Tomoe-nage literally translates into English as “comma-design throw,” because at its apex, you and your opponent form a shape that looks like the kanji character for a comma-shape (巴). Some schools refer to tomoe-nage as a circle throw or a stomach throw, but we will use the Japanese term to avoid confusion with the big circle throw. Tomoe-nage is a dynamic and visually stunning move, which was featured in basically every television and movie fight scene before 1980, when ninjas and flying kicks became the new fad. As such, tomoe-nage is the hallmark of jūdō. Within Goshin-Jutsu, tomoe-nage is reserved for at least intermediate students, not because of its complexity, but because beginner and novice students should concentrate on fundamentals. Throwing is technically complex, and will take some practice -- but not effort -- as long as you remember to do everything by the numbers:
- Kuzushi (Destroying balance): Tomoe-nage is a “towards throw;” which requires that the opponent’s energy to move towards you. As such, tomoe-nage is appropriate when the opponent is pushing or charging at you. Do not use an atemi to stun the opponent; you need their momentum to complete the throw. Do not use tomoe-nage if the opponent is pulling you, or if they are leaning back. Fighting against the opponent’s momentum and balance is counter-productive.
Grab the opponent’s arms, ideally, by the sleeve, just under the elbow. Squat slightly and do not resist the opponent’s forward momentum, so that they wind up pulling themselves off-balance.
If possible, try to include a little hop towards the opponent after placing you foot on other abdomen, to get close as possible before sitting. Throws always work better with a tight connection.
- Tsukuri (Positioning): Place your left foot between the opponent’s feet. Sit down, so that your butt touches your left heel. Simultaneously bend your right knee and place your right foot on the opponent’s abdomen. To protect your toes, be sure to form the koshi. As you sit, you will pull the opponent down and forward by their sleeves.
Tomoe-nage is a “sacrifice throw,” because you must compromise your own balance and fall to the ground to execute this technique. While we do not normally advocate compromising your balance, our aversion adds an element of surprise. Since falling to the ground is guaranteed to lower your center-of-mass below the level of your opponent’s center-of-mass, tall people will have no difficulty executing a tomoe-nage.
- Nage (Throw): Simultaneously perform a rear breakfall and execute a right front kick straight up to lift the opponent. This will send the opponent sailing overhead. In practice, your partner will dive roll into a somersault, and land in a rear breakfall. Ideally, you retain your grip on the opponent’s sleeves, using their momentum to roll yourself on top of them, into a dominant position for the grappling match to follow.
[video of tomoe-goshi fast and slow, from different angles.]
Do not use your leg to fling the opponent behind you. Your foot will slide off, and the opponent will climb on top of you to win a dominant grappling position. Your leg only gives the opponent vertical motion; the higher they get, the farther they fall. The horizontal motion needed to complete the throw comes from the opponent’s forward momentum and from pulling on their sleeves.
In training, be sure that you and your partner are looking in opposite directions, to avoid bumping heads.