by Joshua Hagen
Uchi mata is the most-used technique in the world at the international level. That does not mean, however, that it's a particularly easy technique to master. In my opinion, the classic uchi mata is the most difficult technique to learn in judo.
For a long time now, I've made an adjustment to the way my heavyweight fighters perform the technique, and it seems to help them a great deal with their entry. A good friend of mine, Gabriel Vacc, owner of a beautiful uchi mata, makes the same adjustment for all of his students. This struck a chord with me, and made a lot of sense.
What is the most common hangup in performing uchi mata? I find that the single greatest flaw, as well as the most prevalent one, is an inability to get your hips square to your opponents' hips before your sweep. If your hips are too shallow, or not rotated enough, you inevitably end up lifting their leg with your leg. This is not the goal. If you're facing an athlete with great posture or flexibility, they will likely be able to ride out the uchi mata. We want to lift with the hip and simply have them fall off of our leg. That is not to say that ken-ken uchi mata is wrong, but to finish it is more an impressive feat of athleticism than one of technique.
How is this entry different? Instead of the classic step of planting your first foot at the top of the triangle (equilateral) we plant it 4-6" away in line with the opposite foot, creating more of a right angle triangle. This allows for an easier rotation of our body in front of our uke, as well as enough space to ensure that they're off-balanced. We then plant our second foot centred between our uke's feet. Finally, we do not try to sweep their leg, but we cut them in half, or sweep straight up the middle. I have found this to be a much easier way to perform the technique, especially when someone is initially learning uchi mata.