For some reason, I never saw a lot of tai otoshi in my early years in judo. After a few periods of absence, I came back to judo and found myself in a situation where the only time I could do it was during my lunch hour. Problem was, there was no judo noon judo class at the time. So I had to start one. The other problem was, I was barely a nidan, and if you ever want to get a good idea of how little you really know, try running a class all by yourself.
Here I was, pretty rusty from having been out of it for a while, and really not as experienced as I'd like to be, running a class. I quickly realized I needed help from anywhere I could get it. The forums are nice, but to be honest, it's hard for me to get an accurate idea of a physical action through someone's written description.
I was at least fortunate to have a handful of students who attended other judo classes, which were taught by people much more qualified than me. As you might imagine, it takes a good deal of humility to be a black belt and ask for input from brown belts!
Truthfully, I felt quite unworthy of my rank and position. Consequently, I became determined to catch up however I could. Whenever possible, I would grab someone like Nick Lowry sensei whenever he would pop in to the dojo during noon aikido classes. He would typically stop by to take care of some administrative tasks, but I would politely and humbly ask if he wouldn't mind showing me how to do one thing or another.
I actually felt terrible separating myself from the aikido class in order to do that, because I respected the teacher, Jim Ellison Sensei, and hated to disrupt his class in any way. I'm eternally grateful for his patience and allowing me to sneak off like that periodically.
But, when other flesh and blood teachers were not readily available, I turned to the internet. Wonderful place, the internet, full of all kinds of information, both good and bad. In my search, I found quite a few good sources of information, but somehow I still felt not only guilty, but a little silly.
Learning martial arts from a book or video seemed like the kind of thing "wannabes" did, young geeks who've watched too many ninja movies who wanted to attain an instant "bad-assness" (is that a word?). In time, I came to realize that there was one crucial factor that makes all the difference: are you learning ONLY from a video or book? or is it a supplement to regular person-to-person instruction with a qualified teacher?
Now, I love it. And thankfully, I not only have videos from other budoka available to me, but a growing collection of videos from my own teachers, and together, they have improved my skills quite a bit.
Anyway... back to tai otoshi. How did I finally got a hold of it? Well, not that I've "mastered" it in anyway, but I'm certainly more comfortable with it now than I ever was. I got a lot out of a single session with Nick during one noon aikido class, who showed me that it could be thrown two ways, actually: perpendicular to uke's feet, and also down the line.
I also got a lot from a guy named Brad Wells, who was a brown belt at the time attending my noon judo class. He had spent some time during an evening class with a fine gentleman judoka by the name of David Wire, who is an old school player who has been doing judo probably longer than I've been alive. Brad relayed to me Mr. Wire's preference for loading weight into uke's left rear corner and throwing on the recovery (the perpendicular version). That was like a light bulb to me.
Then, I dusted off a distant memory of Charles Caldwell Sensei, who owned Windsong Dojo prior to Nick, showing us a version which he set up with a short "on/off" tug with the right hand (which caused an exaggerated recovery step with uke's right foot), and the turn and throw down the line of his feet (right front corner).
But after all that, I think I really solidified it in my mind by watching these videos from Superjudo.TV, a site run by Leo White Sensei. Maybe it was the instruction, maybe it was just seeing people do the throw over and over (probably a combination of the two), but I definitely have to say it helped.
That being said, every judo school or aikido school (or instructor) is going to have their own spin on things, and sometimes certain details don't really jive with the principles taught at my own dojo (not wrong, mind you, just different). But there have been plenty of things that not only did jive with my own training, but greatly enlarged and expanded it, like someone flipping on a switch.
So, domo arigato, YouTube Sensei.
I still feel silly bowing to my computer, though.