the pocket created by ukeís armpit. As this will ensure that throughout the rest of the motion toriís elbow will be in the right place.
The power and impetus for the lift with the arms is generated in the hips and the lower body. The tsurikomi action is a whole body movement designed at coordinating not only toris body to off balance uke but also to coordinate transfer of power from the lower to the upper body. The simplest analogy is that of a boxer a boxer doesnít punch from the shoulders he punches using his whole body to generate power in the same way the Judoka uses his hips and legs to generate power for his upper body.
Tori commences this power generation by either leaning into uke or swinging back the leg he will plant first to generate momentum. In this process tori deliberately transfers weight to uke:
By weighting uke tori provides himself with added impetus by inducing an upwards reaction from uke when the pressure is released so aiding toris off balancing pull.
Tori then makes his inital step forward and begins to initiate the lifting action with the arms
Tori observes the triangle rule with his initial foot placement to ensure that there is space for uke to be off balanced into and for his own body to fit.
When just practicing the tsurikomi action itself and in a static situation the common foot pattern is to leave the initially planted foot in place and bring the other foot in behind it, closes to uke, to bring the hips into contact with uke
Tori usually aims to place his hip bone against ukeís illiacus muscle
However, as a directly transferable stepping pattern this is only really suited to Uchi mata and Harai goshi. Where the Ďbindingí part of tsurikomi can be seen most clearly
However, this stepping pattern is obviously inappropriate to Seoi nage, Tai otoshi and throws with tsurikomi in the title like Sasae and Harai tsurikomi ashi where each throw has its own stepping patterns but the key principles of the arm action of Ďtsurikomií are still vital in off balancing uke.
Tsurikomi. Youíre doing it wrong!
Where people fail so often with tsurikomi is their elbow positioning, because of the chain of factors outlined above beginning with stepping in to close, not lifting uke sufficiently and not understanding the importance of the positioning of the tsurite and hikite arms.
This can have a myriad of consequences from failed throws right the way up to major injuries like rotator cuff tears and other serious shoulder complications. Because ignorance of proper tsurikomi is so widespread you see a number of solutions brought in to try and get round the problems caused by failure to do it properly these include, but are not limited to Tai otoshi with Morote seoi nage arm positioning, Uchi mata with the elbow pointed to the ceiling and of course the most common solution removing the tsurikomi element entirely and taking a high collar or round the head or round the back grip which offer less complex ways of gaining leverage and offer a greater margin for error than the sleeve lapel grip does.
The two best examples of why failing to understand and use tsurikomi can be bad for you and will ruin your Judo are Tai otoshi and Morote seoi nage.
Here is a classic example of someone trying to cheat their way around bad tsurikomi:
Now hopefully toriís errors and problems should be immediately apparent to you if not...
Toriís elbow management is far from perfect and he has failed to keep his forearm tucked into ukeís armpit Ė pocket Ė and as such has been forced to send his elbow to the ceiling, because, well it has to go somewhere. This is a very unnatural and weak position for the elbow and shoulder to be in. Just stand up and position yourself with your elbow upwards and your arm behind your body just standing in that position feels awkward and you look like an idiot. This is not only a totally inadequate position to get any lift from but trying to throw uke with an arm like this puts immense strain on the shoulder and is incredible difficult to do unless ukeís incredible light or jumps.
Toriís arm is on his own hip, ukeís sleeve is wrapped around his own body and as a result there is minimal effective off balancing and the only reason he was able to get to this position is because uke is being cooperative.
As a result toriís own balance has been ruined and uke although bent over at the waist could easily block the throw attempt if he resisted even the slightest. As tori has failed to break ukeís balance properly he has had to drag uke into him and as a result has sent almost the entirety of his weight onto the wrong foot and has massively off balanced himself to the extent that his outstretched foot is coming off the floor.
Compare that Tai otoshi to this one:
Tori has good elbow management as a result of proper tsurikomi his elbow has remained in the pocket of ukeís armpit and thus allows him to maintain his kuzushi throughout the throw and properly off balance uke. Also his hikite arm remains high with the sleeve drawn out so that ukeís balance is utterly destroyed.
Toriís hand remains level with his ear and has not fallen behind his head which can lead to severe stress on the wrist, elbow and shoulder joint and is a prime cause of injury in Tai otoshi and Morote seoi nage.
Here tori has maintained his balance and is completely stable
Almost all because of effective tsurikomi and good elbow management.
Thats about all I can manage to type for now. I hope this will have been helpful to some people and that at the least it will promote some positive discussion.
Damn, you even put up a pic of a muscle to show where the hip is supposed to be... impressive. Now we should put up somethin' for newaza. Thumbs up to teh max!
