Shihō-nage

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Shihō-nage is the “four-directions throw.” In Japanese, 4 and 8 euphemistically mean “many;” the name shihō-nage doesn’t refer to the fact you can throw someone in four different directions, but that it this technique can be executed by while moving in any direction.

Shihō-nage is a hallmark of aikidō; Ō-Sensei Morihei Ueshiba believed that “all of aikidō is shihō-nage.” There’s a story among aikidōka that claims Ō-sensei experimentally verified his quote -- he had a private student whom he intentionally trained wrong by stating that shihō-nage was the only technique, which Ō-sensei had him practice for twenty years. In the end, this student was still equal to his contemporaries.

Aikidō is derived from Daitō-ryū aiki-jūjutsu, the proprietary martial art of the Takeda clan samurai. Shihō-nage is an empty-hand version of shōmen-giri, a downward sword from the crown of the head through the centerline. Shihō-nage was thus easy and effective to use, since shōmen-giri is the fundamental technique which all Japanese swordsmanship is based upon. While we are not qualified to teach swordsmanship, your should be familiar with how a shōmen-giri feels, and let that feeling guide you -- you must swing the sword tip forward (like casting a fly-fishing rod), and not downward (like an axe or a sledgehammer).

[Video of shomen-giri, fast and slow, from the front and the side]

We have assimilated and adapted shihō-nage to suit our needs. Like all throws, shihō-nage consists of three parts:

  1. Kuzushi (Destroying balance): Shihō-nage is simultaneously both a “towards throw” and an “away throw;” it can be setup to be used on opponents who are moving towards or away from you, charging in or backing away, pushing or pulling. An atemi should only be used to distract opponents without stopping them. Shihō-nage its most effective when its used to redirect the attacker’s momentum.

    7-3 to the outside, while grabbing the opponent’s wrist with your opposite-side hand. (Ideally, also grab their same-side hand too, if they have not grabbed yours. Grip the opponent’s arm like a katana, baseball bat, or golf club.) Hold the opponent’s hand in front of your center; pretend that it is welded to the knot in your belt, so that you and your opponent have melted into each other, and are now one continuous piece.

    Twist 180° to the inside, so that you and your opponent both face the same direction. Take a step forward, raising your hands -- and with them, the opponent’s hands -- up along your centerline to forehead-level. This is jōdan-no-kamae (“high-level posture”), the standard attacking position in Japanese swordsmanship.

  2. Tsukuri (Positioning): Continue to twist in the same direction, 180°, until you face your opponent again. Reach out to make the opponent’s fingers touch their same-side shoulder blade (scapula).

  3. Nage (Throw): Step diagonally into the opponent for a hip check, while projecting their awkwardly-bent arm away from you -- more forward than downward. The combination of knocking them-off balance and bending them backwards will topple the opponent; squatting slightly augments this move. In the dōjō, your training partner will escape injury by performing a rear breakfall.

Please note that there are no complicated hand motions; your hands merely rise up and down your centerline. When performing shihō-nage, never raise your hands above your forehead. Clever opponents can exploit this over-extension to counterattack with a shihō-nage of their own.

[video of shiho-nage fast and slow, from different angles.]