Tai-sabaki, or body movement, involves taking a grip and moving to set up the opponent to be thrown. There are two basic methods of walking: ayumi-ashi, or normal walking, where one foot is placed in front of the other, and tsugi-ashi, or following footwork, which involves advancing or retreating on one foot and then drawing the other foot level.

These footwork skills combine with three basic footwork patterns that allow tori to turn in for or attempt the various throws. The most commonly used is a front turn stepping-in pattern, mae mawari sabaki, which tori can use against a stationary or retreating opponent and is the pattern employed in forward throws like seoi-nage, harai-goshi and tai-otoshi. Maesabaki is a front step and half-turn used for throws like hiza-guruma and sasae-tsuri-komi-ashi. Ushiro sabaki is a back step used to draw an opponent on to a forward technique.


Kuzushi means breaking of balance. This is one of the fundamental principles of judo and is intrinsic to all throwing techniques. On attempting any throw tori must break uke’s balance if the throw is to be successful. This is usually achieved by a combination of pushing and pulling, together with skilful body movements. The actual pulling action which achieves the balance breaking is called tsukuri and is the combination of hands working together and body movement slotting into the right position. The hand holding the lapel is called the tsurite and makes a circular fishing action as when preparing to cast a line which either helps to turn uke or controls his head by turning from a pull into a push under the jaw. The hand which holds uke’s sleeve is called the hikite and makes a long pull, tori’s elbow rising to shoulder height and pulling uke’s arm across tori’s chest.

Good kuzushi is usually achieved by effective tsukuri, which means using the entire body with a strong grip on the judo gi to get an opponent off-balance. When uke is properly taken off balance the completion of the throw is relatively simple. This completion of the throwing action or finish is called kake. Moving uchikomi helps to develop good tsukuri and kuzushi, but it is necessary to do nage-komi or complete throws to sharpen up your kake.

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