Some of you during my classes would have noticed that I have been figuring out ways in improving my kote-gaeshi as often people with sturdy wrists can resist the technique unless it’s applied while the person is off-balance. I have often wondered whether it was a deficiency in technique on my part and have asked many people as to the proper way of applying kote-gaeshi or was it solely a matter of timing and generating the necessary off-balance position.
I decided to do a bit of research on my own which gels with my findings in the dojo that you cannot hope to rely on kote-gaeshi alone but more on body movement and keeping the opponent unbalanced at the point of the throw.
The supinating wristlock (in budō referred to as kote gaeshi, 小手返, “forearm return”) is a rotational wristlock, and arguably the most common wristlock. It involves rotating the hand so that it becomes maximally supinated, often referred to as ‘externally rotating’ the wrist, and hence putting a joint lock on the wrist and radioulnar joint. This can be done by grabbing the opponent’s hand with one or both hands, and twisting the hand so that the opponent’s thumb points away from the opponent. A supinating wristlock performed from a stand-up position can be used to force the opponent to the ground on his or her back. Straightening the arm does not alleviate the pressure, since the shoulder joint does not allow further supination of the hand.
It should be noted that a properly executed lock of this type does not apply torque to the wrist, itself. In practice, the bones of the forearm and, eventually, the shoulder are the focus of the lock. If performed correctly this technique will break the opponents wrist, elbow and dislocate the shoulder. In practice uke will turn over his own arm, in order to prevent his wrist from breaking. The goal of almost all throws executed via joint/bone manipulation, at least from the perspective of some classical (koryu) martial arts, is to break or dislocate a limb(s).
And Stefan Stenudd 6th Dan Aikikai’s write-up on this:
Kotegaeshi, “reversed wrist”, is a very popular throwing technique in aikido. It seems rather easy to learn, and applicable against a number of attacks. But I remember my first Japanese teacher, Toshikazu Ichimura, warning us that it is not at all as easy as it may seem.
Usually, the thing that aikido students focus on is the actual twisting of the attacker’s wrist. That seems to be what kotegaeshi is about. But some people have sturdy wrists, indeed, and can resist the techniqe – at least enough for it to become awkward. Also, people react differently to the wrist twist, few falling elegantly and in exactly the direction tori, the one doing the technique, intended.
Aikido is all about finding pleasant solutions, where neither tori nor uke is hurt. Finding a pleasant way of doing kotegaeshi is not easy, but to settle with anything less is rude, not to say brutal. There are many examples of it in the aikido community, even among high grade practicioners. Uke is forced to the fall, through the pain and the risk of hurting the wrist. It might work – though not as surely as it seems – but the result hardly leads to an aikido that inspires and stimulates peacefulness.
Actually, I think that no aikido technique should involve pain or the threat of harm, when it is developed to its proper form.
With kotegaeshi, I think that the trick is not in the wrist twist, but in the rhythm. The movement leading up to the actual wrist twist should be a wave, which sort of automatically leads to uke’s fall. Uke is kind of sucked into the technique. In that respect, kotegaeshi is similar to some forms of kokyunage.
I think that last paragraph answered my queries. Like most Aikido techniques, it shouldn’t be the pain of the technique that should projects your opponent but rather the movement and the creation of imbalance. I think one of the techniques that best illustrates this is the proper execution of Shiho-nage which upon a proper turn would automatically setup the throw without the need for a very deep/forceful cut to throw. Something to work towards to (including myself).
Sensei Desmond has also located this video on Youtube giving an excellent explanation: