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Journal of Physical Education

On-line version ISSN 2448-2455

J. Phys. Educ. vol.27  Maringá  2016  Epub Mar 20, 2017 

Original Article



Fernando Ikeda Tagusari1 

Fernando Garbeloto dos Santos1 

Go Tani1 

1Universidade São Paulo, São Paulo-SP, Brasil.


Assuming that the Gokyo is a guide for the teaching process of judo techniques it is reasonable to infer that it must be organized following a growing order in relation to the complexity of the techniques between the series. Based on the concept of task complexity drawn from motor learning literature the objective of this study was to analyze the Te waza techniques of Gokyo to verify if they are organized according to growing order of complexity. Complexity was defined as the number of components and their interactions. The choice of these techniques was based on a more homogeneous distribution among Gokyo series. The result found was that 66% of the techniques of Te waza are organized in accordance with the growing order of complexity defined by the application of criteria of the motor learning area.

Keywords: Judo; Motor learning; Complexity.


Assumindo que o Gokyo é um guia que orienta o processo de ensino das técnicas do Judô, é razoável deduzir que ele deve ser organizado seguindo uma ordem crescente quanto à complexidade das técnicas entre as séries. Baseado no conceito de complexidade da tarefa da área de aprendizagem motora, o presente estudo tem como objetivo analisar as técnicas de Te waza do Gokyo para verificar se elas estão organizadas na ordem crescente de complexidade. A complexidade foi conceituada como a quantidade de componentes e suas interações. A escolha dessas técnicas foi baseada na sua distribuição mais homogênea entre as séries do Gokyo. O resultado encontrado foi que 66% das técnicas de Te waza do Gokyo estão organizadas de acordo com a ordem crescente de complexidade definida pela aplicação dos critérios da área de aprendizagem motora.

Palavras-chave: Judô; Aprendizagem motora; Complexidade.


The Gokyo no waza - five sets of throwing techniques - was established by Jigoro Kano and his students in 1895, aiming a more efficient teaching of Judo throwing techniques1. The current Gokyo consists of 40 techniques set out in 5 series of 8 throws in each. It is expected that, in the course of the progression through belts, from white to brown, the student will master these 40 techniques. In Brazil, many Judo teachers subdivide the Gokyo series by defining some techniques that they consider as a “prerequisite” for the next belt, thus elaborating a pedagogical sequence of techniques, from the simplest to the most complex. For example, for promotion to the gray belt one or two techniques of the 1st series are required; to the blue belt, in addition to the gray belt techniques other techniques from the 1st series are required, and so on, until the brown belt when the 40 techniques are known. Such conduct is sanctioned by the Regulamento de Graduação da Confederação Brasileira de Judô (CBJ)2) [Rules of Graduation of the Brazilian Judo Confederation] introduced in 2011. Those rules define the the technical, theoretical and practice time requirements between promotions that Judo practitioners must meet for each graduation level.

Since the Gokyo no waza is widely used as a pedagogical sequence, it is expected that the techniques belonging to the first series will be less complex than the techniques of the subsequent series, a fact that would validate Gokyo’s use for progression throughout belts. In such context arises the question that motivates the present study, related to the basic principles of the Motor Learning field of study: are the Te waza techniques present in the Gokyo organized according to an increasing order regarding the techniques’ complexity?

Therefore, the present work aims to analyze, based on the concept of task complexity in the Motor Learning field of study, the progression in the six Te waza techniques included in Gokyo. Specifically, identify in the techniques their components and interactions and evaluate the presence or absence of an ascending order of complexity among them.

Assuming there is an increasing order between Gokyo series it is expected the first series’ techniques are simpler than the second ones and so forth. To find evidence to verify this assumption, the six sequential Te waza techniques were analyzed: Seoi Nague (1st series), Tai Otoshi (2nd series), Kata Guruma (3rd series), Sukui Nague (4th series), Uki Otoshi (4th series), and Sumi Otoshi (5th series). To evaluate complexity the number of components and their interactions - the greater the number of components and their interactions, the higher is the technique’s complexity.


