Revisiting the One-Legged Spin in Kusanku

The one-legged turn in Kusanku Dai

A little over a year ago, I wrote a quick post to show three techniques that I had recorded video of, and wanted to share. I didn’t go over any of the techniques in-depth, and I wanted to revisit the Kusanku application, to shed a little more light on it. The kata movement is found, in some variation, in every version of Kusanku that I am aware of. Some versions of the kata spin a full 360 degrees, while others only turn 180 degrees, and some versions jump instead of turning on one leg. As you can see in the animated GIF, above, our Kusanku Dai does a 180 degree turn on one leg. Our Kusanku Sho does a full 360 degree spin. In my view, both variations, as well as the jumping versions, are indicating a throwing technique.

This is a larger resolution version of the video I embedded in my original post. I probably should have re-recorded it, since I fumbled with my hands on the body lock trying to have the correct hand positions to match the kata, but it works well enough. In actual use, it doesn’t matter which hand is on top. Obviously, the throw is being shown in isolation, without any set-up or striking, and I am landing softly for the safety of my uke (person being thrown). The throw is not nearly as pretty when you do it full-speed, full-power against a resisting opponent, but it does work well. I haven’t found any formal name for this technique, although one may exist. My Sensei just calls it Kusanku-nage (Kusanku throw), and I have been calling it hiza-age-guruma (knee lift wheel).

Hiza-age-guruma in Okinawa Shima

My inspiration for this throw came from watching videos of Shima (Okinawan “sumo”) matches, where this throw seems to be very popular. In the animated GIF, above, you can see the throw in use against a trained, resisting opponent in Shima competition. Shima is quite popular in Okinawa, as I understand it, and it is a sort of evolution of tegumi/muto (classical Okinawan submission wrestling) after the introduction of judo and sumo by the Japanese. Unlike tegumi/muto, there is no newaza (groundwork) allowed, so the goal is to throw your opponent to the ground, much like judo or sumo. Unlike those two arts, the competitors must maintain grips on each others’ obi (belts) the entire time, which gives it a different dynamic.


Interestingly, this throw is not an official technique recognized by the Kodokan (the headquarters of judo). That is why I do not know of an official name for it, and I also hadn’t seen it in judo competition. Until now, that is! Last year, Georgii Zantaraia–a Ukrainian judo competitor–used it perfectly against his Egyption opponent. You can see his throw in the animated GIF, above. It won him the match by ippon (one point–all that you need to win a judo match), and was featured in a “Top 10 Ippons” video by the Olympic Judo YouTube Channel, which is how I came across it. There are thousands of judo matches every year, so I certainly haven’t seen them all, but this is the first time I have seen this particular throw used purposefully in high level judo competition. You sometimes see the knee come up as a competitor drives themselves back for ura-nage (back throw) or ushiro-goshi (backward hip), but it does not end up driving the throw the way Zantaraia does.


One popular grappling art that does recognize this as an official technique is Sambo–an eclectic Russian grappling art. They call it the “hip spring” throw, which as you can see from the animated GIF, above, is different from the hane-goshi (spring hip) throw of judo, but somewhat similar. In both, tori (the person throwing) places their bent leg against the inside of their uke’s leg, and uses it to launch uke over as tori turns in place. In a way, you could say that it is a variant of hane-goshi, but the mechanics are a bit different–some people even say it is a blend of hane-goshi and the uchi-mata (inner thigh) throw. No matter what you call it, I highly recommend that you explore this technique, either as an application for Kusanku, or just as a solid addition to your grappling repertoire for dealing with chest-to-chest grappling situations.

Facebook Comments



About Noah

I began training in karate (Shuri-Ryu) in the Summer of 2006. Subsequently, I started training in judo, kobudo, and iaijutsu within the next 6 months. During my training there, I earned the rank of Sankyu (3rd Degree Brown Belt) in Shuri-Ryu, Gokyu (Green Belt) in judo, a certification in the use of the bo, and passed proficiency tests for the four tachigata of Shinkage-Ryu iaijutsu. I moved to Arizona in the Summer of 2008, and continued training and researching karate at home. I continued regular training in judo at a local club until 2010, when I was able to start training in Shorin-Ryu with Sensei Richard Poage. I have been training with him ever since, and currently hold the rank of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Shorin-Ryu under him. In addition, I began studying KishimotoDi under Sensei Ulf Karlsson in 2014.