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Okuri Ashi Hari (Bari): Gentle, Subtle, A Great Judo Throw

Judo Throw Okuri Ashi Hari: Hard To Practice Great To Use

This Judo throw used to drive me crazy when I first learned it. I could never understand how unless your Uke was already leaning about 45 Deg. you could ever expect to sweep their foot off the ground.

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But whilst Okuri Ashi Bari or Hari; as some would pronounce it, is in my opinion, possibly one of the hardest throws to practice I have ever had to learn, it is also an absolute gem to have up your sleeve in a competition.

As with all Judo throws, it's about understanding where your opponents kusushi (unbalance) is.

Don't Flap Your Wings

I remember my instructors constantly saying to me: "Don't flap your wings", "Don't flap your wings", without me ever grasping what on earth they meant. In fact, it wasn't until I found myself using Okuri Ashi Bari in a contest that I could even see the use of the throw.

What had happened was my opponent kept trying to force me into a particular stance but I could see what he was trying to do and was having none of it. However, I noticed that each time he tried to set me up he constantly made the same move with his feet. A movement that looks suspiciously like the setup for Okuri Ashi Bari.

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I wasn't getting anywhere with anything else I had tried on him so I moved in for the best Okuri Ashi Bari I could muster and down he went. From that point on I was a fan; even though I still had no idea how to set it up.

I set about practising and practising with many more heckles of "Don't flap your wings" until it finally hit me that the kusushi is not about lifting your Uke with each step so much as more about one continuous lift. That is, with each step you make, you force your arms up a bit more, never relenting on you previous lift but maintaining it until you next step when you capitalize on your previous lift, always raising your Uke just that fraction higher until you sweep.

Each Step Raising Uke Higher

In other words, with each step, you are raising your Uke a little bit more to being on their toes. S/He never has to be on her/his toes but their feet must not be allowed to be planted firmly on the ground. It is more a gradual little lift rather than a sudden big one. In fact, it is important the lift is subtle and not pronounced so that you don't telegraph what you are doing. You have to keep your elbows in and close together (that is don't flap them) to do this or you release the pressure and lower your Uke to the ground.

The video below is a great example of such an Okuri Ashi Bari.

The throw is perfect for where your opponent keeps stepping out in the same way to avoid a perceived threat of a throw or to try to set one up. Instead, they find themselves going for a fall.

The subtlety of this throw makes it a truly worthy Judo throw because it is truly a gently way to get thrown. Even though the fall is just as hard. ;)

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