The Study

The purpose of this study was to find, if possible, a relationship between an opponent’s Direction of Travel and the resulting Direction of throw. The study was conducted on video taped material from the:

1984 European Championships

1986 Matsumae Cup

1989 All Japan Championship

1985 and 1987 World Championships

Only techniques awarded scores were used in the study. The factors of the opponent’s Direction of Travel and the Direction of the Throw were carefully ascertained and recorded. In order to determine Directions as accurately as possible incidents were played, and replayed, as many as ten times.

Directions were numbered from 1, directly in front of the thrower, to 8, the thrower’s right front corner, counter clockwise. The place where the defender’s body fell was considered to be the Direction of Throw.

Simple Statistics

A total of 227 scoring throws were observed. Of the 227 throws, 15 were judged Fast Tempo, 141 Medium Tempo and the remaining 81 Slow. A frequency of 6.329% Fast, 59.493% Medium and 34.177% Slow Paced throws occurred in this sample of top level competition.

Throws were distributed with a bias to the Right Front corner. Throws to the other corners were evenly distributed. Throws Directly toward the attackers Left and Right occurred equally. There were no throws Directly Forward.

There were no combinations of throwing techniques that produced scores. This is not to suggest that there is not a legitimate need for training of combination attacks. What this lack of combination throwing scores might suggest is that the use of combinations, in higher level competition, may not be as prevalent as previously believed. Scoring attacks observed in this survey were outright commitments to scoring with a single attacking skill.

Revelation of Tempo Influence

Here-to-for the Rate of Travel, around the mat area, was believed to influence an attacker’s throwing choice and little else. As the data was reviewed two points became obvious;

1) Rate of Travel cannot be ascertained through casual observation

2) The Direction of throws was being influenced by factors that were not immediately recognizable.

Barnett’s Definition of TEMPO

TEMPO is clearly more than the Rate of Travel of the players. P.M. Barnett suggests that;

TEMPO is “the changing pace and effort, between attacks, of the two contestants moving around the contest area”.

He further divides TEMPO into a second category of “ATTACKING TEMPO”, defined as “the appropriate speed and effort ratio on the part of the thrower, to bring about a successful throwing action”.

Barnett’s definition of Attacking Tempo directly addresses the influence of the rate of Travel on Throwing Direction.

Three Components

Barnett suggests that there is a ratio of Travel Speed to Attacking Effort that determines the Attacking Tempo. The mechanics of the throw being used are also an indicator of the Attacking Tempo.

Rate of Travel

The Rate of the Travel of players is the least obvious indicator of Tempo. A players ability to change his, or her, Rate of Travel almost instantaneously makes subtle changes in the Rate of Travel very difficult to detect. This is especially true if the change takes place just prior to an attack.

Effort of Throw

The Effort required to execute a throw can be determined by the time taken to execute the attack. Lightning quick Foot Sweeps or slow rolling Shoulder Throws can be assumed to require an obvious amount of effort simply because it takes a person longer to move a resisting object than to move something that offers little resistance.

Mechanical Indicators

The most obvious and consistent indicator of Tempo are the Mechanics of the attack being used. Fast Tempo attacks impede the travel of upper or lower limits of the body and accelerate the opposite end. The most common example, of this action, being Ashi Barai, where the Shoulder Girdle is held back while the feet are pushed on. Throws that accelerate the Torso are;

1) Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi

2) Uki Otoshi–Uki Otoshi is frequently used as a counter throw against Ouchi gari, Kouchi Gari and Osoto Gari. In these applications the legs of the attacker are not impeded. These versions of Uki Otoshi accelerate the attacker’s Torso beyond his, or her, ability to keep their feet under them.

Medium Tempo attacks obstruct the Pelvic Girdle and accelerate the upper or lower body. Osoto Gari is an attack that accelerates the Torso, Seoinage type attacks block the opponent’s Hip region, roll him around the obstruction and throw the lower body.

Slow Tempo attacks trap the feet and legs and knock the torso over. Examples being Kosoto Gake, Sumi Gaeshi, Osoto Gake or Ouchi Gake.

An alternative perspective to Attack Tempo is:

Fast Tempo throws maximize the use of Inertia

Medium Tempo attacks balance Inertia with Force

Slow throws rely on Force

An Emerging Pattern

When I began to understand that Tempo is a relationship between the player’s Rate of Travel (Speed) and how hard they had to work in order to make an attack work (Effort) I began to recognize Attack Tempo in the incidents being observed. As more attacks were analyzed a pattern of Direction of Travel and the Direction that a throw would take began to emerge.

Fast Attacking Tempo threw opposite the line of travel. These throws take advantage of the inertia of the opponent’s travel.

I.e., With the defender traveling quickly towards his Left Front Corner he would be thrown to his Right Rear Corner.

As the need for Effort, to complete the attack, increased the Direction of Throw moved back towards the Direction of Travel.

I.e., Traveling towards the Left Front corner (Direction #2) at a Moderate Rate of Travel the throw would be directed towards the defender’s directly to the Back (Direction #5).

Slower Tempo attacks took place just slightly off to the side of the Line of Travel.

I.e., Travel towards Direction #8 would produce a Heavy Effort throw towards Direction #7.

There were no throws observed where the defender was thrown in the same direction of his travel.

Influence of Posture

Mobility and Strength are the polar functions of Posture. The more pronounced the “S” shape of a player’s Posture the greater the trade off for Strength over Mobility. In other words the more erect the player the faster the potential Tempo. Conversely the more defensive the Posture, that is to say crouched into a strength position, the slower the Tempo that the player will be capable of. For the attacker this means that he should plan his, or her, Throwing Effort and Direction of Attack after considering the opponent’s Posture.

Horizontal Space

Horizontal Space is the key to recognizing the appropriate Attacking Tempo. Horizontal Space is the amount of Space between you and your opponent at your Hips. As the players drop deeper into defensive posture the Horizontal Space increases. The broader the Horizontal Space the wider your Driving Leg will need to be set, in order to supply the Power needed to overcome your opponents defensive Posture.

Learning to recognize what the Horizontal Space is telling your players they will have to;

1) Understand Horizontal Space

2) Practice recognizing the Horizontal Space

3) Practice throwing against different Horizontal Spaces

Learning to recognize and use the Horizontal Space is very simple.

1) Explain the Horizontal Space when you discuss a Tactical Situation.

2) Design drills for your players that use different Postures and discuss the use of the Horizontal Space in deciding which throws to use.

3) Allow your players to experiment with Horizontal Space

Potential Use of Information

This information is, at the very least, interesting. However, if there is no practical use for it then the efforts of this study have been wasted. The primary question is “What can be done with this data?”

I believe that there are three areas where this information can be employed:

1) Drill construction–Drills can be constructed to develop the player’s Direction preferences. Drills could also be devised to help players develop Directional Tactics

2) Evaluation–Many throwing problems can be related to improper matching of Tempo and Direction. Using the concept of matched Attack Tempo and Throwing Direction player efficiency may be improved.

3) Problem Solving–Knowing a players preference in throwing type, his mobility, agility and physical strength the player’s Personal Attack System can be adapted to utilize the concepts indicated by this data.

Update to Travel and Throw Relationship Report

The Confusion

When I first performed this research, in 1990, I didn’t know what it meant. All I knew was that throws were not taking place in the way that everyone believed that throws took place. I realized that this information was important but I did not realize how to apply the information. I only knew that this research, proved;

1) your opponent had to be Traveling away from the Direction that he, or she, was to be thrown

2) the Tempo of the Travel influenced the direction of throws

How this information could be used as Coaching information was unclear. True, a Coach could take the time and effort to figure out which Directions, of an opponent’s Travel, was needed for every throw of every one of your players but this is not practical.

The Insight

I have thought about the relationship between the Direction of Travel and the Direction of Throw since this research. After four years I have come to realize that there is only one Direction that your opponent can be traveling for your throws to work.


