Does Judo Hurt? A Simple Safety Guide

If you’re doing Judo, or thinking about taking it up, then you may be wondering whether or not it’s normal to get hurt during training. After all, it’s not much fun to get beaten and bruised during a workout.

So does judo hurt?

No Judo should not hurt. A well-thought out Judo session is measured and done carefully. Judokas, whether their body type is light or heavy, should not get hurt during practice.

All in all, you shouldn’t be getting thrown around the dojo carelessly. Read ahead for some great ways to help you prevent injuries and avoid all unnecessary damage!

Does Judo hurt? Judo Safety Guide -
Does Judo hurt? Judo Safety Guide –

How To Prevent Yourself From Being Hurt In Judo

The purpose of judo instruction is not to teach you to hurt other people or, indeed, to teach other people to hurt you. It’s to demonstrate techniques that can help you protect yourself if needed and to give you self-confidence and mental discipline. It’s hard to develop these attributes if you are in pain.

Now, there are some simple techniques that you can use to keep the odds of being hurt to a minimum.

Seek Out Good Quality Instruction

There are no laws that govern who can set up a martial arts dojo and who can instruct in that dojo. So, that means the onus is on the student to find the right dojo. We’d recommend doing some research online but if you can’t find out much, these are the things you should look for:

  • It should be clean inside. This reflects professionalism and pride in the service provided. You should never agree to get physical in a place that’s dirty. It’s a health hazard.
  • They should have black belt judo instructors. Those belts ought to have been officiated by the relevant judo authorities that is USA Judo, USJA or USJF.
  • They should require you join a relevant judo authority. That is part of being in the dojo means joining USA Judo, USJA or USJF. This will ensure that you get good insurance (it’s included in the membership fee) for when you’re practicing.
  • The judo mats should be in good condition. Clean is good but so is functional. A frayed and worn mat can be dangerous because you might lose balance easily on it.

Want a huge warning sign? If the dojo is full of little kids running around in brown and black belts? It’s probably a McDojo (a dojo that gives belts based on time in the dojo or on the amount of lessons paid for) and you should avoid it.

Practice Your Break Falls

The judo technique known as Ukemi is taught to all new judo practitioners. Your instructor should not have you participate in any throwing activity until you’ve learned to execute an Ukemi well each time you are knocked to the mat. If your Ukemi causes you pain – you’re not doing it right and should talk to your instructor about improving your falling techniques.

Practice With The Better Instructors To Start

It’s fine to learn judo moves from anyone with a belt ranking higher than yours. However, when you first get started with judo – it’s best to seek out instruction from the more experienced members of the dojo. You ought to work with brown and black belts who will be better equipped to show a new student how to fall safely without hurting themselves when they are thrown.

Take Things Slowly

You should not enter a dojo expecting to be a judo-master with only a few days practice. Judo (and, indeed, life) doesn’t work that way. It takes time to be good and to be ready to take on all comers.

When you start practicing throws, you should execute them slowly. This means you can properly learn the motion and you can make sure that you don’t make an error that results in injury to you or your opponent/partner.

Always Warm Up Before You Get Started

One of the major causes of injury in all sports is simply not taking the time to get your muscles warmed up before you start practicing. Your sensei should insist on a gentle and then more rigorous warm up before each training session but if you’re practicing on your own at all – then you can’t neglect this.

Your warm-up should consist of some aerobic activity as well as a series of stretches designed to get your muscles ready to work out.

Don’t Start Sparring Until You Are Ready

Sparring is a really useful way to improve your technique and to work with others. However, it’s not something you should be rushing into either. While there will come a time when working with an opponent brings real value – that’s when you’ve reached a point when you understand many different throws and you are confident that you can fall properly every time that you are thrown.

Learn To Relax When You Are Thrown

If you’ve ever seen a drunk suddenly fall over onto concrete and then get up as though nothing has happened – it’s because alcohol relaxes the muscles and when you relax into a fall, it’s much harder to get hurt.

Now, you can’t have a drink before you train judo because you’re asking to hurt yourself or someone else, but you can learn to relax into a fall. A good judo partner will not be looking to hurt you when they throw you, they’ll be giving you the opportunity to take care of yourself. A relaxed body will also help them execute the throw safely.

Don’t Be Shy About Tapping Out

It’s as simple as this – if it hurts, stop doing it. If you’re doing something with another person and they are hurting you by accident – tap out. There is no shame, whatsoever, in saying “this doesn’t feel good.”

You and everyone in the dojo should be learning judo to have fun and not to get damaged by each other. So, when you need to, tap out and don’t hesitate to do it.

Don’t Participate In Armlocks And Strangles Unless You’re Involved In MMA

These have become much more common in recent years because of MMA. In that sporting event, it is an absolute essential to use armlocks and strangles because MMA is all about subjugating an opponent until they can’t fight any more.

Judo shouldn’t be about that. Particularly, judo that you’re doing to get fit and improve your overall quality of life. You should avoid participating in armlocks and strangles unless you’re absolutely confident that the person you are working with understands when to stop and won’t risk hurting you.

The Two Main Causes Of Injury In Judo

Now, even with all these precautions – it is still possible to get hurt in judo. There are two main sources of injury:

  1. Collision injuries. Yup, that’s when you collide with something else. Like a wall, your opponent or the mat. The most likely time for this to happen is if you are practicing too close to someone else on the mat. Then when you’re thrown, you collide with them. (Or vice-versa). It also occasionally happens when your partner makes a mistake and throws you awkwardly or when you make a mistake and fail to break your fall effectively.
  2. Overuse injuries. This is the kind of injury where your muscles or your joints are hurt simply from being pushed too hard, too often. You get a bad knee, or an aching shoulder, or sprained fingers, etc. Unless you are training to compete at a very high level – there should be no need for you to ever suffer from this kind of injury. If you feel you’re pushing a bit too hard, stop, slow down and take a rest. Once again, judo is for fun, and hurting yourself isn’t fun.

What Should You Do If You Get Hurt In Judo?

If you do get hurt, there are some simple precautions to follow:

  • Remember RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) as soon as you’re are hurt, stop doing judo (that’s the rest), put some ice (or at least something cold) on the injury, use a bandage to compress the area and keep it raised.
  • See a medical professional if you need to. There’s no shame in visiting a doctor if something hurts. That’s what doctors are there for.
  • Give the injury time to heal. If you get hurt, you should give yourself time to recover before jumping back onto the mat.

It’s worth remembering that you’re bound to get the occasional bruise and scrape in judo, it is, after all, a contact sport but it’s perfectly possible to go through your entire life doing judo without getting “really” hurt.


Under normal circumstances Judo should not hurt. Make sure to follow our handy instructions in this little guide for maximum safety. If things do go wrong – remember to use RICE, see a doctor if needed and give yourself time to heal before you go back to the mat.

Happy practicing!

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