Techniques selection

The present Gokyo is composed of 40 techniques (Table 1). The selection of Te waza techniques considers these techniques are distributed more evenly throughout the series, therefore allowing a better appraisal of the sequential progression regarding complexity. The Te waza techniques are: Seoi Nague, Tai Otoshi, Kata Guruma, Sukui Nague, Uki Otoshi, and Sumi Otoshi.

Table 1 The Gokyo techniques 

Source:3) (adapted)

The execution of a Judo technique involves the perception of the environmental demands by analyzing the stimuli coming from several sensory sources, especially kinesthetic ones, the choice of the proper technique and the execution of the movement itself in a coordinated, harmonic and sequenced way. Most of Judo techniques can be classified as serial skills, since it implies the accomplishment of a sequence of movements (components) that seek the unbalance, the preparation of the throw, and the projection itself; specifically, the kuzushi, the tsukuri, and the kake. Apart from the number of components, the interaction between them defines the techniques’ complexity level.

Techniques’ description

For the technique description, the Tori - the one who throws - employs the right hand hold, throwing the Uke - the one who’s thrown - with the technique performed on the right side. As seen, the Judo throwing techniques comprises three distinct stages: Kuzushi - the art of “breaking” the opponent's balance and forcing him into a vulnerable position; Tsukuri - the correct body positioning of the one who will perform the technique in relation to the opponent, after inducing the opponent’s imbalance; Kake - the execution of the technique itself.

Judo techniques can be considered as a system in which the characterization of each technique is made by the combination of the several components performed in each phase of the throw. Every movement involves interaction between the Tori and the Uke, that is, the synchronism between action and reaction; in the kuzushi phase aiming the imbalance, in the tsukuri phase the ideal positioning, and finally in the kake phase the throwing action. The unbalancing is accomplished by the displacement of the center of gravity of the Uke, that can be performed in eight different positions - happo no kuzushi1,3-5.

From the point of view of the classification of motor skills, Judo throwing techniques consist of discrete motor skills placed in a sequence, that is, serial skills. Thus, each discrete motor skill that composes the whole - the throw - has been assumed as a component that interact with each other.

To better describe the components of each Te waza technique, an analysis has been carried out for each throw, in which the components were identified in each of its phases. These are the movements performed by the Tori, in each phase. In a few techniques, in order for them to “conform” with the Seiryoku zenyo theory, i.e., principle of maximal efficiency with minimal energy expenditure, a few movements are performed to “instigate” a reaction from the Uke and this momentum is employed to enable the following components, “saving” energy. All Judo techniques follow this principle. A few components occur simultaneously, requiring different movements to reach a common objective.

For the identification of the throws’ components, both temporal and spatial aspects were considered. The temporal aspect refers to the kuzushi, tsukuri, and kake phases, which always occur in this order, with unequal time lengths and ending with the Uke’s throw. The spatial aspect corresponds to the actions of the arms, trunk, legs, etc., expressly, the control of the body’s degrees of freedom.

With reference to the Seoi Nague, in the kuzushi phase, two components were identified: the first is a movement to prompt the movement of the Uke, and the second is composed of two interconnected components that occur simultaneously, aiming at the actual unbalance of the Uke. In the tsukuri phase two components are identified: both are composed of two interconnected components - the first represents the beginning of the positioning and the second the stability and the complete positioning of the Tori relative to the Uke. In the kake phase five components are identified: one encompassing two components, with the objective of “displacing” the Uke to the Tori’s back, and another consisting of three components for the projection itself.

In the Tai Otoshi, the particularity is the fact that the three components are constituted by the interconnection of two components each, and the phases of the throw are not well defined.

