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Judo/Tai sabaki in judo?


Hello Mr. Ohlenkamps, thank you for your time first of all, itís very grateful to have senior judokaís guidance.

I was wondering if footwork or tai sabaki exists in judo. I was taught by my instructor that there are 6 ways to off balance someone, hit them, trick them with a feint throw to capitalize on their reaction (e.g. feint seoi nage, then otoshi because they jigotai), pull them, push them, a combination of push and pull as a couple (unclear but it was some sort of Hadaka jime), or use footwork to put them to a position where their posture and balance is compromised as kuzushi waza.

I am highly intrigued by 2 of the methods in particular. I was wondering if thereís any form of kuzushi waza achieved by a turn or a spin, or any that relies heavily on footwork please.

For example, I kind of feel Osoto Gariís kuzushi is different to some sort of te-waza e.g. Seoi nages, i.e. you push but also step to a position to place someone off balance as opposed a pull and lift action. I have done randori with some judo mixed shuai jiao wrestling people and they did show versions where they simply push away the arm trying to grab and then stepped in and did osoto gari, push down the arm, then kosoto gari etc, without any form of clinching at all.

Plus when I saw Kodokanís nage no kata, there are times where the footsteps arenít that parallel and throws were done without the practitioners standing face to face but perpendicular.

I researched a bit on judoinfo and other places and the only tai sabaki Iíve got so far is the standard turn in from a triangular step.

I am more kind of interested in maybe something in this pattern

Or any pattern that could maybe off balance someone without a parallel stance? Are there methods of kuzushi beyond whatís in the clinch? Is there also other applications for footwork than to off balance?

Thank you highly for the input.

Thank you for asking about tai sabaki. Tai sabaki is an often overlooked element that is crucial to success in applying judo throwing techniques. The more common elements of a throw are the ones that you mention, kuzushi and tsukuri, along with kake (the final application).

Kuzushi is applied differently in different types of throws, just as tsukuri and tai sabaki varies from throw to throw. All these concepts are tied together and usually one cannot be achieved without the others being present and active. In other words, you cannot break someone's balance without having the right grip, putting your body into the right position, and turning or stepping in coordination with your method of kuzushi.

Tai sabaki involves more than just stepping or turning since you must bring uke with you or otherwise put uke into a weak position. Tai sabaki is really about the use of your body mass and using this force against your opponent. Your own weight becomes an important factor when you move and generate force. You may use tai sabaki in response to an attack so that you can evade, block, or counter. You can also use it to maximize your kuzushi as you step into position (tsukuri).

Tai sabaki is an integral part of judo which should be learned on the mat as it applies to each throw. The starting position (face to face parallel or perpendicular) has no bearing on these concepts, and most throws can be applied from a variety of positions, not just parallel.

All throws rely on good footwork, and your stepping pattern can be important in applying kuzushi or creating the opportunity for an attack. I cover most of the entry methods with examples, and include basic diagrams for the steps involved in each throw, in my book (see Footwork is used to enter into the proper position for an attack, but also to create an opportunity by breaking the tempo of your partner, speeding up or slowing down the action, or gain an advantageous position without your partner noticing.

The kuzushi cannot be separated from the footwork, tsukuri, or tai sabaki as it is all part of the beginning steps of a throw. When you ask about a throw where kuzushi is achieved by spinning or turning, I could point to almost any throw. In my book I give an example of okuriashi harai done in a circular pattern where your rotating movement requires your partner to take bigger, faster steps that make it easier to sweep his feet. O guruma has a stepping pattern that contributes to kuzushi, as does your example of osoto gari. But even throws like seoinage generate power through the rotation of your body as you enter for the throw.

Your question is rather complex, but I hope I have addressed the major points. Maybe I will write an article on the topic for  


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Neil Ohlenkamp


Mr. Ohlenkamp can answer any questions about Judo having practiced it since 1968. Author of a best-selling book on Judo and a 7th degree black belt, he compiled a comprehensive web site ( to provide the information to everyone.


Mr. Ohlenkamp has been practicing judo continuously since 1968, as a student, athlete, competitor, teacher, coach, referee, leader, and author.

United States Judo Association, United States Judo Federation, Nanka Yudanshakai, United States Ju-Jitsu Federation, Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo, Japan, Encino Judo Club.

As a pioneer in promoting martial arts around the world through the internet, Mr. Ohlenkamp created one of the first web pages devoted to Judo. Since 1995 his Judo Information Site at has been the most highly acclaimed, most popular, and most comprehensive Judo web site on the internet. He runs several other Judo sites like,, and He has authored a best selling book on Judo, contributed to other martial arts books, and had articles published in most major Judo publications. The U.S. edition of his book is Judo Unleashed (2006, McGraw-Hill) but is also available under other titles in the UK, Germany, Russia, and The Netherlands.

Mr. Ohlenkamp is a 7th degree black belt and has been nationally certified as a Judo instructor, coach, and rank examiner. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in Child Development with a specialty in recreation from California State University, Northridge.

Awards and Honors
US Judo Coach of the Year-1999, U.S. Team Coach at the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul, Korea, the 1989 World Championships for the Blind in Manchester, England, and the 1990 World Championships and Games for the Disabled in Assen, Netherlands, and member of the International Blind Sports Association Judo Technical Committee from 1988 to 1993. 6th degree black belt in USJJF jujitsu.

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