Western New York Karate Center
Shihan Bill
September 2, 2016

Grappling Techniques

While joint locks, chokes, breakfalls, and throws are most associated with the practice of Judo, they are also a part of several martial arts including Isshin-ryu and are known universally as grappling.  With regard to the Isshin-ryu curriculum, we will first examine submission holds in the form of joint locks and strangleholds and then throws including breakfalls.  As there are far more grappling techniques in martial arts than what is taught in the Isshin-ryu curriculum, Judo terms will be provided when possible to identify the specific technique. Also the Judo terms tori (toh-ree) and uke (oo-kay) will be used; a tori is the person executing the technique and an uke (oo-kay) is the person who experiences the technique.

Submission Holds

In Judo, joint locking techniques are known as kansetsuwaza (kan-set-sue-wah-zah).  These techniques seek to isolate a specific joint and leverage it to move it past its normal range of motion.  This will result in pain and, if applied forcefully, injury such as muscle, tendon, or ligament damage and can even result in joint dislocation or a bone fracture.  Joint locks can be divided into five categories: spinal locks, arm locks, leg locks, wristlocks, and small joint manipulation.  Isshin-ryu teaches one arm lock, several wristlocks, and one small joint manipulation.

ARM BAR (Ude hishigi juji gatame)

The arm bar or ude hishigi juji-gatame (oo-day hih-she-gee jew-jee gah-tah-may) is an arm lock that refers to the uke’s arm being fully extended. The sound “juji” refers to the technique’s resemblance to the kanji for “ten” which looks like a cross.  The technique involves the tori securing an arm of the uke at the wrist.  The tori then steps to the outside of the uke and rotates their orientation to the uke, while applying their other arm’s forearm just above the uke’s secured arm’s elbow; this should cause the uke to face downward with the secured arm moving posteriorly. The tori then steps forward into a seisan stance to increase pressure downward on the uke with the intent of further grounding their body weight.


A wristlock is a joint lock primarily affecting the wrist and possibly the forearm through rotation of the hand.  A wrist lock is typically applied by grabbing the uke’s hand and bending or twisting it. Isshin-ryu teaches four wristlocks.

Common Wrist Lock (Kote gaeshi)

The common wrist lock, kote gaeshi (koh-tay gay-she), is also known as the forearm return or supinating wristlock.  It involves rotating the hand so that it becomes maximally supinated, fingers pointing up with the thumb going ahead of them toward the outside of the body with the elbow pointing down. Properly executed, this lock does not focus torque on the wrist but instead upon the forearm and eventually the shoulder.

Reverse Wrist Lock (Kote mawashi)

The reverse wrist lock, kote mawashi (koh-tay mah-wah-she), is also known as the forearm turn or pronating wristlock. It is similar to the common wrist lock but performed in the reverse direction; internally rotating the wrist instead of rotating it externally.  The hand is rotated so that is becomes maximally pronated, fingers pointing upward and going ahead of the thumb toward the inside of the body with the elbow point somewhat upward. This typically results in the arm moving posteriorly and allows for complementary techniques such as the arm bar.

S-curve (kote hono gaeshi)

The S-curve, kote hono gaeshi (koh-tay hoh-noh gay-shee), which is also known as a “goose neck,” Z-lock, partial forearm return or adductive wristlock.  It is typically applied by twisting the uke’s arm part way through a reverse wrist lock so that the uke’s palm points laterally and the elbow is slightly bent and the whole arm forms an “S” or “Z” shape. The hand being manipulated is then forced, using one or both hands, such that the focus is on the wrist being moved downward. To avoid damage, the uke must drop down to the ground.

Figure Four (Ude garami)

The final wrist lock that is taught in the Isshin-ryu curriculum but considered more advanced is called the “Figure Four” or ude garami (oo-day gah-rah-me) also known as the top wrist lock. This is a grappling keylock technique in which both of the tori’s arms isolate and cause flexion to the shoulder, elbow, and, to a lesser extent, the wrist of the uke. The technique is generally set in motion by the tori, using their same side hand, (i.e. to target the right hand he uses his own right hand) grabbing the uke’s arm at the wrist, so that the elbow falls at a right angle with the palm facing the tori.  Subsequently, the tori will thread his opposite hand under the uke’s biceps, reach through and grasp his own wrist, doing so creates the signature “figure four,” from which one name for this technique was derived. To finish this submission hold, the tori slides the wrist of the uke toward the lower body, while simultaneously elevating the elbow and forearm, in a motion resembling using a paintbrush, creating opposition to the joints and causing the necessary flexion in the shoulder and elbow to cause significant pain, and damage if the uke fails to submit.


The one small joint manipulation taught as part of the Isshin-ryu curriculum is referred to as the “pistol grip.”  This technique is a variation on the wrist lock where the tori’s hand that is manipulating the uke’s hand slides forward to capture the uke’s thumb with the tori’s thumb and simultaneously grasp the uke’s wrist with tori’s fingers. The tori then closes their grasp such that the uke’s thumb is hyperextended backwards to their own wrist.


