This technique is a disaster… Dissection of a failed kotegaeshi! by Stanley Pranin

“As you can see, he was able to easily punch my face even as I was
struggling to force the technique by applying pressure on his wrist”

This photo was snapped on Sunday, September 13 in Osimo, Italy at the International Aikido Seminar sponsored by Paolo Corallini Sensei. I, Stanley Pranin, am the person demonstrating a failed kotegaeshi and being unceremoniously clobbered in the head!

This was a scenario I presented to show what can happen when we fail to pay attention to our positioning when applying techniques. Let’s examine more closely what is occurring. I have hold of uke’s hand and am applying a kotegaeshi pressure using a considerable amount of force. Uke is bent over having been partially unbalanced, but he is able to withstand the pain. What’s more he has a free left hand. Under these circumstances my kotegaeshi fails.

The first and most egregious error committed is the poor positioning of nage vis-a-vis uke. I am face to face with my uke, essentially in the same position as when the technique started. Expressed differently, my initial move and the application of the kotegaeshi technique failed to control him fully. All I managed to do was to begin a struggle with him over control of his wrist. He feels pain in his wrist but it is not enough to prevent him from countering me.

At the point caught in this photo I am asking him to take advantage of any opening available to counterattack me. As you can see, he was able to easily punch my face even as I was struggling to force the technique by applying pressure on his wrist.

During my many years in aikido I have found myself in this kind of situation often. This sort of thing happens regularly across all styles of aikido. I see it everywhere.

Let’s look at another example. This is a superb example of kotegaeshi being executed by Aikido Founder Morihei Ueshiba. You can find this in his 1938 technical manual “Budo”.


First of all, it is obvious that O-Sensei’s uke is totally off balance backward. The Founder is not facing uke but is rather well to his side in the “blind spot”. O-Sensei has a firm lock on uke’s wrist, but given uke’s totally compromised position, it is totally unnecessary to apply a painful wrist twist. Uke can be compelled to fall if nage slightly lowers his center. You can try it yourself.

These simple observations can lead you to an understanding of a few principles that can be applied successfully against ukes, big and small, on a consistent basis.

Next, I have prepared several videos for you that further discuss these principles of unbalancing with many more examples. Click here to explore this subject further and begin to make changes to dramtically improve your techniques.

Categories: Contributed,Stanley Pranin,Technical

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3s Comments

  1. Thank you Mr Pranin, We have been working on this for a while and the conclusion is that unless you position yourself away… you’ll get hit!

    With proper KUZUSHI and HOKO TENKAN, you get in the right spot to apply safely!

    Have a great evening!


  2. I remember seeing any number of people spin back in front of uke to finish kotegaeshi. There may occasionally be a reason to do this, but usually it’s just putting yourself in harm’s way. Combine that with a kotegaeshi which only works by pain compliance or bone breaking… How would YOU like to have some guy on Angel Dust who is now also specifically angry with you?

  3. In my opinion, if uke is in a position at the finish of the technique where they are able to take a forward, or over the top ukemi, then the technique is not controlling uke. If they can do anything other than a backward breakfall or go straight into their back, they have the ability to strike with their free hand as shown in your picture. When performed as shown by O-Sensei, you are able to control uke, not only control their wrist but also their elbow, thereby stopping them turning to face you.

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