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Kokyu Nage: Throw with the power of your breath
Kokyu Nage is the breath throw. The kokyu form is an extended yet ‘curved like a sword’ arm. The kokyu nage throw has a ‘flicking feel’ on the throw. During the Zanshin part of Kokyu Nage, the eyes are looking for the next attacker producing a higher awareness meditative state.
After practicing Aikido for around twenty years, let me share with you some of my observations on kokyu nage.
Kokyu Nage Forms
There are two Kokyu Nage basic forms
Throw towards the front:
This shape has the palm forward and the throw is towards the front.
Sumi Otoshi can be classified as a kokyu nage because of this form.
Throw to the side:
This shape has palm up and the throw is to the side or slightly to the corner back.
In Tomiki Shodokan Aikido, Kokyu Nage is introduced as ‘gyaku gamae ate‘ the third technique of the atemi waza.
One of the ways I remember this form of Kokyu Nage is the easy elbow to the face or elbow to the throat atemi. Another way of remembering this form is the easy atemi trip or sweep to uke’s leg.
The Kokyu form in general usually does not have a palm down or thumb pointing down hand shape on the throw.
The exception to this general ‘rule of thumb’ is when the kokyunage throw is similar to the irimi nage form. You can see this case with tenchi nage the heaven and earth throw. Some masters classify tenchi nage on its own category and not as a kokyu nage.
Both kokyu forms have the ‘kokyu’ shaped arm. ‘Kokyu’ as a term most of the time means the hand and arm shape. The way I remembered the kokyu form or kokyu hand shape is it looks like you are about to catch a basketball.
Have a look at the arms of Shioda Sensei, Saito Sensei, Tohei Sensei and Osensei above. All masters have strong extended curved ‘like a sword’ shaped arms. Let your kokyu be filled with a strong breath and energise them with your ki.
The Breath Throw
One distinct feature of Kokyu nage is the emphasis on the power of the breath. The complete name is ‘Kokyu Ryoku Nage’ which means ‘Breath Power Throw’.
To start the technique, you exhale and relax your body in calm martial awareness.
As soon as your partner attacks, you inhale the ki or energy coming from him. The physical effect of this is a form of inflation. The breath released when you kiai is what gives this technique its power.
When inhaling make sure you breathe from the bottom of your diaphragm.
When exhaling, visualise the ki flowing out of your palms and with your breath.
If you scroll down there are some video examples on how the Aikido Move Kokyu Nage can be done.
To look or not to look
When you are using the first form you look at where you are throwing.
If you are throwing to the side do not look at your uke. As soon as you look at him, you will notice that he can pull you down with him.
In regards to looking into your opponent’s eyes. There is a big debate about this. Most of the hard hitting martial arts such boxing, karate, muay thai and BJJ advice that you look into your opponent’s eyes.
Osensei advised against this. Osensei advised that if you look at your uke or opponent in the eyes, then you can be lured and your intention distracted.
I believe mastering the ‘strategy of the gaze’ is a powerful mental atemi, just watch a boxing match to see this strategy in motion.
My take on this one is, if I am doing the first form yes look and throw towards the front forward. If you are using the second form, then you don’t look at your opponent in the eyes. Not only he can drag you down with to the ground but your opponent can also intimidate you.
The flicking feeling
The kokyu throw feels like a flick. You don’t want uke to hold on after you have thrown him. There is a flick at the end of the throw that can breaks uke’s connection with nage.
If I exaggerate the description, it will look like the throwing arm or body gracefully stops on a point. It reminds me of a catapult’s action.
This flicking feeling is not easy to explain with words. To appreciate this point the Aikidoka will have to be the uke to feel the right kokyu nage throw.
One can master this flick throw by training a lot.
Aikido move for Jiu Waza and Ran Dori
I believe that there are three major Aikido moves that are suitable for Jiu Waza (Freestyle) or Ran Dori (Random Grab). Those three Aikido moves are Kokyu Nage, Irimi Nage and Kote Gaeshi.
Yes there are masters and experts out there that can do more than three. From my experience of jiuwaza one doesn’t have time to think, so you need techniques that are not very involving.
Shiho Nage and the Osaeru Waza are involving. These techniques are more suitable to one on one situations. Let me not rule them out. You can use them to use uke as a shield in multiple attacker jiuwaza. However, as soon as you take on a defensive mindset, it will be a matter of time before the other attackers get to you.
Getting off the line of attack and only using kokyu nage, irimi nage and kote gaeshi is a proven strategy that worked for me in jiuwaza. Using these three techniques has enough combinations to give you the takemusu effect.
Kokyu nage is an effective Aikido move to use when you need to break a wall of attackers. You can throw uke and bowl the others with kokyu nage.
Words about the Aikido Journey
Let me say this now. I am not an Aikido Master. Sometimes I find it funny when I get addressed as ‘Sensei’. I like the idea that Aikido is my life’s long journey. One thing is for sure though. Aikido is no longer just a hobby for me, it is now a road to mastery. It comforts me and I have enrolled on the idea that I will be learning Aikido for the rest of my life.
Let me pass this idea to you. The day we stop learning is the day we might as well die. Learn every day. Take joy in the fact that you have the gift of Aikido to learn and master. Aikido will challenge you and sometimes even drive you crazy because you just want to be a master instantly.
Be open to the idea that Aikido will look different depending on the person doing it. Aikido will continuously evolve. Why does this happen? Because we are human and we will change and evolve. The quicker you become open to this idea the quicker you will get over the politics and dogma that is slowing the spread of Aikido down.
Having said that let me share with you some videos of Good Aikido Moves and videos that I found on the net.
I would like to invite you to save this page or share it to all good Aikidoka students around the world.
Written by: Cromwell Salvatera
Morihei Ueshiba Osensei
1935 video about Kokyu Nage
Hitohira Saito Sensei
Aikido seminar in Florida by Paul Williams
Shirakawa Ryuji Sensei
Morihiro Saito Sensei
Read and learn more about Aikido:
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- Good Aikido Macquarie University
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- Aikido Class and Training
- Good Aikido Ryde
- ELS Hall Park, 109 Kent Rd, North Ryde NSW 2113
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