Classical Osotogari Does Work - A Rebuttal By Steve Cunningham.


Steve read my article on Osotogari, and wrote a rebuttal posted on the Judo List. Steve has consented to having it posted here. I've not responded to the points raised below, [it wouldn't be strictly fair, as Steve wouldn't be able to respond] and leave it to interested readers to judge for themselves.

And for bonus points, does anyone know where "version of Osoto Gari that the author ridicules" came from originally?

I just read a rather bizarre article on about the stupidity of "classical" Osoto Gari. I say bizarre because the version of Osoto Gari that the author ridicules bears little resemblence to anything I was ever taught as "classical" Judo. This may be one person's version of Osoto Gari, but it certainly is not "the" classical Osoto Gari. The author argues that the classical method has you attacking the unweighted leg. No way. I don't even know anyone who would advocate that. It makes no sense, regardless of your brand of Judo.

The next step for a right-handed throw, according to the author, is "Put your left foot outside his right foot...", which we are told is silly because your left foot is your driving leg. If your left foot/driving leg is beside your opponent, then you have nothing to push with.

There are so many problems with this characterization... First of all, this assumes that both kinds of Judo use the left leg as the driving leg. You have two legs. I think the real difference here is that in classical Judo, you off-balance before you attempt kake. In the classical method, you are driving in, pushing with the right leg, to drive your opponent off-balance while placing your left foot beside him. That is where the driving is done. NOW that he is off-balanced, you attempt to remove your opponent's standing leg, his weighted right leg. If you can't off-balance him, then you don't continue with that Osoto Gari.

As the competition photographs show, the competitors have not off-balanced their opponents. No wonder. These are extraordinarily-skilled, internationally-ranked competitors at the peak of their careers. It is not easy to get them off-balanced. No argument there. But if you are going to try to drive someone over their leg when they are NOT off-balance, then you had better have the left leg in a driving position. You need to do this because your opponent can muster a great deal of resistance to your attack when he is not off-balanced.

But, of course, this means that by attacking an opponent where he is strong and on balance, you are already engaging in an inefficient tactic. You threw Seiryoku Zenyo out the window with your first move. So don't tell me this is more efficient than the "classical method". But the idea is that you didn't have much choice because you were unable to get your opponent off balance in the first place. Right?

If you are fighting with no time limits, you might be able to keep working your opponent until you can catch him off-balanced, but when you fighting top-caliber Judo people and are required to make an attack every few seconds or get disqualified, you have a serious problem. You are forced by the rules to engage in inefficient practices. That's just the way it goes.

The author describes the hand actions of tori in the classical method as operating independently, which they do not. He argues that the classical approach does not use the entire right forearm against uke's chest, when that is the only way I've seen it (when we didn't have a vice-grip on uke's neck for self-defense. I always put my forearm against uke in randori or shiai.

"Lightly raise your right leg and swing it past your opponent's right leg". It is hard to reap your opponent's leg forward until you get your leg behind him..." How far do you take it past before coming back with the reap? I know I don't usually take it much past the minimum distance necessary. So I don't get this one, either.

He argues, "Notice, that in the classical version, the pushing and pulling is done with your hands, whereas in the more effective version, the pulling is still done with one hand, but the pushing is done with your whole body, driving off a strongly set leg. What's more efficient?"

I have never heard of anyone in classical Judo arguing to do ANY pushing or pulling with just your hands. This is utter nonsense, as is the rest of this. We do drive the hand movements with the dynamic use of the entire body. He further argues "You will remain standing, which won't happen in the dynamic form of Osotogari. And in order to remain standing, and to execute this classical version, you have completely failed to deliver the force needed, at the appropriate locations, with maximum efficiency."

Wrong again. As I have already said, in the classical method, you drive and off-balance on the entry, before the kake. That is the real difference. Because of this, tori does not have to be off-balance at kake (although tori might choose to be). There is more than one way to cause your opponent to hit the ground hard with a throw. One way is to just wrap up in him and fall with him. Classical Judo people call that Makikomi. But there other ways. If I gave you a sledgehammer and asked you to hit the ground with it as hard as you could, would you cling to it and take a flying leap? I don't think so. You'd probably take a stable stance, and swing it downward from the handle with all your strength. You can do the same thing with your opponent once he is off the ground. Using your grip, you use the stability of your position to slam him down into the mat, separate from yourself. I am not suggesting either approach is the only way to do this, only that there is more than one way. Moreover, believe it or not, classical Judoka do Osoto Makikomi, too.

If you are going to argue that something is wrong, you'd better first know what it is. My guess is that the author is really arguing against one person's written description of something that one person calls "Classical Osoto Gari". The generalization to all classical Judo just does not apply.

As a result of the rules, modern competition sets some real and important constraints on players that may force them to do things that are, strictly speaking, inefficient. This is just the way it is. Competitors have adapted their methods accordingly, making their techniques work within the modern competitive environment, and I have no argument with them about it. That is not the purpose of my comments. You do, after all, play to win.


Steve Cunningham

World of Judo and Jujutsu

Ju Nan Shin Martial Arts Academy
Connecticut, USA