Uchi Mata: One of the Highest Scoring Judo Throws

What makes a great judo throw, an Uchi Mata?

It would have to be a technique defined by power, speed and elegance. Once, when the skill of execution delivers those three aspects, even without physical strength.

Now, pretty much all Judo techniques are like this. But among the throws, one stands out, proven by vigorous competition.

The ‘uchi mata’ is one of the highest scoring techniques in Judo. This happens to be at every level in competition.

What makes this such a great technique? Let’s take a look and find out.

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What is the Uchi Mata?

Directly translated uchi mata means ‘inner thigh throw’.

Officially it’s considered a leg technique. The extension of the leg is the most visible part, and it is integral in keeping your own balance as you throw your opponent. You can see this from the graphic below.

This is considered one of the most difficult throws to execute. The technique itself is not that hard, but it’s applying it in motion that makes it challenging. Due to its nature, it’s also difficult to counter and works well against an opponent who adopts a squared stance.

Incidentally, it happens to be one of the original 40 throws of Judo developed by Jigrō Kanō. This speaks to its efficiency, as Kanō focused on techniques that emphasis the use of momentum over power.

How to You Use the Technique

Like many Judo throws, a good uchi mata focuses on five core elements:

uchimata animation

  • Grip
  • Alignment
  • Foot Placement
  • Hip action
  • Throwing motion

Uchi Mata - 2 Uchi Mata - 3

Step 1: Grip

The grip has many different variations. The most common places one hand on your opponent’s collar/head and the other at his arm. Like many hip-throws the grip is to facilitate the twisting motion needed to execute a perfect throw.

Step 2: Alignment

After getting (somewhat of) a grip on your opponent, you need to make sure your alignment fits with the throw you’re about to use. For uchi mata, this means standing perpendicular to your opponent so you can effectively step in and throw.

This means you need to manipulate your opponent into position before attempting the throw.

Step 3: Foot Placement

uchimata stepsIn fact, your foot placement is likely the most important part of the whole movement. Essentially, you need to shuffle into position and face the same direction as your opponent. You need to step in close enough to off-balance your opponent, but not so close that you don’t have enough room to maneuver. Typically your body will be about a foot away from your opponent (before turning your back), while you place your feet in-between theirs. As you turn, your opponent will be pulled into you, readying him for the throw.

Step 4: Hip Action

Before throwing your leg up, there’s a small leaning and pulling motion. This is a little similar to the typical over-hip throw such as ‘harai goshi’. It’s a short and smooth motion that places most of your opponent’s weight on your frame. Remember that this position purely exists in motion and only lasts a split second.

Step 5: Throwing Motion

The final part of uchi mata consists of three different motions that are all done in one fell swoop. You lift up your leg in a backwards motion. Usually, your right leg will be against the inner thigh of your opponent’s right leg and raised. This also means that your right hand is grabbing your opponents head while your left is clutching his right arm (very important).

As you raise your leg you start to twist your opponent’s body to the opposite side of your throwing leg. In this case you’re throwing with your right leg, so you twist to your left. Lastly, you twist your hip slightly to assist your leg and arms in throwing your opponent to the ground. It all sounds a bit complicated but is simple enough once you try it.

The most important thing to remember is alignment. If you’re not well aligned, you can only complete the technique by use of sheer force. Most of the time this won’t work. This is an excellent explanation by Neil Adams, an 8th Dan judoka from the UK.

Countering the Uchi Mata

When perfected the uchi mata is a difficult technique to counter, but it’s not impossible. Remember that it depends on your opponent having a square stance that you can reverse step into. By stepping aside and not all
owing you to get your throwing leg in-between his legs, your opponent can off-set the technique enough to counter-throw you.

This principle is demonstrated by ‘uchi mata sukashi’, which involves stepping out of the way as the thrower steps in. The attacker’s momentum is then used to counter-throw him using an inward twisting grip. Basically, once you miss the uchi mata you’re off-balance enough to be forced to the ground.

Wrap it up

As you know, the uchi mata is definitely one of the most effective techniques in Judo. It’s a challenge to execute but hard to counter. You even find variations of it in Sumo wrestling. The damage it can cause in real life is only seconded by the beauty of the throw itself. Also, check out this highlight reel to see why this is one of the highest scoring techniques in all of Judo.

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Robert Sterling

Teaching, Friendly, Young, Passion. Always wanna go up & down. Hey, you gotta live, do you?  

I would like to add more useful articles for Martial Arts Community. Do you have any feedback for me? What can I do better for my blog?

Hope to receive your warm feedback.

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