Why would your opponent have to be moving toward your Power Hand? Your Power Hand pushes the opponent’s back toward the mat. When your opponent is moving away from your Power Hand your Power Hand has no resistance to push against. If you try to push, when the opponent is moving away from your Power Hand, you help him, or her, move away from you. When your opponent moves towards your Power Hand resistance is offered for you to generate Throwing Force against.

Practical Use

Research, into the relationship between Travel and Throwing, has given us a valuable clue to improving our player’s chances of being able to make a successful throwing attack. Now, how are you going use the information?

Educate Your Players

An explanation of the relationship between the opponent’s Direction of Travel and the Direction to Throw should be a part of the discussion and demonstration of every throwing skill that you teach your players. When you teach your players combinations, of throws, be careful to understand and discuss the changes in the Direction of Travel that a defender makes when avoiding attacks. When your players understand which Direction an attack will force the opponent to move it is very easy to plan a series of attacks that will take the opponent right into the waiting Power Hand.

Train Your Players

Throwing Drills should be designed to train your players in the use of the opponent’s Direction of Travel and to influence the opponent’s Direction of Travel. Two simple drills, of this type might be;

Travel Recognition Exercise

A. Have your players move about freely and attack their partners with their favorite throw.

B. Have the defender avoid the throw with movement.

C. Have the attacker explain;

1) which way the defender moved

2) where the attacker would have to Set a Power Hand in order to be able to take advantage of the Direction of the defender’s Travel

3) what throws would work against the opponent’s Direction of Travel

D. Have the players use the combinations that they have just explained to see if they work.

Shake the Tree

a) Have your players move about freely with their partners

b) At random intervals the attacker

1) should come to quick stop and

2) shake the opponent’s upper body as hard as possible

c) On random Tree Shakes attack with your favorite throw

d) Have the players switch roles after 30 seconds

Counter Throwing

The timing and mechanics of using Counter Throwing Skills, or Kaeshi Waza, are the same as using combinations of throwing skills. When using combinations of throws, or counter throwing, the attacker does nothing more than wait for and then attack the defenders’ reactions. In counter throwing situations the defenders reactions are to the action of the being interrupted during an attack that is about to be countered.

When using a counter throw, the counter thrower must still follow the Mechanical Principles of:

1) Having the opponent move towards the Power Hand

2) Set the Power Hand to supply sufficient throwing force

3) Set the Driving Leg to push where the opponent’s Supporting Leg cannot keep the defender from being thrown down. In other words, place your Driver to push the opponent in the HOLE where his Supporting Leg IS NOT.

A simple Training Drill to help players understand the timing and direction in Counter Throwing could go something like this:

1) Coach demonstrates and discusses the mechanics of countering an attack

2) Pair your players and have them move around the mat

3) Attack at random, using 50% to 75% of their competitive attacking force

4) Counter the attack


The relationship between Direction of Travel and The Direction of Throw can be a valuable coaching tool. For the Coach, understanding this relationship can provide insight into problems when analyzing your players performance. For your players, understanding the relationship, between the Direction of Travel and the Direction of Throwing, will improve the probability of successful throwing attacks.

“Where he is strong, avoid him”

Understanding the relationship, between the Direction of Travel and the Direction of Throwing, will also improve your players’ defensive skills. Coach your players to recognize where the opponent is trying to set his, or her, Power Hand. When you know where the Power Hand is, or is likely to be, then don’t go near it and you can’t be thrown!

Any tool must be put to use before it can do any good. You, the Coach, have to introduce the use of the opponent’s Direction of Travel, to your players. You have to plan the training that will condition the use of this, very important, tool. You will also have to reinforce the use of the tool of Direction through Performance Goals and Training Drills. At first it may not be easy using the latest tool but your players cannot be properly developed without using all of the coaching tools at your disposal.

This page is provided by the author, George Weers, and published here by Neil Ohlenkamp, Encino Judo Club, California, USA.
Last modified July 20, 1997