Rooted Throwing is a completely different approach to the throwing process than that utilized with Uprooting Throws. In Tensoku Ryu we prefer rooted throwing because it generally takes less effort, is equally effective, is often faster, requires less strength, can easily be coupled with strikes or checking actions, is less likely to injure yourself or an opponent, and does not take on body mass.
But everything has its advantages and disadvantages. In general the Rooted Throwing methods do not impart significant landing stresses or energies and are often much harder to understand and execute. In general these throwing methods require substantially more practice and experience to make them work effectively.
This form of throwing involves forcing your opponent to be Rooted and then causing them to sink down toward the ground. The opponent is not pulled or lifted upward, but is instead somehow pressed or caused to move downward. Often we merely provide the appropriate conditions that cause a person to fall. So we may not actually “throw” them at all. These can be very subtle throwing skills that take both a sound understanding of structure and balance and surprisingly little strength or power.
Here are the first five essential rooting throws that our students learn. There are an infinite number of other ways to employ this throwing skill, but the following five throws are where we start.
Kokyu Nage means “breath throw”. It is a relatively simple yet versatile throw. This throw is a fundamental throw in the Aikido curriculum and is commonly employed in styles such as Kosho Ryu Kempo.
The throw is often initiated off of an opponent’s extended strike or grab attack. It works well against something like an Oi Tsuki or any sort of grab in which the hands are extended forward of the opponent’s body. For the purposes of this description we will assume the opponent is throwing a Migi Oi Tsuki.
Step with both legs toward angle 5 (the ear side) to avoid the strike and position yourself for the throw. Allow your right arm to check the opponent’s extended arm while you insert your left forearm across the bridge of your opponent’s nose. Hook your right hand over the top of your opponent’s right arm to prevent its retraction. Step slightly to your left with your left leg to allow your center to rotate to your left as you apply moderate pressure against your opponent’s face with your left forearm. This will force the opponent’s head back and will ultimately cause them to lean back behind his or her rooted feet. Continue rotating to your left until your opponent falls. The person will fall on his or her side or back.
You can break your Uke’s fall by grasping and pull upward on their right arm as they descend toward the floor. You can also control how hard they fall by the rate of your rotation.
You might also use your right arm to cause the Uke to further extend his or her right arm slightly as you rotate left. This adds to the rotational forces of the throw.
Be sure to work this throw on both sides. You should strive to do this throw in a very gentle, relaxed, and subtle manner. Learn to control your opponent with subtlety rather than simple brute force (which also works in this throw, but leads to injury and prevents you from learning a great many subtle points).
Use your forearm to block the opponent’s vision to further confuse and disorient them. You may find that the length of your step with the left leg may vary depending on your opponent’s size and their position relative to you when you first move to angle 5. You may also discover over time that you can move this foot without actually stepping.
The secret to this throw is to have everything occur within your center triangle. Pull your opponent’s head into your center triangle using your forearm and then rotate in such a manner that the head stays within your center triangle. If the opponent’s head moves outside of your triangle the throw is much less likely to be successful. With practice this throw will become second nature and you will find you can execute it in well under a second.
This is commonly called a wheel throw because the opponent moves during the maneuver as though they were following the circumference of a wheel. This throw can be initiated from a vast variety of different starting positions, but you must always end up with one of the opponent’s arms extended forward of the opponent. Here is a simple way to learn and practice this throw, but remain vigilant for other situations in which you might employ this throw.
Assume the Uke steps forward to deliver a Migi Oi Tsuki. Step to the ear side of the opponent and use your Front Hand to block the incoming punch down and somewhat forward of the Uke (toward Uke’s local octagon angle 1). This does three things concurrently; it pitches Uke’s head forward and further facilitates the throw, it turns his or her body slightly so that their opposite hand is unlikely to be in a favorable position to strike, and it places you at 90° to your opponent.
Use your back hand to make contact behind Uke’s neck. In a conflict this could initially be a strike that then becomes a grab. Press down and toward Uke’s local angle 1 with your back hand as your front arm sweep’s Uke’s extended arm back and then upward. Keep pressing your open hand or wrist into Uke’s arm throughout the throw; your hand or wrist will make contact along both its front and back sides throughout the throw. Your two arms flow in similar circular directions as though drawing the shape of a wheel in the air. Your Uke will likely land on the shoulder of their opposite (back) arm.
