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

Yoko wakare is a throwing technique in judo, it is classified under Sutemi waza, which is the category of sacrifice throws.


In this article, you will learn:

  1. How to do Yoko wakare in a step-by-step guide
  2. Variations of Yoko wakare

It is worth mentioning that Yoko wakare has many variations depending on the type of grip and the angle. In the variation section, we will break down every version of Yoko wakare.

But for now, let’s start with the standard version of Yoko wakare.

How to do Yoko wakare (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 sacrifice throw

Yoko wakare is a sacrifice throw, which means you have to sacrifice yourself by going to the ground in order to be able to throw your opponent to the ground.

It is not the kind of throw where you toss your opponent in the air and you stay standing clean, you have to “get to the mud” with your opponent.

With that being said, here is a golden rule in judo: Don’t ever sacrifice yourself if you don’t have to.

What does this rule mean?

A sacrifice throw is a high-risk throw, sometimes you may sacrifice yourself but the throw doesn’t get completed and you end up at the bottom and your opponent on top.

If you can use a “cleaner” throw, do it and avoid sacrificing yourself.

2. Use momentum

Yoko wakare is a throw that relies extremely on momentum, it is not a throw that you execute on a static target. It may work sometimes on a non-moving opponent, but the majority of the times it won’t, and you will end up at the bottom and your opponent on top.


3. How to use Yoko wakare offensively?

Yoko wakare can be used offensively by triggering a response in the opponent, then using their momentum for the throw.

You can use your opponent’s momentum in two ways:

A. Footwork

The direction of the throw for Yoko wakare is backward, you have to throw your opponent to your back, which means your opponent has to be advancing forward.

Making your opponent walk in the same direction you want to throw them to is no easy task, you have to use footwork and dance with them left and right, forward and backward until you give them a false sense of security, once they start walking in the direction of Yoko wakare, surprise them and hit them with it.

Notice  how the white gi competitor was very fluid in his footwork, he hypnotized his opponent by going with him to every direction, then he surprised him with a nice Yoko wakare


Note that you should never “dance” with your opponent with only one throw in mind, you should always have two or three throws in mind, each one should be working in a different direction.

Having only one throw in mind will make you a one-trick pony and you won’t be able to survive against high-level judokas.

B. Use the resistance reflex

This is a fundamental rule in judo: if you want your opponent to come forward, push them backward, and if you want your opponent to go backward, pull them towards you.

This is a basic reflex in human beings -and all mammals-. Evolution has made us this way, when we encounter a sudden dangerous force, our reflex is to go against it without thinking.

This reflex has kept us safe for millions of years. Judo and other grappling arts are famous for exploiting this “loophole”.

Now back to Yoko wakare, push your opponent repeatedly until you feel them pushing back, then use their forward momentum and surprise them with a Yoko wakare.

Notice how the grey gi BJJ player pushed his opponent for a couple of seconds until his opponent started pushing back, then he surprised him with a nice Yoko wakare


4. How to use Yoko wakare defensively?

Yoko wakare can also be used as a counter-attack, this is where its beauty remains. Yoko wakare can be your last resort and your hail mary to victory.

Why is Yoko wakare a last resort counter-attack?

usually, a counter-attacking throw has to intercept the opponent’s attack, which means it has to happen in the middle or before the opponent finishes their attacking throw. Timing is key!

For Yoko wakare, the situation is a little bit different. Why?

Yoko wakare takes place in most cases after the opponent has successfully landed their throw, you usually execute it while you are in the air as a last resort counter-attack.

Let’s see some examples of Yoko wakare as a counter-attack

Yoko wakare as a counter to O goshi


Yoko wakare as a counter to De ashi harai


This kid does an amazing job by countering with a hail mary Yoko wakare after being thrown with an Osoto gari


Now that we have visited all the important theoretical principles of Yoko wakare, let’s get to the practical steps.

5. What grip to use?

Yoko wakare can be executed with several grips, some grips are interchangeable, others are different to the point where they create different variations of Yoko wakare. (there is a full section below dedicated to all the different variations of Yoko wakare)

Here is the standard grip:

  1. With one hand, grip the lapel of your opponent
  2. With the other hand, grip the sleeve

6. Step in

This is the stage where you initiate the throw. Don’t initiate the throw until you feel enough momentum coming from your opponent (steps 3 & 4).

In this example, we will assume that you are gripping the lapel with your right hand and the sleeve with your left hand.

  • With your right foot, take a step in a diagonal line to the right side of your opponent
  • This step will help you generate force to throw your opponent
  • The step has to be always to the side of the sleeve grip

7. Drop perpendicularly

  • This is where you sacrifice yourself in order to do the throw.
  • Drop in front of your opponent. Your body must be perpendicular to your opponent

8. Toss your opponent

  • While you are still in the air, and in an explosive fashion, pull your opponent from the lapel and the sleeve and rotate backward, then toss them to your back
  • Remember step 6 when you took a step with your right foot to the right side of your opponent? Well, this is the time where it comes in handy. Use that leg to generate more force for the throw by pushing against the ground.

9. Maintain control

Don’t make the mistake of releasing your opponent once the throw is a success.

Release the lapel but keep gripping the sleeve, once you are on the ground, use the sleeve grip to pull yourself towards your opponent and get on top.

Congrats! Your Yoko wakare is a success.

Variations of Yoko wakare

Reverse Yoko wakare

Yoko wakare using figure four grip

Yoko wakare – Sambo’s Arm Through Legs Throw

Back grip Yoko wakare

Yoko Wakare – Bat Choke combo

Overhook Yoko wakare

No gi Yoko wakare

Modified version of Yoko wakare using Tai sabaki