Kote gaeshi: how to counter it

Introduction

Given that I've just analysed the application of kote gaeshi (wrist out turn throw/projection/lock) I thought I'd discuss methods of countering it. But before I do that I thought I'd first clarify what kote gaeshi is (in other words, the purpose of this technique).

Lock or throw/projection?

Kote gaeshi is, first and foremost, a wrist lock. If it is performed quickly it can act as a wrist break - particularly if, as I previously mentioned, you put your whole body weight behind the technique and harness your attacker's momentum. When a small joint bears such weight and momentum, the result can be devastating.

The reason kote gaeshi is regarded as a throw or projection is not because it necessarily results in your attacker falling. Indeed, when I apply kote gaeshi to an untrained person, I've noticed that 9 times out of 10 the person will just stand there crying out in pain as the lock is applied. In those cirumstances I have to be careful, as the person will take no action to relieve the stress on the wrist.

A trained student will however "go with the flow" - usually by falling. This immediately takes the strain off the wrist joint. It is this tendency that leads people to call kote gaeshi a "throw" or "projection". When faced with a choice of severely strained or snapped wrist on one hand, or being thrown on the other, I would choose the latter each time.1

But this raises the question - how should one fall when kote gaeshi is applied? There are 3 options:

Option #1: escaping kote gaeshi with a forward flip

I've noticed that when kote gaeshi is applied to a person, the natural tendency is for the person's opposite shoulder to roll in towards the wrist.

One can capitalise on this natural tendency and throw the shoulder in even further - leading to a forward flip. This is the option preferred by arts like Daito ryu jujutsu and aikido. The forward flip deals directly with the pressure on the wrist as the twist is undone - and is undone very sharply.

The problem with this approach is that while it works well enough on a padded dojo floor, flipping oneself in the street is an entirely different matter. Surfaces like concrete or bitumen are hard and unforgiving - especially when they are studded with loose blue metal gravel (as I once experienced). I would have thought a forward flip should be very much an option of "last resort".

It is important to note that I am not disparaging the skill of aikidoka and jujutsu practitioners in doing the forward flip: I can see how such falling practise is very useful. Clearly there are instances where you might need to resort to flipping yourself - and developing a good breakfall can make the difference between bruises or broken bones.

But in the end, I think there are safer ways of "falling into" kote gaeshi.

Option #2: escaping kote gaeshi by falling backward

While it is not one's first instinct, it is possible to learn to throw the opposite shoulder back when kote gaeshi is applied. This will result in a backward (rather than forward) fall. In my dojo this is preferred to option #1.

The beauty of this type of falling is that it permits you to collapse into a backward roll. Such a roll takes the "edge" off impacting on hard ground. It also permits you to continue rolling back onto your feet. As with option #1, the roll "undoes" the kote gaeshi wrist twist, but in this case it does so without risking a heavy impact on a hard surface.

Option #3: escaping kote gaeshi falling into a counter lock

However falling onto the ground is by no means the only way of countering a kote gaeshi. If you catch your attacker's lock at the right time, you can instead fall into a counter lock. One such counter lock is demonstrated in the adjacent gif.

You will note from this gif and the video below (which details this method of countering kote gaeshi) that you should fall into the lock in much the same way as with option #1 - ie. by rolling your opposite shoulder in. As I discussed earlier, this is arguably the natural reaction to a kote gaeshi. However, instead of doing a forward flip, you grasp his supporting arm (not the main attacking one) and apply your own lock (waki gatame).

In effecting the waki gatame, you do a forward roll onto your back and undo the kote gaeshi. But instead of rolling on the floor, in this case you are rolling with your back against your opponent.


A video in which I demonstrate how to apply a counter lock to a kote gaeshi

Conclusion

The kote gaeshi comprises a wrist twist. Accordingly, counters to the kote gaeshi involve "undoing" that twist (assuming you can't avoid the twist in the first place).

"Undoing" a kote gaeshi can be achieved by untwisting the body - either in a forward flip/roll or a backward roll.

And if you're going to be rolling, you might as well apply your own lock as you do so!

For a 2015 addendum to this article, go here.

Footnote

1. It is worth noting that your only chance in appling kote gaeshi as a projection lies in using your opponent's momentum against him/her. This most frequently means utilising your opponent's retracting/withdrawing momentum - as I discuss in my article: Kote gaeshi: how to apply it against resistant partners".

Copyright © 2010 Dejan Djurdjevic

Comments

  1. Pushing through the kotegaeshi is our common kotegaeshi defense in Tomiki Aikido, but after the push through we counter kote gaeshi with kote gaeshi. Another defense involves contracting the bicep and pushing skyward with the elbow. This converts naturally to waki gatame as you control their wrist with your free hand and pivot into it.

