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O-Soto-Guruma, Hiza Guruma Etc. Why The Word is in All The All The Guruma Throws

O-Soto-Guruma, Hiza Guruma Etc. Why The Word is in All The All The Guruma Throws

In the first few moments of the Hiza Guruma video below there is a description of the word Guruma. As I was always taught by my sensei he says that the word Guruma means wheel. He also says in passing that it also means motor car. This turns out to be an incomplete explanation. The kanji in the throw name is 車. I have heard it suggested that this is because a car has a steering wheel. Thus distinguishing it from a cart or carriage. Which have different Japanese names. Added to this, I was taught that "car" was pronounced "Kuruma", not Guruma. One explanation of this is the word Kuruma has been anglicised to Guruma. The problem is that all of these definitions are very simplistic. It can mean wheel but it can also mean turning as well as a bunch of other things. All of which may be of interest to Japanese language students but what does it have to do with O-Soto-Guruma.

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The use of the word Guruma as wheel, in o-Soto-Guruma has always been confusing to me. Because there seemed to me to be no wheeling action in the throw. It was more of a driving action. Different instructors have tried to demonstrate the wheel action in the throw but I could never see it. For the most part, that was also the case for most of the Guruma Judo throws. It didn't help when I learned that Guruma was related to Kuruma (car). Thus the driving action made sense. Unfortunately, historically, that is not what is intended.

It took me a long time to learn that the wheeling action is not over the leg at all, as I thought and taught. There is in fact a twisting action, similar to  Uki-Goshi in the throw. It is this twisting action that is defined by the word Guruma. This is where the videos come in. If you watch closely you can see the turning action to complete the throw. Both O-Soto-Guruma and Hiza Guruma are good examples of this when taught properly.

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It is more than just seeing that there is a wheel in the throw after all. The throw is executed much more effectively when there is a twisting action in the throw. Where Tori rotates their hips and does not push with their arms to complete the throw. In the same way, the arms in O-Soto-Guruma are not doing the bulk of the pulling. Rather they are holding Uke in place as Tori rotates. Also, the leg is not sweeping. Though there may be some sweep due to momentum. But primarily the leg is stopping Uke from going where Tori does not want them to go.

If O-Soto-Gari is a throw of your choice, you would be well served to pay attention to these two videos below.