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Class Notes – Hanbo Koshi Ori

June 21, 2012

This lesson was focused on koshi ori, the hanbo version of omote gyaku.

Why all this attention just to the same old stuff? Because doing the same old stuff, but with a stick, allows us to drill the actual movement until it becomes usable skill, as well as ingrain the principles embodied in the technique.

And that was certainly coming out in this lesson. The guys had difficulty finishing the technique. They would break the balance of the uke then leave the uke hanging in the air. They could not finish the technique, bring the uke to the ground, to complete the koshi ori/omote gyaku.

(These are kyu-grade students, so they aren’t supposed to working on all the chuuto hanpa concept stuff yet.)

At the root of it all I would say that want messed up the moves for them was their lack of commitment. They would not step firmly into the right distance and angle for the techniques, but would step halfway, straighten out their arms and lean over with their upper bodies to further move the uke to the wrong angle.

It was bad enough from omote gyaku, but when you add in the hanbo, the distance they have to move becomes even greater. And that exposes the mistakes in angle and distancing even more.

(I’m not being mean. It’s better to deal with this now rather than wait till they are black belts, right?)

How I Look at Omote Gyaku

To me, omote gyaku is a distance technique. Yes, I know that there are people who like to do it upfront and close in, but to me it makes it kote gaeshi, an aikido technique that I don’t like because it counts too much on a wrist twist rather than a taking of the opponent’s entire balance.

Problem is, omote gyaku is a risky technique. Consider:

  1. You are twisting the hand…
  2. … to immobilize the elbow…
  3. … to tighten up the shoulder…
  4. … to affect the spine…
  5. … to bring the opponent down.

That is a lot of variables going on right there. And if the opponent instinctively changes any one of the variables, or you mess things up yourself in the heat of the moment (very likely) the whole thing can fall flat and you end up standing there with two hands holding one of your opponent’s hands.

Not a good place to be!

So when WOULD you use omote gyaku anyway? When you don’t want to close the distance to use safer techniques, such as my personal favourite, onikudaki. The opponent is probably a lot bigger than you, heavier than you, has a longer reach than you do, or something like that.

In such situations, you need to use your taijutsu a lot more effectively. At a lower skill level, that may mean taking bigger steps, larger angles and being a lot more committed in your movements. Once you get familiar with the effects of your movement on an opponent’s body, you will be able to get the same effect with less effort and movement on your part.  But you have to put in the hours and hard work first to get to that point!

There are two ways (that I know of) to build that commitment into movement.

Strikes – serious striking practice, especially with targets. Once you get used to delivering force into your opponent/target, whether through a hand strike or kick, you get a better sense of what committed movement feels like. And you can carry that over to your locks, throws and other stuff.

And that is why I seriously grew in my taijutsu only after I started regularly hitting a heavy bag!

Weapons – weapons enable you to defeat an opponent from a distance. Hanbo, sword or even modern battlefield weapons such as the rifle or artillery, are all based on the idea that since distance = safety, we should use the right tools for keeping the opponent(s) further away as we deal with him/her/them.

But that means you also need to cover a greater distance in your movement also, especially at a basic level.


I kind of anticipated that things would turn out this way in class. That is why I knew I had to spend a significant amount of time on hanbo this season. Maybe I’ll take a couple of months to work on unarmed material after this, but I am planning on doing kenjutsu after that. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes! 🙂



From → bujinkan

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