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Tomoe-nage literally translates into English as “comma-design throw,” because its apex resembles the kanji character for a comma-shape (巴). Tomoe-nage is also commonly called a circle throw or a stomach throw, but we use the Japanese name to avoid confusion with the big circle throw. Tomoe-nage is a visually-stunning move which was featured in basically every television and movie fight scene between 1960 and 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 beginners 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:

  1. Kuzushi (Destroying balance): Tomoe-nage is a “towards throw;” which requires that the opponent’s energy moves towards you. As such, tomoe-nage is appropriate when the opponent pushes or charges 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 pulls you or if they lean 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.

  2. Tsukuri (Positioning): Hop towards the opponent, if possible, to ensure a close connection. 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, just above the knot in their belt. Form the koshi to protect your toes. Sitting pulls the opponent down and forward by their sleeves.

    Tomoe-nage is a “sacrifice throw,” because it requires you to fall as well. 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 have no difficulty performing a tomoe-nage.

  3. Nage (Throw): Simultaneously perform a rear breakfall and a right front kick straight up, lifting the opponent, and sending them sailing overhead. In practice, your partner will dive roll and land in a rear breakfall. Retaining your grip on the opponent’s sleeves, lets use 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, allowing the opponent to climb atop of you and win a dominant grappling position. Your leg only creates vertical motion; the higher they get, the farther they fall. The horizontal motion is entirely provided 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.