How To Do Tsubame Gaeshi in Judo: Step-by-Step Guide

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Tsubame gaeshi is a foot throwing technique in judo. It is translated to “swallow counter”, which makes it a fully counter-attacking technique.

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In this article, you will learn how to do Tsubame gaeshi in a step-by-step guide.


How to do Tsubame gaeshi (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. Use it as a counter-attack


Tsubame gaeshi is a purely counter-attacking throw, its main purpose is to counter these two throws:

A. De ashi harai (also called De ashi barai): If you don’t know how to do De ashi harai, we have dedicated a full guide to it, check it here.

De ashi harai

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B. Okuri ashi harai: This is a throw similar to De ashi harai except that both feet are swept (If you don’t know how to do Okuri ashi harai, we have a full step-by-step guide dedicated to it, check it here).

Okuri ashi harai

The main functionality of Tsubame gaeshi is to counter the throws mentioned above, so you have to dance with your opponent and wait until they attempt one of the two throws, and go for a countering Tsubame gaeshi.

2. Time it right

Since Tsubame gaeshi is a counter throw by nature, it relies extremely on timing. Your counterattack has to be timed perfectly in order to throw your opponent successfully.

In order to build perfect timing, you have to be able to read your opponent’s patterns.

One thing I have learned over years and years of national and international competition is that every judoka has their own patterns.

What does that mean?

Regardless of their level, every judoka has a certain number of preferred throws, preferred feints, and preferred combos they go for subconsciously in a match.

That’s the nature of competition, it gets so fast and chaotic in a judo match that judokas start to act on autopilot.

This is a general rule that goes for all judo counters, not only Tsubame gaeshi.

Now how to counter with Tsubame gaeshi?

A. Footwork

Judokas who like to use De ashi harai and Okuri ashi harai tend to use footwork sideways.

You will notice that they will lure you to go along and dance with them to the right then to the left until they give you a false sense of security then they suddenly go for a foot sweep. That’s the main trait to keep a close eye on!

Your role in this is to go along and dance with your opponent, let them think that they have been successful in hypnotizing you, once they go for the sweep seize the opportunity and counter with a Tsubame gaeshi.

This is a good example explaining the concept

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It sounds easy and simple to read your opponent’s patterns and counter them, but it is very challenging and it requires hundreds of hours of practice and drills.

You have to practice it until it becomes second nature, you shouldn’t be thinking about it in a match, you have to act as if it is a reflex, just like driving your car.

B. Feints

Also, pay close attention to feints, a judoka who likes to throw their opponents using foot sweeps like De ashi harai and Okuri ashi harai tend to do foot sweep feints to see how the opponent reacts.

Once they see how the opponent responds, they go for a real foot sweep.

Notice in this example how the attacker feinted sweeps more than once, the other judoka was successful to read this pattern, he waited for his opponent to do it for the third time, then he brilliantly countered him with a Tsubame gaeshi.

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This is not an exact science, it is something you start to feel with experience and practice. If you spend enough time in drills and sparring, you will start seeing throws coming miles away.

3. How to sweep?


In order to understand how to move your foot, you should know the origin of the throw first.

Tsubame gaeshi is translated to swallow counter as a tribute to a sword strike made famous by the legendary Kojirō Sasaki, a famous Japanese swordsman who rivaled Miyamoto Musashi.

Kojirō Sasaki called his sword strike Tsubame gaeshi because it mimics the motion of a swallow’s tail when it is flying, and also because the strike is so fast to the point it can cut a bird in the air.

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Now that you understand the origin of the throw, follow these instructions:

A. Lift your foot up as if you want to bring your heel to your hamstring to dodge your opponent’s foot sweep. Don’t go very high with your foot, knee level would be fine.

B. bring your foot down without letting it touch the ground

C. now that your foot and your opponent’s foot are the air, make contact with your opponent’s foot and push to the same direction of their original throw.

So if your opponent’s sweep was going to the left, you must capitalize on the momentum and push their feet even further to the left, and vice versa.

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4. What part of your foot should you use?

You must use the sole of your foot, and more precisely the arch of your foot.

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5. What part of your opponent’s foot should you make contact with?

You should turn the sole of your foot towards the outside of your opponent’s ankle and trap it within the arch of your foot.
Sometimes in competition things get chaotic and you can’t get the ankle exactly, just remember to go as low as you can below the calf.

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6. The sweep has to come from the hip

Many beginners make the mistake of using only the lower part of the leg for the sweep by only moving the part below the knee.

This is a mistake, the sweep has little to no force when it is executed by only moving the knee joint. The force has to be generated from the hip and the whole leg has to move.

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Sweep like a soccer player

Have you ever seen a soccer player passing the ball by only moving the knee? Of course not, a soccer player can pass the ball with high precision for more than 50 meters by using the whole leg as a mechanism.

Notice how Cristiano Ronaldo used his whole leg for the pass

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7. Twist the upper body

Sometimes even if your foot sweep has been executed to perfection the opponent doesn’t lose balance completely.
That’s when you have to help the throw by twisting your opponent’s upper body.

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You have to twist the upper body to the opposite direction of the sweep, so if you have swept your opponent’s foot towards the right, you have to twist their upper body to the left and vice versa.