“Someone please explain the logic of this iriminage throw!” by Stanley Pranin

“The completion of the throw involves nage ‘allowing’
uke to stand back up only to be thrown down again.”

Aikido Journal Editor Stanley PraninI have seen the iriminage throw executed this way for most of my aikido career. Using a shomenuchi attack as an example, nage meets uke’s arm and leads him around circularly applying pressure to his neck lowering uke’s body to the position shown in the photo or even lower. The completion of the throw involves nage “allowing” uke to stand back up only to be thrown down again. From there, the ukemi is usually a high fall. This particular iriminage is commonly seen at demonstrations, especially within the Aikikai system.

A few observations and questions:

  • Nage is controlling uke with one hand.
  • Uke must be very skilled and have a fair measure of control over his body to be able to take the fall.
  • Is there any potential for uke to counter using his left hand, for example, by attacking nage’s rear knee or foot?
  • Why does nage allow uke to come back to an upright position before downing him a second time?
  • Is this technique martially sound?
  • Added questions: Did Founder Morihei Ueshiba perform iriminage this way in the prewar or postwar eras?
  • Who popularized this type of iriminage throw and during what time frame?

Your thoughts, please!



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61s Comments

  1. If I remember correctly we (Iwama Style folks) rarely did this one. Although I remember having to perform it whenever we visted a Hombu Style dojo. I felt the Uke could always spin out of the technique so I don’t think it’s martially sound.

  2. Because done in a real self defense situation, irimi nage is a kill technique. We ALLOW uke to take ukemi. Sugano sensei always said irimi nage was a break neck technique.

  3. I’m agreed with your observation Sensei and I can figure out about the way that this technique is being making is for only demonstration and/or dance purpose. After several years practicing Aikido under Aikikai approach I have realized that.

    I’m not saying that this approach is incorrect, I’m only saying that in a real case, you won’t like to end the technique like this because you are leaving so many options to uke strike back recharged against to you.. and in that sense, you are not making that art of peace.. you are only doing the art of take revenge shall I say…
    I believe that the student must know about the risks that are involved on this and understand a little bit more when/where shall we do the dance and when is real world. And some dojos doesn’t care about this differentiation and they teach the technique just like your picture. I mean, at least this is my experience over the year practicing Aikido in different countries.

  4. I wonder what happened to you to Stanley, I have followed your work for many years and now … I do not know what has happened to you. You are “analyzing” and trying to explain the techniques of the Art of Peace, and not only that!

    You´re doing from a mistaken point of view. Anyway everyone has their own, but you reach a lot of people and that’s a big responsibility…

  5. Can you tell us a little about your background and how you perform this iriminage technique and explain the logic? As to the comment about my mistaken viewpoint, perhaps you can elaborate on this as I’m not good at guessing about your meaning.

  6. Dear Stanley,

    I appreciate your willingness to question the validity of things practiced as rituals which many take for granted and follow along with. So just the inquiry alone is a step in the right direction in creating a process for evolution.

    Most times this throw starts with menuchi, which allows for such a big kuzushi in the beginning. As a student of Karate, the Aikido menuchi strike appears to be a symbolic strike that has no effectiveness if contact were actually made. It is easy to parry, and do tai sabaki to take the back. The Uke does a weak strike and usually overreaches with no concept to pull back or be prepared for a strike with the other hand or with a kick. This is the first problem.

    Given this kind of attack, it is easy to go behind, and by hooking the neck and turning the uke goes flying almost flat on his/her face. This is why Tori must pause and wait for uke to recover before changing direction and applying iriminage. As you suggest, it is in this point of recovery that uke has many opportunities to counter Tori. However, as the dance is supposed to go, uke allows tori to catch the perfect timing between recovering balance when the second wave of iriminage sweeps uke the other way for a spectacular throw.

    When given the chance to take the back this way, I know that hooking the neck with sabaki is a powerful move. It’s the ability to get in that position that is more an issue with me. Allowing uke to recover and switch directions for iriminage before uke catches their balance is also a manuever that could work, and for demonstration purposes it looks really beautiful.

    In randori, as well, it is possible that this kind of throw could work. However, there is a lot of movement to complete this technique, and from experience usually not enough time to do it before your opponent is already countering you. It becomes more like 2 throws. The first one was a missed throw where uke recovers and it is followed by a second throw. This is a more common occurance.

    This leads me to my final comment that what Aikido needs in its regimen is for the inclusion of randori where there is limited cooperation, and so techniques must work…..or they don’t. It is in this process that refinements can be made, timing and precision polished, and all the rituals, kata and theory can be boiled down into effective techniques when cooperation is out the window, as well as the roles of uke and tori.

    Thank you Stanley for creating this forum for discussion.



  7. I was not initially taught this technique in the CAF. I had been training for a number of years before I was introduced to this in the USAF.

    I approach this as a henka waza. The initial takedown has much in common with Ushiro Ate. The one hand can put pressure on the neck to break it, or on the lower back like any Eri Dori. Then, Uke is pushed downward with the intention of breaking the skull on the ground, but uke recovers and comes back to standing. As Uke recovers his balance, we enter to overcorrect either from in front or behind.

