Irimi-nage (literally: “entering-somebody throw”) is also known as the entering throw or blending throw -- and half-jokingly as the “twenty-year technique,” because it takes a lot of practice to perfect. Irimi-nage is hard to perfect not because it is complex, but because it requires extreme subtlety; manipulation (in every sense of the term) is less effective when the opponent is aware of it. At the highest level, you can just spin in a circle and take people down -- but it takes considerable practice to become that skilled.
Irimi-nage is one of the more visually stunning aikidō moves. It is extremely effective against drunks, since the rotation and level changes will amplify their existing balance issues. The setup for irimi-nage can also be used to setup an irimi hold.
Contrary to popular belief, irimi-nage is not a circular technique; it is piercing and linear. Like all takedowns, irimi-nage must be done by the numbers:
- Kuzushi (Destroying balance): Irimi-nage is a “towards throw;” which requires that the opponent’s energy to move towards you. As such, irimi-nage is appropriate when the opponent is charging at you or pushing you. Do not use irimi-nage if the opponent is pulling you, or if they are leaning back. Fighting against the opponent’s momentum and balance is counter-productive. Likewise, do not stun the opponent with an atemi, or do anything to stop their momentum. This technique is a pure redirection; and without the opponent’s momentum, it will not work.
7-3 to the outside; irimi-nage only works from the outside. Hook the opponent’s wrist with the back of your opposite-side hand to pull the opponent down to off-balance them. (Ideally, pin the opponent’s wrist against your opposite-side thigh.) Use your same-side hand to press the side of the opponent’s head against your opposite-side shoulder. Perform the Unbendable Arm technique with your extended hand.
Swing your rear leg around 180° to the outside, to complete tenkan. This will arc the opponent’s head downward as they run in a half-circle; with their head leading their legs. As you turn, keep both of your hands are fixed on your centerline, to keep you from splitting your energy, and to ensure that you push the opponent instead of pulling them.
- Tsukuri (Positioning): As the opponent’s legs catch up to their head, they will start “floating” up in an attempt to right themselves; do not resist this. Raise your extended hand to help lift the opponent, until they face you.
- Nage (Throw): When the opponent faces you, step diagonally into the opponent for a hip check, while clotheslining them with a large downward ridgehand strike. Squatting slightly augments this move. This will cause the opponent to bend backward while their feet continue to run forward, knocking them backwards into a rear breakfall.
[video of Irimi-nage fast and slow, from different angles.]