As for Kata Guruma, in the kuzushi phase, the first component is composed of two interconnected components, aiming to prepare for the Uke’s imbalance, which reacts to the movement; the second component is singular. The tsukuri phase incorporates three components, the latter being the preparation for the kake phase. The kake phase consists of four components, with the last one encompassing three interconnected components. As regards the Sukui Nague, the kuzushi phase is composed of a single component; whereas the tsukuri phase amounts to two, the latter being the integration of two components, aiming the arms’ positioning; in the kake phase a single component is recognized.

Regarding the Uki Otoshi, in the kuzushi phase the first movement is necessary to cause a reaction in the Uke, thus prompting its disequilibrium; in the tsukuri there’s a technique particularity which makes the projection effective only if the Tori starts the movements of the kake phase at the same time the Uke starts supporting his weight on his right foot. The kake phase is composed of three interconnected and simultaneous movements. Finally, concerning the Sumi Otoshi, in the kuzushi phase the first movement intends to elicit the Uke’s reaction; in the tsukuri phase, the objective is the body positioning, and the body projection begins - in this phase two moments are recognized, the first involving the stabilization of the Tori, and the other the “pushing” of the Uke to the backward right direction. In the kake phase, the Uke’s support is pushed to his right foot and the projection action is continued.

Technique analysis

We sought to identify, in Te waza techniques, their components and interactions, classifying them according to an increasing complexity order. The distinction between Judo techniques is the involvement of the components of the projection action, that is, the synchrony between body segments recruited aiming the opponent's displacement.

The components were conceptualized as necessary movements for the accomplishment of the throw, from the kuzushi to the kake, in which each action plays an essential role for the execution of the technique. As such, for the technique's understanding (i.e., to understand the whole) it's necessary to identify the function of each part and the relation between them to achieve a certain objective. One component can be said to be more complex than another from Billing’s6 proposition: the greater the number of operative muscle groups and the joint control refinement, the higher is the complexity. Some movements aim to elicit an action/reaction from the opponent and the next component can only be triggered if the movement of the opponent satisfies the expected reaction; such evaluation is done based on information from sensory receptors, in other words, through the use of feedback. Without this evaluation, the throw may continue, but it will certainly result in failure.

It is worth mentioning that for the analysis of the Te waza techniques the patterns established by Judo’s founder, Jigoro Kano, expressed in Kata1,3,4,5 form were used. The character of the duality of the technique mentioned by Gomes7, in which both practitioners try to take down one another at the same time, will be considered as if the Uke is not trying to overcome the Tori, only reacting to his lead. The throws will be considered in this way in order to seek similarity with technique demonstration situations - often considered a standard for evaluation in belt promotion - showing each phase of the throw in a clear way, and therefore allowing the identification of the technique’s components.

Results and discussion

For each technique component many body segments, joints, and muscle groups are employed, and consequently countless movement degrees of freedom are available. In a way, one off the greatest challenges for the practitioner is controlling the degrees of freedom to allow the skill’s execution8. Choshi9 describes the several articular degrees of freedom involved in the execution of a simple gesture (e.g. 7 articular d.o.f. in an arm action). For this movement to be actually performed, it is necessary to restrict the other movements that the limb could do. Schmidt e Wrisberg10 suggest that, for the degrees of freedom control in rapid movements, the sensory information modifies a set of pre-structured motor commands at the executive level, and that defines the essential details of a skilled action - characterized as a motor program - which, with practice, becomes more and more elaborate, controlling ever-longer series of components11.

In the technique performance the three phases always occur in the same order. In kuzushi the action or reaction from the Uke is essential, whose movement is received by sensory receptors generating the feedback employed in movement control, expressly, in closed-loop control. In tsukuri, the Tori positions itself to trigger the movements for the projection execution in a more efficient way - kake. The kake is performed in a fast and powerful way, without feedback use, that is, in open-loop control. Hence, Judo techniques demand both closed and open-loop movement control.

