Throughout your training, no matter what martial art you study, there is going to be a technique, a kata, or a concept that simply drives you nuts. In fact, it’s highly likely that the specifics are going to change from year to year (or even month to month)–maybe you feel like you can’t do shihonage, then later you’re fine with shihonage but annoyed with tsuki kotegaeshi. I’ve gone through this enough times that by now I just accept it as a part of my exploration of aikido: what I learn makes some things seem easier, while making some things seem harder.

There’s one technique, however, that has long since given me pause: kaiten-nage. For those who are unfamiliar with aikido, kaiten-nage is frequently translated as “rotary throw” (which makes me think of rotary clubs, which in turn does not help me with the technique), or “wheel throw.” However you translate it, I have my own term for it: “pain in the rear.” The principle of the technique is as follows: you take the lead arm of your attacker and lead it in a large circle perpendicular to the floor (this is where the “wheel” part comes in). This lead forces your uke to fall forward and down. As the arm starts to swing up behind the uke, you place your hand on their opposite shoulder, preventing them from standing. Their attacking arm has now become a lever that you can use to keep uke off-balance and, eventually, propel them forward into a large roll.

My issue with kaiten-nage is that it always seems to require either (a) a compliant uke, (b) a flexible and relatively small attacker, or (c) both. When I have attempted the throw with a skilled uke, I usually have no problem. But as soon as I have someone who is more muscular, more stiff, or just less experienced, the throw becomes nearly impossible to do. In fact, my dislike for the throw reached such a point that I turned to my students who were about to test and said: “I don’t care what throw you do, so long as it’s not kaiten-nage.” My inability to do the technique was leading to my inability to teach it.

This began to change some months ago, when Sensei came to visit. During a short stay here, he taught a seminar and had me as his uke. He called me to attack and, suddenly, I found myself being thrown with kaiten-nage. But what kaiten-nage was this? Instead of the usual kaiten-nage position, I found myself with my shoulders completely twisted until they, and not my arm, was perpendicular to the ground. Sensei had one hand on my attack arm, keeping it low, and the other on my shoulder, keeping me twisted up. I was completely helpless, until he released me and I could escape into a large roll. The technique felt amazingly simple and impossible to resist.

Being thrown by this technique, however, did not make it easy to understand or to do, and I admit that I still left kaiten-nage in my “things I don’t get” bucket. This past week, however, I have been going through this bucket, figuring that it was time to once again look at the things I find hard to do, because they problem are the things I most need to work on. I started looking at kaiten-nage, and trying to find what, if anything, it had in common with other techniques. I then came up with a hypothesis: kaiten-nage is really very similar to a standard kokyu-nage (timing throw), with one main difference: my arms are reversed. In a standard kokyu-nage, my lead arm is on the attacking arm and my other arm is on uke’s shoulder. In kaiten-nage, it’s the opposite: my lead arm is on the shoulder while my other arm is on the attacking arm. I brought this idea to class last Saturday to see what others thought: so far, there has been one complaint: the technique certainly takes someone off balance, but it becomes very delicate to release uke so they can escape safely.

No doubt there is still much more that I need to study in regards to this technique. But I am writing about it now because I feel I’ve learned a lesson: when you’re stuck with that technique that you just don’t understand, try to find as many similarities between it and the techniques that you feel you do understand. You may be surprised by what you discover.

7 thoughts on “Kaiten-nage

  1. Howdy Dave,

    I had similar issues regarding kaeten-nage. They were mostly resolved by the idea that the ukemi for that technique requires more and slightly different “connection” than is common for other techniques.

    After nage has divereted uke’s first strike or grab, uke turns to continue the attack — they should not quietly just go for a roll after their first attack fails. As their arm and body are now lower, uke logically should attack lower targets. The follow-up attack can either be a strike to the groin or an attempt at a low tackle. Both put uke’s body in the ideal position for the throw, provide a lot of energy and are in no way complicit (uke can -gently- let nage know if they got within striking range of their partner’s groin). In fact, a low tackle provides so much momentum that it makes the tenkan variation of kaiten nage look pretty spectacular.

    When working with an uke who doesn’t have the same idea about how their attack works I can still get a great deal of practice just by cutting low to the ground with arm and body. If uke does not maintain connection then perhaps some other technique would be more appropriate anyway.

    BTW, it’s nice to see you posting!


  2. Eric,

    We worked on the technique again last night, and we came to the same conclusion–the throw definitely depends on how uke continues to attack. Even if the uke decides not to do anything other than just “hang out,” however, you can easily dump them to the floor. I suppose the uke gets to decide if that’s more or less pleasant!

    I’m glad to be posting again too! Work has been very busy, and the baby is now t-minus 2 months! Busy busy busy…. 🙂

  3. Great post! Thanks for sharing your experiences with how martial arts training can sometimes be confusing and difficult even for those who are already in the higher ranks. Also, the principle behind your story can also be applied to other forms of training – whether it is for self-defense or an intellectual exercise, it is always best to remember that failure to do certain things does not give us a reason to give up but it should rather motivate us to try harder each time. Just like what you said, we must find similarities between the present learning and the past lessons already learned and we will surely discover great things that we would not have realized if we did not persevere.

    Keep on posting equally meaningful posts! I’ll be back to read more.

  4. find the right direction of arms to be throw,it should be in rear straight in your front position,one of your hand should be in the back of neck just press downward by using your weight and the key words is rubbing neck forward to your one point. you know about the art of tenchi nage ( heaven and earth ) you can apply in kaitenage… by press the neck as your press the earth and the other arm you throw just like you extent to heaven…throw infinite back to earth…you try it… i hope is work for you,be confidence when you enter the mat or outside. Good luck! jeff ( ki aikido.)

  5. Pingback: Kaiten nage
  6. If uke is uncooperative chop them for real lol joking I’m 6’4 touching the lead arm to my knee is a bit difficult with inexperienced uke.

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