Judo translates to ‘the gentle way’ and emphasizes using correct technique and form rather than force to overcome an opponent. In competitive judo, participants must throw, pin, or force an opponent into submission using various locks. Throwing is perhaps the most recognizable component of judo, and there are several effective throws to choose from.

Here are the eight most effective judo throws:

  1. Osoto Gari
  2. Ouchi Gari
  3. De Ashi Barai
  4. Harai Goshi
  5. Seoi Nage
  6. Uchi Mata
  7. Tsuri Goshi
  8. Tai Otoshi

The person throwing is known as the tori and the one being thrown is known as uke. These terms will be used throughout this article while describing and explaining the throws mentioned in this list. Keep reading to learn more about the most effective judo throws!

1. Osoto Gari

The Osoto Gari is one of the forty original judo throws created by Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo. This technique is effective against heavier or taller opponents as the momentum from the leg sweep can quickly put an opponent on their back.

This throw is also effective thanks to the ease with which it can be performed by judokas of all levels. Additionally, the Osoto Gari can be completed relatively quickly and works well even if an opponent is out of position.

To perform the Osoto Gari:

  1. The tori takes a firm grip on the opponent’s sleeves.
  2. In the next step, the tori steps to the side of the uke, bringing their right leg in a small circle behind the opponent’s left.
  3. The tori then performs a ‘reap’ or sweeps the uke’s right leg off the floor and leans forward simultaneously, allowing the force to come through and take the opponent to the floor.

The right leg was used as an example, so the movement is easier to visualize. However, you can use either side if you follow the instructions.

2. Ouchi Gari

The Ouchi Gari is a variation of the Osoto Gari and looks pretty complicated compared to the Osoto Gari. However, the technique is pretty straightforward once you get the hang of it. The Ouchi is an effective maneuver to get your opponent on their back quickly and you on top.

From this position, you can work on your opponent further using grapple or locks to get them to submit. Here’s a breakdown of how to perform the Ouchi Gari. As with the Osoto, the right leg will be used to describe the technique, but you’re welcome to try the same on your left.

  1. Grab the uke in the traditional judo hold, with one arm on the collar and one on the sleeve.
  2. Close the space between yourself and the opponent by taking a step forward with your right foot, placing it in front of your opponent somewhere between their feet.
  3. As you step forward with your right leg, step your left foot behind your right leg and stay on the balls of your feet (the portion underneath the toes). This stance will help you generate more momentum when you execute the Ouchi.
  4. Now move the right foot between your opponent’s feet and behind their left leg, performing an inner reap and sweeping their leg off the floor.
  5. As you sweep your opponent’s left leg off the floor, press your left heel into the ground and drive your body into the opponent’s, knocking them off balance and taking them down with you.

You can also perform the inner reap on your opponent’s opposite leg, and this maneuver is called the Ko Uchi Gari. The right throw will depend on your opponent’s position and the follow-up you’re planning to execute.

ouchi gari

3. De Ashi Barai

Sometimes called the De Ashi Harai, this throw is one of the original forty throws developed by Jigoro Kano and practiced by judokas worldwide. The De Ashi Barai is an effective technique as it’s pretty straightforward to learn and execute. Beginners usually learn this maneuver within the first two weeks of joining a dojo.

The only drawback to this technique is the limited room for its application in a fight because you need a thorough understanding of randori (sparring) before you can effectively use it on an opponent.

  1. You start with the traditional judo hold and pull your opponent slightly forward to throw them off balance.
  2. At the same time, sweep your right leg to the side of their right leg, knocking it into the air and causing your opponent to hit the ground quickly.

While the technique is pretty easy to learn, the De Ashi Barai can be quickly countered by experienced fighters. It will require some sparring experience before you can effectively execute it in competition. However, as a form of self-defense, the De Ashi Barai can quickly overwhelm even more powerful opponents.

4. Harai Goshi

The Harai Goshi is a more dynamic throw and will require more attention to detail during practice and execution. This maneuver is a hip throw and involves using your hips as a lever to tilt the opponent off balance and bring them to the ground.

  1. To execute this technique, the tori starts with the traditional hold, stepping in with the right foot and turning it back, so it matches the direction of the uke’s feet.
  2. Once the right foot is in position, the tori brings their left foot in, matching the direction of the right foot and standing on slightly bent knees for stability.
  3. As the left foot comes in, the tori moves their right hand from the collar to the uke’s middle back.
  4. Once in this position, the tori leans forward, forcing the uke to be swept off their feet and resting their thighs on the lower hips of the tori. This position is almost like the uke is gearing up for a piggyback ride from the tori.
  5. Now, the tori sweeps upwards with the attacking leg (in this case, the right), lifting the uke off the ground. At the same time, the tori puts their head down and pulls the uke over their shoulder, tossing him to the ground.

