Another glimpse of uchi mata

Uchi mata, for me, has been an elusive throw to wrap my mind around. In my school, which has never been all that keen on competitive judo, never seemed all that interested in it (at least around me). But with the rest of the judo world, it seems to be quite a favorite.

But with this, or any other technique, regardless of art, I'm not one to summarily disregard something without at least attempting to understand it better first.

Which is one of the many reason why I love YouTube. I often get perplexed with a technique, be it aikido, judo or jodo—or rather, I suddenly realize I don't understand it as well as I thought I did!

One of the first things I do is hit YouTube. I watch a lot of videos featuring that one thing. I try to simply observe, withholding any judgement. I don't really even try to analyze what's going on. In fact, I try to keep my mind as quiet as possible and just watch.

Eventually, almost every time, somebody will do something that jumps out at me. It's like two stray wires in my brain crossed and released a shower of sparks for a moment. That's when I begin analyzing.

So with uchi mata, I saw a lot of videos, both instructional and tournament highlight reels. Many of them looked very similar. A few were definitely a bit odd. Then I came across this short little guy:


The thing that intrigued me about it was not so much the throw itself, but the way he set it up.

You see, I've always thought it odd that, when doing this in nage no kata, you use a circular motion to set up the throw (I think the only throw in the kata to do so). And yet, with most examples I saw, they entered straight on, with tori turning 180 degrees and doing all the moving, something like this:

Which is how all the tournament examples I saw did it, and most of those examples ended in one of the main issues I've always had with uchi mata, in that it never seems to throw uke as immediately in randori as it does in demonstration or uchi komi.

Instead, they both just stand there, bent forward, at a stalemate, until tori ends up hopping a little (basically to get his center a little behind uke's in order to find the necessary leverage to make it work), and approach I learned even has a name: ken ken uchi mata.

Now, my teachers have always approached uchi mata from a condition in which uke is in the process of moving, and you're catching the reap on the go, so-to-speak. Essentially, the way one might do it in nage no kata.

And yet, while that circular entry worked for the most part, it still felt a bit... I don't know. Big. Granted, when it comes to kata, that's probably intentional; the techniques are performed in a sort of grandiose, larger than life way in order to present the principles involved as clearly as possible. But in practice, I longed for something a little more "brief" and to the point, but still utilizing the movement of uke that I really felt made the throw really click and avoided the typical bent over stalemate and the inevitable hopping.

So when I watched the gentlemen above, I got a little excited. All he does is step straight to the side. Not a turning, circular step, mind you; perfectly lateral, facing the same direction. The reaction it causes in uke puts him right where I'd want him, and allows me to catch uke's leg movement at the time I want.

It puts me in a positional relationship that my teachers favored and I think the kata demonstrates: me looking at 12 o'clock and uke at more of a right angle, facing 9 o'clock, whereas most other approaches would have me turn completely around so that both of us are facing 6 o'clock.

Now, do I think this is end-all, be-all approach? Hardly. I'm just saying I thought it was interesting, and after having tried it myself a couple of times, I like the results. Would it work in full-on shiai, in a hard competition environment? I have no idea.

The main point, I suppose, is that I love how I'm able to understand a thing just a little bit more by exposing myself to other methods, to other ideas. It's never a complete understanding, of course. In fact, whenever I've ever come to the point when I think I completely understand something, someone inevitably comes along and proves me wrong!


  1. One way some some get an easy uchimata is to walk uki into a deep ouchi. Instead of doing your reap, preturn your plant leg and place it behind and maybe to the outside of the ouchi reap foot. Allow your hip rotate and raise your ouchi leg. The rotation is in the opposite direction of the original ouchi. Uchimata should happen.


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