    Stefan Stenudd has a chart that shows what techniques can be used to counter other techniques. See http://www.stenudd.com/aikido/aikidobasics-kaeshiwaza.htm. I wish I had video footage of these counters.

    In randori, students often block a kote gaeshi by reaching across with their free hand and grabbing their own palm. I've never seen this converted an actual counter though.

    In Kali they practice "counter-for-counter", in which partners counter, then counter the counter, and then counter the counter to the counter, etc. This works best if you have a large spectrum of counters as in the Stenudd chart. It looks like a good training drill, but you risk teaching students to apply techniques weakly to allow for a counter. Nevertheless, I'd like to learn enough counters and well enough to be able to do counter-for-counter in Aikido.

    Humorously, the captcha I have to type to post this comment is "bugmeat".

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  2. Thanks Mark.

    Yes, there are quite a few options to counter the kote gaeshi. I put in this waki gatame variant because it appears as an application of a move in Chen Pan Ling taijiquan. And I'm on a waki gatame fetish at the moment. I'll experiment with the bicep contraction. Thanks for the link to Stefan's chart - I've saved it in my favorites!

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  3. This is a comment for the last three articles in general. Not only that your techniques are executed incorrectly but it seems to me that you miss some important points of the whole concept of aikido and corresponding jujutsu schools. The techniques themselves can be used in real fight, I agree on that, but certainly not in the way it is presented here.
    I know this sounds harsh but I'm just trying to be honest. I hope yo get this message in the positive way.

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  4. Hi Edward

    I'm not purporting to be an aikidoka and I might well have misunderstood something from that school and daito ryu aiki-jujutsu. However the way I practise "kote gaeshi" is drawn from my studies in qin na and I'm comfortable with the way I do it. I also feel I have explained in some detail the reasoning behind my arguments.

    Perhaps you could elaborate as to (a) in what way my technique is executed incorrectly; and (b) what important points I'm missing.

    I'd be interested in your response.

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  5. Ok, I’ll try to point out the most significant features. First of all, your tactics is wrong both in irimi nage and kote gaeshi, which is visible through the distance. Look at the original aikido clips. The start distance is large. This is not by mistake because, conceptually, you assume that you fight a stronger opponent. So if you stay within the range of his main weapons you fighting in a way that benefits him, not you. You need to get out of his range so he’s forced to reach for you, i.e. his whole body (not just arms and legs) is in motion, which means more energy is in his attack so more he is susceptible to being moved out of balance. If you stay within the range of attacker’s arms and legs he will always commit only the amount of energy that is necessary to inflict damage on you, hence leading him out of balance is impossible. Another feature is safety. When the attacker’s whole body is in motion he cannot throw effective multiple attacks at you like he does when you stay in within his range of attack. So even if you somehow miss to apply your kote gaeshi (try to grab a wet hand) you’re not taken out by the follow up attack. Look at the clips and you’ll see that not only that you’re within opponents range when executing kote gaeshi but his other hand is free and had your partner been tasked to attack with more determination and multiple punches, you would have been punched before your kote gaeshi was finished. Remember, the opponent is stronger and if he lays his hands on you your options are very limited. Another thing is that since you are in contact with your opponent i.e. within his attack range, you should always have your eyes on his body. In your clip you’re on his side and his left had is out of your sight. Kote gaeshi is a takedown/throwing technique so your opponent should be out of balance before you attempt to do take him down. In your demonstrations he is not. You do compensate by adding more power of your own side but that’s wrong both conceptually (opponent is stronger) and technically (safety issue).
    As far as kote gaeshi (wrist lock) is concerned it’s basically a one hand technique not two (again, safety issue though there are exceptions about this). It’s quick so the hand movement is small and limited to the opponent’s wrist not the whole hand (look at your demonstration and see a large circle focused on the whole hand). Your hips should always be in line with your shoulders (no twisting action like in karate punches) following the movement of your legs. The rule of thumb is more power you use, more incorrect you are.
    In irimi nage, you’re pushing your opponent down which is wrong. He’s supposed to bang his head against your hand as his body is moving forward. You may add up some counter punch but never try to push him back. Especially, do not raise your hand above your shoulder since you’re losing power. (Again, look at your execution).
    There are many other details of course, but I think this is enough so you can start reconsidering your technique. As far as your counter techniques are concerned, I don’t see a reason why bother with some complex movements when you can simply punch the guy in the nose. Look at the clips.
    I hope you find some useful info here.
    Best regards
    Edward

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  6. First of all, your tactics is wrong both in irimi nage and kote gaeshi, which is visible through the distance. Look at the original aikido clips. The start distance is large.

