Morihiro Saito’s Morotedori Kokyuho:
“Envelop uke to prevent his escape!”

Click here for information on Morihiro Saito's “Complete Guide to Aikido”

“O-Sensei taught this technique without fail in every class!”

Click here for information on Morihiro Saito's “Complete Guide to Aikido”

1 – From gyaku hanmi, your partner grabs your left hand with both his hands.
2 – Lower your elbow and hips while extending ki through your arm.
3 – Pivot in place, shifting to ai hanmi; look in the same direction as your partner.
4 – Raise your hands upward, pulling your partner off balance and enter behind him with your left foot.
5 – Shift your weight to your left foot and extend your arms towards your partner’s head to execute
the throw. Be sure that your eyes continue to look forward to avoid a possible kicking counter.

When your partner stands in right hanmi and grabs your left hand, move your left foot to your partner’s right foot and turn your hips to change from left to right hanmi. Do this movement with the feeling of dropping your shoulder, elbows, and hips slightly. Turn to a position beside your partner, looking in the same direction. This is basic for all kokyuho exercises. The spacing, or maai, between you and your partner will be wrong if you look at him. If you face the same direction with the feeling of enveloping him, you will stay close to him and he will be unable to escape. If you look at your partner even slightly, his body will separate from you and there will be too much space between you.

Excerpted from Takemusu Aikido, Volume 1 — Background & Basics by Morihiro Saito and Stanley Pranin


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Click here for information on Morihiro Saito's “Complete Guide to Aikido”


  1. Ken Teshima says:

    Dear Stanley,

    As a lifelong practitioner, I have done this throw hundreds of times. It incorporates many key principles which are important in understanding how to move, unbalance, and throw someone strong. So from this standpoint, I do believe this is a good throw to practice many times to ingrain this understanding into one’s muscle memory. Two hand grab on one makes for a great practice when uke grabs hard. It makes our wrists and forearms strong like a tree. Over time, one develops better timing and ability to unbalance to where the throw becomes smooth and seemingly effortless. I do believe this is the purpose of such practice and agree it is a useful tool to learning.

    That all being said, in a real conflict nobody is going to do such an attack, and even if they do they will certainly not hang on until they get thrown. A skilled Judoka, for example, would be pulling and go into a throw and not simply grab. Hence, in a true randori type practice this throw would not avail itself. This is not to say that this type of movement does not work, because it really does. However, I think it important to understand that grabbing and holding on for this drill is to train the strength and timing, and cooperation is required.

    It is a criticism I have of Aikido that many of the techniques require Uke to hold on in order for the technique to work. This should not be taught this way, I believe. Rather, we should strive to find ways to reverse grips, for example, before throwing so that we need not rely on such unrealistic cooperation from uke. Because most Aikido is kata-based, and that there is no randori, the facts of conflict which I have iterated above will never be discovered since there is no laboratory setting in which these truths can be uncovered. If we always know what attack is coming, both Tori and Uke know what throw is being performed, and Uke is promising to cooperate and take the fall, we will never be able to develop the ability to read our opponent, move spontaneously, and throw an opponent who does not want to be thrown (or worse yet an opponent who is doing his best to throw you). This is the true test of skill and understanding, in my opinion.



    • Ken,

      Uke would hold on because if he doesn’t hold on he would get hit in the face or caught in a choke hold around the head/neck, or worse; having his eyes/neck attacked. If you practice some freestyle/live sparring like in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or Tai Chi push-hands you’ll quickly find out that in a real fight or a real attack the first thing that both Nage and Uke do is to grab each other wrists. It’s easy for a beginner (aren’t we all beginners?) to think that wrist grabs have no real-world application but they are “the” main action that takes place in a real fight and this is why Aikido trains them so often. Try it and you’ll see for yourself! In this two handed grab, you can see that this would happen if you were being apprehended in a wartime situation or by someone trying to kidnap you or thugs trying to restrain you. This is a 100% real world movement. Even more real would be two Uke’s, one on each side grabbing two handed. Or three Ukes, one on each side then one behind you in a choke hold. Aikido is incredibly and 100% directly applicable to real world situations (even Krav Maga movments seem to match up almost 100% to Aikido movements), it just takes a while to see them sometimes or to have a teacher who encourages randori and cross training.

  2. I think that what Saitô Sensei is demonstrating is what we call (in Yôseikan) a “kyôka hô” (strengthening exercise) to develop kuzushi-tsukuri-kake. Therefore it should be distinguished from the jiyû randori application in which a skilled uke will anticipate tori’s movement and apply a kaeshi waza (counter). In jiyû randori, tori will enter with irimi followed by a hôkô tenkan (change of direction) which — if timed properly — will give uke no time to anticipate.

    Patrick Augé

  3. Seen as an exercise, like kneeling kokyuho, this is obviously very valuable training, as Ken says, but as a static defensive technique it seems rather pointless. Nage might just as well use his free hand to apply atemi (while uke has both his hands occupied), or use a weapon. I wonder if Saito Sensei ever explained the origin and meaning of the morotedori grip?

  4. Peter John Still says:

    historically, morote-dori kokyu-ho is a prominent training exercise – – – Saito Shihan clearly believed it to be the laconically described “irimi tenkan” #4 of the the ‘preparatory exercises’ in the 1938 “Budo” training manual – – – and in Tohei Shihan’s first book (“under the supervision of Morihei Uyeshiba” – which internal evidence such as some of the writing on Nature and Aikido affirms) a high proportion of the photographic plates at the front of the book are Morote-dori or Katate-dori kokyu-ho – and variations figure prominently among the first few waza.

  5. correction:
    oops – mea culpa – both Saito Shihan and Tohei Shihan are referencing katate-dori and ryote-dori kokyu-ho and kokyu-nage… apologies. Obviously, tho, still relevant to morote-dori-kokyu-ho…

  6. Changing the perspective can provide light on this one.. Every grab from Uke is a defensive movement triggered by a previous attack from Nage. Thus, the grab, is a holding on to avoid being hit in some way. Nage simply continues the attack until Uke is thrown. The static practice in the Dojo is just that, practice and study of all mechanics involved. In a more realistic scenario however EVERY single grab by Uke should be a response to Nage’s attack.. But this comes in contradiction with what is generally a doctrine of peace, thus we “never” attack in Aikido..

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