Friday, March 12, 2010

The panic response in Tai Otoshi

Tai Otoshi, the body drop technique of judo. It's a lovely technique that I am currently trying to really wrap my head around. How can I make it work more bullet proof?

The most prevailing thing I feel when it is done unsuccessfully on me is this.

My opponent spins around and enters for a tai otoshi. Generally he blocks my leg too high up with his leg. It causes my knee to lock straight out. The my opponent tries to force me into the throw, but I am a trapped rat. I have no safe and easy landing path. I am worried about my leg, and there is no easy fall out of the position. My nervous system's response is to fight against the action any way I can.

So what causes many throws to fail is that the uke's nervous system is getting triggered to panic. Nervous systems will always do that in a pinch. That's why we have them, to keep us safe.

So what we need to consider when we are designing a techique is..

a. How do I do this with out panicking my uke?
b. Have I given uke a safe path to travel down?

After playing around with this idea, my first thought was to eliminate the tripping leg, I want uke to feel free to move and fall where I am guiding him. By putting the leg in the way I am trying to trap him. The nervous system does not like the feeling of being trapped. Instead I want his nervous system to feel like it is escaping harm. Doing it with this attitude the person will not panic.

After playing around with this for a while it suddenly struck me that I was reinventing the wheel. One of my judo teachers Matl Sensei, 9th dan, throws tai otoshi like this. Not only that, but it is the only technique I have on film of him doing from the seminar we had last April. He demos it at 23 seconds into the film.

This link will take you right to the throw.

Matl Sensei teaching tai otoshi

One of the interesting things that I see in this video, is that Matl Sensei throws this as pure te-waza, hand technique, which by definition tai otoshi should be. Most people's versions are really ashi waza, a foot stopping technique or a trip.

It has been a year since I have gone over this technique with him, but some of the things I feel when I work with him are (on a right side throw)

-he keeps his center over the left leg
- the movement of his right leg out shifts uke's center over uke's own right leg, but Matl seems to keep his center over his left.
-Where the head goes, the body follows. His head scoops are very soft. He is not putting pressure on the head.

Or watch the whole film


  1. If you want to see some great tai-otoshis in a competitive environment, look up won hee lee on youtube, an olympic gold medalist from Korea. His taiotoshi have changed the way people do their kumikata. If you want to see a competitive example, let me know next time you're in class :)


  2. the principles are similar to some of the more adv people in this video. the biggest exception is lee's a professional and a stud and most these guys look like there headed to a to an early grave with type 2 diabetes or heart failure,