Ippon seoi nage, one armed shoulder throw, is one of the most impressive throws in judo. Since its invention in Japan many martial arts have added this technique to their arsenal, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Krav Maga and even MMA.
In this article, you will learn how to do Ippon seoi nage with all its variations.
Before getting into the step-by step guide enjoy this beautiful compilation of Ippon seoi nage throws
There are different variations of Ippon seoi nage. In this section, we will demonstrate the most basic way to do this technique, then we will get to the other variations once you have mastered the basics.
1. Break your opponent’s balance by putting them on their toes
Don’t ever try to initiate a throw without setting it up by breaking your opponent’s balance.
The key here is to never attempt an ippon seoi nage on a flat-footed opponent, this is a big no-no! Start by putting them on their toes by pulling forward.
2. Establish your grip (Also known as Kumi Kata in Judo)
The grip battle between you and your opponent is called in judo Kumi Kata, this is where you must get the best grip for yourself depending on which throw you want to execute, also this is where you must deny your opponent from getting a good grip which can cause you to be thrown in the air.
In this tutorial, we will assume that you want to throw your opponent by using their right arm, so all instructions will be according to this assumption.
Now, how to establish your grip for Ippon seoi nage?
- With your right hand, grab your opponent from their left lapel, just around their left shoulder.
- With your left hand, grab your opponent from under their right elbow using their gi for a solid grip.
3. Step in
Both your feet are parallel to your opponent’s feet, now step with your right foot towards their right foot.
Remember, although this move is broken down into steps for an educational purpose, the execution of these steps must be automatic and smooth. all these steps must be executed almost simultaneously.
4. Elevate your opponent
Now that you have stepped in with your foot, you must elevate your opponent in order for you to get under them.
Use the grip you have on their right elbow and lift their elbow up, the arm will follow and their armpit will be exposed.
If you lift your opponent’s arm up along with executing the first step which is pulling them forward and putting them on their toes, your opponent will be off-balance and all set to be thrown.
5. Get under their arm
It’s time to get in full contact against your opponent’s body:
- Release the grip you have on their lapel with your right hand
- Slide your right arm under your opponent’s armpit while still pulling them towards you using the elbow grip you have with your left hand
- Your opponent’s armpit should not be placed above your trapezius. This will expose your neck for a rear-naked choke, keep their armpit on the side of your deltoid.
- Wrap your arm around your opponent’s shoulder and grip their gi from the top of their shoulder.
- Now you have your opponent tied with two strong grips, one from the elbow and the other from the shoulder.
- A common mistake that some practitioners make is they place their arm under the elbow instead of the shoulder.
Don’t place your opponent’s arm on your trapezius or around the neck
6. Corkscrew motion
Now, it’s time to make the turn and face the same direction as your opponent:
- In step number 3, we have already explained how to step with your right foot towards your opponent’s left foot.
- Now, pivot on your right foot and turn to face the same direction your opponent is facing
- By this, you will stick your back against your opponent’s belly
- While making the turn, step with your left towards your opponent, now both of your feet must be facing the same direction your opponent is facing.
- Both your feet must be parallel
- Make sure to keep a short distance between your feet. The distance between your feet shouldn’t be greater than the distance between your opponent’s feet. You should be inside your opponent’s legs not outside.
- Make sure to go low under your opponent’s hips. Their hips are the center of their gravity. If you want the throw to be successful you must control their center of gravity by going under it.
- Bending your knees will help you lower your hips under your opponent’s hips
- Your body must be glued to your opponent’s body. Stick your back to their belly and your butts under their hips. Don’t leave any space between you and your opponent, this is crucial.
- When bending the knees, don’t stay flat-footed, your heels must be off the mat. Stand slightly on your toes, this will help the mechanism of the throw.
7. Finalize the throw
The hard part is done! Now all you have to do is to finalize the throw which is the easy and fun part:
- All the previous steps were purely technical, now it’s time to use force for the throw
- Get under your opponent and lift them as if you want to lift a sandbag on your back
- Now your opponent is carried on your back
- Drop your opponent on the ground
- Your opponent should be dropped in front of you, if it happens that they drop in your side, then something is wrong with your Ippon seoi nage.