    I have had people who insisted this didn’t work as there was no reason for them to stand back up. I hit them in the face with my knee, then pushed their face into the mat and stood on this one student after hearing this 1000x.

    If the uke stays bent over but doesn’t hit the ground, the hands switch to kaitenage. Anyone less than good at ukemi (ie people who don’t study Aikido) there should be a head/shoulder/facial injury if the kuzushi is done well.

    The cut is often done straight into uke, so even if the neck has come free uke is going to get their hips displaced.

    As the balance is affected mostly by one hand, there is time to pull cuffs or press a panic button or some other weapon.

    I preferred the tight headlock and step straight on the cut I learned before. It is a source of disappointment that these two variations cannot be combined safely in practice.

  8. My notion of the combat application is that in the simplest version when the timing is just right, tori simply slams uke face first into the ground. If uke recovers balance sufficiently to resist this, tori delivers immediate atemi to the face with the free hand. If uke avoids the hit by standing up forcefully, and throwing his head back or slipping the strike, then the throw proceeds as the demo.

  9. Hi,

    It seems to me that many techniques (if not all) in the Aikikai system are first and foremost pedagogical elements that show the path to the real, purely martial techniques. Let me explain with your own words for iriminage.

    * Why does nage allow uke to come back to an upright position before downing him a second time?
    I did learned to disallow uke to fully come back, maintaining the balance break, otherwise it could be dangerous for nage. This said, that doesn’t explain the interest in letting uke kind of come back. It seems to me that the answer is in your second point:
    * Uke must be very skilled and have a fair measure of control over his body to be able to take the fall.
    Indeed. And in my opinion, forging uke’s body this way can be very efficient for this purpose. In my opinion again, this is the real reason behind this form.

    This being said, the martiality should not be forgotten. Your first point and the photo above make me think as follow:
    * Nage is controlling uke with one hand.
    Yes, in a way. You could also say that the control lies in the threat of the second hand. This disallows a sound uke to be foolish and at the same time prompt him to come closer where the situation is safer (allowing us to continue the movement). A foolish uke should probably be hit one or two times in order to understand this.

    * Is this technique martially sound?
    This way, martiality is not forgotten; yet it can be understood that the form is martially to complicated and thus, unsound. I share this point of view. However, I think martiality is a second step, the first step being to forge uke’s body (and thus tori’s one, as the roles are exchanged continually).

    * Is there any potential for uke to counter using his left hand, for example, by attacking nage’s rear knee or foot?
    It seems to me that the second step is indicated in nage’s atitude, not allowing uke to recover his stability; thus not allowing him to counter the way you describe, he stays martial. However, the whole “I putyou down, and up and down again” thing is obviously nonsense in a pure martial consideration (as you pointed out).

    These two elements (martial plus uselessly complicated) should lead a curious student to understand that this form, while technically correct (it works), could be improved, throwing uke directly. He should also understand that this could be done safely only with an already forged uke. With an unforged uke, breakage is unavoidable (but that is not what we seek… even if we now know how to do so).

    A student not curious enough, or not enough advanced, will not see that. It seems obvious to me now that this is intended. The two step pedagogy seems exactly made to filter out students not mature enough to learn the pure martial way to do the technique by themself.

    My two cents,


  10. Rooted in Universal Principles, Aikido draws upon timeless wisdom. As Socrates wrote, “an unexamined life is not worth living”. For Aikido to truly be a life-enhancing path, the substance, form and activities must be examined in order to truly embody its essence.

    We, as followers of the way, must challenge assumptions and analyze actions to ensure they are done with full consciousness. Aiki is Budo and, as such, must be conducted with that intention. However, intention is not enough, action must be evaluated in terms of results. Results demonstrate the truest intentions.

    Why would a nage seeking to throw an unbalanced opponent grant the opportunity for him to regain a stable position? Perhaps the intention is different than what the observer assumes. Perhaps the results show an intention different from the logic of Budo.

    Fortunately, opportunities for examining actions, intentions and results are available at every turn. The true gift is the freedom to choose based on well-informed consciousness.

  11. That popular form of iriminage can easily be countered with an osotogari or a seoinage since it’s done without kuzushi… Ooops, but it’s not aikido, is it? Shitsurei itashimashita!

    Patrick Augé

  12. Great point Stan, another consideration is what’s preventing uke from rolling away instead of placing the hand down and standing up again.

    There’s a lot of energy generated with this technique and if you can return/use the energy to tori/nage you can launch them, e.g. Yoko Wakare from Kodokan Judo would be a nice fit.

  13. My thoughts exactly, Pranin Sensei. Although the aikido I practice is deeply rooted within the Aikikai tradition (Christian Tissier sensei’s line to be exact), I have always questioned the logic behind that way of executing iriminage.

    Being a “non-problematic” uke (most of the time) I usually submit to tori’s actions and let myself be put to the ground only to be allowed to stand up again and then thrown. Yet many times I saw an opportunity, an opening to attack tori’s legs pushing him/her to the ground.

    When performing the technique myself I try to keep the uke close to my shoulder during the tenkan movement.

