How To Do Harai Goshi: Step-by-Step Guide

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Harai goshi or the sweeping hip throw is one of the most popular judo throws, it ranked as the 3rd most used throw in the London Olympic Games. Also, it is one of the most used judo throws in MMA and wrestling, Ronda Rousey was very famous for using this throw in her title defenses.

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In this article, you will learn:

  • How to do Harai goshi (Step-by-step guide)
  • Setups and combinations of Harai goshi with other judo throws
  • Variations of Harai goshi

How to do Harai goshi (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. Start by setting up your opponent

Setups are the backbone of any judo throw, you shouldn’t be telegraphing your throws, especially with veteran judokas.
Deception is your ally! Use it to your advantage. Feinting and faking throws to set up your opponent for the real upcoming throw is very important.

In this example, the white gi  competitor fakes an Uchi mata and rapidly switches to a Harai goshi.

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Here are some throws you can fake to get to Harai goshi:

There is a full chapter below dedicated to all the possible combinations you can do with Harai goshi. Keep reading.

2. Get a dominant grip

A dominant grip is essential to a successful throw, be patient and don’t attempt a Harai goshi unless you are sure that you have a dominant grip.

Many grips can be used for Harai goshi.

You can use this one:

  • With one hand, grip the lapel of your opponent
  • With the other hand, grip the sleeve
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Another grip you can use for Harai goshi:

  • With one hand, grip the back or the collar behind your opponent’s neck
  • With the other hand, grip the sleeve

Notice how the blue gi competitor is using the same grip described above

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3. Break your opponent’s balance (Kuzushi)

Throwing your opponent completely off-balance starts by shaking them and putting them slightly off-balance, it goes step by step. You can’t come out of nowhere and attempt a sweep and expect to see your opponent on their back. This will never happen, especially in high-level judo.

Your goal is to:

  1. Put your opponent slightly on their toes and take their heels off the ground.
  2. Make your opponent lean to the side you want to throw them to e.g. if you want to throw them to their right side make them lean to their right side.

How:

  • With the grip you have on the collar behind your opponent’s neck, push them upwards and slightly to the side you want to throw them to. Your push should be as if you are delivering a punch, a punch between a hook and an uppercut. So wrap your fingers tight around the collar, make a strong fist and do your pushing/punching motion.
  • With the grip you have on the sleeve pull upwards and slightly to the side you want to throw your opponent to.
  • When pulling the sleeve upwards, turn your hand palm away and turn your fist towards you. The motion should look as if you want to check your watch.
  • Your head must follow your “imaginary watch”
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If you do all these steps correctly, your opponent will be slightly off-balance, or at least not in a comfortable position to do anything to you.
These are the principles of Kuzushi, drill them on a regular basis, they are useful for all judo throws, not only Harai goshi.

4. Step in

Now is the time to step in your opponent’s grappling range.
In this example, we will assume that you want to throw your opponent to their right side, therefore all the instructions will be accordingly.

  • With your right foot, take a step towards your opponent’s right foot. We will draw an imaginary line in the center between your opponent’s legs, go beyond this centerline.
  • Pivot on your right foot and turn to face the same direction your opponent is facing
  • With your left foot, take a step to the centerline of your opponent’s stance (the imaginary line we have talked about earlier).
  • Now you should be facing the same direction your opponent is facing.
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5. Leave no space

Your back should be glued to your opponent’s belly, no space should be left between you and your opponent.
I see many students making the mistake of trying to execute the throw too soon and too far away from the opponent. Don’t do that!

6. Drop your level

Bend your knees slightly and lower the level of your hips.

Why?

Judo is a game of gravity and the hips are the center of the body’s gravity. Whoever controls that center wins, and you control the center by going under it with your own center of gravity.
This is a very valuable rule, it goes for all judo throws, not only Harai goshi.

7. Hit with the buttocks

50% of the throw is done only by the hips, the buttocks to be precise.
With your buttocks, you should hit your opponent to the groin area or the upper-thigh area. This will help load your opponent on your back easily.

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To help you do the move correctly, imagine as if you want to take your opponent’s place.
For example, if your opponent is standing in point A and you were standing in point B before the throw, you should take your opponent’s place and stand in point A when executing the throw.

8. The sweep

Now you have done most of the work, the sweep is just a finishing touch, it’s not the pillar of the throw. If you have followed all the setup steps to the letter, you should be able to throw your opponent just by rolling them over your back without even having to do the leg sweep.

But obviously, we look for the perfect throw, a throw that your opponent has no chance to escape, even at the highest levels of competition.

How to do the leg sweep:

Kick with your leg backward. Your calf must make contact with your opponent’s upper shin, knee, or the area above the knee. Don’t go higher than that.

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9. Twist the upper body

While executing the sweep, twist your opponent’s upper body to shift all their weight forward.

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  • With your right hand, use the grip of the back collar to push your opponent to the side of the throw and slightly downward.
  • With your left hand, use the sleeve grip to pull your opponent toward the sweeping leg and slightly downward.
  • This motion should be as if you want to drag your opponent in a circular line.
  • Another easy way to assimilate this motion is to move your hands as if you are manipulating a steering wheel.

10. Follow through

Many judo students make the mistake of releasing the opponent once they feel that the throw was a success. This is a big mistake, always keep control of your opponent, even after the throw.

Keep a strong hold on the arm, don’t release the sleeve grip, you will need it to capitalize on the throw.

This is a good example of full control after a successful throw

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Setups and combinations of Harai goshi with other judo throws

Kosoto gari setup for Harai goshi

Okuri ashi barai to Harai goshi

Ko ouchi gari into Harai Goshi

Kouchi Guruma to Harai goshi

Osoto gari into Harai goshi

Uchi mata into Harai goshi

Variations of Harai goshi

Harai goshi for MMA and no gi grappling