The Kodokan Kansetsu-Waza video demonstrates a number of variations of te-gatame where uke's arm is pulled up their back, applying a hyper-rotational lock to the shoulder (sometimes called a hammerlock or chickenwing). In fact, all variants it describes (except for the first performed from standing) appear to be shoulder locks:

enter image description here

Unlike with other explicitly banned techniques demonstrated in the video (e.g. ryote-jime with the legs, do-jime, daki-age), the commentary makes no mention that these locks are illegal.

Such techniques have occasionally been used in high level competition, but there seems to be inconsistency on whether hansoku-make is given.1

Are these variants of te-gatame legal?

I had always assumed not, since they seem to be explicitly targeting the shoulder joint, but the ban on joint-locks anywhere other than the elbow was in place long before this video was published, and ude-garami is permitted as a long-established judo armlock despite also targeting the shoulder. Note also that the IJF explicitly lists te-gatame among their recognised techniques (code TGT).

1. Hansoku-make GP Düsseldorf 2017 | Heinle vs Khammo | 100+ (switch camera to "Tatami 1")


Legality of te-gatame

As one might infer from their presence in the video and current syllabus, the position of the Kodokan is that these bent-arm hammerlock versions of te-gatame are legal.1 2 3

The incongruence between te-gatame appearing on the IJF's list of legal techniques and the (occasional) penalisation of it in actual competition seems to stem from what the Kodokan consider a misunderstanding of the rules on kansetsu-waza prohibition:

Also, Tori who was trying to apply Ude-hishigi-te-gatame was given penalty as it was considered as an attack to Uke’s shoulder, with the current tendency of overreacting to hazardous actions. These seem to be caused by lack of knowledge rather than insufficient referee skills.

Note however that the IJF Referee Commission appear to be aligned with the Kodokan on this matter, having on several occasions demonstrated what appear to be Hammerlock style te-gatame as examples of a legal technique in ne-waza (forcing uke to turn over):

And such techniques have been awarded ippon in 4/5 occasions I can locate of it being used in high-level competition:

Ambiguous translations: scope of kansetsu-waza armlocks

The intention of the rule prohibiting non-elbow joint-locks seems to have been to include both armbar style locks and bent-arm locks, since both involve manipulation of the elbow joint to achieve their effect, regardless of the point of pain/hyper-mobility exercised on uke itself.

This is evident in Kodokan descriptions of the technique,1 2 3 where it is considered a lock applied "to" the elbow joint:

Ude-hishigi-te-gatame | Hand armlock

... It is also possible to grasp his wrist with one or both hands and apply a lock to his elbow by twisting his arm behind his back.

The common idea that "kansetsu-waza applied to the elbow" only includes "joint-locks which cause pain to the elbow" seems in light of this to be a misinterpretation.4

IJF stipulation Kodokan intention Common misinterpretation
"kansetsu-waza applied to the elbow" armbars and bent-arm locks only armlocks which cause pain to the elbow

The Kodokan makes this explicit in its clarified rules:

Japanese Translation
「腕緘」や「腕挫腋固」などで肘を攻撃していても、肩関節に影響を与える場合がある。明らかに肩が攻撃されて、相手が試合をする能力を失った場合は、負傷させた方の試合者が「反則負け」となる。 Even if the elbow is attacked with "Ude garami" or "Ude hishigi waki gatame", the shoulder joint may be affected. If the shoulder is clearly attacked and the opponent loses the ability to play the match, the injured player will be the "foul-loser".

Note on translation:

  1. te-gatame... Alternatively use one or both hands to grip your opponent's wrist and twist it around behind him to control his elbow joint.
    - Kodokan New Japanese-English Dictionary of Judo

  2. Kodokan Judo: The Essential Guide to Judo by Its Founder Jigoro Kano, Jigoro Kano (1997)

  3. Kodokan Katame-Waza: Various Techniques and their Names (1994)

  4. This is perhaps understandable given the inconsistent way in which the term 'joint-lock' is used in different martial arts and languages, sometimes referring to the action of 'locking' a position, and sometimes the point of pain inflicted in the locked position.

    In addition to the general issues in translating technical and anatomical terminology from Japanese to English, I suspect the confusion is in part also due to the ambiguity of terminology for individual joint-lock names, referring variously to:

    • the point of articulation/pain in uke when applied (Achilles-lock, wristlock, biceps slicer, omoplata)
    • the articulation/movement of tori when applying (ude-garami, double wristlock)
    • the articulation/movement of uke when applied (armbar, chicken-wing)
    • or a combination of the above (ude-hishigi-hiza-gatame, knee-bar, toe-hold)

  • This is both quite interesting and very frustrating. The statement "Ude-hishigi-te-gatame was given penalty as it was considered as an attack to Uke’s shoulder" seems to indicate 1. that this should not have been penalized, 2. that it was not an attack on the shoulder, and 3. shoulder attacks should be penalized.
    – mattm
    Sep 11 '19 at 15:54
  • 2
    Someone with authority needs to write down in clear, declarative sentences what is legal and why.
    – mattm
    Sep 11 '19 at 15:56

I will answer as best I can, but I expect more experienced referees may disagree.

This is an example of when the Kodokan classification is not very useful given the very different applications it covers.

First the Kodokan video:

  1. Legal. This is a straightforward hyperextension armlock with tori's arm as the fulcrum.

te gatame

  1. Unsure. I am not familiar with this armlock, and the video is also not particularly illuminating either. Best guess is illegal because of the shoulder.

guard stack

  1. Illegal. I would call a hansoku-make on the armlock shown in the gif on the basis that it affects the shoulder and not the elbow.

behind back

  1. Legal. This is basically an ude garami with applied only one hand, which is legal because it can affect the elbow.


And the video link:

  1. Illegal. I think this is the Kodokan #3 from above, so illegal.

As demonstrated by the referee seminar, decisions can be very difficult, even with slow motion and instant replay.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.