  14. Iriminage sums up in one technique the problems many people have with present day aikido…theatre..dance..choreography….or martial application..when the technique is demonstrated any clear unclouded eye can see where the intent of tori and uke are…stanley you are doing a great job…by simply questioning where the intent or motivation of the demonstration of the technique is..the detailed application of the technique will alter with the.intent or motivation of the tori and uke…theatre…dance…choreography..or dare i say it ,,,,,designer aikido….. a fantastic question to ponder..for those who value the philosophy of budo..bushido..chivalry.. and aikido

  15. I concur. Success on the first stage means face plant or roll out. If you fail to achieve that it is because you didn’t break uke far enough forward and they are resisting backward, so blend with it and take them over.

    I wasn’t taught this way either but it looks darned dramatic. I too have concerns with the intent of the initial attack.

    Uke’s near side hand looks like it is protecting from the forward fall which is disincentive to go for Shite. In Yoshinkan basic technique, we trap that hand so it is not free anyway, we don’t break uke so low (or we would just continue the throw forward), and we atemi to the face on the reversal to arrest the head’s progress and let uke’s hips continue under for the overbalance. But Yoshinkan is rooted in the pre-war aikido as promulgated by Shioda sensei, so that probably hints at your first extra credit question.

  16. Great question… And necessary.

    Nothing of value is threatened in analysis and questioning. We should not be afraid to grapple with these issues as they result always in better technique and budo.

    I wonder if the allowing of uke to regain balance is simply a training “simulation” of a scenario in which uke resisted the Initial throw and therefore regained his upright stance?

    If so- the second throw is a mitigation against that by adding the throw.

    It would be interesting to note if o sensei ever explained this technique or if in fact it was part of his pre or post war training regimen: something no one has offered comment on yet.

    On the other hand- in a multiple attack scenario – is it possible uke is Initially being used to confound the attacks of at least one other (possibly swordsman)? In this case uke wld be useful as a shield / obstacle against another attacker… The shomenuchi is obviously a commited battlefield charge with a sword. Once uke is no longer useful in that split second as a shield (because attackers pivot around him) the 2nd throw takes him out.

    At speed this may be a martially effective strategy? Especially given uke’s desire to resist the first throw and push upward to regain balance.

    From a committed battle field sword charge this technique may be effective since uke’s energy is carrying him forwards and therefore making his resistance or counter very difficult.

    Obviously what the training technique needs to “recreate” is the fully committed charge and strike for this to become apparent…. Otherwise, it is polite choreography.

    Good training technique is to have uke charge to strike with a pool noodle or foam practice sword (safe sub for a katana or baseball bat) and see how tori can firstly evade a fully intended strike, and secondly how the momentum of uke makes the technique work.

    I will try that myself in training.

    Does anyone see a hole in my theory?

    Thank u Pranin sensei for the brilliant questions.

    Peace !!


  17. I always found that doing iriminage this way, far too slow for a multiple attack situation.

    I suspect that a sensei before my time taught it that way and it caught on. I too prefer the Iwama method which makes more sense martially, and teaches more about entry, hip placement, control and timing.

  18. I guess that this kind of Iriminage has the same problem as the one when nage’s arm is pushing uke’s neck. Both styles need cooperation from Uke in order to make it work.

  19. I have heard an explanation for how this iriminage came about, but really don’t know if what I heard is correct. I was told that it comes from Tohei, and that it was meant to make it easier to execute the technique on a much taller uke.

    Does anyone know if this could be true? I think it makes the execution a bit more understandable, even though I too prefer the Iwama style iriminage.

  20. Well, if you see it martial, when the attacker stops the attack we can go home, well done!
    In other words, if uke rolls away, attack is over, no technique, whatsoever, is needed anymore. This is simply a complete misunderstanding of uke/nage relationship, imo.

    If uke rolls away what can nage learn?

    Enter with few interfering, tenkan, give space and help uke to go done (not force uke to go down! This is exhausting for uke and nage and hurts, leads to nothing…) uke rolls away yeah… end of story…

    What if uke do not roll away?

    Uke learns that his job is to take his chances for a second attack, he learns that his part is not passive, uke should attack sincerely. Nage can learn timing, lead ukes coming up, redirect in the correct moment, be patient…

  21. The method of execution iriminage is a promotional. You control uke by pressing a nerve point on his neck, point is in the middle of triangle consisting of shoulder, ear-lobe and collar bone. That way you can control uke with one finger.

  22. Dear Sensei,

    When the uke lost his or her balance, gravity takes over. The force is great (mass, velocity) that makes harder for tori to reverse that force. When uke tries to gain balance the force reverses the direction and it is easier for tori to add more force to accelerate uke’s fall. It is independent to the Aikido style.

    Have a good evening.


  23. Did O Sensei do this? Not that I have explicitly seen, but he died before I was born. Some kata have implied variations – as I learned a forward kuzushi in a few different schools (Aikikai and Yoshinkan) this seems connected to older variations. A Ki Society offshoot where I trained refused to both call this Iriminage and to have forward kuzushi, and this is a more recent school. To explicitly exaggerate the forward kuzushi – I assume this is a Kisshomaru Doshu approach?

  24. Atemi is essential to effective technique. Nishio Sensei taught that every technique arises from a series of strikes (or cuts when using the sword). Atemi is not as something we merely “add on” to an existing technique. It is the core of every technique.

