Judo's kesa-gatame is often translated as "scarf hold", but the technique is defined by wrapping your arms and upper body around uke's neck and arm, more like a seatbelt, as opposed to wrapping around just their neck, like a scarf. Why is it called this?

1 Answer 1


When translating foreign technique names, sometimes there isn't a perfect analogue in the target language e.g. "tomoe" in tomoe-nage translated as 'circle'.

The "kesa" (袈裟) in kesa-gatame in fact refers to a type of buddhist robe, the Kāṣāya. While historically it was worn covering both shoulders, in current Japanese Buddhist style it is wrapped across the body with the right shoulder exposed, as is the style in which the Buddha is traditionally depicted:

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*Kesa means the cope or surplice of a Buddhist priest. This vestment has very large lapels which are crossed diagonally on the chest. Hence the name of the 1st Immobilization.

 • My method of judo, Mikinosuke Kawaishi (1955)

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    Incidentally, the same term is used for a diagonal sword cut in some circles of Kenjutsu. Sep 11, 2019 at 18:58

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