The use of weapons in judo is complicated. Judo is a martial art which is descended from Jiu-Jitsu and Jiu-Jitsu was used to fight real wars. However, Judo was not, it was designed as a sport and there are no offensive moves in judo with weapons.
Does judo use weapons? Judo uses weapons to teach practitioners how to defend but never how to attack. Judokas do not learn how to attack someone with a weapon, however, the sport teachers defence against four types of weapons: the dagger, the staff, the pistol, and the katana.
Let’s look a little deeper at the relationship between judo and weapons.
Why Doesn’t Judo Use Weapons To Attack?
Judo’s founder, Jigoro Kano, didn’t intend judo to be an offensive martial art. In fact, the name “Judo” alludes to a doctrine of “softness” in which the Judoka (the person doing judo) is principally in a state of non-resistance which uses the opponents’ strengths against them.
In fact, Judo has always been a sporting version of the original Japanese Jiu-Jitsu and weapons did not fit into the ethos of Jigoro Kano’s plan for a system which relied on the weak being able to defeat the strong by being able to put their opponent off balance while retaining their own balance.
In Jigoro Kano’s Words
He said as part of a longer discourse,
“Suppose we estimate the strength of a man is ten units, whereas my strength, less than his, is seven units. Then if he pushes me with all his force, I shall certainly be pushed back or thrown down, even if I use all my strength against him. This would happen from opposing strength to strength. But if, instead of opposing him, I leave him unresisted, withdrawing my body just as much as he pushes, at the same time keeping my balance, he will naturally lean forward and lose his balance. In this new position he may become so weak (not in actual physical strength, but because of his awkward position) as to reduce his strength for the moment, say to three units only instead of ten. Meanwhile, by keeping my balance, I retain my full strength available for any emergency. Had I greater strength than my opponent, I could of course have pushed him back; but even if I wished to push him back, I should first have left him unresisted, as by so doing I should greatly economize my energy.”Jigaro Kano
Thus, he developed judo around the simple principle of “Maximum Efficiency in Use of Mind and Body” and weapons training wasn’t part of that.
Randori And Kata
It is for this reason that during the “randori” (which is the concept of “free exercise” or competition within judo) a judoka does not use weapons of any kind.
However, in the kata (which means “form” or “forms”) which are a series of exercises designed to help a judoka become competent at defending themselves in any circumstance, it is permitted to introduce weapons that can be hit, kicked or otherwise defended against as long as the player is thoroughly briefed on what their opponent intends before the kata begins.
Jigoro Kano saw Randori as mainly physical training with a minor mental element and Kata as mental training with a minor physical element.
4 Weapons In Judo And The Means Of Defense Against Them
There are four weapons that a judoka may train against in judo. They are introduced in the “Goshin Jitsu” series of kata.
Many judokas will be fully familiar with defending themselves against grappling with kata, which are a standard part of the training in every dojo.
However, following World War II there were a number of judo kata developed to help prepare the Japanese Police Force to handle issues concerning weapons. These techniques were based on those drawn from Aikido but may have their own “judo-like” twist.
These techniques are the “kime no kata” or “Shinken Shobu no Kata” which translate roughly as the “kata for real fighting”. They are very much focused on self-defense and form the basis of any teachings in modern judo when it comes to weapon use.
The four weapons that they use are as follows:
The Tanto – A Stabbing Dagger
The Japanese Tanto is a dagger that would once have been used by the Samurai. It is mainly used for stabbing an opponent and, in fact, comes with the same kind of guard that you would find on swords from that period. However, don’t be fooled – it’s still perfectly possible to slash someone with a tanto, though the lack of a belly on a tanto means that it’s not as easy to slash as it is to stab.
It uses a high point over a flat grind of steel and that means the point is incredibly strong. It’s easy to push a tanto blade through fairly tough armor if you know what you are doing with it.
The tanto used to train judo, however, is a wooden replica. You won’t be getting stabbed in kata practice in your dojo.
In modern situations, it’s also unlikely that you would encounter anyone wielding a tanto in the street unless they intended serious harm with it. This isn’t the kind of knife that you would expect to pick up in a craft shop.
Common techniques to defend against a knife in judo are the Goshin Justsu no Kata techniques (which include the Tuskkake, Choku-tsuki and Namame-tsuki) and you can see these in the video below:
You may also use the techniques of the Kime no Kata which might extend to the Yoko Tsuki, Kiri Komi and Tsuki Komi.
The Jo – A Staff
This is a short wooden staff of approximately 1 meter in length. This is about 30 centimeters shorter than the jo which would be used traditionally in Aikido or other striking martial arts that focused on staff training. However, the Hanbo art form used a slightly shorter staff.
The jo that is trained in judo, however, is unique to judo. It is used in three main kata techniques the Furiage, Morote-Tsuki and the Furioroshi.
As you can see from this glimpse of the technique (see below) as used in the Budapest world championships, it can be devastatingly effective if your timing is right. Though, we dread to think what would happen if your timing was off.
The Kenju – The Pistol
This pistol is a “kenju” if you want the Japanese name for it. This was specifically included in the kata at the request of the Japanese Police. However, for training purposes they always use a wooden replica of a gun rather than an actual gun and there is no hole made for the “replica trigger” as there is in some other martial arts.
This was a decision made for safety’s sake and even in Japan, you won’t find anyone practicing judo defense techniques against a real gun or even a realistic replica gun.
You can find the pistol in the Goshin Jutsu no Kata and in particular in the three techniques: the Shomen-Tsuke, the Haimen-Tsuke and the Doshi-Gamae.
We found a neat demonstration of the Haimen-Tsuke being used to disarm an opponent with a wooden gun on YouTube as you can see below:
The Bokken – The Katana
The katana is far too dangerous to use against someone in judo training with no katana to protect themselves with, so a bokken which is a wooden replica of the Japanese sword is used instead. When performing katas, it is mandatory for the bokken to be equipped with a plastic guard called the tsuba or tsubadome.
There are two Kime no Kata techniques which are used to ward off attack with the bokken, the Nuki Kake and the Kiro Oroshi though we’ve seen several people also use the same katas, as they would to ward off the tanto, against the bokken with some degree of success. However, we’re not certain that they’d be as effective if the sword had a metal blade rather than a wooden one.
You can see both of these defenses as they would be carried out against a bokken in this YouTube clip below:
Does judo use weapons? Judo does not use weapons for attacking. However, it does have kata which prepare a judoka to defend themselves against someone wielding a weapon. After all, a martial art that discounts the possibility of an armed attacked couldn’t be very effective, could it?