    Iriminage is a technique that exemplifies the concept of irimi – entering or penetrating the opponent’s defenses. But some form of irimi is at the beginning of every technique.

    Because aikido is based on the sword we also explain everything in terms of the sword.

    Here I present a 3-minute video from a recent basics class I guest instructed explaining one of the many ways that we do iriminage. I show in detail both atemi and sword relationships (there are corresponding jo forms as well, but I didn’t include them here). Most importantly I resolve any concerns regarding effectiveness because I completely disable the opponent’s ability to do anything including strike, kick or regain his balance – right in the first instant of contact – all without hurting him. The same technique is equally effective against a punch. Apologies for the editing. Much credit to Shoji Nishio and his successor and my teacher, Koji Yoshida Shihan.


  25. Nishio Sensei’s approach to iriminage is unique in aikido and extremely creative. I very much enjoyed your video and am going to feature it in today’s newsletter. Thank you for posting it, Philip.

  26. In Judo, 10th dan people go back to wearing a white belt. It is time when, very advanced, to critically reevaluate our science.

    I love it that Mr Pranin is critically re examining Aikido techniques. There is nothing but benefit from this. Mr Pranin’s questions have
    helped me be more critical and re study my Aikido. But also, a lot of Aikido has degenerated and is not real. I agree with Sensei Pranin. We always criticize others. It is better when we look at ourselves and start improving ourselves instead.

    O Sensei alludes to this when he says that Aikido is victory over our own deficiencies…

  27. If the energy that uke has received is sending them toward the floor, why should they put their hand forcefully on the ground (ouch) and bounce back up? That looks more like tori is playing a game of paddle ball with uke.

    You asked, “If uke rolls away what can nage learn?” Tori/nage can learn where they are directing their energy through uke. If that is a direction they don’t wish to go, that’s feedback that they can then use to change it.

    Also, “What if uke does not roll away?” As I indicated in my original post uke can dissipate the energy by rolling away or return the energy to tori/nage as an attack, perhaps with a sutemi waza.

    My personal preference for a technique such as this is to disrupt uke’s posture/balance forward and follow the reaction. If uke wants to stand back up you can use that oscillation to throw them down to the rear.

    I suppose it comes down to intent between trying to choreograph a specific movement and applying kuzushi and following uke’s reaction into a finishing movement (throw/pin/lock).

  28. I think that something that a teacher may have shown an example of something that might happen in a particular circumstance, or to demonstrate a particular principle, gets handed down as THE way to do the technique. Some techniques are difficult to understand because they presume a particularly sophisticated attacker. I think that this version of iriminage is an example of that–the attacker is too sophisticated to fall into the first two traps, and gets caught on a third.

    For another example, a lot of our counters to ushiro kubishimi take advantage of the fact that uke is holding tori’s wrist. Now this is not a very common choke hold on the street, and one might easily wonder why uke is doing this if it is a point of vulnerability. The probable explanation is that there are some extremely effective counters that uke can block if uke has control of the arm, so that this is actually the more difficult attack to deal with. But it also means that students may never learn to defend against the simple rear choke that they might experience if somebody on the street attacks from behind.

  29. It’s great to be inquisitive about aikido technique, but without proper instruction and the appropriate mindset there is always a risk of coming to the wrong conclusions.

    “I can’t understand this approach; it must be rubbish.”

    “This aspect of nage’s movement doesn’t make sense; it must be a dance that’s lost all its martial edge.”

    I think, sadly, that is what’s happening here. Rather than understand that maybe _my_ practice is deficient or that _my_ understanding is imperfect, I’ll just take the easy, ego-centric view that everyone else is wrong. Instead, let us keep a beginner’s humility about it and try to discover the answers (or, in fact, the flaws in the questions) in a healthy way.

  30. The approach taken in the above posting is full of logical fallacies.

    I will illustrate with a few quotes; capitalized emphases are mine.

    “It’s great to be inquisitive about aikido technique, but without PROPER instruction and the APPROPRIATE mindset there is always a risk of coming to the wrong conclusions.” – This is an ad hominem argument or a tautology at best.

    “I can’t understand this approach; it must be rubbish.”

    “This aspect of nage’s movement doesn’t make sense; it must be a dance that’s lost all its martial edge.”

    Are these meant to be paraphrasing rather than strawman quotes?

    “I think, SADLY, that is what’s happening here. Rather than understand that maybe _my_ practice is DEFICIENT or that _my_ understanding is IMPERFECT, I’ll just take the easy, EGO-CENTRIC view that everyone else is wrong. Instead, let us keep a beginner’s humility about it and try to discover the answers (or, in fact, the flaws in the questions) in a HEALTHY way.” – More ad hominem arguments topped off with an appeal to nature.

    There are some good responses from other posters that address the specific questions with the technique. In the spirit of, “It’s great to be inquisitive about aikido technique,” do you have any response to Stan’s technical questions in this blog post?

    Also, could you clarify what you mean by proper instruction, appropriate mindset, imperfect understanding, and healthy discovery?

  31. I have learned in the stream of Yasuo Kobayashi Sensei and this Iriminage is not unusual to me. I think there is a misinterpretation when you say: “allow him to stand up again”. After you take Uke off balance, he wishes to return and be erect, Nage, then uses this movement as a way to make Uke fall back (does not necessarily make a high fall). So, the Nage’s elbow accompanies Uke’s chin until he is off balance again, due to his own initiative to stand up.

