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Helpful handful: ukigatame

I had an email call for some discussion on ukigatame, the 'floating hold' in judo, also known as the knee-on-belly or knee-on-chest position in jiujitsu. Following is a quickie vid I put together of several good examples of the position in practice. A handful of helpful things to look for include:
  • Tori is getting a knee or shin against uke's torso pretty soon after he lands. The purpose of this position is to limit uke's movement and slow him down as tori transitions to newaza. Thus ukigatame is a great intermediate position between throwing and ground grappling.
  • Make sure you don't pounce on your partner's ribs - it's very easy to crush ribs under your knee. In fact, I tell my students to deliberately put the shin across uke's ab muscles, avoiding the floating ribs that are such a tempting target.
  • Notice when tori puts his feet on the ground and knee(s) against uke, if tori's posture is not just right it is easy to pull him over into a forward roll. To stop this, tori puts a knee or shin against uke and rocks his hips forward, putting weight onto uke and floating vertically over him. If uke pulls on the arms or shoudlers, tori rocks more hip weight forward into him.
  • As uke moves, tori floats on him, out-riggering his free leg for balance and leverage. Tori is not trying to crush uke into submission here, but is floating...riding on top of uke until he can find a good time to drop into a better position or submission technique.
  • Notice how easy it is to transition to munegatame or tateshihogatame or (if uke is rolling) to the rear position with legs around. Jujigatame is also blatantly obvious here.


  1. Thanks for the clarification, Pat-- that one was troubling me on the syllabus :)


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  3. You have the only vid on ukigatama on youtube. Congrats! Outisde of this post and the Masterclass osaekomi book, I don't think I've seen ukigatame talked about. I was wondering if it was even a valid position in judo.


  4. hey, cool - i'm famous! sure, ukigatame is a 'real thing' in judo, though i can see how you would wonder about it. it isn't such a strong position that you'll ever get an osaekomi or score from it, but it is invaluable and indispensable as a transition between tachi and newaza.