There is an ongoing debate in the judo world as to whether the sport is practical enough to be used for self-defense in the “real world”. Some say that the art form has become too stylized and precious to be good for a street fight, others vehemently disagree.
So, can Judo be used in a real fight?
Yes. Judo can be used in a real street fight because it is a practical martial art and anyone can learn it. It uses the opponent’s strength against him, teaches ground work, and striking hard is not a necessity. This makes Judo very useful in a real fight.
Let’s look a little deeper.
Judo Is For Everyone
Much of the criticism leveled at judo for street fighting tends to come from professional fighters in MMA environments. As much as we can see how judo might not integrate with their personal styles, we can’t see how you’d want a professional fighter’s opinion if you’re a casual judo participant.
One of the greatest things about judo is simply that it is for everyone. There is never a bad time to start judo. It doesn’t matter how old you are or if you are overweight, you can take up judo and get a lot out of it.
Spend time in any dojo and you’ll quickly come to realize that judo attracts people from every walk of life because it’s so accessible. It requires no special physical talents or stupidly high levels of fitness to learn and be reasonably good at judo.
In fact, as you can see in the video below, not even a physical disability can stop someone from taking part in judo:
Sure, there may be more effective martial arts in a street fight but in our experience, most street fights are not full of top MMA fighters (who are unlikely to risk their livelihoods by starting a scrap in public) but rather a bunch of people with no particular skills at all. Against those people, judo is going to be a genuine win.
Judo Uses An Opponent’s Strength To Gain Advantage
Most street fights are random and that means you may not be facing down an opponent in the same weight class as you. Many martial arts are designed to rely on the strength of the person doing the fighting but if you’re 130 lb and you’re fighting with someone who is 300 lb, it’s likely that your blows are just going to glance off them.
Judo doesn’t work like that. If a 300 lb fighter leans into you and goes off balance, then even a 130 lb individual can help them fall over. Once an opponent is on the floor, their strength advantages are quickly diminished. For this reason alone, judo can be a very effective art form in a street fight.
You can see some examples of how to fight a strong opponent with Judo in this video from the Camberley Judo Club:
You Can Practice Street Fighting In Judo
Ever heard of randori judo? It’s a variant of judo in which your opponent generally functions as a real opponent. They won’t help you execute your moves; you’ve got to use your skills to hold, grapple and throw.
This is pretty much the perfect training for street fighting because on the streets – you can be 100% certain that the person you are fighting isn’t going to stand still while you grab hold of them and launch them over your hip.
See how randori judo works in practice here:
Judo Trains Muscle Memory
When you get into a real fight, you don’t get the time to run through a plan in your head as to how you will fight and then execute it. Instead, you’re called on to think on your feet and immediately react to an opponent and execute your moves.
This is where the process of “Uchikomi” comes in. This trains muscle memory in by “fitting practice” that means when you need a judo move, you don’t need to think about how to execute it, it simply comes instinctively.
Regular drilling is, of course, a standard part of most martial arts but it is also a standard part of judo and that means if you need to call upon your skills in an emergency, you should find that it feels very natural to do so.
The Judo Stance Is Naturally Defensive
Now, a judo stance is a terrible disadvantage in wrestling because it allows your legs to be easily grabbed out form under you. This may be one of the reasons that leg grabs are now banned in judo. However, most street fights are not wrestling matches.
The judo stance known as “shizentai” prepares you for almost any attack that you’re likely to encounter in a street fight. No matter what angle an attack comes from, you can move to deal with it easily from the standing stance.
You can better understand shizentai from this video walking you through the natural stances in judo:
Judo Teaches You How To Fall
There is a commonly understood rule in street fighting; the first person to hit the ground is the person who will lose the fight. That’s because most people are afraid to fall, when they do fall, they get hurt and they can’t recover from falling quickly.
Any judo practitioner who is well-versed in “Ukemi”, however, is not worried about falling. They know how to minimize the impact of a fall and spring back to their feet. This means that even if you get knocked down, you can get up and keep fighting – this can be very demoralizing for someone who was expecting you to go down and stay down.
Everyday excellence is happy to demonstrate how ukemi can work even if you need to break a fall onto concrete:
Judo Is All About The Groundwork
Grappling on the ground is a big part of judo and this can make a street fight much less dangerous for a judo practitioner. Given that, unlike in a tournament, there are no restrictions on how many people can get involved in a street fight – if you go to the ground with someone, you want to finish the fight on the ground fast and get back up to avoid being kicked and punched by someone still standing
That’s what Ne-Waza is all about. The ability to finish things on the ground and do it fast. Check out this video of the top Ne-Waza moments from the Judo World Championships in Budapest in 2017:
You Master Grapples Not Strikes
Want to break your hands? Well, one of the easiest ways to do it is to start punching or chopping at people in a street fight. Fourteen bones in the hand are only too happy to fall to pieces when they come in contact with somebody else in a fight.
Once you break a finger or two, you’re no longer going to be effectively punching anyone, in fact, you may be in too much pain to fight back at all. This does not bode well for the martial artist trapped in a street fight.
Judo, however, is all about throwing and grappling. You’re not going to do much in the way of kicking or punching and that means you are far more likely to get to the end of the fight in a state fit to fight another day in.
Check out the top grappling styles in judo from 2017 and think how they could help you in a street fight:
Judo Grips Love Clothes
Wrestling and many other close contact martial arts don’t involve grabbing clothing because there is no clothing to be grabbed effectively. Judo, however, is based around grabbing a gi and while you’re unlikely to fight a guy in the street wearing a gi. He’s almost certainly going to be wearing clothes, most of which can be grabbed just like a gi.
Also, if you do find yourself fighting a crazy person wearing no clothes, judo offers the Hadaka Jime which requires no grip on clothing at all.
Check out the basics of the Hadaka Jime below:
You Can Train Judo Everywhere
There’s nowhere on earth, well nearly, that you can’t find a judo dojo and get practicing. It is one of the most popular martial arts on the planet and this is important because it means you can continue to train throughout your life.
If you study something more obscure like Krav Maga or Silat, for example, you might find yourself a long way from any instruction if you have to move around.
Many judo dojos are also run on a not-for-profit basis. That means it can often be much cheaper to learn judo than other martial arts.
Sure, this may not relate directly to fighting in the street but if you can’t practice, you can’t be ready for a fight of any kind.
As you can see from the video below, there are even judo championships in Africa:
So although Judo is now practiced as a competitive sport, it can still be effective in a real street fight. As we’ve seen, Judo can be a very practical martial art so when practiced well, it’s great for self-defence and real fighting.