How To Do Tai Otoshi: Step-by-Step Guide

Tai otoshi is a judo throw that relies heavily on upper body strength, unlike other judo techniques that rely uniquely on technique, feints, and deception.


In this article, you will learn:

  • How to do Tai otoshi (step-by-step guide)
  • Setups and combinations for Tai otoshi
  • Variations of Tai otoshi

How to do Tai Otoshi (Step-by-step guide)

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 with a good hand grip (Kumi kata)

Before attempting any kind of throw on your opponent, you should first establish a dominant position by having a good grip on your opponent.

Tai otoshi can be done from several grips, the most basic grip is this one:

  • With one hand, grip on the lapel of your opponent
  • With the other hand, grip on the sleeve of your opponent

2. Fake with a combination

High-level judo is a game of combinations, you can’t survive amongst the best judokas if you are a one-trick pony.

High-level judokas can see a throw coming miles away, that is why you should always hide your real throws behind fake throws to set up your opponent.

One of the simplest feints is to fake an Uchi mata then go straight to your Tai otoshi.

We have a full video below explaining the possible setups and combinations for Tai otoshi.

3. Kuzushi (Breaking opponent’s balance)

Like the majority of judo throws, you have to go through the step of breaking your opponent’s balance slightly before attempting Tai otoshi.
Don’t attempt Tai otoshi if your opponent is still in full balance, this might get you countered.

How to break your opponent’s balance and set them up for a Tai otoshi?

  • Use your lapel grip as a pushing mechanism: make a solid fist, twist the lapel slightly, push your forearm against your opponent’s chest and press up with your fist from under your opponent’s chin as if you want to throw an uppercut. Your fist must go upward and slightly towards the direction you want to throw them to.
  • Your elbow must stay vertical to support your “uppercut”
  • With the grip you have on the sleeve, pull your opponent upward and at the same time toward the direction you want to throw them to.

Your kuzushi is complete now, your opponent is on the toes, ready to be thrown.

4. Entry

Tai otoshi is all about footwork, you must execute the right steps to be in a perfect position to throw your opponent.

The 3-steps entry

In order to enter, you must execute these 3 steps.
Please note that our guide is based on the assumption that you will throw your opponent to their right side.

Step 1: with your right, take a short step towards the right foot of your opponent. Don’t get too close, just go in that direction. Your right foot’s toes must be facing your opponent’s right foot.


Step 2: Take a circular step with your left foot. When taking that circular step with the left, you must pivot at the same time with your right. Now you are almost facing the same direction your opponent is facing.


Step 3: Extend your right leg in front of your opponent’s right leg. This leg is going to serve as the tripping mechanism of the throw.


5. Flat-footed Tai otoshi Vs. flexible Tai otoshi

In this step, we are going to talk about the tripping leg, the right leg that you have already placed in front of your opponent’s right leg to use it as a tripping mechanism.

Judokas around the world place this tripping leg in two ways:

Flat-footed Tai otoshi: Where they extend the leg, keep it straight, toes facing forward and the whole sole of the foot stays in contact with the ground.

Flexible Tai otoshi: Flexible Tai Otoshi is when you point your right foot’s toes to the same direction your left foot’s toes are pointed. In this Tai otoshi the right foot must be on the ball instead of being flat like in the previous method.

Which one to choose?

I always advise my students to go for the flexible Tai otoshi for one big and significant reason:

The flat-footed tai otoshi will get you injured

This is one of the biggest disadvantages of the flat-footed Tai otoshi, I have seen it many times in judo competitions.
If your opponent decides to press with their knee against the side of your knee joint, you will be at a great risk of tearing your knee ligaments.

Your knee can’t bend sideways, so there is no flexibility if your opponent drops all their weight on it.
Meanwhile, the flexible Tai otoshi, as its name suggests, has great leverage and can resist any downward pressure from the opponent just by bending and going down with the pressure.


6. Don’t stand back against belly with your opponent

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see students making. Avoid standing in front of your opponent with your back facing their front side. In other words, avoid being in a parallel line with your opponent.


You should be on a different axis than your opponent, creating a small angle with both your stances.
While your right foot is directly glued to your opponent’s right leg, keep your left foot on a different axis, slightly forward.



The answer in one word: Leverage

If you execute Tai otoshi in a parallel line with your opponent and they counter you, you will be in big trouble, they will have the upper hand because your legs are in the same line, so you will be more vulnerable to be put off-balance.

Meanwhile, if you are standing with your left leg slightly forward and your opponent counters, you will still have the leverage to adjust your tripping leg or even transition to another throw.


7. Keep your body weight in the middle

Don’t lean too much on one leg, your body weight must be distributed almost evenly between both your legs.

8. Finish with a circular motion of the upper body

In the instructions above, we have put great emphasis on what you should do with your lower body, now is the time to break down what should you do with your upper body.
The motion of the throw is simple, you should make your opponent trip over your leg by twisting their upper body and driving it in a circular line.
This circular motion relies heavily on step number 3: Kuzushi.


To make it easier for you, imagine your leg as a tripwire and you want your opponent to walk and trip over it. You can’t make someone trip over a wire if they are standing still, they have to walk and move forward. Make your opponent move towards your tripwire.

This upper body motion requires a significant amount of strength, your core muscles must be strong along with your pushing and pulling power. Weightlifting can bring tremendous help for this kind of throw.

Setups and combinations for Tai otoshi

In step number 2 “fake with a combination”, we explained the importance of combinations, feints and bluffs in judo to avoid telegraphing your real upcoming throw.

Watch this video to understand the possible combinations and setups for Tai otoshi

Variations of Tai otoshi

Drop Knee Tai otoshi

One handed Tai otoshi

Other variations