Perfecting Sode Tsuri Komi goshi

by Joshua Hagen

Special thanks to Air Vongxayasy for his photo contribution

Sode tsuri komi goshi is an incredibly popular throw which has evolved somewhat since its explosion in the 90’s.  The Cuban team came to power using their signature double-sleeve pistol grip, which made their opponents feel like they were in handcuffs, just waiting to be thrown.  When the pistol grip was made illegal by a rule change, the Cuban style of Sode was obviously greatly affected.  

The next incarnation of Sode came as a single arm pressing up, with the body rotating inwards and simultaneously taking control of the leg with the free arm. Although this method was far from new, it got new life as athletes sought an underused, effective, and still legal way to perform Sode. 

As the rules of the sport are ever-changing, judokas and their senseis have had to be innovative with regards to important techniques like Sode. When leg grabs were banned, Sode was made-over into its current form (arguably its most effective form yet) and which I'll analyze in some depth.

You may ask, at this point, why go through so much work to adapt a technique on two different occasions? Why not just use a different throw, chosen from Judo's large repertoire of available options? The answer is that sode tsuri komi goshi, even against the greatest of opponents, is nearly impossible to counter, as tori has control of both of your arms, making it far too valuable to just leave behind in favour of a lesser option from the Gokyo.

What I love about the latest Sode the competitive judo community has adopted is that the base of the technique is really simple.  I would argue that the most valuable aspect of today's Sode, as used by judoka like Sagi Muki and Hifumi Abe, is this: when your uke’s hands are high, you simply keep them high. Rather than trying to control their hands and then bring them up in the attack, you work with what you already have. As we know from judo's core principle of Maximum Efficiency (Seiryoku-Zenyo), using what is at your disposal, rather than trying to turn the tide, is a good thing, and judo is made for this kind of a practical approach. Raising the opponent's arms while turning in requires so much power that the attack is likely to fail, and is at minimum a wasteful inefficiency of movement. 

The goal is to get control of your opponent's sleeve grip with one hand, and then allow them to get a grip of your collar or shoulder, ensuring that they have a high grip. You then grip the top of the sleeve that is on your collar and, using a punching motion, force that arm towards their face.  This is a very simple and effective way to break off their collar grip. Next, you follow that punching motion with your shoulder, and rotate underneath it. By the time your opponent realizes you're attacking, and not just breaking the collar grip, you're already underneath them. With their arms pushed to one side and elevated it's very easy (relatively speaking) to lift them, and finish the technique.

Please check out my new series Fight Review Ep. 1: Abe Vs Davaadorj


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