Kouchi gari or Ko Uchi gari is one of the most elegant judo throws, it relies extremely on timing and doesn’t require any strength.
I often recommend my smaller students to learn this throw and use it on bigger and stronger opponents.
In this article, you will learn:
- How to do Kouchi gari (a step-by-step guide)
- Successful combinations of Kouchi gari with other throws
- Variations of Kouchi gari
Note that many judo beginners confuse Kouchi gari with Kouchi makikomi.
Step-by-step guide to Kouchi gari
Kouchi gari is a throw that relies extremely on perfect timing, it is a throw that capitalizes on momentum.
There are two ways to initiate a Kouchi gari:
When you are dancing with your opponent, keep an eye on their steps. Wait until your opponent makes a step forward and catch them off guard.
You should time your foot sweep at the exact moment your opponent’s foot is about to make contact with the ground, that’s when their weight is shifted on that leg. Take that supporting leg from under that weight and they will fall down.
This means preparing your opponent to be thrown by making them go toward the direction you want them to fall at.
This is a basic rule in judo, if you want to throw your opponent backward pull them forward and if you want to throw your opponent forward pull them backward.
This is an instinctive reaction in human beings. When you pull someone, their instant reflex is to resist your pull and go the opposite direction, if you push them backward, they will instinctively push forward.
How to apply this on Kouchi gari
Now that you understand this principle, all you have to do is to pull your opponent towards you, obviously, your pulling has to be in a smart way, don’t telegraph it by just pulling them with brute force, always disguise your pulling with a feint.
You can fake a throw, once you feel resistance, it means that your opponent has created momentum to the back, all you have to do is to capitalize on it with a leg reap.
2. Kumi kata or hand gripping
You can do Kouchi gari with several hand grips, but this is the most used grip amongst judo players:
- One hand on the lapel of your opponent
- The other hand gripping the sleeve behind the elbow or the tricep
You must step into the centerline of your opponent.
Let’s assume you want to sweep the right leg of your opponent using your right foot:
- First, take a step with your right foot to the center of your opponent’s stance. Your toes must be facing forward
- Now, take a step with your left foot to join your right foot. Your left foot must be behind your right foot. Also, your left foot toes must be facing to the side
- Both your feet must form a 90° angle.
4. Bend your knees slightly
Don’t stand tall while executing the steps, bend your knees slightly to lower your level.
- Your hips must be very close to your opponent’s hips.
- Move towards your opponent as if you want to stand on the same point they are standing at
6. Break your opponent’s balance (Kuzushi)
Setting up your opponent by putting them slightly off balance is essential to this throw.
- With your lapel grip, push your forearm against your opponent’s chest. Make a fist as if you want to throw an uppercut.
- Now push with your fist up against your opponent’s chin to elevate the head. The body will follow wherever the head goes, so they’ll be slightly out of balance on their toes, which makes them vulnerable to the throw.
7. The foot reap/sweep
You have made all the necessary setups for the throw, now it is time to finish it with a foot sweep.
A. Direction of the sweep
You should sweep your opponent’s foot in a diagonal line, 45° to your left.
Don’t pull their foot directly back to you, this will give your opponent an opportunity to regain balance by “hitting the breaks” which means using the heel to recover balance.
It’s worth mentioning that some judo players like to sweep to the side, this is also correct and effective. Try both directions, experiment with it and see which one suits you and work best for you.
B. What part of your opponent’s foot should you hit?
You should be hitting the back of the heel, don’t go to the ankle or the calf.
C. What part of your foot should you use for the sweep?
- Rotate the sole of the foot to the direction you want to sweep to
- Scoop your foot and bend your toes as if you want to grip your opponent’s heel with your foot
- Use the arch of your foot for the sweep. Your opponent’s heel must be trapped in the arch of your foot. Don’t sweep with the ball of your foot.
This is a good drill for the sweep
8. Put the hip behind your sweep
Sweep as if you want to pass the ball in soccer, you can’t pass the ball by just moving the part below the knee, you should engage the whole leg down from the hip.
If you sweep with just the part below the knee you will have no power behind your sweep.
9. Twist the upper body and push downward
Now that you have reaped the foot:
- Twist the upper body of your opponent
- Push your opponent to the ground.
10. Sometimes you have to follow your opponent down
In some cases, you face some resistance and the opponent doesn’t fall down in a clean fashion, that’s when you have to hook their foot or behind the calf, then push and follow them to the ground.
Don’t confuse this with Kouchi makikomi, Kouchi makikoumi has different mechanics although the same principle.