In Seoi Nague the following components were found: (a) in kuzushi phase: stepping forward with the right foot and perform the pushing action (1); as the Uke resists the movement, drawing back the right foot (2); and, at the same time, “pulling” the Uke with both arms causing the imbalance (3); (b) in tsukuri: setting the positioning, performing a counter-clockwise turn (hidari ushiro no sabaki) (4); and putting the right foot in front of the Uke (5); stabilizing the finished positioning flexing both knees (6); and placing the left foot (7); (c) in kake phase: pulling the Uke’s right arm (8); flexing the right elbow (9); thrusting the right elbow under the Uke’s armpit (10); and placing the Uke on his back (11); carrying out the projection, extending knees (12); and flexing hips (13); pulling the Uke down with both hands (14); and rotating the torso to the right (15).

In Tai Otoshi, the following components were identified: (a) in the kuzushi phase: stepping back with the right foot (1); and, at the same time, “pulling” the Uke up causing the imbalance (2); (b) in the tsukuri phase: “turning” back with the left foot (hidari ushiro no sabaki) (3); and placing the right foot, “outstepping” the Uke’s right foot laterally (4); (c) in the kake phase: “pulling” the Uke forwards and downwards (5); and, at the same time, “pushing” in the movement’s direction with the right arm, finishing the throwing action (6).

In Kata Guruma the following components were identified: (a) in the kuzushi phase: stepping back with the left foot (hidari ushiro no sabaki) (1); and, at the same time, leading the Uke with both hands (2); from the Uke resistance to moving, “pulling” his right arm (3); (b) in tsukuri phase: flexing knees (4); placing the right leg between the Uke’s legs (6); (c) in the kake phase: carrying the opponent over the shoulders (7); pulling the Uke’s left arm (8); stabilizing the posture (9); pulling down with the left arm (10); and, at the same time, pushing the Uke up with the right arm (11); turning the Uke’s body over his neck (12).

In Sukui Nague the following components were identified: (a) in kuzushi phase: performing the backward left unbalancing (hidari ushiro no kuzushi) (1); (b) in tsukuri: stepping with the right foot behind the Uke (2); for the positioning, wrapping around the Uke’s hip with the right arm (from the frontside) and holding the back of the right leg (3); at the same time, placing the left arm in the back of Uke’s left leg (4); (c) in kake phase: raising the opponent with the (right side of) hip (5).

In Uki Otoshi the following components were identified: (a) in kuzushi phase: stepping wide back with the right foot (1); Uke reacts with a step forward with the left foot, evoking the forward left imbalancing (hidari mae no kuzushi); (b) in tsukuri phase: the Uke starts placing his weight in his left foot; backing off the left foot (2); (c) in kake phase: three components are necessary for the opponent’s projection and are triggered when the Uke’s weight distribution is finished: turning the torso leftwards (3); pushing the Uke up with the arms (4); and then, pulling downwards (5).

In Sumi Otoshi the following components were identified: (a) in kuzushi phase: stepping back with the right foot (1); Uke reacts stepping forward with the left foot. (b) in tsukuri phase: two actions that enable the throw were identified. The first aims to stabilize the support, dropping down hips and lightly flexing knees (2); stepping diagonally forward with the left foot (3); the second action aims to push the opponent in a backward right direction, by means of two actions: pushing the opponent with the right arm (4); and, at the same time, pulling with the left arm (5); in kake phase: the Uke is pushed diagonally in the backward right direction, while the right arm keeps pushing (6); and pulling with the left arm (7).

To analyze the complexity the components were tallied and organized as shown in Table 2. The number of components represents the necessary number of movements needed to reach a technique’s goal. The number of components in interaction is the consolidation of two or more components - usually from different limbs - aiming the same objective in the technique’s execution. The number of opponent action/reaction components shows how many times in a given phase the Uke reacts to the Tori’s action, and this action is necessary for prompting the following actions. The techniques in Table 2 were disposed according to their order in Gokyo.

Table 2 Number of components in Gokyo’s Te waza techniques in series order. 

Legend: A = total number of components; B = number of integrated components; C = number of opponent action/reaction moments; B/A= relationship between A/B components and interaction.

