Leg scissors

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Kani-basami (literally: “crab pincher”) is a dynamic and spectacular-looking takedown, commonly referred to as a flying leg scissors takedown, or simply a leg scissors. The flying leg scissors is a controversial technique, which has been banned from most martial arts competitions, due to the potential for career-ending injuries when misapplied. Likewise, it requires that the defender falls to the ground, compromising their balance and stance (a “sacrifice throw”), ending with the defender in an awkward, non-dominant position. (While the ending position could set up a number of leg or ankle locks, these techniques are not a part of standard karate or jūdō curricula.) In kumite, the use of flying leg scissor takedowns is permitted, but discouraged.

We require our students to learn the flying leg scissors because it is one of the few takedowns usable against side-facing opponents. As such, flying leg scissors are best used as a surprise attack. Like all takedowns, performing a flying leg scissors is a three-step process:

  1. Kuzushi (Destroying): Flying leg scissors are an “away throw,” which are appropriate when the opponent is leaning back, usually after a blow to the face or chin. Do not use a flying leg scissors on opponents who are doubled-over after a strike to the abdomen or groin. That’s what “towards throws,” (e.g., tai-otoshi) are for.

    Stand in a side-facing posture (e.g., horse stance or full-side-facing), facing the same direction as the opponent. Close the distance, and if possible, disrupt their balance with a hip check. 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. Use your closest arm to grab the back of the opponent’s collar, and pull it back until their shoulders are no longer directly above their hips. The end result is you standing next to your partner with your arm wrapped around them, as though you were on the poster to a buddy-comedy movie.

  2. Tsukuri (Positioning): Leap up and wrap your legs around the opponent. The closer leg wraps around the front of the opponent’s body, at waist-level. Your farther-away leg wraps behind the opponent, hooking your shin and instep around the opponent’s ankles. Tall people can place their farther-away hand on the ground to help brace themselves.

  3. Nage (Throwing): Simultaneously twist your hips until the knot in your belt faces upward, and pull back and down on the opponent’s collar. Tall people can push off the ground with their bracing hand. The combined motion forces your opponent to fall backward, landing in a rear breakfall.

Since the flying leg scissors is a sacrifice throw, you will gently land in a rear breakfall, with your legs intertwined with your opponent.

[video of kani-basami from the front and side, fast and slow-ish]

To avoid injuring your partner, please be aware of the common mistakes which occur when performing a flying leg scissors:

  • Under-committing. Many students insufficiently rotate their hips during the throw portion. Unlike other throws, the opponent is not moving in the direction of the throw, so the defender cannot capitalize on the opponent’s momentum. The opponent then regains their balance, leaving the defender awkwardly dangling at their side.
  • Poor distancing. Failure to completely close the distance can result in a number of failures:
    • If you do not close in completely, you will not be able to hook both ankles, weakening the throw.
    • Your technique will be extended far from your center, and will be weakened by the resulting poor leverage.
    • Your training partner could be injured. Since your heel will contact your partner's upper leg instead of your thighs and calf, the takedown turns into a sloppy hook kick. Likewise, the ball of your sweeping lower foot could become a roundhouse kick variant, injuring your partner's ankle or knees.
  • Poor leg height. The lower leg must connect above the ankle. Connecting lower or higher can damage your partner’s ankle or knees. Likewise, connecting higher on your partner’s leg decreases your leverage, weakening the technique. You must leap high enough to ensure proper leg positioning before your upper body reaches the ground; otherwise, you miss your window of opportunity.
  • Poor positioning. You must enter straight-in, and you and your partner must face in the exact same direction. Entering at an angle causes your partner to fall on their side, which given their position, can lead to twisted and broken ankles.