Tani otoshi is a sacrifice throw in Judo. The name means “valley drop.” It’s often taught as an easy, basic throw in BJJ because it doesn’t require complex movements.
It turns out that tani otoshi is considered as one of the most dangerous throws when it’s done incorrectly and/or the receiving player reacts in a wrong way.
But… considered by who?
As far as I know, John Danaher bans it in his training room because he has witnessed so many catastrophic injuries from this technique throughout his coaching career.
Keenan Cornelius bans it at his gym Legion Jiu Jitsu. Justin Flores, a high-level Judo player & coach, teaches Judo at Keenan’s… so I imagine there’s some input from Justin here as well.
Shintaro Higashi, another high-level Judo coach, contends that tani otoshi is dangerous.
Is Tani Otoshi Really That Dangerous?
The main risk that comes with poor execution of tani otoshi, as I understand it, is that the throwing player may end up falling onto the receiving player’s near leg and severely damaging the receiving player’s knee. That’s the kind of injury you want to avoid inflicting or receiving at all costs when you play BJJ.
See the following picture as an example of what can go wrong. This is from “Train Safe: Reducing The Risk of Injury Accidents In The Jiu Jitsu Training Room” by John Danaher, which was available for free for some time on BJJ Fanatics before.
Heel hooks, for example, can also cause severe knee injuries, but even with these submissions, usually, there’s some time for the receiving player to tap and prevent potential damage beforehand, especially in a sparring context.
But when tani otoshi goes wrong, there’s no tapping to prevent damage from happening.
Another thing is that tani otoshi is quite intuitive — sometimes people just do something similar to tani otoshi without realizing what they are doing.
When both the throwing player and the receiving player are inexperienced but get into a situation that involves tani otoshi, that can become a recipe for disaster.
It’s also possible that the receiving player simply refuses to get thrown, and this reaction triggers a dangerous consequence.
In short, whether it’s a proper version or not, tani otoshi is accessible, easy to get wrong, and catastrophic if it’s done or reacted improperly.
Some of you may be wondering — ok, but what’s the proper version of tani otoshi? Or what’s tani otoshi like exactly?
How to Do Tani Otoshi Properly & Safely
Watch this video demonstration by Kodokan on how to execute the technique properly.
As you can see, the throwing player’s legs have almost zero contact with the receiving player’s legs. I suppose most people who are familiar with Judo think of this version of tani otoshi or at least a similar version that avoids contact with your opponent’s legs when they think of tani otoshi.
I’m not sure how exactly tani otoshi is taught at different BJJ schools, but I bet some schools teach a variation that involves tripping your opponent’s near leg while throwing yourself to the mat.
That’s what Nick Yonezuka shows as a bad example in this video. He also shows safe alternatives. Make sure to check them out.
Shintaro Higashi’s video on tani otoshi is also excellent.
John Danaher also shows a few safer variations of tani otoshi in the program I mentioned above. If you initiate tani otoshi from the side body lock, there’s a greater chance of an accident.
But if you initiate it from the rear body lock, it will become less problematic, for example. This is because you are already behind your opponent’s legs and you can’t accidentally sit on one of these legs in this configuration compared to when you are sided with or in front of your opponent’s near leg.
Let’s simplify the matter.
Dangerous versions are dangerous because the throwing player’s position leaves possibilities of the throwing player accidentally falling onto the receiving player’s near leg.
With safer versions, the throwing player eliminates such possibilities by making it structurally impossible to fall onto the receiving player’s leg.
Make sure to learn how to do tani otoshi in a safe manner, and understand how tani otoshi can be dangerous if it’s done incorrectly. That way, you can keep yourself and your training partners safe. If you want to improve your BJJ skills, you need to train consistently, and staying injury-free make such consistency possible. I hope this post helps!