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Effective Aikido:

Defense & Wrist Technique Against A Middle Punch
(Mune-tsuki kote-gaeshi hansha tenkan)

By Roy Y. Suenaka Sensei and Christopher Watson

Editor’s Note: is pleased to offer the first in a series of articles titled “Effective Aikido,” by Master Roy Suenaka and Christopher Watson. Suenaka Sensei, founder of Suenaka-ha Tetsugaku-ho Wadokai Aikido, is one of contemporary aikido’s premier practitioners. A student of aikido’s founder, Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei, as well as Koichi Tohei, Suenaka Sensei is a master technician whose techniques are known for their practical effectiveness. For those acquainted with aikido and its terminology, the technique demonstrated below is: mune-tsuki kote-gaeshi hansha tenkan.

Although Aikido is often translated as “the way of spiritual harmony” (ai = harmony, ki = energy/spirit, and do = way), it is by design an effective method of self-defense.

Many aikido teachers and schools, however, have so misunderstood aikido’s concepts of harmony and spirituality, and its history, that there has been a dilution of attention to technical detail. As a result, aikido technique often becomes so soft, flowing and dependent on cooperation that, when practiced in this manner, it loses its martial effectiveness.

In this series of articles, Roy Suenaka Sensei demonstrates an aikido that is both practical and effective. He also demonstrates many common mistakes that can reduce the effectiveness of technique or leave the defender vulnerable to counters. The first technique shows how a common wrist technique (kote-gaeshi) can be used against an opponent who attacks with a straight middle punch.

The Technique

The attacker delivers a midsection strike (photo 1). Suenaka immediately moves to the same side (outside the forward leg), redirecting the attacker’s strike with his left hand while delivering a counter strike (atemi) with his right. The attacker’s momentum propels him forward.

Suenaka captures the attacker’s wrist (his left hand already in place from the initial redirect) beginning the wrist cutting lock (photo 2), and pivots, leading the attacker around him, off balance. Note how Suenaka keeps the attacker’s captured hand in front of him while remaining at the attacker’s blind side.

Having successfully led the attacker off balance, Suenaka slides his right foot backwards, whipping the attacker out before him (photo 3), further destroying his balance. Simultaneously, Suenaka places his right hand atop the attacker’s fingers, bending the wrist along its natural, inside anatomical arc and completing the wrist technique – a kote-gaeshi lock.

Suenaka then cuts the attacker’s wrist downwards – again, like a sword cut – propelling the attackersoff his feet and completing the throw.

Incorrect Technique

Attention to correct technique is important to proper execution of this technique. Here are some common mistakes:

Suenaka moves to the attacker’s blind side (photo 1), but without leading the attacker off-balance or striking, risking neutralization or a counter strike.

While turning outward (photo 2), Suenaka drags, rather than leads the attacker, allowing him to get behind him, sacrificing control and again opening himself to neutralization or a counter strike. The attacker is still not off-balance.

In photo 3, Suenaka cuts the attacker’s wrist to the side, against the joint, risking injury to the attacker. Improper distance and lack of lead allows the attacker to maintain his full balance and potentially deliver a counter-strike, or move himself to the outside to neutralize the technique.

The attacker is forced to the mat (photo 4) by strength alone.

The Wrist Turn-Out

Incorrect Kote-Gaeshi Hand Position
(Photo A)

The attacker’s hand is forced unnaturally outwards. Lack of lead forces the defender to rely on strength and the pain of the outside lock to effect the throw.

Correct Kote-Gaeshi Hand Position
(Photo B)

The attacker’s hand is locked and bent backwards along the natural arc described by the fingers. With proper lead, this lock is always effective.


This article was abstracted from demonstration of technique by Suenaka that accompanied a biographical article on Roy Suenaka Sensei titled, “Spiritual Versus Martial Aikido – Explanation & Reconciliation” published in the Journal of Asian Martial Arts, Vol. 5 # 1, in 1996. It is reproduced courtesy of Via Media Publishing Co. Mikchael A. DeMarco, as well as Chris Watson and Roy Suenaka Sensei.

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(Softcover, 289 pages with 427 photos and illustrations)

(Shipping $5.00
within US)

Complete Aikido
Aikido Kyohan: The Definitive Guide to the Way of Harmony

By Roy Suenaka and Christopher Watson


This book illustrates aikido at its best-- a powerful self-defense art. It is also a historical gold mine. The technical part of the book details effective technique through photos and descriptions. And Suenaka has proven his art. He introduced aikido to Okinawa, the island birthplace of karate where challenges were plentiful. Suenaka is also an early pioneer of American aikido who studied under aikido's founder Morihei Ueshiba O'Sensei, as well as Koichi Tohei.

Karate-ka will also find the book interesting since it details the author's studies in other arts including boxing, judo, jujutsu and several forms of karate, most notably under the Okinawan karate legend Hohan Soken. Also detailed are Suenaka's early years of aikido in Hawaii, and his perspective on the rift that developed between Kisshomaru Ueshiba and Tohei, Tohei's separation from the Aikikai (Ueshiba's Association), and the early development of Tohei's Ki Society.

Read review.

About the Authors:

Roy Yukio Suenaka, founder of Wadokai Aikido, is one of contemporary budo’s most experienced practitioners and best-kept secrets. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Suenaka Sensei’s martial instruction began under his father, Warren Kenji Suenaka, who taught his son budo basics and carefully selected his primary martial tutors. These included such legends as Okazaki-ryu Kodenkan Jiu-jitsu founder Henry Seishiro Okazaki, Kosho-ryu Kempo’s legendary James Masayoshi Mitose, judoka (and later, aikidoka) Yukiso Yamamoto, and celebrated kendoka Shuji Mikami, from whom Suenaka Sensei received a nidan (2nd degree black belt).

Suenaka Sensei began his aikido study with Koichi Tohei when in 1953 Tohei visited Hawaii to teach, and continued his study directly under Founder Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei at the Aikikai Hombu for eight years beginning in 1961. Suenaka Sensei received a rare aikido menkyo kaiden (master-level proficiency) teaching certificate from O’Sensei, and became the first person to open a successful aikido dojo in Okinawa. He also commenced eight years of private study with renowned Matsumura Seito and Hakutsuru Shorin-ryu Karate-do Grandmaster Hohan Soken, receiving from him the rank of rokudan (6th degree black belt). In addition, Suenaka Sensei continued his judo and jiu-jitsu education at the Kodokan under famed Meijin Kazuo Ito, who personally sponsored Suenaka Sensei’s promotion to sandan (3rd degree black belt) in judo and jiu-jitsu.

In 1972, Roy Suenaka relocated to Charleston, S.C., where he served as Southeastern U.S. director for Koichi Tohei’s International Ki Society until 1975, when Suenaka resigned to form the American International Ki Development and Philosophical Society (AIKDPS). He currently teaches Suenaka-ha Tetsugaku-ho Wadokai Aikido and Matsumura Seito and Hakutsuru Shorin-ryu Karate-do. He is author of the best-selling Complete Aikido, and in 2003 celebrated his 50th year of aikido study. Suenaka is an advisor to For more information: Suenaka School of Martial Arts, 813-A Highway 17 South (Savannah Highway), Charleston, South Carolina 29407, 843-324-5260 or

Christopher Watson is a writer, audio performer and producer. A student of Suenaka Sensei’s since 1988, he is co-author of Suenaka Sensei’s book, Complete Aikido.

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

aikido, aikido as self-defense, aikido as a martial arts, self-defense, kote gaeshi, aikido wrist techniques

Read more articles by Roy Y. Suenaka Sensei and Christopher Watson

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