I have questions, since we worked on tai otoshi in class today, but they will have to come later since I have a sick little girl... :-(
Very nice post, and it will be very helpful for beginners. I have a bit of criticism though. I do not see the triangle as a fundamental aspect of Judo technique, but rather as a consequence of it. In order to attain kuzushi for a number of throws uke must be pulled forward over their toes, or rather in a direction perpendicular to the line between their feet. An efficient way of doing this is for tori to place their foot at the point of an imaginary isosceles triangle and pull uke's center of gravity over tori's foot. This is one way of doing it, but not the only way. Notice for example the seoi-nage video you posted. The basic footwork shown in that video does not use the triangle concept, though it is used in more advanced versions as seen in Isao Okano's seoi-nage. And of course it is not used in a large number of other throws like sasae-tsurikomi-ashi where you step outside of uke's feet or certain sutemi-waza where you want to step inbetween uke's feet
Very valid points. I meant to introduce the triangle concept as a Judo fundamental, not as a specific technique rather as a fundamental concept to enable better technique - namely that of space. You're right that it is far from perfect and doesn't apply to quite a few throws and that there are variations upon it. However, I think using the triangle concept and specifically using the lines of the mat to help form it is very useful to beginners to keep in mind the necessary space. I also don't know of another easily rememberable concept that can be applied to the major forward techniques a beginner would encounter that is widely applicable.
Originally Posted by Just Guess
Also you are right about the foot positioning on the Seoi nage entry, in the video, it doesn't conform with the triangle concept, but it still keeps with the theme of space. Perhaps you could file it under the rectangle concept lol.
Koga in this video shows the stepping to the outside foot and to the peak of the triangle. Showing the variable applicability of the triangle concept.
YouTube - KOGA,SEOI NAGE CAPITULO 1.
I fully take on board though that it is not a technique per se and that it is not perfect as a tool.
Nice work, JudokaUK.
Regarding the gripping. Proper placement of the tsurite (lapel grip in standard gripping) depends on relative height of uke and tori.
The tsurite hand should be level with tori shoulder, not above or very far below. Thus, if I at 5'7" tall were doing Judo with you, at what, 6'+, I would not hold just above your nipple, unless you have VERY short legs!
This is in accord with your description of "elbow management", and is in fact part of it.
Gripping the sleeve under the elbow is fine, or between the elbow and wrist. In any case, it is best to take the slack out of the sleeve grip so that tori can feel uke's elbow or forearm with his own hand.
Brilliant post Judoka_uk! Thank you that was very informative. I've seen some people talk about the concept of the triangle but with none with such accuracy and detail. Thumbs UP.
Thanks judoka UK thats been a great help to me as a beginner. Ive been struggling with this aspect of judo for a while now and i keep getting told by a senior blackbelt that its because im gripping wrong and should be taking a high collar grip because im taller than most of my opponents.
But im keen to try and stick with the lapel grip because i like lot of the left handed throws from a right handed grip that you cant do with the high collar grip.
Is the traditional sleeve and lapel grip more efficient than the high collar grip for achieving Tsurikomi and kuzushi?
That was very informative. Thank you and I'm in full support of more posts like it.
If you're taking requests, I'd love a post about Kuzushi for beginners, because that is always what I find the hardest to handle.
It's very hard for me to know in randori when the person is off-balanced properly or am I attacking a prone partner.
Good points Ben. I tried to paint in broad strokes so that I could maintain the flow of the post and not get distracted by discussing loads of little fine details so that they could be later be picked up and explored in the post by people such as yourself.
Originally Posted by BKR
Adjusting the height at which your grip relative to the size of you and your opponent is very important taking a high collar grip at 5ft 7" against some one 6ft + is very foolish as it immediately raises the centre of gravity of the smaller player and weakens their overall posture making it much easier for the taller and usually heavier player to off balance them. It is also exteremly limiting in that it resticts your defences to techniques. Taking a high collar grip and trying to drag down or bend over a taller and/or heavier opponent to your level is plan that only works when both parties are equally unskilled and as soon as there is a skill differential in favour of the taller Judoka this attempting this tactic will get the smaller player Judoka thrown repeatedly.
Indeed its not just smaller Judoka who need to adjust their grips relative to taller Judoka. If I'm pacticing Morote seoi nage with someone my own height or shorter I will grip 2" lower than I would normally to allow more slack in the gi and give my body and elbow more room.
I try and advocate that beginners don't grip between the elbow and the wrist and definitely discourage beginners gripping at wrist level. I find beginners struggle to generate sufficient height on the forward pull with the hikite when holding on the forearm or lower. Whereas when they hold underneath the elbow it is easier for them. However, as they get more advanced its ok to start practicing holding lower down as the realities of contest means that people off throw of a grip break which means their sleeve grip tends to be very low down on uke's arm.
