Kokyu Nage: Throw With the Power of Your Breath

Kokyu Nage (or kokyunage) literally means ‘breath power throw’. The kokyu form is an extended yet ‘curved like a sword’ arm. The Kokyu Nage throw has a ‘flicking feel’ on the throw. During the Zanshin part of Kokyu Nage or Kokyu Ho, the eyes are looking for the next attacker producing a higher awareness meditative state.

After practising Aikido for around 30 years, let me share with you some of my observations on Kokyu Nage.

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There are Two Kokyu Nage Forms

Throw Towards the Front

Kokyu Nage by Shioda Kancho (Founder of Yoshinkan Aikido)

This shape has the palm forward and the throw is towards the front.

Sumi Otoshi can be classified as a Kokyu Nage because of this form.

Throw Towards the Side

Kokyu Nage by Ueshiba Morihei O Sensei

This shape has palm up and the throw is to the side or slightly to the cornerback.

In Tomiki Shodokan Aikido, Kokyu Nage is introduced as ‘gyaku gamae ate‘ the third technique of the atemi waza.

One of the ways I remember this form of Kokyu Nage is the easy elbow to the face or elbow to the throat atemi. Another way of remembering this form is the easy atemi trip or sweep to uke’s leg.

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The Kokyu form in general usually does not have a palm down or thumb pointing down handshape on the throw.

The exception to this general rule of thumb is when the kokyunage throw is similar to the irimi nage form. You can see this case with tenchi nage the heaven and earth throw. Some masters classify tenchi nage on its own category and not as a Kokyu Nage.

Tenchi Nage by Saito Sensei

Both kokyu forms have the ‘Kokyu’ shaped arm. ‘Kokyu’ as a term most of the time means the hand and arm shape. The way I remembered the kokyu form or kokyu hand shape is it looks like you are about to catch a basketball.

Kokyu Form by Tohei Sensei

Have a look at the arms of Shioda Sensei, Saito Sensei, Tohei Sensei and O Sensei above. All masters have strong extended curved ‘like a sword’ shaped arms. Let your kokyu be filled with a strong breath and energise them with your ki.

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The Breath Throw

One distinct feature of Kokyu Nage is the emphasis on the power of the breath.

The complete name is ‘Kokyu Ryoku Nage’ which means ‘Breath Power Throw’.

To start the technique, you exhale and relax your body in calm martial awareness.

As soon as your partner attacks, you inhale the ki or energy coming from him. The physical effect of this is a form of inflation. The breath released when you Kiai is what gives this technique its power.

When inhaling make sure you breathe from the bottom of your diaphragm.

When exhaling, visualise the ki flowing out of your palms and with your breath.

If you scroll down there are some video examples on how Kokyu Nage (kokyunage) can be done.

To Look or Not to Look

When you are using the first form you look at where you are throwing.

If you are throwing to the side do not look at your uke. As soon as you look at him, you will notice that he can pull you down with him.

In regards to looking into your opponent’s eyes. There is a big debate about this. Most of the hard-hitting martial arts such as boxing, karate, Muay Thai and BJJ advice that you look into your opponent’s eyes.

O Sensei advised against this. O Sensei advised that if you look at your uke or opponent in the eyes, then you can be lured into a move and your intention distracted.

I believe mastering the ‘strategy of the gaze’ is a powerful mental atemi, just watch a boxing match to see this strategy in motion.

My take on this one is if I am doing the first form yes look and throw towards the front forward. If you are using the second form, then you don’t look at your opponent in the eyes. Not only can Uke drag you down to the ground but he can also intimidate you.

That Flicking Feeling

The kokyu throw feels like a flick. You don’t want uke to hold on after you have thrown him. There is a flick at the end of the throw that can break Uke’s connection with Nage.

If I exaggerate the description, it will look like the throwing arm or body gracefully stops on a point. It reminds me of a catapult’s action.

This flicking feeling is not easy to explain with words. To appreciate this point the Aikidoka will have to be the uke to feel the right Kokyu Nage throw.

One can master this flick throw by training a lot.

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All Aikido Moves and Aikido Techniques are Kokyu Nage

A lot of Aikido Sensei(s) and Aikido Masters (Shihan) says that all Aikido Moves and Techniques (Waza) are Kokyu Nage because all Aikido moves and Aikido techniques require breathing. Well… literally YES, but that’s just an oversimplification of things. You are not doing yourself any favours by thinking like that.

Is walking Kokyu? Is talking on the phone Kokyu because it requires breathing too. When we oversimplify or exaggerate Aikido that’s when we run into all sorts of trouble. Part of learning Aikido is to distinguish the techniques from each other and name them. So call Kokyu Nage – Kokyu Nage and Irimi Nage – Irimi Nage, etc. Do not give yourself an excuse to have a second rate learning, knowledge, and experience by doing shortcuts. Remember (and I’ve said this 100s+ times) the most important Aikido in the world is your Aikido because that’s the Aikido that lives within you. You want that Aikido to be a good one.

Good Aikido Move for Jiu Waza and Randori

I believe that there are three major Aikido moves that are suitable for Jiu Waza (Freestyle) or Ran Dori (Random Grab). Those three Aikido moves are Kokyu Nage, Irimi Nage and Kote Gaeshi.

Yes, there are masters and experts out there that can do more than three. From my experience of jiuwaza, one doesn’t have time to think, so you need techniques that are not very involving.

Shiho Nage and the Osaeru Waza are involving. These techniques are more suitable to one on one situations. Let me not rule them out. You can use them to use uke as a shield in multiple attacker jiuwaza. However, as soon as you take on a defensive mindset, it will be a matter of time before the other attackers get to you.

Getting off the line of attack and only using Kokyu Nage, Irimi Nage, and Kote Gaeshi is a proven strategy that worked for me in jiuwaza. Using these three techniques has enough combinations to give you the takemusu effect.

Kokyu Nage is an effective Aikido move to use when you need to break a wall of attackers. You can throw uke and bowl the others with Kokyu Nage.

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Morihei Ueshiba O Sensei

Hitohira Saito Sensei

A.R.Yates Sensei

Shirakawa Ryuji Sensei

Morihiro Saito Sensei

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Published by Crom Salvatera

Crom Salvatera is the Founder of Good Aikido. 'Crom Sensei' as he is known in the dojo has been practising Aikido for 30 years and has been teaching Aikido for 11 years.

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