What is Judo?

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Judo is a grappling based combat sport originating from Japan. Its main objectives are to gain control over your opponent by throwing them, pinning them or submitting them with a joint lock or choke, throws are the most common however and when combined with the ‘maximum efficiency, minimum effort’ principle of Judo, they become truly devastating.

Origins of Judo

Judo traces its origins back to Japanese Jujitsu, founded  in 1882, where its founder Jigoro Kano had struggled to find a Jujitsu instructor in an increasingly modernised Japan, luckily  in 1877 he managed to find tutelage under Fukuda Hachinosuke, a practitioner of Tenjin Shinyo-ryu. 

For three years he trained under Fukuda until Fukudas death in 1880 after which Kano trained under two other masters, studying their Jujitsu styles for a further 2 years before opening his own dojo in 1882, now known as the Kodokan. 

Judo is founded on the tenets ‘maximum efficiency, minimum effort’ and ‘softness subdues hardness’ that Kano discovered during his years of training Jujitsu, Kano himself said ‘that resisting a more powerful opponent will result in your defeat, whilst adjusting to and evading your opponent’s attack will cause him to lose his balance, his power will be reduced, and you will defeat him. This can apply whatever the relative values of power, thus making it possible for weaker opponents to beat significantly stronger ones’ this is also one of the same principles that is used in Brazilian Jujitsu, a martial art that stems from Judo.


Kano Jigoro - the founder of Judo

Concepts of Judo

Judo is a very effective combat sport, as one of its main concepts being ‘randori’ which is free sparring, the literal translation is ‘taking chaos’ which makes sense when you think of what a clusterfuck free sparring always turns into.  

Because Judo puts an emphasis into free sparring, it’s cut the bad techniques out and left in the ones that work, Kano himself put work into this practice, he also made sure that the more dangerous techniques were removed, this means that outside of kata, there were no strikes. 

This makes Judo into more of a specialism martial art, rather than covering a lot of bases like Sanda or Defendu, Judo really leans into grappling, in particular, its throws are what puts it on the must know MMA map. 

The throws are so useful and so effective as they are combined with the ‘maximum efficiency, minimal effort tenet, this leads Judo to be an effective self defence martial art, as there is emphasis on a smaller combatant taking down and throwing a larger combatant as seen here

While you can see that the larger opponent isn’t resisting, we can also see that she can toss this large man over her shoulder with minimal effort. When Judo is used more kinetically, in faster free sparring we might see the same result as above, provided she gets the right grips in and moves fast enough, she could throw this man with relative ease. 

Judo is so potent as a martial art that its on the must know curriculum for the Japanese police force, applicants to the Japanese police must be proficient in either Judo or Kenpo by the end of their 6 month or 10 month training period. This shows us the effectiveness of Judo when trained and utilised properly. 

There are basic categories of techniques that Judo teaches: the atemi-waza, the striking techniques. The katame-waza, the grappling techniques, and the nage-waza, the throwing techniques. As the striking techniques are only kata based and not allowed in competition or randori, we wont mention much about them

The nage-waza are the techniques that Judo is famous for, the techniques that we would probably see at a demonstration to wow us at the effortless manner in which they throw each other around, they are fantastic to witness, if you ever see an ippon or ‘perfect throw’ in the flesh it really can show you how effective these throws are.

The katame-waza are really an unsung hero in Judo, as they are really the sneaky techniques, that require more cerebral thinking, cunning and planning, they’re the finishing move. In theory your opponent is dazed from just having been hit with planet earth and you capitalize on that by either getting them in a choke  or some sort of joint lock, like an arm bar and then choking them unconcious or snapping their arm so that the threat is neutralised.


The one arm shoulder throw, one of the most famous Judo throws

Those who practice Judo also learn how to fall safely and will practice break falls in every session, as it is important to learn how to land correctly for a combat sport that revolves around throwing and grappling. this is also important from a self defence view, as the ability and knowledge on how best to break your fall would be vital in a self defence situation, should you be knocked off your feet or otherwise become AIRBORNE.

