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Tomoe-nage is often translated as "stomach throw" or "circle throw", but these are not direct translations. What does tomoe mean, and why is the throw called this?

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Tomoe (巴) refers to a circular anti-symmetric symbol commonly found in Japanese heraldry. The usage in the judo throw specifically refers to the two-tailed version, futatsu-domoe:

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This is very similar to the Chinese taijitu ("yin-yang" symbol) ☯, or Korean taegeuk (famously appearing on South Korea's flag) 🇰🇷.

Tomoe-nage is named as such because Kano thought the positioning/movement of tori and uke's bodies resembled this symbol during the throw:

The origin of tomoe-nage

Randori techniques resembling tomoe-nage are found in the jujutsu textbook Shikatsu Jizai, Sekkotsu Ryoho, Jujutsu Seirisho as sutemi-tori and tachi-sutemi-tori.

Master Kano bestowed this technique with the name tomoe-nage. In Judokai chabanashi (from Judo, published by Judo Kai Honbu, 1916), it says:

"Master Kano was an expert at tomoe-nage. This was originally a Tenjin Shinyo-ryu technique named Ando-gaeshi, after an certain Ando who was skilled in the technique.

It was at that time probably named along with uki-waza, or called Kano-nage or Kano-gaeshi.

Master Kano once said that he named this technique after its resemblance to two objects moving in a circular form"

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  • 1
    Just for the record, I support self answers like this to archive learned knowledge. – Sean Duggan Jun 14 at 11:09
  • This throw is referred to as ma-sutemi-nage in an article on ju-jitsu in this volume of Transactions and proceedings of the Japan Society (1892) – ukemi Jul 29 at 13:55
  • Mifune translates this as "Big comma throw" in his Canon of Judo. – ukemi Sep 25 at 11:10

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