Check this visual guide
Knee-drop Ippon seoi nage
Sometimes you see judo players dropping on their knees to finalize the throw, this technique has a high success ratio, that’s why many high-level judo players use it.
Also, a part of its success is due to the fact that it prevents the opponent from countering with a throw of their own.
How to do a knee-drop Ippon seoi nage?
The setup of the knee drop Ippon seoi nage is the same as the standing Ippon seoi nage, so use all the previous steps and follow the ones below:
1. Don’t flop and drop
When dropping on your knees don’t flop and drop, instead, use a corkscrew motion and spin under your opponent.
When dropping on your knees, make sure to go knee by knee in order to avoid injuring your knees especially while drilling.
2. Knees inside your opponent’s feet
Don’t spread your knees, keep them tight between your opponent’s legs.
3. Feet position
When you are on your knees your feet should not be flat on the insteps, instead, they should be standing on the ball. This is the mechanism that will help you push against the ground without slipping.
4. Back position
Your upper back should be against your opponent’s groin, your whole body should be placed under your opponent.
5. Don’t drop too soon
Do not drop while your body is still away from your opponent, make your turn first and stick your back against your opponent’s body, once this position is secured, get on your knees.
6. Finalize the throw
Now that you have made the necessary prerequisite steps you can finalize the throw:
- Don’t load your opponent on your back
- Just pull their arm towards the ground by using a corkscrew motion and their body will follow.
- Remember step number 3 “stay on the balls of your feet”? This is where it comes in handy. Use the balls of your feet to push against the ground in order to prevent yourself from slipping.
- Congrats! Your opponent is no longer standing, your throw was a success!
Capitalize on your throw
Once you have your opponent on the ground do not release their arm and let them go, if you release their arm your opponent will roll and get back on their feet. Instead, keep your hold on their arm and once they hit the ground push forward to transition to the ground game.
Depending on the rules you are playing under you can:
- Pin your opponent down if you are playing under judo or wrestling rules
- Transition to a submission if you are playing under judo or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu rules.
- Secure your top position and start ground and pound if you are doing MMA or in a self-defense situation.
Check this visual guide
In order to master the throw, you should drill it constantly hundreds of times until it becomes second nature. Your goal is to achieve a mastery level where you are not thinking about the steps of the technique, it should come out naturally.
Now that you have mastered the concept behind this throw, let’s get to the different variations of Ippon seoi nage
10 variations of Ippon seoi nage:
1. Off the grip
2. Lapel and sleeve
3. Just the lapel
4. Armpit grip
5. Double sleeve
6. Arm trap
7. Arm wrap (used heavily in wrestling)
8. Drop left and throw right (and vice versa)
9. Cross lapel
10. Cross grip
Ippon seoi nage Vs. Seoi nage
Many beginners ask the question: What is the difference between Ippon seoi nage and Seoi nage?
The answer is: 99% of the time when a judo practitioner says Seoi nage they mean Ippon seoi nage.
Ippon Seoi nage means one armed shoulder throw, so this is the full name of the throw. But due to the length of the appellation, the majority of judo practitioners just use the short version “Seoi nage”.
There are other judo techniques finishing with “seoi nage” such as Morote seoi nage which means two armed shoulder throw. But when judo players want to shorten the name of this throw they use the term “Morote” not “seoi nage”.
To sum it up for you, when you hear seoi nage from a judo practitioner, it is the same as Ippon seoi nage.
Other names for Ippon seoi nage
- Arm spin
- Shoulder throw
- One-armed shoulder throw
- Japanese Whizzer
- Over-the-shoulder arm drag
How to avoid getting your back taken when doing Ippon seoi nage?
One of the biggest problems with Ippon seoi nage especially in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA is that it has high risks of getting your back taken by your opponent and therefore getting choked.
Do not attempt a classic Ippon seoi nage -Like the one we broke down at the beginning of this article- against a high level brazilian jiu jitsu practitioner.
BJJ practitioners develop an automatic instinct of taking the back wherever they see a glimpse of an opportunity. Instead, go for a variation of Ippon seoi nage where you trap your opponent’s arm and pin your opponent’s shoulder once you hit the mat.
Judo master Kathy Hubble has done a great job of explaining this variation, watch and enjoy!