Uki waza is a throwing technique in judo, it is classified under Sutemi waza, which means sacrifice throws.
In this article, you will learn:
- How to do Uki waza in a step-by-step guide.
- Variations of Uki waza
Before getting to our guide, it is worth mentioning that many beginners confuse Uki waza with two other sacrifice throws, Yoko otoshi and Tani otoshi.
Although they all look the same, the main difference remains in the direction of each throw:
1. For Yoko otoshi, the opponent is thrown to the side
2. For Tani otoshi, the opponent is thrown on their back.
3. For Uki waza, the opponent is thrown forward, which means you have to throw them to your back.
If you want to learn these two other throws, we have dedicated full step-by-step guides for each one, check them here:
With that being said, let’s get to our Uki waza guide.
How to do Uki waza (step-by-step guide)
Important note: In this guide, we have broken down this throw into several steps. This does not mean that you have to execute each step separately, sometimes you have to execute several steps simultaneously.
1. Where should you throw your opponent?
As stated in the introduction of this guide, for Uki waza you have to throw your opponent to your back. For that purpose, they have to be advancing forward.
2. Use momentum
Uki waza is a throw that relies heavily on momentum, this is not the kind of throw to attempt on a static and non-moving target.
The success of Uki waza depends on how much momentum there is, your opponent should be going towards the same direction you are going to throw them to.
Obviously, you shouldn’t just drag your opponent by force to the direction of the throw, this would never work. You have to be tricky and use specific tactics for that.
Here are a few tactics you can use:
Footwork is your ally in this mission, you have to be willing to dance with your opponent on the mats. Of course by accepting to dance you put yourself at risk of walking into your opponent’s traps, but this is the name of the game in judo.
Avoid telegraphing, use footwork in all directions, don’t make the mistake of luring your opponent to only one direction, which is backward in this case of Uki waza, this is a beginner’s mistake. A veteran judoka will detect it and see it coming a mile away.
Instead, dance with your opponent in all directions, and keep at least 3 throws in your mind, including Uki waza. Each throw you have in mind should be applicable in a different direction, this way, you will always be ready to strike whenever an opportunity presents itself.
A fitting example of 3 throws would be to have Uki waza, Yoko otoshi and Tani otoshi in your mind. These three throws complete each other, each one of them is applicable in a different direction.
B. Push and pull
This principle is very famous in judo, wrestling, and many other grappling arts. If you want to trigger your opponent to go forward, push them backward, and if you want your opponent to go backward, pull them forward.
This is a natural reflex that humans have, evolution has made us this way. In case of sudden danger, our reflex triggers instant resistance without waiting for us to think about it consciously.
So for Uki waza, push your opponent forward and see their reaction, do that once or twice, once you feel their push is strong and it can create enough momentum for the throw, just get out of the way and let their momentum do the work for you. Obviously, you will have to boost that momentum by pulling them.
C. The rotation trick
Normally, according to what most judo instructors teach, your opponent has to be going forward in order for you to execute Uki waza.
But there is another way, you can also exploit your opponent’s momentum even when they are going backward.
If your opponent is walking backward, go along with them until you feel enough momentum has been created, then take a big step to change positions. In other words, if your opponent was south and you were north, take a big step to become south and your opponent north.
Once you change positions with a sudden explosive move, all you have to do is capitalize on that momentum and throw your Uki waza.
D. Use it as a counter
Another way to capitalize on opponent’s momentum is by using it as a counter-attack.
Uki waza works very well against Osoto gari, here is a video explaining how to do it
3. What grip should you use? (Kumi kata)
There are several grips to use for Uki waza as we will see in the variation section, but the standard grip to start with is this one:
- With one hand, grip the lapel of your opponent
- With the other hand grip the sleeve of your opponent
4. Turn to the sleeve side
When you want to initiate the throw, you will have to turn to the side in order to throw your opponent.
You have to turn to the side of the sleeve grip, so if you are grabbing the lapel with your right hand and the sleeve with your left hand, you have to turn to your left.
Don’t turn to the side of the lapel grip, you won’t have much leverage to make a good turn.
5. Trip your opponent
I often teach it to my students this way, imagine that your leg is a tripwire and you want your opponent to trip over that wire. What you should do is that you have to make them walk through the wire, if they are static they won’t trip.
That’s the motion you have to create, you have to pull your opponent from the lapel and the sleeve to make them advance forward, then use your leg as a tripwire.
By doing this, you are exposing your opponent to two opposite forces, one going forward (the pull), the other one is static (your leg)
6. Don’t lie on your back
This is a common mistake I see students making, many think that since Uki waza is a sacrifice throw, you have to lie on the back in order to make it work.
Uki waza is a side sacrifice throw, which means that you have to be on your side. Being on your back for this kind of throw will hinder your movement and will make you lose control of your opponent after the throw. Which leads us to the next step
7. Keep control of your opponent
The old way of doing Uki waza was to throw the opponent then let go, which results in a spectacular and cinematic throw, the opponent goes in the air and hits the grounds then slides a bit on the ground.
That is fine, but judo has evolved like anything in life, now the right thing to do is to keep control of your opponent.
This is the old way of doing Uki waza
You have to be able to transition to Ne waza (groundwork). You have worked so hard to get the throw, and you have risked a lot to make it successful, why would you pass on the fruits of your labor?
That is where step number 6 comes in handy, you are already on your side and your opponent is flying in the air, you are already at least two steps ahead, all you have to do is to quickly turn and get on top of your opponent once their back hits the ground.
Release the lapel grip when your opponent is in the air and keep the sleeve grip. Use the sleeve grip to pull yourself towards your opponent.
Here is an example of great control after a successful Uki waza
Another example of great control
Remember this, your opponent is already a couple of steps behind you. First, you have reached the ground before them and you are the one initiating the throw, you had already the intention and everything planned, so all you have to do is to follow the plan you have designed.
Meanwhile, your opponent is having their world rocked, no matter what level they are at, a judoka will always get surprised when they get thrown in the air. Their brain will take time to analyze what happened, that is why their reaction will always come second to yours.