Learning to Attack the Straight-Arm - The Bane of the White Belt


One of the earliest defensive moves that any Judoka somehow manages to learn despite a complete lack of teaching on the topic - is how to stop an opponent by straight-arming him. This is a wonderful defense, and generally works even occasionally up to the brown belt level.

Unfortunately for Judoka who’ve mastered this comprehensive defense - it’s generally brushed aside by any opponent who wears a black belt, and even most brown belts. But rarely does the methods for attacking the ’straight-arm’ get taught, and perhaps if it were more commonly taught, this defense would disappear more quickly.

I’m going to list some of the different ways to attack the straight-arming opponent - in no particular order. Some will be more effective than others, depending on your body build, technique preference, and opponent.

One of my earliest defenses to those who straight-armed me was Sode Tsuri Komi Goshi - the technique that almost single-handedly won me all the points I needed for my Shodan. In this technique, you merely drive one arm up, and the other arm is ignored as you move in from the side.

Another nice set of techniques is virtually any of the Sutemi Waza - as they aren’t stopped at all by a straight-arm defense. So if you like Tomoenage, now is the time to work on perfecting it.

Another move that stops the straight-arm in it’s tracks, assuming a right-handed grip - take your right hand, circle it over then under uke’s left arm, then turn violently to your left… use your hips… this will give your right hand enough reach to grab the back of uke’s gi. This negates the straight-arm with the help of your hips… by gaining a grip on uke’s back, he can no longer straight-arm you, as there is no longer the distance needed.

Ippon Seoinage is very nice in this position, from the right-handed grip, take either hand, up, around, over, and under uke’s opposite shoulder for Seoi… I like to hold right-handed, and use my left hand to drive over uke’s left arm, then under my own right hand (holding his lapel), as I turn into a left-sided Ippon Seoinage. Very powerful! In fact, most Te-Waza techniques work quite well against those who straight-arm you.

Another set of techniques is simply move in from the side… rather than directly challenging the straight-arm. Twisting your hips, throwing your driver leg back then shooting in for Osotogari is always quite effective. (Yasuhiro Yamashita made quite a Judo career doing exactly this!)

Uchimata is always a useful technique - as you can do it by coming around to uke’s side - again, negating the power of the straight-arm. (Interestingly, Uchimata is one of those rare Judo techniques that works in virtually any situation - regardless of what uke is doing.)

You may begin to notice that all of these techniques follow the simple guideline of not attacking directly into the line of the straight-arm, where uke is the most powerful - but in attacking under, or to the side of the straight-arm, where uke is at his weakest. Try this yourself: Put your arms straight out - now, where can you exert the most force? Clearly to the front… but can you exert force at right angles to your arms, ie; to the right or left? Can you exert force downward or upward? Not with a straight-arm position, you can’t!