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Sharpen Your Uchimata With Israel Hernandez

Sharpen Your Uchimata With Israel Hernandez

Israel Hernandez is a multiple time Olympic Bronze medal winning judoka.  He represented his home country of Cuba at both the 1992 and 1996 Olympic games.

The Uchimata is one of the premier throws within the Judo canon.  Show anyone the technique and ask them what martial art is happening and most non-martial artists will say Judo. 


The Uchimata is also a very versatile technique with a myriad of entries that will lead a judoka to the finish.  The Uchimata also can lead to many other alternative techniques as well.  A well-versed judoka can attack with the intent of hitting an Uchimata and transition to an Ouchi, Kouchi, or even a Tomoe Nage.  Similarly, the same adept judoka can attack with an Osoto Gari for example, and finish with an Uchimata.  It's as if all roads lead to the Uchimata!

One of the problem areas that Israel Hernandez has diagnosed with his years of training and coaching experience is that during the completion of the Uchimata, the support leg of the judoka can buckle and the athlete can fall to their knee while attempting to complete the technique.

This can be a result of poor technique, lack of proper strength in the support leg or both.  In the video below, Israel Hernandez offers three powerful and effective strengthening exercises to help develop the support leg to make the Uchimata more likely to be successful.

Check out the video below and we'll break it down afterwards.


 Exercise One--Isometric Support Leg

 For the first technique, Israel Hernandez mimics the motion of the Uchimata as realistically as possible by twisting, keeping hands high to mimic the grips and at the point where the leg kicks through leaving one on the support leg, he freezes and holds the support leg in a static position for 10 seconds or longer.

The key to this move is to mimic the same motion and power that you would use when performing an Uchimata and at the moment when you are kicking through between the imaginary opponent's legs, you pause, freeze and stand on the support leg for at least 10 seconds.

Isometric exercises have a number of proven benefits for building strength.  First and foremost, this exercise is extremely low impact.  Therefore it can be practiced as often as you have time to strengthen the stance.  Another benefit would be the ability of isometric style exercise to strengthen not only the muscles, but also the connective tissue like tendons and ligaments with minimal chance and overdoing it.

Isometric exercises can also help improve your flexibility.  Much like a yoga pose that one holds for a number of seconds, lengthening the muscles and holding them in place can help improve flexibility. 

Another benefit of this exercise, along with the remaining two exercises is the convenience.  These exercises can be performed anywhere and do not require a partner to perform.  They can be performed outside of the gym or at the academy before, during and after practice to work on endurance.

 Exercise Two--Plyometric Uchimata

In the second exercise, Israel Hernandez mimics the beginning of the Uchimata and when he gets to the position where his kick through leg is up and he is standing on his support leg, he will perform jumps--attempting to touch his knee to his chest and upon landing, maintain the support leg position (similar to the isometric exercise).

Plyometric exercises are well documented to help create strength, stamina and power in movements by using explosive style movements like jumps to challenge muscles.  Plyometrics can also be extremely challenging from a cardiovascular standpoint, so they are great for building endurance.

Building on the isometric benefits, plyometrics will also help strengthen connective tissues like tendons and ligaments, as well as the muscles.  This technique will help build the strength of the supporting leg in a way that makes the planting of the foot more powerful and can help lead to a more explosive uchimata.

Exercise Three--Uchimata Hopscotch

Mimicking the childhood game, Israel Hernandez recommends an exercise that is equal parts plyometric and isometric.  In this exercise he will place a series of markers on the floor and create a pattern where he will practice jumping forward, backward, and side to side while maintaining proper uchimata gripping position and positioning of the kick through leg.  In this example he will jump forward and then backward.  He will then jump forward again, then move side to side and on the final jump of the series, he will perform an extra long jump.

The purpose of this drill is build the ability to follow the opponent and where they are positioned on the mat on one leg to allow for a successful completion of the technique.  If this ability is not developed, an opponent might be able to escape the uchimata attempt.  This drill will make it easier to 'chase' the technique and finish with power.

The longer someone trains, the more they begin to realize that successfully performing these judo techniques goes well beyond just knowing how to perform the technique.  The body structures and mechanics need to be constantly developed and strengthened to make it more likely that you'll be able to land these techniques during randori or competition.

For more from Israel Hernandez, check out his library of instructional series available from JudoFanatics.com.  For more about Uchimata, he has a specific series Uchimata Basics to Advanced where he covers all you ever wanted to know about the Uchimata technique.  Get your copy here or at the Buy Now Link below.