The Sneaky Sumi Gaeshi

Sumi Gaeshi

The Sneaky Sumi Gaeshi

We all get taken down.

Even the best judokas end up on their backs. Not once, but hundreds of times. The only thing you can do to prevent it is ready yourself. Build an arsenal of complimentary techniques that you can use to threaten your opponent to keep him at bay.

And of course, learn the most effective counters you can.

One such waza (technique) is sumi gaeshi. Master it and you’ll always have a ‘last chance’ to turn a bad situation good.

What Is It

Sumi gaeshi translates to something like ‘corner reversal’ or ‘corner throw’. This is a technique you find in many martial arts, from Russian Sambo to Olympic Wrestling. In other words it is tried and tested.

Like many of the other throws that we’ve covered, it’s one of the original 40 throws of Judo. It stays very true to the idea that ‘soft can control hard’ (Ju yoku go wo seisu). This is one of the most efficient techniques, in terms of the amount of energy you need to put in to get a result.

Essentially, sumi gaeshi is a backward role where you force your opponent to role forwards. You drag him down with you, and as you role he ends up on his back with you on top of him. Using this technique means that you have to fall down. Because of this, it is referred to as a sacrificial throw.

The nature of this throw makes it the perfect last gambit to gain the upper hand while the opponent is leaning against you or attacking.

Executing the Technique

It’s best used as a counter in awkward situations, like when you feel yourself losing your balance. The most important thing to remember is that you need to create momentum towards your back (i.e. normally the direction your opponent is facing).

Sumi Gaeshi Steps

Sumi Gaeshi Steps

1. Step 1

The grip for this technique can be varied. Pretty much anything that is strong enough to drag uke down with you is good enough. This could be you grabbing uke’s collar with both hands. Or one hand grabs the collar and the other serves as an under-hook. So long it works, it’s good.

2. Step 2

If this where a competition you’d be getting stiff armed at this point. As this requires your opponent to lean against you, it’s the perfect chance to execute a sumi gaeshi. Have uke provide a little resistance to mimic this. Not too much, but just enough to facilitate the motion of the technique.

Step in with your right leg and place your shin against uke’s left thigh. Be careful to avoid the groin. That could have some unsightly consequences. Begin raising your leg and fall (backwards) to the ground at the same time.

3. Step 3

Your movements combined with the resisting force of uke will easily flip the two of you over as you hit the ground. Remember to round your back. This waza is all about being smooth.

At this point uke is on his back and so are you, with your heads pointing in opposite directions. Before you lose all the momentum from the throw, roll yourself onto uke. Simply twist to the side and place an arm over uke’s chest.

4. After the throw

Whatever happens, your end position should be uke on his back with you in son top of him. If your opponent drives directly into you there is a good chance that you’ll even end up in full mount. Always make sure to complete the technique with you in top position. This sounds obvious but in competition things move so fast that your opponent can end up on his knees if you’re not quick.

Other Things to Mention

Sumi gaeshi has many variations. These come from the grip you use, as well as the direction you throw. One very effective variant is to place your opponent in a headlock while standing. This automatically puts both your bodies in the perfect position to execute this waza.

You can actually keep the headlock in place as you’re rolling. This gives you the added advantage of having some degree of control over your opponent at all times, cementing your dominant position. It will be harder for him to recover from your throw this way.

For the fun of it, here is a small list of the techniques that can be countered using sumi gaeshi:

  • Ko Uchi Makikomi (minor inner wraparound)
  • Osoto gari (major outer reaping throw)
  • Single leg takedown
  • Double leg takedown

General stiff arming

Countering Sumi Gaeshi

Even though sumi gaeshi is essentially a counter throw, it’s a good idea to know how to counter it. So we’re talking about countering the counter. The easiest technique to do this would be ōuchi-gari (major inner reaping throw).

Sumi Gaeshi 2

Sumi Gaeshi 2

You need to intercept the technique before your opponent forces you to the ground. I’d recommend stepping backwards with the leg that your opponent is trying to throw and immediately apply ōuchi-gari. This means shifting you momentum so that you first move back and then forward.

Remember that to use sumi gaeshi your opponent is going to try and get you to create forward force. Just do the opposite.

I’ve also seen many judokas try to cartwheel out of the technique if they’ve been caught unaware. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s an option nonetheless.

Wrapping It Up

This is a lovely and sneaky little technique. With good form, you can easily apply it to a much larger opponent. Sumi gaeshi should be a staple for your Judo defense.
Here’s a video highlighting some excellent sumi gaeshi technique by Yves Dafreville. Unfortunately it’s in French, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive.

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