Source: The authors

The Seoi Nague is the throw with the greatest quantity of components - fifteen - and its kake phase amounts for most of them. Many body segments participate for the projection execution, such as hips, knees, elbows, wrists and shoulders, involving many muscle groups, thus increasing demands for control and coordination between segments. This shows that despite being considered as Te waza, the Seoi Nague shows a hybrid character, in which many body segments are engaged in a common action. For the imbalance to ensue, the Uke reaction while being “pushed” by the Tori is necessary, producing force opposing the pushing action. This “resistance” energy is exploited for the projection.

The Tai Otoshi is the technique with the greater proportion of interaction between components - in its six identified components there is pair interaction in all the technique’s phases - expressing the technique’s dynamic character. There is no contact with the opponent except for the hands, and to potentialize the projection action, the energy stored with the combine segments action, such as the Tori rotation, is transferred to the arms which will perform the throwing action.

The Kata Guruma is the technique with the greatest number of components after Seoi Nague - twelve. However, there are less components in interactions since in the tsukuri phase the positioning isn’t as dynamic as the Seoi Nague. The Tori action requires the placing the Uke’s body over the shoulders, for then throwing him. The projection involves the concerted action of three components.

The Sukui Nague is the technique with fewer components, with a single interaction between components in tsukuri phase, wherein the arms are placed, for the throw to finally occur.

The Uki Otoshi and the Sumi Otoshi are techniques with similar features. Both, according to Daigo1, are called Kuuki Nague, which can be literally translated as wind projection. This denomination refers to the techniques’ traits, which demand minimum physical contact to perform the projection, exploiting the momentum, i.e. being intrinsically dependent on the opponent’s reaction. The Uki Otoshi comprises five components, among which three are integrated. In turn the Sumi Otoshi is composed of seven components of which six interact; four out of those six are related to the beginning of the projection. The difference of both techniques to the other Te waza is in the knowledge of the Uke’s position and the “resistance” reaction to the movement of “pulling” him. The projection action is elicited through this resistance.

Concerning the data presented in Table 3 the following features were considered to order the techniques with reference to complexity: the presence of Uke’s action/reaction - when there is an Uke’s action/reaction that information must be processed to decide to carry on the technique or not, representing Uke’s “ideal” response; total number of components - the greater the amount of components, the larger the extent of information to be processed; the higher the interaction, the higher must be the coordinative control between elements (Table 3).

Table 3 Number of components in Gokyo’s Te waza techniques ordered according to complexity criteria - from higher to lower. 

Legend: A = total number of components; B = number of integrated components; C = number of opponent action/reaction moments; B/A= relationship between A/B components and interaction

Source: The authors

In accordance with the application of the established criteria to order the Te waza techniques concerning complexity, the outcomes are different to the order found in the Gokyo, from simpler to the more complex.

Comparing the order established in Gokyo, we point out two techniques among the six that changed places between each table order: the Seoi Nague and the Sukui Nague. Therefore, 33% of the Te waza techniques of Gokyo are not ordered according to complexity. Pedagogical implications of these results imply Tai Otoshi, Kata Guruma, Uki Otoshi, and Sumi Otoshi techniques can be taught according to the order of appearance in the series. However, it is suggested to invert the moment of teaching Seoi Nague and Sukui Nague techniques between each other.

Final considerations

According to the findings of the present study, 66% of Gokyo’s Te waza techniques are organized in an increasing complexity order. As these results refer only to the Te waza techniques, we emphasize the need to expand these kind of study for the other techniques to reorganize the Gokyo as a whole, rearranging techniques from simplest to the most complex.


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Received: August 07, 2015; Revised: October 20, 2016; Accepted: October 26, 2016

Corresponding address: Fernando Ikeda Tagusari - Laboratório de Comportamento Motor - LACOM. Av. Professor Mello Moraes, 65 - Cidade Universitária, São Paulo - SP, 05508-030, e-mail

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