The Japanese do tons of uchikomi so that's something we should do too, right? Well, traditionally the Japanese refrain from drinking water during training. Should we also ban water during training?

Just because something is traditionally done doesn't mean it's the best way to do things. And just because lots of judo instructors teach something a particular way doesn't mean it's the best way to do things either. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn't.

So, is uchikomi useful for developing good throwing skills? This question is similar to the one about kuzushi in that it requires a nuanced answer rather than a straightforward yes or no. As with kuzushi, context is important when it comes to uchikomi.

Two-person uchikomi is very important when you are learning how to do a throw for the first time. If you have no clue how to enter into a particular technique, uchikomi is a very useful way to facilitate learning.

Two-person uchikomi is, however, pretty useless once you've mastered a throw. I say "pretty" useless rather than "completely" useless because it's okay as a warm-up drill before class starts. But it does nothing to improve throwing skills that you've already mastered.

For example, I know how to do ippon-seoi-nage. If I want to sharpen my seoi-nage, I won't do uchikomi. I might do nagekomi because that one takes me through the whole motion of throwing, so there is some benefit there. But mainly, I will try to do lots of seoi-nage in randori.

My training partners all know I do seoi-nage so it's not easy for me to get an entry into that throw. I have to be really sharp and use all kinds of gripping and diversionary tactics to create an opening for it. That's how I improve a technique that I already know how to do.

Normally, when we say uchikomi, people think of two-person uchikomi. But there is also three-person uchikomi that actually serves a different purpose. It's good for developing pulling strength for a forward throw. So, if you feel your seoi-nage is not working because you're not pulling uke strongly enough, do three-person uchikomi to develop that pulling strength.

So, to recap: Is uchikomi useful? Yes, two-person uchikomi is useful when you're learning a new throw. No, it's not very useful, except as a warm up exercise, if you already know that throw well. And three-person uchikomi is good for developing pulling strength.