Foot sweep drill, part 1

[NOTE: As of July 13th, I've modified the foot placement image in this post to something I think is a little more accurate.]

We have a drill that we do toward the beginning of most judo classes based on deashi harai. I don't have a video of it (there's a major effort under way to make a large number of instructional videos for Kaze Uta Budo Kai, so I'll let the folks in charge of that take care of that), so a written description will have to suffice for the time being.

Basically, two partners stand on one side of the dojo floor and take their grips. The first partner (tori) steps forward and makes a sweeping action as the other person (uke) steps back, catching and picking up his foot (I believe most of the judo world does deashi with uke advancing, but we tend to execute it as tori moves forward). Tori holds the foot for a beat, until uke essentially pulls his foot away. When he does, tori promptly sweeps with the other foot and picks up uke's trailing foot. The two progress across the mat like that, tori catching uke's foot, one after the other. One they get to the other side, then it's the second partner's turn to sweep back the other direction.

Once we've learned the basic idea of sweeping properly, we can start to add to it. This is something that has been percolating in my mind for a while now, but during last week's shochugeiko, I got a lot of wonderful input and insight into. I've scribbled down notes as new bits and pieces come to light, but I thought I'd use this blog to help organize them.

Before I get to the first set of throws, I want to mention a few things to remember. Kazushi (or off-balance) can be created in a number of ways. Sometimes, it's through the movement of our centers (hazumi) and sometimes the hands and arms trigger a little off-balance independent of the center (ikioi). But we can also create kazushi by capitalizing on uke's recovery from a throw that didn't quite work (the basic idea behind renraku waza, or combination techniques). In this case, we're taking advantage of uke's recovery from his foot being swept and controlled as we did in the basic drill.

When we sweep his foot and hold it, he has to put it back down some time. Many times, he'll simply pull it free and continue his step back (he can do other things with his foot, but we'll get to that in a later post). The problem is, that back step will usually end up being bigger than a normal step, which spreads his feet a little wider than shoulder width, where he'd like it. It also means, of course, that his second step, or follow-up step will also be exaggerated. We'd like to take advantage of that moment.

To start this, I would recommend not doing the usual foot-sweep drill that I described earlier, simply because uke will often leave his foot dangling out in front, even if subconsciously, for tori to pick up. That means he's purposefully standing on one foot, which in turn means he still has his balance (albeit on one foot). But if you walk several paces without doing anything, just getting in rhythm and then, at a random point, sweep and pick up uke's foot and hold it, he'll be more likely to be caught in a weak structure; he thought he was going to be able to step back, but his foot got stopped. Therefor, when you finally do release his foot, you'll get the exaggerated back step from uke you want.

Also, to make things easier, I would start by doing this just on one side, probably sweeping with the left foot (uke's right). Now, as uke takes that step back, he's going to pull our foot with it. We'd like to take that step with a purpose in mind rather than just set it down arbitrarily. To start with, there's three basic positions you can put your foot in relative to the line of uke's two feet: toes pointed forward, toes pointed in, and toes pointed out (click for a larger version).

With most throws, we set them up with our foot somewhere on the line of uke's two feet. However, with this back-stepping motion, it's virtually impossible to get exactly on the line, so my foot goes as close as I can get it.

Toes pointed in and out require you to pre-turn your foot before it touches the mat, without turning your hips or shoulders (yet). That's not an easy or natural thing to do, which is why we also do special walking drills occasionally where we walk across the mat with our feet turned in or out.

From toes forward, you'll find yourself in position to do o-soto gari.

From toes pointed at uke, you allow your hips to uncoil and your body to turn to your right as your right foot props uke's left foot and your right elbow goes up, giving you sasae tsurikomi ashi. (I really like this one, it works well!)

From toes pointed away from uke, you'll step through with your left, right next to your right, your right arm around uke's waist or over his shoulders if you'll tall (that's how I do it) and get o goshi. Naturally, if you get o goshi, you could probably get other hip throws, but I would start with the grand-daddy of hip throws; if you can nail this one, the rest will follow suit.

As I said before, there's more to it, but we'll start here. More to come.


  1. Very nice description. I really enjoyed this drill, and watching a couple of sankyu-level Judoka working cooperatively to explore what throws existed. It was very amazing to see what they came up with.

  2. i like! -- the only thing i might change is the angle of "on the line" and "across the line" in the sweet illustrations

  3. How would you change it? (Maybe that's hard to describe in words. Maybe you could doodle it for me? =)

    I just found that trying to get "three feet on the line" with uke going backwards was a lot less accurate to get exact than getting three feet on the line when uke's coming forward. In other words, I would put my foot as close as I could to the line.

  4. when i think of the position of "across the line" i think of it as more perpendicular to the line itself-- when i think "on the line," it is 180 degrees from "down the line"


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