    Moriteru Ueshiba performs sometimes like this. Of course , there are other Irimi Nage ways.

    Thank you,

    Jose Magal

  32. Hi Stan,

    What a refreshing blog. I have had (very) limited experience in a couple of arts, one of which was Aikido. My sensei called irimi nage “the twenty year technique” because one continues to perfect it one’s whole life.

    I think Aikido is a beautiful art, and irimi nage is particularly so. But I’ve often wondered just how effective it would be in actual combat with a non-cooperative opponent. I know Aikido is an art of self perfection but it stems from a combat art.

    I really enjoyed Ken’s assessment, and I’m impressed with your humility in posing the question in the first place. I don’t see it as disrespectful to the art at all. Quite the contrary, I agree with Ken that this is the way the art can evolve.

    Keep up the good work,

  33. The thing is, the aikido we train in when performing techniques is a learning aikido, and the techniques are the tools. When used in a realistic, dynamic situation, it becomes all kokyu nage, and there are no techniques anymore. So, trying to perform this irimi so that “it really works” makes no sense anyway. The tools are about being in the right place, getting the sense of distance and timing (ma ai), studying the uke/nage relationship and the movement of the forces and kinetic energy. Have a look at a randori, and the technique disappears, but all the things we learned in studying the techniques help us in a randori situation, or in a real situation. (As a bouncer, I found only two techniques that still worked for me in real situations: ikkyo and sankyo.)

    So, in summary, you can use this irimi nage as a study tool, one of many, but don’t mistake it for anything real.

  34. Pranin Sensei

    I was recently watching a documentary where Saotome sensei was demonstrating this technique.

    Saotome sensei indicated that this originated as a multiple attacker defence – 2 opponents?? – and demonstrated how use becomes a shield against the 2nd attacker.

    He uses uke’s standing up again to shield against the attacker coming from behind.

    His motion and fluidity of it seemed very plausible.

    It made me think of this blog question.



  35. I like that explanation. I think it is indeed possible to do this. At the same time, it is possible to do this same thing with uke off balance backward and have better control of him while moving him around circularly as a shield.

  36. I read a simplified explanation once (can’t seem to find it though). the gist of it is this:

    aikido is a martial art (Martial & Art.)

    Like the art of caligraphy and how you write a letter, you ‘write’ the character of the aikido technique in a certain way. and you do the technique in a certain way to complete the ‘letter’.

    From a martial perspective, the concern is mainly for nage to learn connection, blending & leading of the uke, and for the uke to lend his weight and intention, and learn to ‘flow’ with the technique & ukemi.

    Seems that the argument of whether the uke may get back up after the first imbalance if the nage was not there to ‘lift’ him is moot. imho, many ‘dojo’ techniques need to be adjusted for street-use.

  37. sheila barksdale

    One practical reason for allowing uke to stand upright and possibly regain his balance is that maybe you don’t want his body blocking a doorway. It is interesting that the corresponding sword form (Tsume) ends with the ‘attacker forced to submit by pointing the kissaki towards his throat’ , a very compassionate ending . From a book by Dr Michael Russ (a student of Nishio sensei) – ‘Aikido-Toho Iai’ which explains that ‘Tsume means to drive the opponent into a corner. ‘

    I have been to several seminars where ukes have been told to conveniently place his head into nage’s shoulder when teeny tiny women, who seemed otherwise very competent, didn’t have the strength to drag uke’s head into that niche no matter how fast or hard they cut uke’s arm downwards or repositioned their feet.
    Jus’ sayin’ !

  38. I read elsewhere on this site that Aikido waza are about offering opportunities for your opponent to give in. I think (stages of forgiveness was the grand term used).

    In this case, couldn’t the initial atemi be step 1 for an offer of forgiveness, then the face plant step 2, and if he still wants some, then the clothesline would seal the deal?

    I can’t see this technique being useful against an opponent with a weapon, although I don’t know if that is relevant.

    Just my 2 yen’s worth

  39. I have a love-less-than-love relationship with Iriminage. I’ve a little over ten years as a uniformed patrol law enforcement officer. I’ve now been out of law enforcement for nearly 10 years. In my early days of that profession which also marked my introduction to Aikido, I attempted an iriminage on a suspect…with dismal results. Sure, it could have been my skill level (certainly was!). I’d only had police tactics training (much of it inspired by Aikido) and about 2 years regular Aikido time on the mat.

    I began to question the effectiveness of Aikido and in particular iriminage in ‘street combat’ situations. I’ve come to the tentative conclusion that iriminage is a technique for learning about Aikido first and then for those with great skill and luck a technique for the streets.

    Does that diminish the value of iriminage? I don’t think so.

    Does it mean that iriminage as a teaching tool requires an honest uke who is also experienced and able to relax so as to receive the technique? I think so. I don’t think that a technique is ‘invalid’ simply because it is unlikely to be applied effectively in a street/combat encounter.

    There are a number of law enforcement folks and trainers of same who visit Aikido Journal. I welcome their insights into iriminage.