Taking out slack is very important when I grip low down on uke's sleeve to 'dominate' the sleeve I turn my wrist into uke's arm so that my plam faces more downwards, the fabric is tight around uke's arm and their sleeve stays down and off my lapel.
One of the biggest issues for beginners is conflicting advice from lots of different black belts often one immediately after the other.
Originally Posted by adskibullus
The main problem is you have no way of knowing what is technically flawed advice, what is advice based on what 'works' for that black belt and what is good advice. Even going with the highest grades advice is not always a good idea I've been working with a beginner and making progress getting rid of bad habits to have a 3rd dan walk over and contradict everything I've just spent 10 minutes correcting with this beginners throw and everything they said was complete and utter bollocks.
Who's the beginner going to listen to the 21 year old shodan or the 40+ year old sandan. Even if what the 3rd dan says is wrong in pretty much every aspect? Well you can guess the outcome.
To address your problem I have to be sure we're talking about the same thing when we say high collar grip (HCG).
I would consider this a HCG:
Tori is holding so that his hand is positioned just underneath the ear of uke.
This is different from a round the head grip:
One of the problems with a HCG is that people tend to use it incorrectly, especially beginners. They hold with an absolutely or near straight tsurite arm. So that whenever they attack their throws are hindered by this staright arm and so in say O soto gari tori's arm remains absolutely straight and therefore is effecting zero kuzushi with the tsurite hand.
This is a good example of incorrect use of the HCG:
YouTube - Competitive Judo Training : Leg Sweep for Competitive Judo
Here is an example of the HCG used correctly for O soto gari:
Notice how Shinohara is actually moving uke's right side and head also you may not be able to notice it, but Shinohara's elbow is bent and his forearm is in contact with uke's chest this allows him the necessary lifting action with the tsurite to make effective kuzushi.
Now taking a HCG in this manner is still somewhat limiting because it makes certain throws impossible - Morote seoi nage for example and so it does reduce the number of throws your opponent has to think about defending, however, it does allow you to exert more force and more control over uke's head and shoulders.
Learning to control uke's head and shoulders is very important and doing it with the standard mid chest grip requires considerable experience, good elbow management, subtle of kuzushi and skill in gi control. Therefore a quicker easier version is to hold high on the collar or even totally round the neck so that head control is much easier.
So what you have is a trade off between greater control of uke's head, and shoulders, with the HCG, and therefore certain throws are 'easier' and a reduced repetoire of throwing techniques. The pitfall however, is that because you're relaint on this less subtle form of control you never learn the subtleties of control and therefore as the skill level of your opponents increases you struggle more and more because their defensive skills are able to negate your crude attempts at control.
Whereas with the normal sleeve lapel grip you have a wide range of throws but a much more complex set of processes of control to learn which initially makes throwing people much harder but if learnt means much greater Judo skill in the long run.
One of the more rewarding points of my Judo career was doing randori with a strong awkward brown belt who I was throwing but not very cleanly because he was being highly defensive. The coaches at the club were calling out all sorts of advice to him and he shouted out back 'I can't do anything he's got total control over my upper body'. Now this came as a bit of a surprise to me considering how awkward he was, but it shows that with enough practice you can have a lot of control over someone from just the normal sleeve and lapel grip to such an extent that they feel so threatened that they go purely defensive.
On this picture I have illustrated three common gripping positions:
In green I have indicated roughly where a standard lapel grip would go, maybe a little low, but roughly right. In red I have indicated where a HCG would normally go and in yellow I have indicated a good half way house between the two.
Now in order to utilise a grip around the yellow marker properly and so that you can still throw to both left and right it is very very important that you practice with your forearm against uke's chest whilst maintaining this grip. The effect of bringing your elbown down and forearm into contact with uke's chest or keeping it very near to it is that you completely control the space between you and uke it also utterly controls their lapel side and breaks their posture. It feels incredible threatening if your uke and all you want to do is break the grip and get the hell out because you feel like you could be thrown any second.
Also by keeping the elbow down and the forearmy close you have near continuous 'presence' of your tsurite in the pocket created by uke's armpit. This means that with the control afforded to you over uke's head and shoulders by the grip its also easy to keep good tsurikomi and prevent elbow slip.
What you have to do is experiement with various grips and be aware that you need to adapt them depending on the phsyiology of your opponent. However, bear in mind that taking quick fix solutions such as the HCG or behind the head grip although they will initially bear dividends will in the long run be a dead end.
Last edited by judoka_uk; 9/19/2010 7:47am at .