    You should read my articles about the melee range to understand why I fight close in. It is my contention that most civilian defence encounters start and end in that (close) range. In my experience you just don’t get the luxury of fighting at such a long range as you suggest. People don’t come charging at you from a distance.

    you would have been punched before your kote gaeshi was finished.

    What is pictured is just a basic drill. I have always maintained that kote gaeshi is not a response to punch – it is something you do when you are in close range and grabbing starts to occur. This can be after a punch or you can grab him pre-emptively. And it has to be done in contextually appropriate circumstances (which I routinely do in sparring – without getting punched).

    you should always have your eyes on his body. In your clip you’re on his side and his left had is out of your sight.
    I think the clip to which you refer is my clip of how not to do it – the leading version. I have my eyes on my partner during the other (shorter) kote gaeshi and the irimi nage etc.

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  7. Kote gaeshi is a takedown/throwing technique so your opponent should be out of balance before you attempt to do take him down. In your demonstrations he is not.
    Kote gaeshi unbalances by itself – particularly when you use your attacker’s withdrawing momentum as I have done. Besides – this is just an ippon kumite (one step) isolation of the movement which I filmed to illustrate which leg moves. In other words, I was trying to show footwork. That is hard to do with “realism”. Having applied kote gaeshi in full free sparring for many years, I don’t think I’m doing it “wrong”. In other words, it works for me.

    You do compensate by adding more power of your own side but that’s wrong both conceptually (opponent is stronger) and technically (safety issue).

    I don’t rely on brute force – if that’s what you’re implying. I think my article makes it clear that I’m using the attacker’s energy.

    As far as kote gaeshi (wrist lock) is concerned it’s basically a one hand technique not two (again, safety issue though there are exceptions about this). It’s quick so the hand movement is small and limited to the opponent’s wrist not the whole hand (look at your demonstration and see a large circle focused on the whole hand).

    Good luck to you if you think kote gaeshi can be done fully with one hand. True, one hand is the primary hand – but to do it properly you need the back up hand. This second hand can be used safely if you have the correct timing.

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  8. Your hips should always be in line with your shoulders (no twisting action like in karate punches) following the movement of your legs. The rule of thumb is more power you use, more incorrect you are.

    I don’t think my hips are twisting unnaturally or in any way that compromises the efficacy of the technique so I’m afraid I don’t see your point.

    In irimi nage, you’re pushing your opponent down which is wrong... Especially, do not raise your hand above your shoulder since you’re losing power. (Again, look at your execution).

    No, I’m not “pushing down”. I use a very specific taiji-related arm movement to unbalance my opponent (not a downward movement) which I have used effectively (and with little force) for a very long time. I can do this slowly or quickly –and with full resistance of my partner. Given that this is a pet technique of mine (and that pushing downwards is a pet peeve) I strongly reject your point.

    There are many other details of course, but I think this is enough so you can start reconsidering your technique.

    Despite your confident assurances that, essentially, I suck, you have given me absolutely no reason to “reconsider” anything.

    As far as your counter techniques are concerned, I don’t see a reason why bother with some complex movements when you can simply punch the guy in the nose.

    Indeed that is 90 percent of my chosen method. Sometimes you don’t want to be so violent. Take my brother (and training partner) for example: he manage to throw down and subdue a home invader recently without resorting to hurting him.

    I hope you find some useful info here.

    Nice try, but no cigar.

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  9. Dan,

    You handled that troll well. His diatribe didn't make sense half the time. His thoughts about range and one handed execution obviously come from too many hours of passive training and stylized kung fu flix. He OBVIOUSLY did not read the entire article, not did he comprehend fully what little he did.

    Kote gaeshi being also a wrist lock...the idea that the opponent HAS to be off balanced beforehand in order for the technique to be "correct" (seriously, if it works who cares right?) is absurd.

    Edward, getting out of the opponent's range is not always possible--nor is it usually a good choice, even against larger attackers or someone who could be carrying a weapon, such as a knife. Also, making a person chase you with strikes DOES NOT necessarily cause him to make ridiculously over-dedicated strikes.

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  10. I also think kote gaeshi as an idea (the wrist lock-take down) really isn't complex at all. I had a friend trying to grab something from me, then trying to grab my shirt (which I didn't want), and I applied it on him without thinking, and it worked under the context. Of course this was friendly and I only applied it lightly, more of a joke, and not the entire movement either, but it still worked and i'd rather not have broken my friend's nose over something so stupid.

