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The O-Soto-Gari Judo Throw In Jujutsu & Karate

by Christopher Caile

Editor's Note: This article is a companion piece to the two previous articles on "The Classical O-Soto-Gari Judo Throw." Part I of this series discussed why the author didn't think the throw worked as it was traditionally taught. Part II is a rebuttal of that view. This article will provide an historic overview of the throws roots in jujutsu and other combative arts and compare the throw's execution in these arts to that performed in judo.


O-soto-gari is one of the most basic throws in judo. It is important to remember that the throw had its genesis in combat and self-defense related systems. In judo, which derived out of earlier self-defense oriented jujutsu systems, the throw evolved into a technique set up by off-balancing and body control. (1) The focus is on the setting up and execution of the throw itself.

In jujutsu, aikijujutsu, karate and many other combat oriented systems, the throw is only part of a multi-part technique. An attack is first countered, nullified, or avoided. A counter attack often follows. This leads up to the execution of the throw itself, which is often followed by a secondary (to the impact of the throw) finishing technique.

To help illustrate the historic context of the modern judo o-soto-gari throw, this article will demonstrate a few empty hand jujutsu combinations that employ this technique as well as a daito-ryu example of how this technique was used in combat against an attack from a short sword. Several karate examples will also be illustrated. (2) This article attempts to provide the reader with a historic conceptual understanding of the roots of this technique rather than attemption to catalog its many possiblities.

Kano's Original Jui-Jitsu (Judo)

Judo was developed by Jigoro Kano in 1882 as a synthesis of several earlier jujutsu (jui-jitsu) systems that were modified over time for the competition environment seen today. When first developed, however, the art was very different from what is practiced today. In the early days of judo (from its inception and for the next 20 years or so) it faced stiff competition from traditional jujutsu systems and a number of challenge "no-holds barred" matches were held.

In 1924 the Kano system of jui jitsu or judo was presented (with a few additions) in a book, "The Complete Kano Jui-Jitsu," authored by H. Irving Hancock and Katsukuma Higashi. The authors explained that the book was the first authentic work to explain the art as practiced in

Japan. Several o-soto-gari like techniques are presented. The book explains that, in the above photo, an assailant has grabbed your upper right arm with his left hand while also grabbing your left - thus a two arm grab in preparation for a secondary technique (such as a throw as would be found in modern judo). Here the defender pulls the assailant's right arm toward himself (forcing him to advance with his right foot) while stepping back on the left foot. Then while pressing the right hand on the assailant's right shoulder the defendent uses the right leg to "kick the back" of the adversary's left knee with the back of the right calf while pulling with left arm and pushing with the right -- this will throw him.

Notice here the authors say kick rather than sweep. Early execution of this type of technique used a kicking motion rather than a sweep of the leg as is practiced today. This will be illustrated in more detail below in an example from Daito-ryu.

In this application if an opponent grabs around the waist, the defender is advised to use his right hand to "throw off" the attackers left arm with the right elbow, grab around the attacker's neck with the right arm and secure it with a grip on the attacker's uniform lapel. The right hand seize the opponent's left elbow.

In the second photo the defender kicks the back of the assailant's left knee forcing him backward to the position seen in the thirdphoto. With a headlock in place the defender uses the left arm to seize his own left wrist -- and tighten the "V" lock on the attacker's neck to put pressure on the front of the neck (The book notes that this technique can break the opponent's neck). In modern judo a necklock is usually performed against the side of an opponent's neck (cutting off blood flow to cause temporary unconsciousness). The more dangerous type of windpipe technique shown here is discouraged today in order to avoid injury (See an article on this subject, "The Judo Choke").

The essential point here is that in these jujutsu techniques, the defender isn't competing to throw a skilled opponent as in modern judo, but is responding to an attack, the attacker usually not having any knowledge of jujutsu techniques. In addition a lot more than unbalancing is involved. This is further illustrated in another jujutsu technique illustrated below.

This example is a simple jujutsu defense against a choke in which the hands are clenched or held together and thrust upward against the assailant's arms to dislodge the attack (the fingers can also be opened and directed to also attack the eyes- not shown). Then the defender wraps his left arm around (and pulls) the attacker's right elbow while using his right palm as a strike/push upward (and back) against the attacker's chin. At the same time the defender steps forward at an angle to his left which forces the assailant's weight onto his right leg while the push/pull action forces the attacker's body to arch backward. In the final photo the throw is executed.

Here the defender is doing a lot more than just off-balancing. The defender attacks and stuns the assailant with a counter attack while also off balancing him.

In many jujutsu techniques, strikes (atemi) or kicks are used not to severely hurt or knock out an opponent, but to stun, distract or make the assailant react (flinch). Thus they are used to set up the jujutsu technique, a component of which can be a throw.



(1) Jigoro Kano (1860-1938) developed his own synthesis of several jujutsu systems called kodokan judo -- principally from Tenjin shinyo ryu jujitsu which specialized in striking and grappling techniques and kito ryu which emphasized throwing techniques. The new art eliminated many of jujutsu's most dangerious techniques. Such things as atemi. or the arm of striking is only taught at higher levels, while certain methods of throwing, joint manipulations and specific self-defense counters have been eliminated. Today Judo focused on the pure aspects of throwing and grappling so students can practice and compete safely.

(2) Only a few of the literally thousands of possible applications drawn from jujutsu, daito-ryu, other aikijujtsu systems, karate and other combat dicplines could be illustrated here.

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

O-soto-gari, judo, jujutsu, diato-ryu, karate, taekwondo, kung fu, self-defense

Read more articles by Christopher Caile

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