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Gari and Gake In Judo Throws: Why Is The Difference Important?

Gari and Gake: Confusing But Important

There is little doubt that the concept of Gari and Gake is confusing to new Judo students. The simple explanation usually given is that Gake means to block and Gari means to reap as in a semi-circular action with the foot. But as with most word translated from Japanese to English things are never that simple.

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Here is an article that I have found very useful for giving a detailed explanation. But if you think that new students are the only ones that are confused by the concept a quick read of "Reflections on Gake and Gari Leg Actions in Ashi Waza" (see link above) will make it obvious that is not the case. Many experienced students struggle with it as well.

Of course, the question remains just how important it is to know the difference?

I Think It Does Matter

I think it does matter, at least to some degree. Understanding the meaning of the name of a throw can often mean the difference between good execution and a poor one.

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For example: doing a throw with a blocking action when it is intended to be used with a semi-circular action(a Reap) will result in the use of more strength than is necessary. Assuming that you even manage to execute the throw at all.

On the other hand, a name is just a name if the execution of the throw is explained properly by the Judo instructor.

A Good Name Is An Aid To Learning And Understanding

Still, a good name has always been an aid to learning and I have found that students remember the movements of the throw more easily if they understand the name.

There is one other reason for learning the names and their meaning and it became very clear to me when I had a new student come to me who had done a significant amount of training with another school that had no interest in teaching the name of throws. Instead of names, they used numbers. That is: Throw 1, Throw 2 etc.

This system was a great help to the student who struggled with learning another language(Japanese) but made my communication with him much more difficult. This is because there was no way of me knowing which throws were numbered what. And despite being quite advanced a Judo student he had no idea of what I was asking him to demonstrate until I taught him the names.

Basically, a very compelling reason for learning both the names of the throws and their meanings as best as you can is to make sure there is good universal communication between students and instructors.

In short, I think that it is well worthwhile to learn the difference between Gake and Gari. As well as every other name of the throws.

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