Kenka Yotsu in Uchikomi - Don’t Forget it!


Those who’ve ever paid attention while I’m teaching a class know the emphasis I keep placing on being able to attack to the left side.  It’s a skill that is desperately needed the higher you go in competition.

Interestingly, George Weers did a study on grips - and mentions that while examining over 500 top level matches, the grip stances were split virtually 50/50.  Now, any knowledgeable person would never assert that lefties comprise 50% of the population - so perhaps my students might figure out that what I’m saying about learning to handle throws to the left side … just might be based on more than the wild rantings of a Judo old-timer…

This interesting stat that George Weers developed means that a very large percentage of matches fought at the higher levels of Judo are going to be Kenka Yotsu - or opposite grips.  (you take a right-handed grip, and your opponent takes a left handed grip)

Now, if you aren’t regularly practicing Kenka Yotsu in your uchikomi or randori - you’re going to be badly flustered the first time you encounter someone in shiai that doesn’t take the standard right hand grip.  I often attribute what success I’ve had in competition to the fact that I learned early on that few Judoka could handle left-handers… so I switched to being a ‘lefty’, despite being a complete right hander in everything else.

Kenka YotsuThe problem that is bound to come up is that in Kenka Yotsu, both you and your opponent have your ‘Power Hand’ on the same side.  In a right handed grip, your power hand is your right forearm - which will be, in many throws; placed squarely on uke’s chest.  But if your opponent also has his power arm on the same side - one person is going to ‘take the inside’.  Viewing the photo here, you’ll see that the Judoka on the right has the inside, and therefore could begin a throw.  The Judoka on the left would be unable to exert maximum force until -he- takes the inside on his lapel grip.

Taking the inside - this is critical, if you have the inside grip, your opponent cannot place his forearm on your chest, and has, as a result, a tremendously lesser ability to exert force on you.  The problem is the construction of the arm… if you exert force with your hand only - your elbow makes your arm act as a spring… you can’t put maximum force along your arm (unless you lock the elbow!) because your arm will flex at the elbow.  This is why in many throws, it’s critical to ’set the power arm’ by slamming your forearm against uke’s chest… there’s no ’spring action’ of the elbow to worry about.

So how do you ‘take the inside’ if both of you are in Kenka Yotsu?  One of you will already be on the inside - you should make every attempt to make sure that you are that person.  Or be capable of ‘taking the inside’ at a moments notice.

There are two basic ways to do it - you can drop your grip and circle your hand up under uke’s arm to retake the lapel grip … putting you on the inside.  Not recommended!  If someone drops a grip, I have no particular desire to make it easy for my opponent to regain it - also, if I have a two handed grip, and my opponent only has his locking arm grip - that’s the perfect opportunity for me to throw him.

The second, and to my way of thinking, best way to take the inside is more easily executed than described in words… looking at the photo above, imagine that you’re the Judoka on the left… you push with your left hand until both you and your uke are ’straight-armed’ from each other.  At that time, your power arm will be above and just slightly to the outside of uke’s power arm.  Simply twist your arm slightly, bringing your elbow to the inside… then drop your elbow - pushing uke to the outside.

Also, don’t fail to appreciate how your body movement can help you take the inside.  This is something that you need to spend some uchikomi time with… I recommend that you switch throws with your uke during uchikomi… first you ‘take the inside’ and execute your throwing attack… then your partner must now take the inside and execute his throwing attack… and so forth.

Combine this with a few attacks that you can execute from the left grip rather than the right - and you’ll have a surprise up your sleeve for the next shiai… good luck!

(Photo scanned from Neil Adam’s excellent ’Masterclass’ book on Grips)