If you are the Uke when practicing this throw use the landing as a way to practicing gracefully rolling out of a throw and then regaining your feet. Then bring your guard up and immediately turn to face Tori. Even when this throw is done with great speed and force you should be able to roll through the throw and back onto your feet without feeling any significant impact on any portion of your body. This is a classic throw that facilitates both learning to throw and learning to roll throughout a throw.
Note that anytime a) your opponent’s head is down, b) you are on their ear side, and c) you hold their extended arm with your front hand then you are in a position to utilize this throw. Position yourself or the opponent so the opponent is at 90° to your center line and then proceed with the throw. While this might initially sound like an impossible set of concurrent circumstances you will find this occurs very frequently. Look for it as you work with a partner.
One potential problem with this throw is that you usually need to position your hands so they cross your center during the initial throwing sequence. Both hands cross your center, which is certainly not optimal. Once the throwing process begins in earnest this problem goes away. But you should recognize when you have crossed your centers. Generally speaking crossing centers is something we wish to avoid in Tensoku Ryu. There are other similar ways to throw a person in this same situation that do not require you to cross your centers. For now, practice the throw as defined. It helps you explore crossing your centers. Your opponent will be in a somewhat vulnerable position so you can usually cross your centers here without a major problem. But eventually this should make you feel somewhat uncomfortable.
Also commonly called the Four Directions Throw, this throw is widely studied in Aikido, Jujitsu and many other styles. It is an elemental throw with which all martial artists should be familiar.
The throw can be initiated from any attack in which your opponent or Uke has extended one arm forward of their body, perhaps to grab or strike you. You will grasp the opponent’s arm immediately above the wrist with one or both hands and then move his or her arm toward the outside of their body and downward. You continue moving the opponent’s arm in a circular manner until the arm begins to transition inward and then upward. At this moment you step in front of the opponent and pivot in front of them such that your back rotates in front of the opponent. The opponent’s arm will continue to move upward until their arm and elbow are raised up between yourself and the opponent.
At that moment you utilize the opponent’s arm as though it were a Jo or Katana. Perform a Shomen Cut with the arm using the wrist as the Tsuka and their elbow as the Kissaki. The opponent will be thrown onto their side or back just forward and to the side of your position. They will land on either their back or the side opposite his or her trapped arm. The Shomen cutting motion is essential to a clean throwing technique. If you simply pull down on the wrist or push the wrist away from you the throw will likely be ineffective and may result in you being thrown or struck with the opponent’s opposite arm.
If you are Uke be sure to look for and attack the ground as you fall. Ensure you twist your body so you land on your side rather than on your back, which is more difficult to protect in a fall of this type. Also consider what you would do in a real conflict should you be thrown in this manner. Find some useful actions you can perform to overcome your opponent from this starting point.
If you are Tori be sure to limit the forces you apply to Uke’s elbow as you throw. You must ensure you are directly in front of Uke and not positioned such that their arm is in front of you. Their arm must be by their shoulder and directly between the two of you. If the arm is not in this position either the throw will not work or the forces you must apply will risk injury to Uke.
Mae Nihon Yubi Nage
This might be referred to as a Two Finger Throw and as far as I know this is formally taught only in Tensoku Ryu (that is not a claim, but merely an observation that I have not seen it taught elsewhere). This throw works by destabilizing and repositioning the opponent’s front knee, causing them to fall.
This throw can be performed anytime you have access to the knee of a leg that has been rooted. The throw will not likely work if the targeted leg is not rooted.
For presentation purposes we will presuppose that an opponent has delivered a Migi Oi Tsuki. We will drop beneath their strike and position ourselves on the ground such that our back knee is on the ground and our opposite knee is erect with our thigh generally parallel to the floor. Have your left arm up as a guard to protect against any downward strike from your opponent.
