Everything you ever wanted to know about Morote Seoi Nage

The great thing about living in the internet age is the amount of access anyone can have to the greats of Judo. Gone are the days where you relied on mail-order VHS cassettes for instructionals or travelling far and wide for a Judo course held by an accomplished Judoka. A cursory search on Youtube grants you plenty of high quality material to set you on your way, all without leaving your sofa. If you want to pay for more premium content there’s even the likes of Judo Fanatics and Superstar Judo.

Given my recent foot injury I have been exploring morote seoi nage since it’s more forgiving for my injury (it doesn’t require a single foot for balance during execution). This article is a summary of everything I’ve found regarding Morote Seoi Nage from accomplished experts across freely available Youtube videos.

Morote Seoi Nage is labelled as a hand technique in the Judo throw family tree, but as with everything in Judo, it requires a full body movement. I highly recommend you watch the first 20 seconds of this video for a great, textbook example of the throw. The player is quick, his movements are efficient, the muscle memory is clearly evident, there is a reason for each motion made. It’s truly fascinating to watch.

This is for the forward version of it, there’s a rear version (where uke walks into you) which I don’t cover here but that variation’s differences are largely in the footwork.

Let’s break down all the different parts of the body and what they do..

Your hands

Your lapel hand (tsurite) needs to get a good crumple of gi. Get enough of that gi but have a loose lapel hand. It sounds counter-intuitive but don’t have a death grip of the lapel because it will block you when you’re trying to pull it and go underneath. The only time you’re relatively tense is when you’re pulling for kuzushi – the rest of the time feel free to flap the lapel about with a fairly easy grip. This will additionally benefit you by not signalling what you’re about to do.

You don’t need to be too high in your grip like other throws. Just be high enough to reach the collar bone or slightly below. It’s also a pulling tsurite action not a lifting one like uchi-mata/harai and others. That crumple of gi you have in your hands is pulled into you while twisting your lapel hand so that your pinkie is leading the turn as you twist.

Wrist action

As mentioned earlier, the wrists are twisting and they are being led by the little finger of each hand. The little fingers are stated as being of most importance according to this video, even more so than any other finger.

Additionally, Shintaro Nakano separately says you should be using your thumb and index fingers not for gripping but for ‘feel’ of what the opponent is doing. This feel apparently will come with time (I don’t have it personally, but I don’t have a 20th of the mat time Nakano has).

Your wrists need to have mobility in them, so try not to be too stiff as that will impact your movement. If you’re doing it right, your wrists will twist as you’re initiating this throw.


As you pull and twist yourself so your back is to uke, do not put your elbow into uke’s armpit! This is a mistake I’ve personally made for years now. Bring the elbow forward and if you’re doing it right it should be hitting uke’s elbow. In summary, your elbow of your tsurite should be forward and not trailing.

Generally your elbows should be leading the way, on both of your arms).

A word on Kuzushi

For kuzushi the traditional mindset is that you step first, then pull (making sure you’re stable) or doing it at the same time. By pulling, then stepping after you risk destabilising yourself. However, an interesting point made by Choi Min-ho is that you should be pulling with your back and not with your arms. By doing it this way, your centre of rotation is your head and hence your whole body is doing the kuzushi job – but being lead by your rear, whipping leg. This is a fascinating point: to not try pulling them off-balance with your arms but rather your arms are relaxed and your back is doing the pulling; while your swivelling into the throw your whole body is then taking up the rest of kuzushi action. This is in contradiction to Nakano’s view that there should be as much arm pull as possible for kuzushi. Try and see what works for you.

Either way, kuzushi should always come first before you do tsukuri (setup of the technique) but you should be so lightning quick that it happens almost at the same time.


You’re facing uke initially but as you turn you are locking eyes on your hikite (sleeve/steering hand). Your hikite is actually leading him into the throw and you want to be looking where you want them to go.

The ambition is to keep uke upright but on his toes before the throw. Don’t try and bend him down in half and load his weight on your back – you will collapse.

Hip action

You should be entering with your whole body, not with your arms. Your hips are the main movers here.


Give yourself a bit of space between you and uke. There’s a gap you want to create which you’re then looking to fill, and acting as an over-sized trip hazard.

You want uke to ideally be on tippy toes and light on their feet, almost leaning on to you. Your connection is at the top part of your body and not your lower part of your back.

Your back/trailing foot should somewhat clip your other leg as it spins and it should travel a bit more (so it ends up much closer to uke’s centre of gravity. You’ll actually be facing 45 degrees, rather than facing the same direction as uke. 
Be always on your toes, not your heels. Your toes will give that spring.

Your forward foot on entry should be pivoting on your big toe, it should be obscured from your view (if you were to look down) by your knee i.e. your knee should be further than your toe. This makes you go lower on entry, which is a good thing.

Don’t go for a wide stance when pulling over for the throw, shoulder-width is perfect with toes pointing forward.


I hope this helps you. It’s worked wonders for me as I’ve now got a blueprint to work from rather than endless amounts of trial and error. Let me know your thoughts on this and whether you want to see anything else on this site. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to this blog on the link at the bottom right of the page.

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