Grabbing the bones and Gokyo

Some time ago I was writing an article about grabs in Aikido and how to improve them. Since this article, I still see an error quite frequently in young practitionner which I would like to adress today:

Beginners hold the skin instead of the bone.


Many new practictionners tend to grab the side of the wrist first and then turn around it to “lock” their hold. This type of grab has the effect of wriggling the skin of the partner and can give an impression of power. This illusion is often reinforced by the look on uke’s face as he suffers some kind of “indian burn”. This seems to be most common on techniques such as kote gaeshi or shiho nage as the practitioner wants to jump start the technique by turning the wrist too soon.

This however is only an illusion of control. This type of hold can be undone as easily as it was obtained, it can slip and it offers little to no leverage on uke. It is almost impossible to use his arm to move him in that way.


To avoid this problem, it is necessary to directly grab the bone by placing your palm flat on the larger interior or exterior sides of the forearm.

It is important to establish this control since the beginning of the hold, with no regard to the finale position !


Gokyo, the strongest hold…

All controls in aikido are applications of a same principle with different types of grabs. Beginning with Ikkyo, arguably the least effective, we carry on with Nikyo and Sankyo, both offering wrist locks in some manner, and then yonkyo with its painful pressure points.
Up to this point, all techniques have to be made stronger with the help of an action on the elbow. Be it with a direct control (as in ikkyo) or an indirect control by twisting and bending the arm in the others.

This is not the case for the last hold !


The control on the hand is the same in the 6th Kumijo !

The grab used for Gokyo, with the thumb at the base of uke’s hand, is the most effective in our repertoire. It is so effective that it can be used without control on the partner’s elbow !

In this position, the thumb can effectively lock the hold and prevent uke from twisting his forearm out of the technique.

This hold also creates a lever on the hand to pull uke’s arm as would be done with a Jo (For example in the 6th kumjo).


It is probably one of the reason why gokyo is preffered in case of a knife attack. In this position, the hand opening of tori is located on the opposite side of uke’s target !

The other reason, commonly stated, is that the gokyo hold creates the most distance between the blade and your wrist !


This particular advantage allows us to better understand another technique for which two grabs are required : Juji Garami.

In Juji Garami, one hold is established through ikkyo while the other hand grabs in the way of gokyo. It is remarquable that, in order to make the technique work, you need to use the arm grabbed with the gokyo hold to control the elbow of the arm in the ikkyo hold. And not the opposite !

(It is also the gokyo hold that is used to control uke’s fall when only one hand is released)


For more details about holds in Aikido, please consider reading my other article on this subject : Tsukamu !

Finally, to learn more about the use of bones in martial practice you can check out this article on Budoshugyosha.


Until next time, grab strongly !

Samuel Valkenborgh,
March 2019

Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre by Utagawa Kuniyoshi


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