by Elie A. Morrell, Hachidan

Gripping a Judogi EffectivelyThe variations in the placement of the hikite (pulling hand) and tsurite (lifting hand) hands on the opponent in judo are numerous indeed. The tsurite has far more variations in relation to where and how it grips the uke’s judo gi than does the hikite. The hikite will usually grip somewhere at a point on the sleeve of the uke.

The standard or optimal grip we will assume to be a grip at approximately the elbow joint outer sleeve (either right or left) of the opponent’s judo gi while the other hand grips the high lapel of the opponent’s judo gi (either right or left). This grip fulfills the requirement of the definition of a normal grip (kumikata) as defined in the International Judo Federation (IJF) contest rules.

The IJF rules state that a ‘normal’ kumikata is taking hold of the right side of the opponent’s judo gi, be it the sleeve, collar, chest area, top of the shoulder or back with left hand and with the right hand the left side of the opponent’s judo gi be it the sleeve, collar, chest area, top of the shoulder or back and ALWAYS above the belt.

The IJF rule above regarding normal kumikata is stated for the sole purpose of information only. The purpose of this paper is to discuss how the standard grip is affected when grip changes by the tori are made while still satisfying the normal kumikata requirement.

A few comments are in order regarding the definitions of hikite and tsurite. As defined, it must be recognized that these definitions do not fit every judo throw. Later in this paper some specific throws will be listed that do not make use of the hikite and tsurite concept at all!

HIKITE

The pulling hand is utilized to transmit tension to uke’s shoulder joint. Properly done by tori,this results in the desired upper shoulder girdle rotation of the uke when combined with the action of the tsurite hand. This writer prefers not to hold the uke’s sleeve below the elbow joint. If the grip is placed just above the wrist area when the pulling is applied, the uke’s arm must first essentially lock straight at the elbow before the shoulder joint senses the fully applied tension necessary for the shoulder girdle rotation. A grip at the elbow joint results in direct tension at the shoulder joint and any articulation of the elbow joint is of no concern. Too high a grip on uke’s arm is undesirable since this could afford the uke the opportunity to do a turnout. A grip at or near the shoulder of the uke results in a loss of control of uke’s arm.

Generally, optimum arm pull on uke’s arm should be initially horizontal and parallel to the mat surface. Contrary to popular belief,raising the uke’s arm above the horizontal and out does not lift the uke in any way as many believe. Raising uke’s arm slightly may facilitate entry into the throw but no lift of uke will result. The hikite hand is the PULLING hand, period! It is important to remember that the overall pulling is accomplished with tori using his/her upper body in conjunction with the pulling hand. This is usually rotation or translation of the trunk.

TSURITE

Depending on the throw in question, the lifting hand effort (on the lapel) will vary. The strongest position of the lifting hand is when the elbow of the tori is placed in contact with the upper body with the hand located directly above it.The weakest position of the tsurite is when the arm is fully outstretched. The hand has zero lifting capability in this position.

Whenever the tori changes the tsurite grip from other than the lapel but grips at a location that satisfies normal gripping rules,the the tori must be aware of the resulting advantages or disadvantages resulting from the new grip location. Every grip has its own inherent advantages and disadvantages. Usually the throw(s) attempted by tori will dictate how he/she grips. Experienced players will make grip changes that afford a greater advantage than a disadvantage.Most players usually vary the tsurite grip far more often than the hikite grip during free play and tournament play.

Based on the research done by this writer, approximately 14 of the officially recognized throws by the Kodokan do not make use of the hikite/tsurite combined hand actions of the orthodox/classic grip defined in earlier paragraphs. Although physical lifting or pulling may be used during the performance of these throws, the actions differ from the conventional use of the hands as used in the classic sleeve and lapel grip. A discussion of the throws in this group is covered in the following paragraphs. In particular, the unique gripping will be highlighted to show how the throwing technique differs from others which make use of the classic sleeve and lapel grip.

TE WAZA

Sukui Nage

In the grappling phase of this throw the tori has strongly pulled the uke into a position prior to his/her entry into the throw.

Following the entry, tori lowers the waist and puts the left hand on uke’s left rear thigh, releases the right hand and puts it on uke’s right rear thigh. Tori raises his/her upper body and pulls uke’s body up with both hands. No hikite or tsurite hand action here as previously defined.

Morote Gari

In this throw the tori puts both arms around the outside of uke’s thighs and reaps the back of uke’s thighs with a pushing assist of his/her upper body. The hands execute a pulling action during the reap.

Kuchiki Taoshi

The culmination of this throw has the tori releasing the right hand and inserting it around the inside of uke’s right leg and holding the back of the knee. Tori pulls the right leg up while simultaneously pulling straight down to the mat with the left hand. Note the right hand change in this throw.

Kibisu Gaeshi

Among the te waza group of throws, this throw is somewhat unique.In setting up the uke for this throw,tori drops to the mat on the right knee. Tori then grabs uke’s right inside heel with the right hand. Tori pulls uke’s heel toward himself while pulling uke’s right arm straight down with the left hand.

