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Ōsoto-gari (“major outer reap”) is a simple, fast, and effective takedown used in several marital arts; it is a hallmark of jūdō. Essentially, you push (or strike) your opponent’s upper body backward, and knock their foot out from under them. Like all takedowns, reaping is a three-step process:

  1. Kuzushi (Destroying): Ōsoto-gari is an “away throw,” which appropriate if you are pushing the opponent, if the opponent is pulling you; or if they are leaning back, after a blow to the face or chin. Do not use ōsoto-gari if the opponent is charging at you, pushing you, or is doubled-over after a strike to the abdomen or groin. That’s what “towards throws,” like ō-goshi, are for.

    7-3 outside, and force the opponent’s head up and back, with an uppercut or rising palmheel strike. If possible, same-side grab the opponent’s leading arm by the sleeve, just under the elbow, and grab as high up on their collar as possible. Push the opponent’s head back, and pull their arm down to destroy their balance; the motion is somewhere between throwing a reverse punch and making a sharp turn with your car’s steering wheel.

  2. Tsukuri (Positioning): To maximize efficiency and reduce the risk of injuring your training partners: You need to take the time to perform the following:
    • You must be very close to your opponent. A solid, secure connection is required to transfer kinetic energy and momentum to your opponent. Your opponent must be snug against you so that no light can pass through the space between you and the opponent, causing middle school dance chaperones to yell at you. If you need to reposition your feet and/or pull the opponent in, then take the half-second to do so while your opponent is off-balance.
    • You must perfectly face the opposite direction. The toes of your leading leg must point 180° away from the toes on the opponent’s lead leg. This ensures that your will reap at the right angle. If you need to reposition your feet, take the half-second to do so while your opponent is off-balance.

  3. Nage (Throwing): The reap itself is a variant of the front exercise kick. Assuming that you are facing #1, lock your knee, and swing your rear leg the outside, next to the opponent (i.e., to #2 if using the right leg, or to #8 if you are using the left).

    Then, swing your leg back through your opponent, as your return into a stable front stance. Your calf should strike the calf of your opponent’s lead leg, knocking their foot out from under them. At the same time, you should push the opponent’s head or opposite-side shoulder back and down. When done properly, your opponent will rotate about their center, and in a single, spectacular, fluid motion, and landing a side breakfall.

[video of osoto-gari from the front and side, fast and slow]

There are two common mistakes when performing ōsoto-gari. Please be aware of them:

  • Under-committing. For whatever reason, many students stop once they touch their opponent’s leg, and then try to power through their opponent from this position. This results in a weak takedown which uses muscle instead of momentum. Additionally, this leaves one open to a takedown, as one of the standard defenses against an ōsoto-gari is to execute a faster ōsoto-gari. Don’t be polite about it; swing your leg as though the opponent is not there. They’ll move. When correctly aligned, the risk of injury is minimal, as your calf will strike the opponent's calf, and muscle is nature’s safety pad.
  • Over-committing. Putting too much energy into the throw will cause you to lean forward, compromising your balance. If this happens, keep pushing forward, because any attempt to catch your balance at this point only helps your opponent back up. Instead fall forward to help finish the takedown (a “sacrifice throw”). You will land on top of your opponent, automatically placing you in an advantageous position for the wrestling/grappling match to follow.