The wonders of Koshi Guruma

If you’re a recreational player like me, you’ll probably be dabbling in a technique or two for a short period of time. Judo is great for exploring a set movement or technique and then losing yourself down the rabbit hole.

Of late, I’ve been dabbling with Koshi Guruma (English translation: Hip Wheel). It might prove interesting to this readership if I reflect on it a little.

If you don’t know what it is, it’s not some esoteric/mystical throw which has been kept as a secret; Google and Youtube have plenty of examples to draw from (here’s one).

How I was exposed to it

Koshi Guruma was the first hip throw I learned as a teenager. At the time it was introduced to me in a Japanese Jujitsu school called The Jitsu Foundation (they’ve rebranded and renamed themselves since). Interestingly, it was setup in the form of uke attempting a right cross punch to the face – uke steps in with their right leg, they attempt a right cross and you were then shown to swivel accordingly into the right position.

Curiously, the British Judo syllabus has this throw set as a requirement for a brown belt/1st kyu belt promotion. Odd how one school syllabus has it as the basis of throw understanding whereas another national-level combat sport syllabus has it set as a more advanced throw. Why?

The answer to this question also answers the question of why you should learn it..

Why it’s so great to have in your toolbox

Let’s look at the fundamentals of it: it’s a stable throw. By this I mean that when you’re going through the throw itself you have both legs planted on the ground. You don’t have to do any fancy balancing on one foot while you’re carrying someone else’s weight, in fact you just need to be sure your feet are in the right position and you’re in a good place.

You just need one hand (initially) for the throw setup. If you’ve got a sleeve grip, that’s great! You don’t need a lapel grip to execute, in fact your trailing hand then just needs to wrap around uke’s upper body and gripping their lat. There’s a lot of margin for error here on the gripping front (provided you have that sleeve grip) – provided you’ve locked solidly onto their upper body with their tsurite (lapel hand grip), you’re golden.

The footwork is relatively standard – it’s shared with seoi nage and other winding hip throws. You don’t have to relearn anything if you’re a seoi nage type. You step in and essentially face the same way for a standard forward throw setup. Certainly, for side-ways or rear-wards entries there’s some minor complexity there but nothing too convoluted.

Cautions/Considerations when using it

As with a lot of turn-throws, you’ve got to be quick! Once you begin your entry, you have to be quick. Any delays in your execution just make you ripe for a counter/pick-up throw. Given it’s a turn-throw, Judo people will be particularly sensitised to this setup when they see it coming about. This means you’ve really got to get that footwork down pat or cleverly disguise it with some kind of initial fake setup throw to lead into it.

If you fuss about too much with this throw’s grip without executing, you leave yourself open to enabling your opponent to take an underhook grip. As any grappler can attest to, an underhook grip is convenient and provides options for control. To clarify – your tsurite (lapel hand grip) is essentially going over their shoulder which allows your opponent to get a lapel grip of their choosing which means they can then start thwarting and blocking your moves if left unaddressed. So again, if you’ve got the grip, you’ve got the entry, uke’s in the right place? Just go!!!


If you’ve not heard of it before, it’s a throw that’s well worth considering. It may not be as worshipped as the infamous uchi mata but if you’re thrown by it properly and with full speed, it is rough (even if you feel you’ve got the ukemi of a Judo god).

There’s ample opportunity to explore different setups: it couples well with rear throws like o-uchi gari, it also works well when you threaten it and then move to a different turn-throw e.g. uchi mata.

The main innovation I’ve come across is the split hip entry which Travis Stephens uses in his Koshi Gurumu instructional over at JudoFanatics. Travis used Koshi Guruma to great effect throughout his competitive career so it’s definitely a battle-proven technique to use.

Try it today and you’ll have a formidable weapon to add to the arsenal.

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