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

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Yoko otoshi is a side sacrificing throw where you have to sacrifice your own balance to throw your opponent on the ground.

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In this article, you will learn:

  • How to do Yoko otoshi (Step-by-step guide)
  • Variations of Yoko otoshi

How to do Yoko otoshi (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. Get a good grip (Kumi kata)

Grip fighting is the first step of all judo throws, your goal must be getting the most dominant grip and giving your opponent the least dominant grip over you. That’s a very important battle.

Yoko otoshi can be executed from multiple grips -as you will see below in the chapter “variations of Yoko otoshi-. Here is the standard grip to use:

  • With one hand, grip the opponent’s lapel
  • With the other hand, grip the opponent’s sleeve
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2. Don’t telegraph: Fake and deceive

Judo is an art of deception, you must learn to program your opponent on one thing, then surprise them with something else, it’s called “creating patterns”.

Attempt one type of technique, twice or thrice until your opponent starts to believe that they have you figured out, once they start anticipating the same technique, go for another one and you will surprise them.

It sounds simple, but the difficulty of deceiving and faking remains in having to create patterns in your opponent’s head, and at the same time, it remains in having to read what your opponent is doing, and also figuring out the patterns they are creating in your mind.

You have to be a multitasker judoka and do both things simultaneously, decyphering your opponent’s patterns and creating your own. That’s the difference between a high-level judoka and an average one.

3. Kuzushi

The next step is to set up your opponent for Yoko otoshi by putting them slightly off-balance, this step in judo is called Kuzushi, it is used to set up almost all judo throws.

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The goal of kuzushi is to put the opponent on their toes and make them lean slightly forward.

  • Use the lapel grip to form a fist, tighten your grip, press your forearm against your opponent’s chest.
  • Now with the same arm, push upward as if you want to deliver an uppercut, this will force your opponent’s heels to go off the ground.
  • Use the sleeve grip to pull upward and toward you. Your hand palm should be facing outside and your wrist should be facing inside. The motion should be as if you want to take a look at your watch.

4. Direction of the throw

In order to execute a correct Yoko otoshi you have to understand which direction the throw must go to.

Yoko otoshi is a throw that goes to the side. Many beginners confuse it with Tani otoshi that goes backward or Uki waza that goes forward.
These three throws are very similar to each other, the biggest factor that differentiates them from each other is the direction.

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5. Footwork is key for the throw

Now that you are fully aware of the direction of the throw, you must know that footwork is key to make your opponent go in the same direction the throw will go.

You can’t execute a Yoko otoshi if your opponent is pulling in the opposite direction, that is why you have to use footwork and “dance” with your opponent until you make them walk in the same direction you want them to walk to.

Don’t telegraph it by pulling only to one direction, if you are playing against a high-level judoka, they will see it coming from miles away. Mesmerize your opponent by going to all directions, sometimes pull, other times push, this will confuse them and prevent them from knowing your intents.

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Another tip in the footwork game, don’t ever dance with your opponent with only one throw in mind, you shouldn’t do footwork with only one target.
You should always have two or three throws in mind ready to be executed whenever the occasion presents itself.
The three throws should have different directions and different mechanics and should be completing each other.

6. Sacrifice your balance and trip your opponent

Yoko otoshi is a sacrifice throw, it is not like other judo throws where you toss your opponent clean in the air and stay standing. You have to sacrifice your own balance to take your opponent’s balance away from them.

  • Drop to your side and straighten your leg in front of you. Your leg is the tripping mechanism (the fulcrum)
  • Your leg must be placed against the lower part of your opponent’s leg, from the calf down.
  • Now use the grips you have on the lapel and the sleeve to force your opponent to go down with you. Also, force them to follow you to the side.
  • Your pulling doesn’t have to be extremely strong, just keep your grips tight and fall down, the laws of physics will force your opponent to go down with you.
  • When falling down, turn your torso slightly to the side (to the same direction of the throw)
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7. Keep control of your opponent

Once your opponent is down, don’t make the mistake of releasing them and losing control:

  • Release the lapel grip
  • Keep gripping the sleeve
  • Now use your free hand that was gripping the lapel to grip the sleeve. You should now be gripping the sleeve with both hands. One hand is also okay, but both hands will grant you better control.
  • Don’t stay laying on your back with your opponent away from you, follow them, and get on top. Once you are on top, you will have more options to transition to ground fighting or pin them.
  • Keep in mind that if the throw is successful, you will be one step ahead of your opponent, so even when you are on your back and your opponent is falling away from you on their back, you will always be one step ahead and you will be faster to react and get on top. A thrown opponent on the ground is always surprised and their brain will take more time to process what happened. You, on the other hand, you planned it, you know what’s coming up.

Variations of Yoko otoshi