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Three Principles of a Throw and How They Relate to Groundwork

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Nage-Waza = Throwing Techniques. 

A throw can be broken down into 3 fundamental principles. Each of these elements has many details within itself. Understanding these 3 principles will not only help the techniques performed from standing but will also improve your ability to perform techniques in the grappling phase. 

Each of the three components have a value, are uniquely important, and must unify for the proper execution of the entire technique.

Kuzushi translates to mean "off balancing" and comprises 75% of the throw. 

Tsukuri is "fitting in for completion" and comprises 20% of the throw.

Kake is the "completion/execution" of the throw and comprises 5%.  

When we practice Uchi-komi (practice without completion), we are getting in 95% of the technique. This allows us to do many repetitions while only leaving out a very small part (5%) of the technique. This type of practice is for the development of muscle memory in the bulk movements of the throw.



Kuzushi or “off balancing” occurs using grips, angles, leverage, and timing.

Grips set the momentum. By acquiring dominant grips, you put yourself in a clear advantage and can more easily off balance the opponent. This is true with or without the gi.

Angles of attack are used to disrupt the opponent’s center of gravity, causing him/her to be easier to throw, sweep, or trip.

Leverage is using the principle of the “lever”. A lever amplifies an input force to provide a greater output force. We do this with a throw by using a part of our body, such as foot, leg, or hip, as the fulcrum and the body of the opponent as the lever.

Timing is the most difficult to master out of the components. It can only be developed through many repetitions while in motion. Timing makes use of inertia, rhythm, acceleration, and deceleration. We may discover or set a rhythm with the opponent and then break that rhythm with acceleration or deceleration of their movement or your own. If timing is too early or late, the throw will feel like trying to move a mountain. If timing is accurate, it will feel like moving a feather.


Tsukuri or “fitting in” is when you are able to fit your body into the proper position needed to execute the throw. This happens either by design, wherein we purposely set up the attack and position for it, or it can happen as a result of the opponent’s movement, putting himself into a position that fits your attack.

Mastering tsukuri is partially determined by rehearsing varying scenarios and discovery. This is the “what if” portion of training where we ask ourselves, “What works when my opponent moves this way or that?” and practice those situations until we have a natural reflex mechanism that capitalizes upon that movement, and the position opportunity it creates. We train our mind and body to recognize the fit rather than seek out the fit.  


Kake may only be 5% of the throw, but it is still vitally important. Modern Judo tends to do, what I refer to as “throwing the opponent away”. This means that the throw doesn’t seem to take follow-up positions and attacks into much consideration. The goal is merely to achieve the ippon score with no desire for groundwork. I feel that a quality technique should not put the tori (person executing the throw) in a negative position at the completion. The tori should be in control of level of impact along with the body positioning of both contestants.

In a combative, self-defense, or sport Jiu-jitsu application, the throw serves to take the fight to the ground in order to seek out dominant position and eventually achieve the surrender or submission of the opponent.

More specifically, in a combative or self-defense situation, the throw done with great impact could certainly be a “fight ender”. However, it must be done in a manner that is not damaging to the tori, and it must be done in a manner that does not jeopardize dominant position. In the case that it is not a “fight ender”, we must be able to flow into a direct follow-up position.

So far, I have only been referring to the standing techniques (tachi-waza), but how do these principles apply in the grappling (ne-waza) phase?

Principles are steadfast and can be applied in varying situations.

In paralleling the principles of tachi-waza with ne-waza, I like to think in terms of levels. Techniques that are performed while standing are high level, and techniques performed on the ground are low level. This is not referring to the “skill level” but quite literally the level of the bodies in relation to standing or on the ground, or where the techniques take place. Low is on the ground, while high is upright and standing. Aside from level of the technique, the applied principles are the same.

When performing a guard sweep of any type, we make use of kuzushi (off balancing) with grips, angles, leverage, and timing, just as we would in the standup. Isn’t it interesting that a guard sweep and takedown bear the same point value in Jiu-jitsu contest?

An example of tsukuri (fitting in) would be in the case of choosing which sweep to use, based upon the posture taken by the opponent. For example, if he is low and pressuring into your guard, you may choose a pendulum sweep. If he is in mid posture, perhaps opting for a scissor sweep would be a better fit.

The execution of the sweep would be the kake (completion), just as it was in the standup. It is still only a smaller percentage of the entire technique, but it is vitally important to maintain control over the opponent once the sweep is completed. Again, we must be able to flow into a direct follow-up position or submission.

These principles are not limited to just guard play on the ground but apply to all positional advancements and submissions: off balance, acquire position, execute.

If any one of these components is not in place, the overall technique will fail or be very poorly executed.  

Understanding these principles and learning how to apply them will have a positive effect on both, your standup and ground game. This understanding will also allow for better transitions from standup to the ground, making for a more complete fighter.

In an upcoming article, I will discuss the importance of transitions, an all too commonly overlooked skillset.

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