Most new students of Jiu Jitsu tend to ignore takedowns . . . until tournament time.
After all, it takes a lot of space to start every roll from a standing position, so there’s a lot of danger of collisions. Plus, takedowns require proficiency in breakfalls.
But the minute you sign up for a tournament, takedowns become the big and scary monster in the dark, spooky room.
Well, there’s only one way to deal with a monster in a dark room; you’ve got to shine some light on that beast. So, let’s get a flashlight and take a look.
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First of all, takedowns are NOT the be-all and end-all of a BJJ competition. Takedowns are only worth a couple of points (usually two). And the whole point of Jiu Jitsu is to get out of bad situations, so a prepared competitor should be able to escape from a difficult position resulting from a takedown.
That being said, a good takedown can set the tone for the rest of the match. It can place you in an advantageous position to start the match, and it can demoralize a nervous opponent.
So, keeping perspective on the value of a good takedown, Uchi Mata is a good one to start with. It’s not too difficult, but it is effective.
Satoshi Ishii gives us a good breakdown of the Uchi Mata in this BJJ Fanatics video:
Ishii begins his demonstration against an opponent in a typical Jiu Jitsu stance. His opponent is lowered in a slight crouch with his head down.
Ishii points out that, when his opponent lowers his head, he is shifting his center of gravity forward, making it easier for Ishii to throw him off balance and complete the takedown.
Ishii stands roughly perpendicular to his opponent with one arm holding his opponent’s lapel and the other holding his opponent’s opposite sleeve. But rather than crouch down like his opponent, Ishii bends his knees to lower his own center of gravity while keeping his back straight to maintain a height advantage over his crouching opponent.
The Uchi Mata is built off of two simultaneous actions. There is the obvious footwork, but, equally important, Ishii pulls his opponent to disrupt his opponent’s balance. So, as we cover the footwork below, remember that, as Ishii is closing the distance and raising his opponent’s leg off the floor, he is also breaking his opponent’s balance by pulling him into the empty space between them (indicated by the arrow in the picture below).
Ishii will initiate the takedown using the leg nearer his opponent. For instance, in this video, he holds his opponent’s lapel with his left hand, so he begins the Uchi Mata with his left foot.
Ishii places that foot between his opponent’s feet and then quickly closes his stance by bringing his right foot next to his left foot.
His left foot is only on the mat for an instant before he brings his right foot to it.
At the same time that Ishii has closed the distance with his right foot, he immediately raises his left leg between his opponent’s legs and uses it as a lever against his opponent’s right inner thigh to lift that leg off the ground.
Together, the pull on his opponent’s upper body along with the removal of one leg for balance should bring Ishii’s opponent down in a circular fall. However, if the initial attempt is not successful, Ishii continues to hop on his right foot until he finally breaks his opponent’s balance.
In this case, though, Ishii insists you must keep your hopping foot even with your opponent’s foot so that he cannot defend.
For those of you contemplating your first competition or just wanting a simple takedown to add to your bag of tricks, give the Uchi Mata some practice!
Satoshi Ishii has had quite the storied career and the story continues with his involvement in events like Polaris and Quintet. He is now sharing his Japanese Judo Secrets. Get ready to throw and be thrown!