Lining up the 4 gari throws, part 2

Continuing with my thoughts from last time, the first place where this idea of "squaring up" with uke (attacking perpendicular to the line of uke's feet, as well as getting his shoulders and hips lined up with his feet again) came to light in my mind was osoto gari.

As I've said before, there's really nothing new here that I haven't always been taught; I've only just recently realized what was happening. When I was taught the basic osoto entry, I stepped with my left foot slightly over and onto the line of uke's feet (just as uke's right foot was coming forward). For a long time, I thought I was supposed to throw uke "back where he came from", meaning I didn't turn my center at all, and the angle of my attack would have been about 35 degrees to the angle of uke's feet.

Now, there's at least one set up for osoto that I'm pretty fond of doing on occasion (I believe it comes from Lowry Sensei) where I can get away with that, but that's another post for another time. Finally, folks pointed out to me that I want to turn a little and direct my center more at 90 degrees to uke's line:

If that's all I did, you'll notice that uke's hips and shoulders are not in line with his feet. Can I still make the throw happen? Maybe, but it may be more work. We want maximum efficiency, right? This is where a little issue known as tsukuri, or fitting in, comes into play.

What I noticed was, when I pull my left hand—the one holding uke's right elbow—to my navel, uke's hips and shoulders turn as well, and line up with the feet. My right hand is also involved, of course (I think of just collapsing it, sucking the elbow in to my side and bringing my right hand to my right shoulder), but what I'm finding is that the left hand that draws uke's elbow to my navel is an almost magic maneuver for a lot of throws, especially when done at just the right time.

With this entry to osoto gari, I usually wait to step across his line until just after his foot touches the mat (if I do it at the same time, a skilled player tends to float with me by elongating his step and kills my set-up; doing it just after his foot touches keeps him from doing that). The "elbow draw", then, tends to happen at the same time as I lift my right leg to fit behind uke's leg. His hips and shoulders spin as his back foot becomes weightless.

There are other ways to set up osoto, of course. I like doing an advancing form (not sure where it came from, maybe Greg Ables, maybe Chuck Caldwell...?) where I step forward with my left foot, but turn it so my toes are pointing outward. I keep my hips and shoulders forward. As uke lifts his left leg, and I lift my right, I allow my upper body to turn left. Doing the elbow draw along with that motion will turn uke as well until all his feet, hips and shoulders line up.

There's another version, which works particularly well against stiff-armed players who are holding their right foot back to keep it from getting swept. I "step away from what I want" by moving my right foot over onto uke's foot line (his left foot will be forward). This turning motion will force uke to turn as well, and when their right foot hits, another elbow draw spins them. I step forward with my left, onto his line, and reap with my right. Again, all three of his lines end up parallel.

Okay, so big whoop, nothing new. But this little insight helped me make more sense out of the other gari throws as well, which we'll get to next time.