Here’s a short video clip of the Harai Goshi in action. Please pay close attention to the footwork because it’s essential to get it right to avoid injury.

5. Seoi Nage

The Seoi Nage is one of the more basic hip throws out there, and you typically learn this move in the first or second class. While this move isn’t inherently dangerous, it’s best to learn the basics of ukemi (break falls) before attempting this throw.

  1. The Seoi Nage starts pretty much the same way as Harai Goshi. You hold the opponent and step into the space between while turning both feet in the same direction as your opponent’s.
  2. Once here, your right elbow comes up under the opponent’s right arm, catching them in the armpit.
  3. As your arm settles into this groove, you bend your knees slightly and lean forward, causing your opponent to come off their heels and carry their weight on your hips.
  4. Now follow through by looking down while lifting your opponent with your hips and bringing them forward. Continue the momentum till your opponent is tossed over your shoulders and on the ground.

This variation is better known as the Ippon Seoi Nagi, translating to one-arm throw because you use one arm to grab the opponent while the other is tucked under their armpit.

seoi nage

6. Uchi Mata

The Uchi Mata, or the inner thigh throw, belongs to the second group of throws developed by Jigoro Kano. As such, it’s a little more challenging to execute than most of the throws described above. However, this is also a sort of hip throw technique and requires the same setup as Harai Goshi or Seoi Nage.

  1. You start this maneuver by grabbing the sleeve and collar of the uke.
  2. Unlike the previous two throws, you’re going to step your right foot in a bigger circle this time, with your left foot coming in somewhere near the middle of your opponent’s feet.
  3. As you step in, you must break the uke’s balance by lifting their right arm (the sleeve you’re grabbing) above your head. This movement will put the uke in forward motion, making the throw easier to execute.
  4. Now bend your left knee and lean forward to create a sturdy base, causing your opponent’s thighs to land on your hips.
  5. As you pull the uke over your head, swing your right leg back between your opponent’s legs in a straight line to launch them into the air.

Here’s a visual representation of the Uchi Mata in action.

Be careful when performing this move, as it could seriously injure an opponent if you raise your right leg too early or too high without pulling your opponent forward.

7. Tsuri Goshi

The Tsuri Goshi is a more advanced judo throw and requires a bit of familiarity with other judo techniques to perform effectively. However, once you learn it, it will be one of the most effective throws in your arsenal, giving you plenty of opportunities to counter an over-eager opponent.

We will use the right arm and leg to explain this technique. You can reverse instructions to learn it on the other side.

  1. To initiate the Tsuri Goshi, start by swinging your right arm around the opponent and grabbing a handful of the opponent’s shirt (or robe if you’re sparring) near the lower-middle back.
  2. Your left hand should hold the opponent’s right sleeve and lift their right arm up to get him off balance.
  3. Now step in with both legs, how you typically do with other hip throw techniques, while lifting their right arm further.
  4. Once you step in and face your opponent in the same direction, lift them up with your right hand on the back of their robe, using your hips to bring them into the air.
  5. Complete the motion by pulling with your right hand and bringing the uke’s body over to the other side.

The Tsuri Goshi also works well when combined with other hip throws like the Uchi Mata. In fact, the setup is pretty similar, and you can confuse your opponent and keep them guessing how to counter your movements.

tsuri goshi

8. Tai Otoshi

Tai Otoshi comes under group two of the basic judo throws invented by Jigoro Kano. However, this maneuver employs a pretty straightforward technique and can be learned with a bit of practice.

  1. To initiate the Tai Otoshi, grab your opponent in the traditional judo hold, with the left arm (support arm) on the sleeve and your right hand on the collar.
  2. Unlike other techniques where you break an opponent’s balance by lifting upwards, this throw will require you to turn to the side. So start by turning towards your left while pulling your opponent’s sleeve arm in a circle around you.
  3. Your right arm should be locked with the forearm pressing against the opponent’s right shoulder as you turn towards the side. This position will help unbalance your opponent, causing their momentum to go sideways.
  4. As you grab your opponent, step forward with your right foot first. Once you have firmly pressed your right forearm into their shoulder, step in with your left leg and turn this foot in the same direction as your opponent’s feet.
  5. Unlike regular hip throws, this one will not require you to turn both feet in the same direction.
  6. Once you get to this position, turn your body in the same direction as your opponent’s and step your right leg out in a straight line in front of your opponent’s right leg, almost like a side lunge. You want to ensure your right leg is straight and your left leg is bent for this throw.
  7. You continue to manipulate your opponent with your arms while this footwork is happening, causing them to lose balance and come up against your extended right leg.
  8. Pull the opponent forward and over your right leg to complete the throw.

Tai Otoshi is a bit more complicated than most other techniques mentioned, so here’s a video tutorial breaking down the movement.