By Don Houle
You've done musha dori a hundred times and just can't seem to get the movement down. Your uke just wiggles out of your technique or stands there without being a bit off balance. What do you do? Let's take a look at this fundamental technique and how to make it work better.
As with all taijutsu, the most important aspect of musha dori is the correct use of the ashi sabaki (footwork). In the beginning of one's training, one often mistakenly focuses on the upper body and the arms. Begin from a single same-side wrist grab. As your opponent grabs, you should first lower your weight slightly by bending at the knees. Then, take a step back, unbalancing the uke. Do not just pull your arm away from the grab. Use your legs and hips to pull. Now you have the uke off balance both physically and mentally.
Next, you need to move in and trap the opponent's arm. Again, using your legs to propel yourself forward as you stretch your arm over the uke's arm. Lowering your weight by bending your knees, you push the opponent off balance as your ascending elbow meets his elbow. Now your opponent is unable to counter your attack as his balance is taken and you are in a position next to him that is difficult to reach.
At this point, you use your legs to turn, locking the uke's elbow and shoulder. Rise up, increasing the torque on the opponent's arm. It's a good idea to place your hands together in a "praying" position as you apply upward pressure with your own elbow. You should then move slightly behind the uke so that you are safe from any attacks. Taking advantage of this position, use your inside leg to kick the uke's leg from behind. This should force him to the ground. In training you should lower yourself to the ground as the uke falls, but in a real combat situation, you would continue to apply pressure to the arm.
Give it a try while paying attention to each "part" of the technique. Every movement has a reason for being. It's our job to examine these movements and determine what those strategic reasons are.