Shimewaza (she-may-wah-zah) is the Judo term for chokeholds.  While the term “chokehold” or “choke” is used for all types of grappling holds to the neck,  this can be misleading as most holds aim to strangle a person; choking in martial arts means to cause severe difficulty in breathing because of a constricted or obstructed throat. When the aim of a technique is to cut off blood supply to the brain, or a “blood choke,” this is more accurately referred to as a “stranglehold” or “strangle.”  Almost without exception, while referred to as chokes, the Isshin-ryu choking techniques are taught as blood chokes and are thus strangleholds.  There are two major types: gi and naked.  Gi strangleholds use the uke’s gi to conduct the stranglehold.  Naked strangleholds refer to the fact that the gi is not used and therefore need not even be present in order for the stranglehold to be completed.

Gi Strangleholds
Cross hand stranglehold

There are three cross hand strangleholds. There is the normal cross hand stranglehold or nami juji jime (nah-mee jew-jee jee-may), the reverse cross hand stranglehold or gyaku juji jime (gee-yak-oo jew-jee jee-may), and the half cross hand stranglehold or kata juji jime (kah-tah jew-jee jee-may).  For the normal cross hand stranglehold, the tori crosses his arms as he reaches high on the opposite collar areas on either side of the uke’s neck.  The tori’s palms face toward the uke’s chest. The tori then pulls their hands laterally so as the blades of the hands press into both carotid sinuses. The reverse cross hand stranglehold differs only in that the tori’s palms are up, away from the uke’s chest, and thus the ridge of the hands press into both carotid sinuses. The half cross hand strangehold is a hybrid of the normal cross hand and the reverse cross hand in that one palm faces the uke’s chest and one faces away.  Whether one performs normal, reverse, or half depends on preference and circumstances.

Two-handed lapel stranglehold (Ryote jime)

The two-handed lapel stranglehold or ryote jime (ree-oh-tay jee-may) uses the gi collar as leverage to press a fist in each carotid sinus. This technique is initiated by the tori grabbing the collar on either side of the uke’s neck, the tori’s right hand to the uke’s left side and the tori’s left hand to the uke’s right side. The tori pulls the collar tight against the back of the uke’s neck and then turns the fists into the respective carotid sinuses to apply equal pressure to both sides of the neck at once.

Thrust stranglehold (Tsukkomi jime)

The thrust stranglehold or tsukkomi jime (sue-koh-me jee-may) is a cross hand stranglehold that uses the lapel and collar to effect the strangle. The tori takes his right hand, palm down to the uke’s chest, and grab’s uke’s left lapel and pulls it toward the uke’s right ear. With the left hand, the tori grasps the uke’s right lapel and pulls it downward to take up slack in the collar.  The strangle is accomplished with the gi itself.

Rear collar stranglehold (Okuri eri jime)

The rear collar stranglehold, okuri eri jime (oh-koo-ree air-ee jee-may), is also known as the sliding lapel choke.  The tori comes from behind the uke and starts by looping one arm around the neck to grasp the collar of the uke’s gi on the opposite side. The ridge of the hand is placed against the carotid sinus of the neck on that side.  The other hand goes under the uke’s armpit and goes across the chest to grasp middle part of the lapel on the opposite side. A lever motion is applied, helped by the underhand grasping the lapel, such that the ridge of the hand presses into the carotid sinus. It is faster to apply and requires less strength than other gi techniques from the rear.

Naked Strangleholds
Sleeper Hold (Hadaka jime)

There is really only one naked choke in the Isshin-ryu curriculum, hadaka jime (hah-dah-kah jee-may) or rear naked choke, but two variants are taught.  The most popular and common variant is known as the “sleeper hold.” The sleeper hold is applied from behind the uke, starting by looping one arm around the neck so that the crook of the elbow is under the uke’s chin, then placing the hand of that arm on the opposite biceps. The other hand is then placed on the back of the uke’s head and pushes the uke’s head and neck forward into the crook of the flexed arm. Additional pressure may be applied if the technique is done on the ground by pinioning the uke’s lower body by locking the legs around the uke’s waist (referred to as “hooks”) and arching the back to place more force against the neck.

Clasped hands variant (Hadaka jime)

The other rear naked choke is the “clasped hands” variant.  The clasped hands variant is also applied from behind the uke, starting by looping one arm around the neck so that the crook of the elbow is under the uke’s chin.  But then the tori places the hand of that arm into the tori’s other hand. The hip of the tori facing the back of the uke is pushed into the uke as the tori shuffle steps backward.  This variant, while having less control of the head and slower to effect unconsciousness, is ideal for moving the uke into a more private area while performing the stranglehold.


Before examining throws, a martial artist must be trained in performing breakfalls or ukemi (oo-kay-me). Correct breakfalls allow the uke to suffer the least amount of damage possible from a technique; the force of hitting the ground will be spread out along non-critical areas.  There are four breakfalls that are part of the Isshin-ryu curriculum.

Forward breakfall (Mae ukemi)

The forward breakfall, mae ukemi (may oo-kay-me) consists of falling forward, chest toward the ground, turning one’s head to either side and keeping the legs straight. Prior to contact with the ground, the uke splays out both arms so as to land on forearms versus landing on the wrists or elbows. The ground is slapped by the hands and forearms as part of this technique.

Backward breakfall (Ushiro ukemi)

The backward breakfall, ushiro ukemi (you-she-roh oo-kay-me) consists of falling backward. Practiced from standing, the left foot can be placed forward with hips and shoulders square to the front.  Bending the left knee and reaching forward with the right foot, the uke lowers their buttocks squarely to the ground and sits gently behind the left foot. The uke then rolls backward keeping the chin tucked into the chest. Before the roll can progress to the shoulders, the uke throws both arms down to either side of their body and slaps the ground to either side with their forearms and palms.

Backward side breakfall (Ushiro yoko ukemi)

The backward side fall, ushiro yoko ukemi (you-she-roh yoh-koh oo-kay-me) is a variant of the backward breakfall where instead of landing eventually on one’s back, one ends up on one’s side.  This breakfall can be performed to either the left or right side of the body but for this article we will describe a backward right side fall; the body parts would be opposite side for the left side fall. Practiced from standing, the right foot can be placed forward with hips and shoulders square to the front.  Bending the left knee and reaching forward with the right foot. Lowering one’s self to the ground, biasing to the land on one’s right buttocks cheek and then rolling back behind the right foot. Throwing down the right arm before the roll can progress to the shoulders and slapping the ground to one’s right side with the forearm and palm of the right hand.

Shoulder roll (mae mawari ukemi)

The last breakfall is a forward shoulder roll or mae mawari ukemi (may mah-wah-ree oo-kay-me).  This is performed by diving forward with the lead side’s arm making a semicircular form.  Tucking one’s head, the roll starts on the leading side’s shoulder and travels across the back to the hip on the opposite side of the uke’s body. It then can either end with a side breakfall or the uke can continue with the momentum and regain their footing.


Known as nagewaza (nah-gay-wah-zah) in Judo, throws are grappling techniques that focus either upon unbalancing an opponent or facilitating an opponent moving, usually forcefully, to the ground. In Isshin-ryu, training in throws includes two leg reaps, a hip throw, a shoulder throw, and circle throw.

In a leg reap, the tori uses one of their legs to reap one of their uke’s legs off the ground. A reap is performed as one smooth action versus hooking or lifting the opponent’s leg.  Prior to the reap, the uke’s weight is shifted by the tori to be placed on the leg of the uke that is to be reaped away. This coupled with the tori controlling the uke’s body with their hands causes the uke to fall over. The major inner reap and the major outer reap are part of the Isshin-ryu curriculum.

Inner reap (Ouchi gari)

The major inner reap is known in Judo as an ouchi gari (oh-oo-chee ghair-ree). In right-handed ouchi gari, the tori steps into the uke in a crane-on-the-rock stance with his left foot, placing his right shoulder into the chest of the uke. The tori then uses his right leg to reap the uke’s left leg from the inside while pulling the uke down.

Outer reap (Osoto gari)

The large outer reap is known in Judo as an osoto gari (oh-soh-toh ghair-ree). In a right-handed osoto gari, the tori steps into a seisan stance next to the uke with his left leg forward, being right hip to right hip, and then reaps the uke’s right leg (at the back of the thigh) with his own right leg.

Hip throw (O goshi)

There are three throws in the Isshin-ryu curriculum: hip, shoulder, and circle. A hip throw involves using the tori’s hip as a pivot point, by placing the hip in a lower position than the uke’s center of gravity. The Isshin-ryu curriculum teaches a full hip throw or “o goshi” (oh goh-she). In this technique, the balance break is to the uke’s front. Turning involves the tori turning his hips, moving them in front and below the uke’s hips, with the tori’s lifting (lapel-side) hand passing behind the uke’s back, usually under the uke’s arm, while minimizing the amount of space between the tori’s back and the uke’s chest. The tori’s pulling (sleeve-side) hand pulls the uke’s arm to the front, maintaining the balance break. The execution of the throw involves the tori lifting with the hips and bending forward while continuing the pull to the front and down, bringing the uke onto the mat at the tori’s feet

Shoulder throw (Ippon seoi nage)

A shoulder throw involves throwing an opponent over the shoulder. A shoulder throw lifts the opponent from the ground and is one of the most used throws in judo; one study indicated that approximately 56% of judokas implemented this technique in competition.  The shoulder throw taught in the Isshin-ryu curriculum is ippon seoi nage (ee-pohn see-oy nahg-gay) or “single back throw. In this shoulder throw, the tori grips the uke with only one hand while the other slides under the uke’s armpit. The tori then throws the opponent over their shoulder such that the uke lands in a side breakfall in front of the tori.

Circle throw (Tomoe nage)

The final throw in the Isshin-ryu curriculum is tomoe nage (toh-moh nah-gay) or circle throw.  Tomoe nage is performed by the tori gripping the uke on the upper body and then falling backward as in a backward roll. Once the uke is off balance and has begun falling forward, the tori plants a foot around the uke’s waist level, usually on a hip and applies strong pressure as the tori rolls onto his back bringing the uke above him. The uke then flies over the tori into a front roll, as the tori releases the uke, and the uke lands on his back, head to head with the tori.