Judo throw techniques:
How many throws exists?

It’s hard to get Judo throw count. Different sources on different Judo styles, grappling martial arts, and combat sports stating count of their techniques anywhere from a dozen (Aikido basic techniques or Georgian Chidaoba) to “ten thousands” (Michael Lukashov’s very influential small book on SAMBO history titled “Ten Thousands Ways to Victory”; it has been published in Russia in 1982 and I’m not aware of any English translations; well, “Ten Thousands” should cover all techniques, not just throws).

As of year 2010 Judo canon includes 67 throws. Is it all it gets? Aikido is listing about 12 basic techniques (and uncounted variations). What number we should take: low or high?

But maybe it’s not worth to count at all? Just “take” what is matching you and be happy. What benefit we can get from all this counting?

Throws (and Judo throws in particular) are human-only technique. You can’t use it in defense against wild beasts, even apes (if you’ll get into trouble with gorilla family in African wildness), as all throwing techniques based on human-unique anatomical considerations.

Also all throws can be performed only on flat (more or less) surface while under normal gravity. No throws can be used in zero-gravity conditions (underwater, in ski-dive, or on a Moon-walk).

So, as it is only that many ways to throw a ball on a ball field, that is only that many ways to throw a man too.

Uke can be attacked from four directions and tori can attack only from four directions. Tori and uke can throw each other onto four directions only.

Those directions are:

  • Forward
  • Backward
  • Strong side
  • Weak side

Each direction defines the fundamental constraints for throwing technique.

When performing throw in each direction you can face your opponent with your front or your back (anything in-between is or front or back with very clear separation by position of your arm: front if you can touch torso of your opponent with your biceps and back if you can touch him with triceps).

The combination of four directions with two positions defines eight fundamental throws. All throwing techniques are variations of one of this fundamental throws.

Sure, Judo throw techniques are much more nuanced and even coarse classification will define more then eight basic throws. In fact, I never saw formal classification that defines only eight throws (in any throwing system, I’m aware about). So, the question is: what we’re gaining by defining this entirely new classification based on eight loosely defined techniques?

One of core differences between different Judo styles (and, at times, between schools within single style) is how multitude of throwing techniques presented to, how it’s learned, and how it enhanced and further developed by style practitioners.

Starting with a system that stating to have “ten thousands” techniques can be mentally intimidating: it will take 10 years of every-day training (no breaks for weekend and no vacations) learning on average three new techniques a day to cover the “basics” of “ten thousands”. This is indeed impossible task.

On the other hand, if each technique defined to the last detail it leaves no room for development and customization and will impose stagnation on the system and its inevitable decline. Not ones in my career I met, otherwise capable judokas, who was unable to learn new techniques, unless they have formal name in place in Judo canon.

Reducing formal multitude of throws to the small manageable number facilitates learning of core technical elements and their adaptation into individual sets of crown techniques.

As for the question “How many throws exists?”, I once counted my own arsenal by taking all my functional techniques with all possible grips in all basic combinations and indeed got to the number around 10 thousands…


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