Judo’s second core tenet ‘softness subdues hardness’ is also a key factor in its success, it is similar to the first tenet, but not identical. What this tenet is referring to is the idea of flexibility beating rigidity, the idea of redirecting and using your opponents energy against them to beat them. 

Both of the tenets however can be misunderstood, as with both translations there is sometimes an idea that you wont have to work hard or wont have to put any effort into your movements, that Judo is effortless, that is a completely false idea, a good Judo throw may look effortless, but that is only due to countless hours the practitioner has put in during training.

 Serious Judo practitioners train very hard physically in order to give themselves the best chance of winning competitions, Judo just heightens what ability you already have, like a force multiplier. There is nothing easy about training Judo.  

What Judo Lacks?

While Judo is a reputable and effective martial art/combat sport, as I mentioned before Judo is a specialist martial art, but like all martial arts, you are of course weakest in the area you don’t practice which means its time to split some hairs about Judo, of course it goes without saying that no martial art is the best at everything, something will always be lost along the way.

This means that for Judo, the lack of striking sparring could work against you in a self defence situation, there is also the problem of having to close the distance and grab onto your attacker in order to be effective, all the while you aren’t clamped down on your opponent you’re at a disadvantage, especially if your opponent has striking experience.


There is also the heavy emphasis on clothing, most Judo is trained in judogis, THE ANGRY WHITE PYJAMAS that you wear when training, many of the grips required to make a technique work, require you to hold onto a sleeve or jacket collar. This means that if you get into a fight with a business man in a suit or a roadman with his puffer jacket on, you might be ok, but someone in a t-shirt and shorts might be more of a problem.

That’s not to say of course Judo is useless, far from it in fact, its probably on the must know list of martial arts for me, it would just be more effective if striking was implemented outside of kata, but Judo’s emphasis on practitioner safety makes this unlikely.


Derivatives of Judo

In spite of the minor disadvantages that Judo has, it is so effective that it has its own list of derivative martial arts:

Sambo – a Russian martial art system based on Judo and eastern bloc wrestling

Brazilian Jiujitsu – A Brazilian martial art based around ground fighting and grappling, developed by the Gracie family who were in turn taught by Mitsuyo Maeda one of the students of Kano Jigoro

Kosen Judo – An offshoot of Judo that is mainly practiced by schools and focuses more on the ground grappling than the throws, similar to Brazilian Jiujitsu.

Hapkido – A Korean martial art which is a combination of traditional Korean martial arts like Taekkyeon, a striking martial art, and Judo

Kajukenbo- A Hawaiian hybrid martial art which is a combination of Karate, Jujitsu, Judo, Kenpo and Boxing. Famous for being a physically harsh style of fighting.

its also worth noting that every modern day military hand to hand fighting system features elements of Judo. Judo throws seem to sneak their way into almost all modern hybrid martial arts. 

To Conclude

Judo is a Japanese martial art over 100 years old founded by Kano Jigoro, which is still being practiced to this day. It focuses on standing grappling and throws and is commonly known for allowing someone smaller defeat someone larger through utilising their momentum against them.

 While it focuses on grappling and throwing it has almost no focus on striking, which could leave one vulnerable in a self defence situation against someone who is an experienced striker. 

As its throws are so effective there have been several offshoot martial arts that use Judo as a base martial art such as Sambo and Brazilian Jiujitsu.

Judo is world famous and its effectiveness is plain to see, this is but a minor glimpse into the world of Judo, just a basic crash course into what it is and how it works. If you find yourself wanting to learn more about Judo, then why don’t you start training it! A quick google search will reveal to you where you can train and learn to throw people around the way the Hulk throws around Loki in Avengers Assemble.

Remember to train hard and stay civilized and ill see you again soon.