Do You Know Where Your Driver Is?

The most common error that I see with failed throws is the bad placement of what Geof Gleeson refers to as the ‘Driver Leg’.  This is the leg that you are powering off the ground with.  For example, in a right-handed Harai Goshi, there’s no question what leg is the driver leg… it’s clearly the only one still in contact with the ground… your left leg.

In a throw like Seoinage, it’s a little more ambiguous, since it’s always not completely clear (both feet being on the ground) - but in a right-handed Seoi, your driver leg is your left leg… as when you complete the throw, the majority of your -drive- is off the left leg.

This is a very useful concept in Judo - and one worth paying attention to.  If you wish to move your uke, you must ‘power off’ of something.  Have you ever tried pushing someone while both of you were in a swimming pool?  Very difficult to push or pull someone if you don’t have a foundation.  The foundation for Judoka is the mat - and the connection is your driver leg.

A common mistake I see is Seoinage into Ouchigari.  Wonderful combination… and if uke is jumping around tori’s attack, then the position is usually a good one for the followup Ouchigari.  But what happens if tori tries switching attacks when uke has merely blocked Tori’s Seoinage attack with the hip?  Let’s imagine this for a moment… Tori has stepped in, and both his feet should be relatively close to uke’s feet.  Uke blocks by pulling his right arm and twisting his hips to ‘bounce’ Tori away… Now comes Tori’s Ouchigari combination…

Anyone see the difficulty yet?  Let’s try a simple experiment - walk over to your refrigerator, and move it.  Yep… just push it an inch or so…  I daresay not a one of you stood as close to your refrigerator as you do to your uke in Seoinage… In fact, if you were truly exerting any power… your body was at a 45 degree angle to the refrigerator, and your feet were rather far away - not close.

When you watch a failed throw… take a look at where the driver leg was placed - you will discover this to be the problem just as often as failed kuzushi.

This concept is also involved in the way Osotogari is usually taught, if you haven’t read my article on the failures of the classical Osotogari, be sure to check it out.

Sometimes though, the problem isn’t with where your driver is placed, but the direction you think is best for throwing.  Most commonly seen in Taiotoshi - the driver is generally outside and in front of Uke’s left foot… where do you think you will have more power?  To the front, where most people try to power their Taiotoshi victim?  Or to your right, which is opposite from your driver leg?

If you think the best direction is to your right - to uke’s right side (or edging into his right corner), rather than uke’s front - you’ve got the right answer!  At least, in my book you have.  As much as possible, you want the throwing action to be opposite from where your driver leg is placed.  That’s how you’re going to develop the power for the throw.