De ashi barai or De ashi harai is a foot sweep throw in judo, you may also find the same throw romanized as Deashi barai or Deashi harai.
Example of De ashi barai
Many judo beginners make the mistake of confusing De ashi barai with Okuri ashi barai. Here is the difference:
- De ashi barai is a throw where you sweep only one foot.
- Okuri ashi barai is a throw where you sweep both feet.
Example of Okuri ashi barai
In this article, you will learn:
- How to do De ashi barai (Step-by-step guide)
How to do De ashi barai (Step-by-step guide)
Important note: In this guide, we have broken down this throw into several steps. This does not mean that you have to execute each step separately, sometimes you have to execute several steps simultaneously.
1. Footwork and timing
The translation of De ashi barai is forward foot sweep or advancing foot sweep. The “advancing” means that the sweep has to take place when the opponent’s foot is advancing forward.
Footwork is the key! You need to use footwork to make your opponent advance and move into the trap. Don’t telegraph it by just dragging your opponent backward, you should be dancing with your opponent in all directions until you see the opportunity then seize it instantly without thinking.
Timing is important, you have to build the skill of having quick reactions and accurate timing.
This comes with drilling the same move countless times until your reactions become part of your instincts.
2. What grip to use (Kumi kata)?
De ashi barai is a throw that relies primarily on foot sweep, unlike other judo throws, De ashi barai doesn’t require any kind of kuzushi (elevating the opponent an putting them slightly off-balance).
Sometimes De ashi barai can be executed successfully without even having a single grip. Take a look at this beautifully timed De ashi barai of Lyoto Machida against BJ Penn in MMA.
Lyoto Machida didn’t even bother holding BJ Penn, he just waited for the perfect timing and swept the lead foot of BJ Penn.
Here is another example where De ashi barai took only one hand grip
With that being said, Kumi kata (grip fighting) is an important phase of a judo match, you should always look for a dominant grip. Here is the standard grip that I teach to my students for De ashi barai:
- With one hand, grip the lapel of your opponent
- With the other hand, grip the sleeve of your opponent
3. The sweep has to come from the hip
Sweep as if you are passing a soccer ball. The power has to come from the hip, you must use your whole leg for the sweep.
Many judo students make the mistake of moving just the part below the knee, don’t do that! Use your whole leg.
A good way to test your sweep effectiveness is by trying it on a soccer ball, kick the ball as if you want to make a pass and see how further the ball goes, if the pass is strong and the ball goes fast then your mechanism is correct.
Notice how Cristiano Ronaldo used his whole leg for the pass
4. What part of your opponent’s foot should you target?
You should make contact with the lower part of the ankle, that’s the ideal part to sweep. Sometimes in competition, you might see successful De ashi barai throws with sweeps above the ankle, yes that would work too, but it’s not ideal, strike the base always.
5. What part of the foot should you use for De ashi barai?
Shape your foot as an ice cream scoop and hit your opponent with the sole of your foot, the arch of the foot to be more accurate.
You must trap your opponent’s ankle in the arch of your foot.
6. The direction of the sweep
The direction of the sweep is a little bit tricky, if you sweep the foot to the side, you will eventually hit the second foot and sweep both feet. That is not De ashi barai, that’s Okuri ashi barai as explained above.
Although they seem similar, Okuri ashi barai has a slightly different set up than De ashi barai.
For De ashi barai, the sweep has to follow a diagonal line
We will draw an imaginary X between you and your opponent, your sweep direction has to follow the green diagonal line.
7. Keep a straight stance when sweeping
Have you ever seen a professional soccer player bending over when they pass the ball? Of course not. Well, that’s how you must do your sweep.
Keep an upward stance and don’t bend over, if you make that mistake, your sweep will lack strength.
Notice how the blue gi competitor was bending over then once he wanted to execute the sweep he went upward as much as possible
8. Circle out
As explained above, your sweep must follow a diagonal line, which means that if your supporting leg is in front of your opponent, your sweeping foot will go towards your supporting foot. That is not practical and it will sabotage your sweep and take strength out of it.
The solution is to circle out with your supporting leg to leave space where you can sweep your opponent.
This will also give your sweep more momentum and strength. Try it and see for yourself.
This might look to you as a small detail that you can neglect, but I advise you to avoid falling into that beginner’s trap.
This throw is highly technical and doesn’t require any brute force, if you master every small detail of it, you will find your opponent flying before you with only a small touch in the ankle, use the laws of physics instead of brute force.
9. Twist the upper body
As explained above, sometimes De ashi barai doesn’t even require you to touch your opponent’s upper body (Remember Lyoto Machida’s foot sweep?), other times you have to use a small amount of force to twist your opponent’s upper body and force them to fall.
- If you are sweeping to the left you have to twist the upper body to the right and vice versa.
- Use the steering wheel technique. You must twist your opponent’s upper body as if you are handling a steering wheel. With the lapel grip push to the opposite side of the sweep and with the sleeve grip pull to the ground.
10. The thermometer of the throw
There is a famous test that judo instructors in Japan teach to their students, they call it the thermometer of the throw.
What is that?
Even if the throw is successful and your opponent ends up on the ground, your throw wouldn’t be considered a full success by your instructor unless it is executed with zero resistance.
If you sweep your opponent with a De ashi barai and they manage to resist before they fall, then your technique isn’t perfect yet.
You must execute your De ashi barai with pure technique and accurate timing without having to use any kind of force.
This obviously requires hundreds of hours of practice, but that’s what makes the difference between a high-level judoka and an average one.