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Wastelander's picture
Wansu Shoulder Throw

Hello everyone,

This week's Waza Wednesday takes a look at a sequence from the end of Wansu that is traditionally seen as a shoulder throw--specifically, kata guruma. Our take is more closely related to the single shoulder throw shown by Itoman Morinobu in his book, The Study of China Hand Techniques, as well as the katawa guruma (cripple wheel) and yari dama (spearing through) throws shown by Funakoshi Gichin in his books.

Spaniard's picture

As always, you present a great help in looking at kata movements!

Best regards-

Erik P./Spaniard

Mark B
Mark B's picture

Very similar to the single leg pick up I teach my juniors. Which kata is unimportant, this example is from Wansu, I refer the principles back to Naihanchi for them as that's the only kata they learn, but most forms will present the required principles and mechanics to deliver this type of option I tend to place it in the scenario of close quarter grappling where the opponent has the initiative and is in the process of trying to force your head down. When I work it with my adult class it works under the most vigorous energy and resistance, obviously it gets much messier, but I like that :-) I guess it could be effective against a grab, although it wouldn't be my first choice. Against proper punches with real intent and venom it could prove more problematic in my opinion.,

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Very interesting! I particularly like the connection to Funakoshi’s Yari-Dama. For those who don’t know, there are two versions of the technique: there is the throw by that name in Funakoshi’s 1926 book (left) and then there is the version in his 1935 book (right).

The 1935 Kyohan version is one that has never convinced me. It relies on an entirely unrealistic degree over commitment from the recipient and the mechanics of it are all wrong i.e. gripping way down the arm and expecting the pull to tip the enemy. The 1926 one is better.

Your version is a little different to both, and I prefer it to both! It makes much more sense to use the neck to cause the tilt. Personally I would not have connected the throw you show with the Funakoshi one, but now that you have that makes perfect sense and is a much better variation on what Funakoshi was trying to achieve. Excellent work!

We do know that Funakoshi taught other throws beside the ones in his books. In this video below there is a picture of Gichin Funakoshi teaching the “orthodox shoulder wheel” that your video provides the alternative too. The video gives the standard take on the motion and shows a kneeling version too (more appropriate to fighting).

All throws are advanced skills and the simplest way to put a guy on his back is to hit him hard (what my friend Steve calls “The One Fisted Throw”). Good to have throws as back up skills, and the big plus of practising throws is you are going to be training is a room full of people who can throw. This means that your ability to keep your feet when facing throws is also increased, and that’s arguably even more important from self-protection perspective.

My time with the fulltime judo guys did much to improve my throwing; it did far more for my ability to keep my feet. If I could manage it against elite throwers – even for a time – then self-defence wise I’m very unlikely to get upended.

Great video Noah – I prefer the ones where you talk through the techniques – and I think you’ve provided the karate world with a workable version of Funakoshi’s 1935 Yari-Dama!

All the best,


Wastelander's picture

Thanks, everyone!

Mark B - Yes, there are certainly lots of variations, and many ways to connect them to different kata! My point in the video, regarding the attack, was that it really doesn't matter so much what they are attacking with, provided you end up in the right position with your opponent moving toward you. A push was the simplest way of showing that, and is also the simplest way of introducing it, in my opinion. I have used it against resistant partners in both grappling and punching scenarios, and as you said it definitely gets uglier, although I actually found that it was easier to pull off on partners who were trying to hit me :P

Iain - I'm honored that you like it so much! I actually do quite a few variations of this throw, including ones that utilize the opponent's arms--both same-side like Funakoshi, and opposide-side like Itoman. The head-grip variation may have come from my judo experience, but I found that it requires less commitment from the opponent, and is easier for people to understand how to do. Of course, as you say, knocking someone out quickly is a more efficient way of putting them on the floor, but I find a lot of value in throws, particularly when dealing with opponents who have no understanding of grappling. It also definitely has the benefit of making you harder to throw :)

Andrzej J
Andrzej J's picture

Great stuff! Thanks very much for this post! I don't do this particular kata, but a similar kata guruma appears in Seienchin, which I do practise.

dhogsette's picture

Thank you Noal and Iain for these videos. Great applications, and thanks for sharing! I do like the shoulder throw better than the fireman's carry, mainly because of my back... The older I get the less strain I can put on my back. I'll definetly think more about this shoulder throw application. At the moment, I focus on an application that is a defense against a lapel grab that involves a different takedown.

In the Matsubayashi version of Wanshu, there are a series of "chest blocks," shift back into cat stance with simultaneous open hand high block (left) and low block (right), shoot in, knee raise, lift arms, spin around, and two shuto strikes moving backward. Here is an example of the Matsubayashi version of Wanshu (the segment for the application begins at 33 sec):

Here is a descriptive outline of a bunkai I've been working on:

  1. Left lapel has been grabbed—reach up with the left hand and grab his hand on your lapel, and block any punches coming in with your right hand as you also deliver strikes
  2. At good opportunity, shift back into side stance and hammer down on the crook of his elbow with the right hand, and then strike the side of his neck with the chest block motion—his arm should be bent and he should be distracted by the neck strike
    • You can also use an upper cut strike here instead of hitting the side of his neck--both are good applications of the chest block motion
  3. Keep hold with your left, fade back into cat stance (right foot forward) and bring the right hand back and over his arm and scoop down using the open hand low block motion—this will twist his body, and his head may come close to your head
    • Note: the strike before this technique should soften the attacker up enough to make this technique more feasible
  4. Immediately raise your left hand up with the open hand in high block motion to check his head and to avoid collision with your head
  5. Shift forward into front stance as in kata and as his body continues to twist, seize his throat with your left hand (his throat should be facing directly upward) and shoot your right hand in forward to keep control of his right arm, which should be twisted up in your right arm
  6. Shuffle in with the left foot and knee strike to his back with the right knee, then spin around and take him to the ground
  7. You should still have control of his right arm—pull up on it and stomp to his body or arm pit (not to head for legal reasons) and step away in defensive posture
  8. If for whatever reason the technique fails or unravels or he gets away or the take down doesn’t work, then use the shuto uke techniques as blocks and strikes (one possible interpretation for the stepping backward with the shuto ukes is that the attacker is advancing and you are stepping backward while defending self and striking)

Unfortunately, I don't have a video of me doing this, but here is a video from One Minute Bunkai that illustrates the basic ideas (and, I got my inspiration for this application from this video):

I hope this adds to the conversation.



TW Smith
TW Smith's picture

I wanted you to know that the throw video's you made were excellent. Throws like the one u demonstrate work well when the guy is bigger and leans down, to crush ya. Getting his head over is key.  I really like your work.

Wastelander's picture

Thanks, guys!

dhogsette - Angel Lemus Sensei's application is one of the very few I have seen for this movement (that have been specifically tied to Wansu) that wasn't a kata guruma. I like it well enough, and actually do something similar with my Passai Dai. Thanks for including it in the discussion!

JWT's picture

Nice video Noah. Good clear instruction. I like it!

All the best.