  40. Hello this is just my limited opinion.

    Aikido works when the mind body and spirit are aligned this can take up to 25 years of practice.

    The technique will not work in a martial situation, if you are only engaged with body and mind.

    Only when the communication of key is introduced, do the techniques become penetrating.

    If you train long enough the techniques transform your being.

    You will not need to use a technique. Your energetic being, your key will transform your opponent and all technique will disappear.

    However, when applied with body mind and spirit with correct misogi and use of meridian points this techniques is deadly and will break your neck.

  41. Aikido is Irimi. The attacker is coming in, and the instant you feel them attack you go in with your whole being. Then and only then can you decide which technique to apply because then and only then is the opening presented. Not before. So it is a bit of faith to just jump in and know that there will in fact be an opening, and you will be able to sense it. Then it is your intention that becomes important. Is my intention to kill, or lay down my uke friend on the mat. Going into an attack with ones whole being is very powerful. So make sure your intention is clear and one of peace. Connect to the uke, go into attack, and trust you will handle it. None of this works if you decide in your mind which technique to do before the attack. Openings cannot be predicted. It is a leap of faith and it feels beautiful. This to me is the beauty of aikido. I am pure of heart, I have made peace with the universe and I am diving into a storm with everything I have. At that point you are the sword. I feel this is right and I hope it helps.

  42. Good points, Martin. The issue that remains to be solved then is how one can respond quickly enough against a ferocious, rapid attack if one waits for the attacker to initiate.

  43. From my understanding as a 6th kyu…one of the Yudansha’s suggests to me to never let the uke stand back up because you give him back his balance. You should always keep the uke unbalanced (especially if he’s taller) otherwise if he stands back up he will turn the technique on you.

    That’s just one of his suggestions to me….others have other strategies to do irimi nage. His advice applies to all techniques not just irimi nage.

  44. It is my second reply to this, but a few years have gone by. I still see the initial throw being Uke needing to take a forward roll or a front fall if I do the initial opening fully. I still treat this as Henka Waza, and of a different category of Iriminage – Uke is broken forward instead of backward initially. I believe Saito Sensei’s book “Kokyunage” showed Uke being broken forward and down, but Uke finished pancaked face down. If Uke never tries to stand up.

    Also from Saito Sensei and some work I did with Jo Dori, if Uke is thrown well enough for their hand and weapon to touch the ground, I can stand on the weapon. I also remember Tamura Sensei standing on Uke’s hand in a variation of this (it just doesn’t finish past this point).

    In terms of using one hand, I get to have one hand using a tool when I don’t need to grab with both. I’ve playing with a Tanto, or had a self Defence student use her backpack to deflect the initial attack, and I’ve seen a number of people do variations on this holding a sword in the one hand. The idea is important particularly for people who hold tools during their daily work lives i.e., police shouldn’t drop clubs, pepper spray or pistols just to wrestle with an opponent.

    The problem isn’t so much with the extended kata for me, as how we talk. There are over a dozen very different things that use this word Irimi that happen to be throws, but we all use it differently. Then, we compare apples to oranges and find that they are different.

  45. Sensei Pranin, there is reference to O’ Sensei calling ‘irimi nage’ as the ‘twenty year throw’. See R. & K. Crane’s ‘Aikido in training’ pg 193. They show different attacks by uke all demonstrating the ‘entering throw’ These are very direct and very quick without the extended circling by uke being led by nage. I trained in the extended fashion only (it was called a blending exercise)and it led to alot of confusion because to refuse to be led for such an extended period of time was termed that I was ‘cutting ki’ hence no ki no aikido was the mantra. I discovered this however.

    Once uke was used to doing high falls time literally did seem to slow down and many things presented themselves all of which I kept to myself for fear of being chastised that I didn’t know what aikido was about. One of the most obvious to me was as uke is going through the high fall there was an opportunity to redirect the top knee directly towards nages head. I did this once. I even had time to make sure I didn’t accidentally connect but make it close enough that sensei noticed. He did. Upon completion of the technique he cautioned the class about the placement of their knees during ukemi. If uke wants to attack and feel his attack nullified, or redirected, or anything else it must be a quick move into the technique by nage or uke is just cooperating.

    To make sure I was extending ki and blending I was taken around nage to the point of absurdity. To be effective if uke is going to chase a hand of nage around in circles belies common sense. If it was a real attack the instant it became apparent to uke that the target is unobtainable uke would switch tactics. The purpose of training is for uke to commit to as real an attack as possible at a speed which is within uke’s ability to do the ensueing ukemi and for nage to respond in as real and effective manner as possible for both uke and nage’s benefit.

    I had my neck controlled many times at the pressure point mentioned. The 1st time I was let up (by the way it was explained to the class that my natural desire would be to stand up which really wasn’t the case. I saw bare feet as a target for my elbow) but anyway the technique was explained as a lesson in ki extension, blending, the control by nage at the point behind the neck demonstrating the relaxed power nage has when extending ki all necessary but imprinting in me at least that i had to keep trying to stand up until I was thrown which builds a mind set of rules to follow in the dojo which could hinder once’s ability to come to grips with a real life situation. And finally, I suspect that the blackbelts were taught something about aikido noncombativeness that the rest of us weren’t which leaves me in a huge issue about the ethics of taking money from people under the guise of teaching them self defense and not telling them that they won’t get to the real self defense unless they are good enough to make blackbelt.

    Whew, that took alot of ki extension. Sorry if my aikido experience was different than other respondees or readers I mean no insults or harm.

    Peace and stability,

  46. Dear Sensei,

    I only have what I have learned from my sensei, Sensei Alan Higgs. Prior to learning from him I only made up stories about fighting as I have never been in a ‘real’ fight for longer than a few seconds where angry flailing ineffective punches were thrown.

    Sensei informs me that a real fighter will be constantly trying to remain in balance, and maintain eye contact with their opponent, to be as ready as possible for what might come next. I may be out of balance but if I get a second I will get back into balance. So when I was learning, if he pulled me down, I stayed down. If he pushed me around I lost eye contact. “Peter what are you doing?” he would say. “Huh!” would be my inner response. He taught me, and I have yet to really learn it in my body, that much of Aikido is about following the body, tuning in to the opponent’s body (aiki), looking for and feeling for those momentary kuzushi, losses of balance or transitions of balance, and making use of them. All else is hard work and muscle, mostly arm muscle.

    He went on to teach me that moments such as the one you are relating to Sensei are about making use of the attacker’s response – in this case making use of the momentary loss of stability they will have as they attempt to come back up into balance. I know this has a Japanese name – but my memory is not good in these areas. Many other techniques make use, or attempt to make use of of the moment when the foot hits the mat, the body s upright and similar.

    I try and practice this but I am a long way from feeling the attackers body – I am usually caught up in my own.

    Cheers again

    Peter from Shodokan Brisbane Honbu, Australia.

  47. In our dojo, the “in house” method of Iriminage is the quick one (we loosely call it “The Steven Seagal Special”) ~ with the decisive irimi, and clothesline.

    We don’t spend any time talking about or teaching the Iriminage discussed in this thread.

    That said, one day out of the blue in a free randori period, I did the Irimi nage movement being discussed here ~ with the big turn. My attacker, a very accmplished ni-dan who was attacking tsuki, did a magnificent face plant and literally bounced twice across the mat before coming to a halt. He didn’t get up for 20 or 30 seconds.

    Had he tried, I’d have put him back down with the reversal.

    I tell this story to suggest this ~ The Iriminage WILL work on the street, because uke is not going to be prepared to have his lead extended or to be ready to cope with the turn. If my experience serves as any marker, he will most likely do a huge face plant (as my attacker did). If he attempts to get up, you can transition to ikkyo, nikyo, sankyo, or yonkyo to pin him back down to the mat, or you can allow him to rise and reverse him again with the irimi nage strike, etc.

    Thank you Sensei Pranin for your lively discussions. I enjoy your “Trust but verify” line of thinking.

  48. I’ll add my 2c worth as a practicioner for only a meager 15 years and as one who hails from an aikijujutsu and aiki budo background.

    I was exposed to this style of Iriminage when I commenced training in Aikikai and immediately my reaction was similar to many i.e., what a waste of time. But over time, my reflection on the method changed as I practiced more and I can appreciate the benefit for beginners.

    For me it is one of those big circles vs small circle moments where you perform big circles wen you begin. And by performing the technique this way it allowed me to understand the basic of the technique better.

    The up down movement is a good idea as it can allow Tori to unbalance uke and help disturb the hip forward, thus creating a kind of “coat hanger” effect and allow uke a dramatic break fall, whether behind Tori or in between the hips depending on the finish.

    I think over time you can tighten the technique up as you become more proficient and seemingly becomes closer to our practice of mukae-doshi in yoseikan.

    But I think the most difficult aspect of this technique is understanding that whilst you unbalance Uke forward with a circular and down movement you very quickly need to reverse or let the pressure off so to speak so they bounce up quickly ( a bit like bouncing a ball). That was the most difficult part to perform, controlling uke better so as to allow him back up. Of course this depends on Uke (most beginners will just fall over). But your control over the techinque gets better over time (i still have trouble with this though).

    Also, the circular movement, combined with letting Uke up and then transitioning 45 degrees behind Uke really help me understand the balance points of Uke better, so that in a sense, when performed fast without an actual step I can direct my hip in this direction almost immediately on initial balance and perform the technique even softer.

    I will say as a lover of harder aikijutsu training that Aikikai has been a real blessing in terms of learning and what I out rightly reject as stupid or silly on reflection helped me understand a great deal.

    Interestingly, many of the famous (well video’d) Aikidoka who perfrom this technique in Jyu Randori demonstrations rarely use the long form.

    Perth, West Australia

  49. Lhoucine Boufassi

    Thank you for sharing this important point!

    During around 20 years of practice, I have never executed Irimi Nage this way as uke or nage for the simple reason that my sensei has never do that. We practice Yamaguchi sensei style (or we try to do) which is O-Sensei’s style. Effectiveness, effectiveness and effectiveness…by unbalancing the uke, taking his ki and letting the body react to uke’s movement (technics are not automatic but alive)…this is the purpose.
    I’m Moroccan and my sensei too. He practiced with Yamaguchi for some period in Japan.

    Unfortunately, I’m convinced that 80% of the aikido I see around is just like aikido but not aikido.

