Not everyone has time to practice Judo at a dojo and not everybody has a dojo near to their home. So, what about solo judo? Is there any way that you can learn this demanding martial art without a partner to practice with?
Can you train Judo alone? Yes, to some extent you can train Judo alone. It’s important to remember the reasons that we train in judo and while you may not be able to find the perfect combination of judo moves for purely solo practice, you can always use solo practice to fulfil many of the purposes of judo training.
So, let’s begin with a look at the reason why we train judo and then at some of the ways we can train by ourselves to get those benefits just as well! Then we will look at some of the ways that we can also practice our judo skills without a partner.
Why Do We Train Judo?
There are many good reasons to take up judo and to practice it on a regular basis. We’ve picked the 12 most common reasons here but we’re sure that there others too.
- To improve our overall fitness. Judo is great for getting in shape and staying in shape.
- To gain better strength in our bodies. Throws and grappling require strength to perform.
- To develop higher levels of flexibility. If you want to avoid being thrown, you need to be able to get out of your opponent’s grasp.
- To improve our balance. Judo is all about footwork and body positioning.
- To master our personal co-ordination. You put all the moves together to be effective.
- To increase the speed and reliability of our reflexes. You need to be able to outperform an opponent.
- To give us a boost to our confidence levels. Being able to defend yourself and be part of a dojo gives you maturity.
- To improve our mental attitude to life. You learn to take control over your approach to life.
- To learn humility. This is a vital aspect of practicing martial arts, you don’t become a braggart but rather someone who is humble.
- To be better able to set and attain goals. A skill that serves you will in judo and every aspect of life.
- To compete. It’s nice to be able to win at judo as well as take part.
- To have fun. The best benefit of them all.
It’s fair to say that of these 12 points, the only thing you can’t practice/develop on your own is the ability to compete – for that you definitely need a partner.
5 Solo Judo Moves That You Can Train From Home (Or Anywhere)
Not every judo move is appropriate for training from home. Some simply won’t work without a partner and others might be dangerous if you attempt them without the counterweight of a partner while executing a move.
However, we have some standard judo training techniques which are perfectly safe to execute by yourself and which ought to help you improve your overall judo for when you are able to work with a partner.
The Shadow Uchikomi
You need quite a bit of space for this – don’t try it in a cramped area or you might hurt yourself. You can carry out a shadow uchikomi by attacking as though there were a partner present. You want to try and keep your attention on bending your knees whilst keeping your back straight.
Many dojos ask students to carry out shadow uchikomi as part of their warmup routine and this is one move that you can get very good at without the need for a partner. Coaches say that this move also helps you to think and move as you ought to during regular judo practice.
If there’s no room to do some shadow uchikomi or if you fancy a change then you might want to use some Ashiwaza techniques, instead. These can be carried out in a more confined space and a small hallway is just fine to practice Ko Uchi Gari, Ouchi Gari, Harai Tsuri Komi Ashi, Okuri Ashi Harai and De Ashi Barai.
You want to make certain that when you move your feet in these practices that you are also following through with your upper body.
Hip Escapes (Ne Waza)
Again, you won’t need a large amount of space to get into practicing hip escapes at home. That small hallway is more than enough room.
If you keep doing hip escapes as drills, over and over again, you should see two benefits – your legs will become much stronger and it will also make it very difficult to pin you in a judo match. Just make sure to look at your surroundings before you practice your ne waza, the idea is to avoid bumping into the walls of your hallway.
General Gymnastic Drills
Gymnastic techniques make up a large component of the moves that judoka use in the dojo. You can do forward rolls, cartwheels, backward rolls, hand-stands and pretty much any other gymnastic move that you can conduct safely in the space available to you.
If you don’t have room to do this stuff at home, that’s fine – go to a local park or basketball court and use that space, instead (though don’t encroach on other people’s space – that’s just rude).
Not only will the benefit your ability to recover from a fall but it will also give you better special awareness and really help with your overall flexibility on the mat.
Mental Focus Of Judo Techniques (Visualization)
The jury is out on the benefits of visualization from a scientific perspective. Some studies say that the benefits of thinking through something over and over again can really help you learn it; others are not so convinced.
What we know for sure is that visualization can’t hurt. Close your eyes and simply work through a move, each tiny step at a time, over and over again. While it may not have long-term benefits, one thing we’re sure it can help with is keeping a move in mind when you’re taking a break from practicing with a judo partner.
Additional Solo Training You Can Conduct To Improve Your Overall Approach To Judo
These techniques above are not the only exercises, however, that you can do at home that will benefit your judo and we’d encourage you to experiment with the following:
Free weights are going to help you build strength. If you work with weights you should endeavor to work on a different set of muscles each day, there is a lot of evidence that suggests working the same group each day has less of an impact than working a group hard and then leaving it alone and then coming back to it again a day or two later.
This kind of training has also been shown to be effective at improving your balance. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research reported, in January 2008, that people who do free weights are more likely to have better balance than those who don’t.
If you want to do free weights – it’s a good idea to get some instruction before you begin, though, as working out the wrong way can be dangerous.
Circuit training is awesome for stamina and you can really boost your cardiovascular health by working out in hard stretches of 90 seconds at a time. In fact, this has been shown to be more effective than working out for longer periods but less intensively.
We’ve also found that it works well for strength training, particularly in the lower body and complements a free weights regime very well.
Beam work is specifically targeted at promoting the development of your balance whilst also helping you work out your core and lower body. It’s a very easy thing to get into and most public parks will have beams you can use for free.
You don’t have to become a world-class gymnast to get a lot of beam work. Though as you can see from the video below – you can do incredible things on a balance beam:
Visualization of things you can already do is fine but if you want to improve, you can always study other judo techniques from home. That doesn’t mean that you should practice them at home – never work with a partner unless there is someone around to supervise – but you can start to build up ideas of how techniques should be executed before your next trip to the dojo.
One other superb form of exercise is yoga. It’s easy to accommodate in nearly every space and it’s ideal for building up the kind of personal flexibility that every judoka really needs. You can learn yoga from YouTube videos if you really need to but we’d advise getting a little personal instruction before you begin as it is possible to hurt yourself doing yoga.
Matt Lucas walks you through some great martial arts yoga in the video below:
So as we’ve seen, there is plenty you can practice by yourself to improve your Judo skills. Of course, you cannot train all the moves without a partner, but solo practice is not a waste if you follow our simple guide.