    There's always a context for movements capable of application.

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  11. Ok, man, go ahead, believe in whatever you want, I’m not going to argue over this; it’s really pointless. After all, there is only one way to prove or disprove your claims and that’s not by doing presentations or sparring in dojo; I honestly wish you never get into such situation. I respect all your knowledge and experience in martial arts and your articles are generally ok, however this “I can’t be wrong” attitude of yours casts a big shadow over it. Anyway, I’m not going to bother you with my comments anymore. I leave you with your devoted admirers.
    p.s. Friendly grab for the shirt? Passive kung fu flix? That's funny, Josh, that's really funny.

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  12. Edward, I never said I "can't be wrong". I engage in many debates online and the fact that I frequently concede points is a matter of abundant public record. In this case you just haven't convinced me with your arguments. And I'm not sure why you are so affronted that I don't adopt your viewpoint merely because you said so...

    Then there is the way you put your arguments...

    I discern that don't mean to be rude or insulting in making your comments here, so I have tended to give you the benefit of the doubt. However others would probably be less than thrilled to receive a comment that can be fairly summed up as follows:

    "You suck. Sorry - I'm just being honest. I hope you take this positively and change your ways on the basis of this (brief) post."

    I know you didn't use these exact words, however the import of your post(s) is nevertheless the same. I ask you to re-read your posts and note the dimissive tone - a tone which implies that it is in fact you who "can't be wrong".

    Despite this, if you were posting under your full name (as I do) and were prepared to back up your comments with videos of your own performances (as I do) with lengthy and detailed argument (as I do), I would be be amenable to debating this (and other matters) further. I might even film videos specifically for you (as, I seem to recall, you've previously insisted).

    As it stands, I feel I've extended you sufficient courtesy. I'm glad to hear that you won't be posting any further comments here as I wouldn't feel inclined to approve them. I simply don't have the energy or time to argue further with you.

    So, all the best to you.

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  13. Edward:

    Friendly, yes, because he was just messing around. Been there? You know, the headlock, or other "hey lets see how much his martial arts works" kinds of treatments from your friends that want the instant gratification of roughing up a black belt?

    "Passive kung fu flix? That's funny, Josh, that's really funny."

    It's drop dead hilarious, actually.

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  14. I just discovered your blog and I'd like to tell you these articles where really inspiring, no matter what has been commented before me. Thank you for posting them and keep on the good work!

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  15. Hey Dan,

    Remember when I said that I was starting a university class on Aikido? I showed my sensei your articles on kote gaeshi. Now, I don't mean this to brag, but I want to put a little Ethos into my argument by saying that this sensei is Piotr Chelstowski, former assistant coach of the National and Olympic judo teams. He has a lot of experience in various martial arts, but mostly judo and aikido, it seems.

    He liked your articles, but he said that your ways of escaping are the reason why we do the kote gaeshi technique differently. We do it not so much to the side, but a little behind and to the side of your shoulder, but mostly focusing on pushing your wrist down. If the assailant tries to punch, he said, put more force on the wrist. He did, however, agree with your major use of backward momentum rather than forward momentum for this technique.

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  16. Most interesting - thanks Mohammad!

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  17. In Shin Shin Toitsu Aikido this is the exact reason that Tohei Sensei changed Kotegaeshi to Koteoroshi because the technique is dropping straight down instead of reversing the wrist. The way most aikidoka perform kotegaeshi it can be reversed but I have never seen anyone reverse Koteoroshi even beginners cannot resist and fall easily down. But never in pain. Interesting.

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  18. Thanks TLR.

    Yes, kote oroshi is not susceptible to the same escape.

    However it has its own issues. I can say this because I have trained in it quite extensively - as much as kote gaeshi.

    There are 2 "down" sides to kote oroshi as opposed to kote gaeshi:

    1. It does not have quite the same lever factor, hence it requires more force (albeit not a lot more, but still more) than kote gaeshi.

    2. It is, relative to kote gaeshi, more unstable, meaning that the uke has greater opportunity to push the elbow out and up to escape from the lock as it is being applied.

    Of course, there are ways to deal with this if it happens, and a well applied kote oroshi should avoid the escape, but the escape potential is still greater than the kote gaeshi, where the outward turn (gaeshi) prevents the elbow rolling up.

    We do many lock flows featuring kote oroshi and we always anticipate the "elbow raising" escape.

    As to pain - well it might not cause as much pain as kote gaeshi, but I've nearly had my wrist snapped in 2 with kote oroshi, so I don't see it as a painless lock by any stretch!

    Thanks for reading and for your comment.

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