Obi Otoshi

At some point while tori and uke grapple in the right or left natural posture, tori suddenly steps back (right or left) and grips uke’s front belt with the appropriate hand. Following the necessary moves by tori, (placement of the other hand, stepping around to the side rear of uke), tori throws by scooping uke up pulling on the belt and pushing uke’s buttocks up with the front assisted by the hand not gripping the belt and waist pushing action.

KOSHI WAZA

Utsuri Goshi

Tori reacts to a forward throw(Hane Goshi) attempted by uke by bending backwards and lowering his waist. As part of the counter to uke’s attack, tori takes hold of uke’s rear waist with the left arm running along the back of the belt and placing it deep to the front of uke’s left hip. Tori pulls his/her right hand to his/her own right chest. As part of the overall counter tori’s hands are used to lift uke’s body off the mat to make the throw.

Ushiro Goshi

The hand action to counter the forward throw(Hane Goshi) in this throw is identical to that required for Utsuri Goshi.There is no hip switching made in this throw by the tori. A hip change is made by the tori for Utsuri Goshi.

Daki Age

This is somewhat of an unusual technique approved as a throw by the Kodokan. Tori grips uke’s lapels very high in a gyaku juji jime type of grip while uke is lying directly on his/her back. Tori lifts uke to shoulder height with this grip. Since it is prohibited to drive uke to the mat from this position because of possible serious injury, this writer assumes that tori is awarded Ippon.

ASHI WAZA

Ko Uchi Gari

This throw has the tori at one point pushing with both hands followed by pulling with both hands in setting up uke for the throw. Following the pulling action by tori in order to force uke to take a big step forward with the right foot, tori reaps the inside of uke’s right heel while pushing back with the right hand and pulling down with the left hand.

O Uchi Gari

In setting uke up for the throw,tori’s initial hand action is pushing followed by a pulling action when uke pushes back.Tori changes the pulling action of the right hand to a pushing action against uke’s left shoulder. Tori couples the right hand action with a slight lift of uke’s right elbow with the left hand. These actions are made as tori reaps the left leg of uke with the right leg.

MA SUTEMI WAZA

Ura Nage

The throw is normally used as a counter to a big forward throw such as Hane Goshi. The hand action by tori used in countering is just like the hand described in the previously discussed counters to Ushiro Goshi and Utsuri Goshi.

Tawara Gaeshi

Tori initially shifts from the right hand lapel grip to a rear collar grip in order to pull uke down by bending uke at the waist. Tori pulls forward with both hands towards his/her chest in order to cover the back of uke’s head and back with the upper part of the body. Tori passes both arms through uke’s armpits and holding uke’s torso grips either wrist at the lower part of uke’s abdomen. From this grip tori drops down and throws uke backward.

YOKO SUTEMI WAZA

Yoko Guruma

Typically this throw is used as a counter against a big forward throw such as Hane Goshi. The hand action used by tori is similar to that used for Ushiro Goshi and Utsuri Goshi against a big forward throw. The chance of success with this throw depends on how uke reacts to the hand action employed by tori to counter uke’s attack. Uke’s typical defense is to release both hands,lower the waist and lean forward. This action by uke affords tori the opportunity to attack uke with Yoko Guruma.

Daki Wakare

This is another unusual throw in somewhat the same category as Daki Age. It can be done when the uke is on the mat on all fours. From this position the writer doubts that any score would be given for a successful completion. If the uke attempts a forward throw and sees that it is not effective,releases his grip,turns his back, bends forward and tries to get into a crouching position,he /she is open to an attack with this throw by tori. Tori grips with the left hand through uke’s left armpit and holds uke’s right front collar. The right retains the grip on uke’s left collar. Both grips must be deep. The uke is picked up off the mat with this grip and thrown.

Elie Morrell, hachidanSUMMARY

In the discussion of the gripping tactics of the preceding throws, the intent is only to show in detail how the tori in executing the throw changes to a grip which is not defined as ‘normal’ per the IJF judo contest rules. It should noted that many of the moves made by either tori or uke during these throws have been purposely omitted for sake of brevity.

There are a number of throws whereby tori initially does utilize a tsurite hand action but follows up with an ‘other than normal’ grip to complete the technique. These were deliberately omitted and only throwing techniques which made no use of the defined normal hikite and tsurite hand actions have been covered.

Lastly, one may wonder about the legitimacy of the unusual grips used in the preceding throws. Item number twenty seven (27) of the IJF contest rules is entitled ‘Prohibited acts and penalties’. Item number (a)10 for a shido reads as follows: [In a standing position to take any grip other than a “normal” grip without attacking. (Generally more than 5 seconds).] This shido penalty infers that the unusual grips in the preceding throws are legal as long as the 5 second rule stipulated in (a)10 is not violated.


“Do not think of attack and defense as two separate things. An attack will be a defense, and a defense must be an attack.” –Kazuzo Kudo, 9th dan

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