As soon as you land on the floor position the first two fingers (the index and middle fingers) of your right hand to the inside and slightly behind the right knee of your opponent. Form a small hook with these two fingers and drag the opponent’s right knee forward, then to your left, and then press the knee away from your slightly. Your opponent will fall directly in front of you, usually in a face-forward manner.
The motion that your fingers take when moving the knee is essentially an upper-case letter “C”, drawn as if starting from the bottom of the “C” and working toward the top (tracing the letter in a manner opposite to how you would typically draw it). This motion does not take a tremendous amount of force – the knee commonly moves quite easily making this a simple and effective throw.
You must watch for a possible strike from your opponent’s opposite (in this case left) hand as they fall. Usually this hand will go across far above your head since the opponent is generally pitched backward slightly as they fall. But it remains possible that this arm could swing through and contact you as the opponent falls. Also be aware of a possible Hidari Mawashi Geri from your falling opponent.
Be prepared to spring forward to press your attack or escape backward as the throw completes. Do not stay where you are or the opponent may well kick you in the face.
If you are the Uke during this throw practice landing on the front in a way that does not stress your wrists and elbows. Of course you will also want to ensure you do not land on your face or jeopardize any of the vital organs in the front torso. Try landing in different orientations and noticing which kicks are readily available to you from each position.
If the opponent’s leg is not rooted then you might elect to use your opposite hand to force their foot onto the ground or otherwise trap their ankle, thereby rooting their leg. This of course will limit that hand’s use as a viable guard.
An astute observer may consider how this same throw could be initiated using your leg instead of your hand. There are several ways in which this could be accomplished. See if you can think of at least three.
This is the “sunken ship” throw and, while it may seem straight forward and easy, is actually fairly difficult to accomplish.
The throw is applied directly against your opponent’s center. By that we mean that you will be applying pressure backward directly along your opponent’s center line and toward his or her local angle 2. As your opponent or Uke moves forward you will advance on their face side and apply a wide U-Hand strike to their forehead. Your fingers and thumbs will grasp near the temple on either side of the opponent’s head. This need not be a forceful strike, in fact a very light push with minimal pressure is all that is required. Use the palm of your hand to cover your opponent’s eyes, robbing them of their sense of sight and therefore limiting their sense of orientation.
As your opponent’s head moves toward their back change the direction of travel into a downward direction. This will typically root your opponent on their heels, though this can depend on which stance they have adopted and their relative size. Here comes the tricky part. Now that the head is back and down, maintain a sound grip and pull the opponent’s entire torso forward and further down using your grip on the head. This is intended to compress the opponent’s knees forward, causing the opponent to collapse in a backward direction. Your opponent will usually fall on their back.
Depending on the speed and force you utilize you can take the opponent down gently or with great impact. If done with extreme speed and impact this may break the opponent’s neck or cause severe head trauma. That would be considered, in nearly all situations, an unacceptable outcome. We neither condone, encourage, nor support using this type of force in any but the most dire circumstances. Due to the potential risks of this throw you should always use gentle pressure when working with your Uke. You should only perform this throw under direct instructor supervision.
Pay particular attention and repeatedly practice the part where the opponent becomes rooted and his or her knees collapse forward (toward you). This is what makes the opponent sink directly down in front of you and will allow you to maintain control of your opponent. If you simply strike directly into the head and press down your opponent will be repelled away from you and you will have little subsequent control of them. They may or may not fall as a result of such a push, whereas they will always fall if the tricky portion is executed properly.
You should experiment with turning the opponent’s head slightly as they are being pressed down. This can help further disorient the opponent and make it easier to control them. Do not turn too hard or two briskly to limit the risk of injury to your Uke.
If you are Tori you should ensure that Uke does not fall in an uncontrolled manner. Practice doing this throw so that you can control the pace and final location of Uke’s descent.
As practitioners become accustomed to this form of throwing they discover that basic Tensoku Ryu principles and concepts can be employed and an opponent can be thrown with little to no effort at essentially any time. The key is to notice when a person has or will become rooted. From there it is usually fairly easy to throw them. As I frequently tell my students, it takes virtually no time or effort to throw someone. You can eventually throw people pretty much at will. But this level of skill does not come easily. This is why you need to study and practice Tensoku Ryu and not merely read about it.