Okuri ashi harai or Okuri ashi barai is a foot throwing technique in judo, this technique consists of sweeping both feet of the opponent laterally.
Do not confuse it with De ashi harai, although they both belong to the same family of foot sweeping throws, Okuri ashi harai sweeps both feet while De ashi harai sweeps only one foot.
Okuri ashi barai
Here is a scene from John Wick where he executes a beautiful Okuri ashi barai
Please note that in this article, we will be using Okuri ashi harai and Okuri ashi barai interchangeably as they both represent the same throw.
In this article, you will learn:
- How to do Okuri ashi harai in a step-by-step guide
- Combinations of Okuri ashi harai with other judo throws
- Variations of Okuri ashi harai
How to do Okuri ashi harai (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.
Okuri ashi barai is a throw that relies 100% on footwork, you can’t apply it on a static opponent. Many judo throws can easily be applied successfully on static opponents, but not this one.
There is no hip involved in this throw, strength is useless for Okuri ashi harai.
You have to make your opponent dance with you left and right, don’t telegraph it by only going sideways, go to all directions, feint with throws that you don’t intend to apply, create patterns in your opponent’s head.
Once you notice that your opponent has been successfully hypnotized, surprise them and execute your real throw.
2. Direction of the throw
Okuri ashi harai is a lateral throw, you have to use footwork laterally and sweep your opponent to their side. If you go forward or backward, it is better to apply De ashi barai (One foot sweep).
3. Time it perfectly
Okuri ashi harai is a throw that relies extremely on perfect timing, you will never succeed in sweeping both feet of your opponent if their legs are spread up and they are adopting a wide stance.
Ask anyone of your surrounding to stand in a wide stance and try to sweep both their feet, it is going to be physically impossible.
Now ask the same person to stand in a narrow stance where both feet are very close to each other and try again, you will realize that it is very easy to sweep both feet.
Now that you understand the mechanism of the throw, your goal is to catch your opponent at the exact moment when they take a step and both their feet become close to each other.
If you miss that opportunity you will have to wait and keep dancing and using footwork until the opportunity presents itself again.
Perfect timing is a skill like any other skill you learn in judo, you have to drill it with your training partner for hours and hours until it becomes second nature.
You shouldn’t be thinking about it, you have to feel and execute it without thinking, just like a reflex. This will take time to build, this the difference between a high-level judoka and an average one.
Notice the perfect timing
Now that you understand the basics of the throw, let’s get to the more practical steps.
4. Get a good grip (Kumi kata)
Okuri ashi harai doesn’t rely much on the grip, the grip has a secondary role in the success of the throw.
Okuri ashi harai is not like Uchi mata or Ippon seoi nage where you have to use the grip to toss the opponent.
I have seen some judokas executing successful Okuri ashi harai throws without even touching the opponent with their hands, just perfect timing as explained in step number 3.
With that being said, you shouldn’t miss out on any bit of advantage you can get, especially at high-level competition where matches are won with small details.
The most standard grip to use for Okuri ashi harai is this one:
- With one hand, grip the lapel of your opponent
- With the other hand, grip the sleeve of your opponent
This is not a mandatory grip for the throw, you can change the lapel grip by grabbing the back of the gi, above the shoulder, etc.
Also, you can change the sleeve grip by grabbing the elbow or the tricep.
5. How to sweep
- Turn the sole of your foot towards the outside of your opponent’s ankle
- Trap their ankle within the arch of your foot. The arch of the foot can serve as a trap.
- Make contact with the lower part of your opponent’s foot, the lower you go the more effective the sweep will be. Sometimes in competition things may get chaotic and you may not be able to go very low on the foot, just go as low as you can below the calf.
- As explained in step number 3 (timing), the foot you are going to sweep is already moving towards the other foot, so all you have to do is to capitalize on the momentum and push it even further to touch the other foot and take it off the ground
- What will happen is that your opponent’s first swept foot will go at high velocity and it will hit their second foot and both legs will go off the ground.
6. Here is when you should make contact
The moment of making contact with the opponent’s foot is decisive to the success of the throw.
When your opponent takes a step to the side, you should wait until their first foot gets closer to their second foot, the closer it is the more successful the throw will be.
Important note: I cannot stress this enough! Do not wait until the first foot touches the ground. If you wait until it touches the ground, the sweep will become harder and your opponent will have relatively a solid base because both of their feet are on the ground.
Wait until the first foot gets as close as it can to the second foot, then make contact with it and sweep it while IT IS STILL IN THE AIR.
7. Sweep from the hip
When you execute the sweep, move your whole leg, the power has to come from the hip.
Many judo beginners make the mistake of only moving the lower part of the leg below the knee joint. You won’t have much force in your sweep with that.
Your sweep must be stiff and strong to kick your opponent’s legs from under them.
This does not mean that you should keep your leg straight and stiff as a baseball bat, no. Keep it flexible like a whip, then flex your leg’s muscles once the contact is made.
The closest example I give to my students is this one; I always tell them to sweep like a soccer player who wants to pass the ball.
Soccer players pass the ball with the inside of the foot, the ball can go for tens of meters with high precision because the pass comes from the hip.
Notice how Cristiano Ronaldo used his whole leg for the pass
8. Twist the upper body
Sometimes in competition matches, things get messy and chaotic and the sweep doesn’t apply perfectly. That’s when you have to twist your opponent’s upper body to the opposite direction of the sweep.
f the sweep is going left, you have to twist your opponent’s upper body to the right, and vice versa.
Use a little bit of force to bring the opponent’s upper body down to the ground while their legs are flying up in the air. This move doesn’t require a great amount of force, just use the lapel grip and sleeve grip in a rotative motion towards the ground.