    Thanks again.

  50. Hi Stanley,

    Those are some good questions. I’ve been practicing Aikikai style aikido for a long time and have explored this particular method of doing iriminage extensively. Often what is missed by the observer and many students are some of the subtleties in this method. As we can all agree, kuzushi is essential for any technique to work effectively. What most people miss is that at no point do you let uke regain their center of balance. As uke is brought forward and down, tori must shift their weight forward completely throwing uke off balance. As Uke comes back up, tori shifts their weight back, as in the rowing exercise that most of us are familiar with. At the same time that tori shifts back, the elbow of the arm holding on to the back of the neck is brought down and in towards the chest, bringing the head in against, or towards nages shoulder. This has the effect of keeping uke off balance as they come up. As nage comes up tori is able to use the other hand to for an atemi to the face or pass the face and go up and over the shoulder.

    In my opinion, throwing nage so far forward is not necessary as long as you have the kuzushi. This way tori’s free hand can easily stay connected to uke’s elbow, bringing it down and in towards tori’s center and attaining more control over uke’s balance.

    When this is done effectively nage at no point feels stable or balanced and has no opportunity to counter.


  51. Because this Uke knows exactly what is going to happen. If he would be willing to use ukemi in order to regain a favourable way of attack, he’d be able to do so and come again. At least that’s what I see, not ruling out the posibillity of being “short sighted”.

    As far as I can see on the picture, and that corresponds with a lot of techniques I’ve seen, Nage stands parallel to Uke. The irimi-ashi he probably made was meant to evade the strike and to allow Nage to apply a kuzushi. If kuzushi is one of the goals of the evasive movement, and the disbalance is not only to be due to the force of the Shomen-uchi, however, the angle might rather be different, unbalancing Uke to a point behind his back. Thus, when trying to regain his equilibrium, he would be thrown.


  52. I once learned Iriminage this way presented in the article. Allowing Uke to recover his lost balance by touching the ground and then applying Iriminage, wich sometimes becomes „Irimi-Koshi-Nage“.

    In Yoshinkan it’s done differently: you brake Uke’s balance by let him float forward, not allowing him to touch the ground. Then you change direction with an Atemi. To evade the Atemi, Uke lose his balance backwards. Then you step in and throw Uke on his back. Done properly it’s impossible for Uke to turn his body and be thrown the way we see in many demonstrations.

    My question is: Why should Uke stand up after touching the ground? He can simply evade that by rolling forward and because of physics laws, there is no way you can hinder him to do that. Of course touching the ground is a good physical exercise for Uke, but I’m not sure he will react like that.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  53. I can attest from experience, that this technique does in fact work the way demonstrated. While visiting Honbu some years ago, the Shihan teaching the class time I attended, asked me to attack. I don’t know what came over me, but for some dumb reason I decided to attack as if I was on the street – 100% full commitment fully seeking to hit/hurt the Shihan. I have polaroid snap shots after that in my head:
    1) me on my knees looking at the ground
    2) me getting up, turning around, to face Shihan for a second strike
    3) me flat on my back yet I didn’t feel him touch me at all (I don’t resist, but I don’t flop either)
    4) roof spinning trying to regain eye focus
    5) big Cheshire cat like grin on Shihan’s face with him beckoning me to get up
    6) jumped up and instantly repeated steps 1-5

  54. The people who think this works are the teachers who bully their students into fearing their every movement, so they go their entire career thinking that their aikido is effective, but they are just living in a fantasy world.

    With a real resisting, not a drunken type attack, from uke, where uke maintains some intelligence and center to their resistance it does not work at all and it sets up nage for two Ippon Seoinage counter-throws, in fact, along with a number of other dangerous counters/openings.

    It’s got so many errors and from my research it comes from a few decades of not having a real senior instructor in aikido. Everyone was just doing and teaching their own thing (that wasn’t really what O’Sensei ever taught) and developing bad habits like this which is unlike O’Sensei (nor Tohei, nor Saito, nor Nishio) has ever demonstrated.

    Don’t believe me? Walk into any Judo or BJJ school and spar with the black belt head instructor (or even a blue belt) and see how you end up having to do it (close to the shoulder.)

  55. I come from Taiwan
    I studied Aikido for almost 20 years. I am sorry for bad english
    I suspect now mainstream Aikido.
    Such IRIMINAGE ordinary people who I have done experiments. Get is useless
    An ordinary (without any martial arts training) when you want to press his body to make him lose balance (such as images) is not possible!
    Because people’s instinct stiff resistance so they can not fall to the ground. Then the power is enormous. Not effectively kuzushi remember! It is a human instinct!

    Later I changed my style of practice using IWAMA solve this problem. I also turned to exercise IWAMA style

    In fact, Aikido question is “KATAI KEKO” AND “KINONAGARE” (固稽古&氣流)

    AIKIKAI abandoned KATAI KEKO directly KINONAGARE training. But under KATAI KEKO state KINONAGARE is different. The two can not be confused. Today, several confused

    No basic training under KATAI KEKO many technology will fail. A lot of people learn O-Sensei late practice (KINONAGARE). I thought it was Aikido, but O-Sensei have forgotten much longer KATAI KEKO training

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