How To Do The Judo Chop – Really!

This may be one of the most contentious topics in judo, today. Why? Because some people swear that there is no “judo chop”, some swear it’s a joke, some say it’s just a mistaken “karate chop” and others say that there is a judo chop.

So, who is right? And can we learn how to do the judo chop? Well, our investigations into the topic came up with some surprising answers and yes, you can learn how to do the judo chop. Here is what we found.

The origins of the judo chop idea aren’t quite so ridiculous. There is a move in old-school Judo (and several similar martial arts) known as the “Shomen Uchi”.

Why Do Some People Think The Judo Chop Is A Joke?

The reasons that some people think that the judo chop is just a joke is because the Urban Dictionary makes it into a joke.

They offer this methodology for a judo chop:

The act of taking your hand and making a chop motion on a person’s shoulder near the neck area while saying in a loud manner, “Judo chop-HAI!”

1. Find a victim.
2. Creep up behind them.
3. Make sure palm/hand is flat and straight.
4 Raise your hand and chop the victim’s shoulder, making sure it is close enough to the neck.
5. Say the phrase, “Judo Chop HAI!” While doing so.
6. Walk away.”

It is fair to say that this is nothing but a joke. If you do walk up to someone and whack them in the neck with your hand while shouting “Judo Chop HAI!” you are very likely to get yourself beaten up and, more to the point, you will deserve it.

We think the origins of this idea, however, aren’t quite so ridiculous. There is a move in old-school Judo (and several similar martial arts) known as the “Shomen Uchi”.

This is an overhand strike on someone’s neck or shoulder area with the “knife hand”. The trouble is that even if you were clutching a knife or a broken bottle – this would be a terrible way to attack someone and would invite your opponent (assuming they had skills) to give you that richly deserved drubbing.

So, why does this move persist?

Well, because it’s clear, when you see it executed, that it’s not a judo move at all. It comes from the martial days when a martial artist wouldn’t just have used martial arts, they’d have used a sword (or katana) too.

Take a nice big sharp sword and execute a “Shomen Uchi” on someone and you’d split them in half or lop their head off. That makes sense, right?

However, we are not convinced that the “Shomen Uchi” is a “Judo Chop”.


Why Do Some People Think That The Judo Chop Is A Myth?

Modern Judo is a very different sport from the original Judo. Kodokan Judo was formalized back in 1882 by Dr. Jigoro Kano and it is his efforts that formalized Judo as a sport.

His formalization of Judo as a martial art form would lead to him becoming the first Asian member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Though Judo, itself, didn’t get to join the Olympic sport roster until 1964 at the Tokyo games.

However, Judo’s precursors “the takenouchi-ryu martial arts” began in 1532 and would have been very different from the modern Judo.

Modern Judo is about throws, grapples and holds. It doesn’t involve punching or kicking and thus, it is a reasonable conclusion to assume that there is no “judo chop”.

After all, chopping at someone is a form of punching, right? Therefore, if there are no punches – there are no “judo chops”.

Unfortunately, while this is reasonable based on modern Judo. It is not reasonable based on the overall history of the martial art. There was a time when Atemi-waza (“Judo striking”) was a common place aspect of the sport and it is only fairly recently when it has fallen out of favor.

So, while we understand why some people think the judo chop is a myth – we’d have to respectfully disagree with them.


Why Do Some People Think That The Judo Chop Is A Karate Chop?

This is a very reasonable assumption; indeed, our research shows that the “judo chop” and the “karate chop” may well be interchangeable.

This is a knife hand strike (yes, just like the one we mentioned earlier in the joke judo chop) and that is a strike when you use the part of the hand that runs from the little finger to the wrist to strike someone with.

This is a very common form of attack in karate and, indeed, in several other martial arts. It is also very popular in aikido, taekwondo, and Shorinji Kempo (which is a Japanese variant of Shaolin Kung Fu).

In these disciplines it is considered a fundamental strike and is used in conjunction with throws, other strikes and balance-breakers to land on an opponent.

The technique is quick and punchy and nothing like the exaggerated knife hand strike which was made popular in Western cinema during the mid-to-late 20th Century when Asian martial arts began to increase in popularity.

While a knife hand strike can be powerful and deliver real damage, it is unlikely to render someone unconscious or kill them when delivered in a telegraphed fashion from very high to someone’s neck. However, that kind of karate chop does make for entertaining movies and TV.

The Korean version of this attack involves using the muscle which is positioned between the bottom of the small finger and your wrist. It can also be adapted to be used as a blocking technique as well as an attack.

It seems quite likely that the judo chop and the karate chop are indistinguishable from each other.


How To Do The Judo Chop From Atemi-Waza

We believe that “Judo Striking” or “Atemi-Waza” would have included a “judo chop” at some point in its history. It is difficult to state this with certainty because the erosion of striking in modern judo means that much of what would have been practiced has been lost to the passing of time.

Certainly, back when judo and jiu-jitsu would have been indistinguishable from each other before the formalization of modern Judo, there would have been a need for an Atemi-style strike because the use of full armor on the battlefield was no longer a thing, and there would have been opportunities to use hand strikes on an opponent.

A Lower Risk of Injury

A knife hand strike has one thing going for it when compared to other types of punches: it uses the most resilient part of the hand. Unlike your knuckles which may swiftly disintegrate if you hit someone too hard – the knife hand strike uses the edge of the hand which can be quickly trained to be effective without risking injury.

The Technique

The technique is simple keeping the arm straight, you hit the opponent with the side of your hand in the space between the base of your little finger and the beginning of your wrist.

It is also possible to pull of a “reverse knife hand strike” by tucking the thumb in and using the other side of the hand to strike someone with. This may also be called an “inside knife hand strike”.

A Versatile Blow

You can deliver a knife hand strike or “judo chop” at any time from any angle or position. That makes it one of the most effective striking techniques. However, it’s worth remembering that modern Judo does not allow punches and if you were to use this technique in a competition it would result in disqualification.

It is particularly effective, however, in MMA bouts where the opponent is on the ground and you are in the dominant position as it is far less likely to result in injury than delivering punches to a prone opponent.

Easy To Use and Effective

A judo chop is surprisingly effective. It allows you to repeatedly hit an opponent without doing any damage to your own bone structure. Done right, it can end a fight just as it is getting started.

What’s particularly exciting about this is that it takes only a little training to master this technique and it can prove a powerful asset in life for self-defense situations.


Conclusion

It seems, to us at least, that the judo chop is most likely a corruption of the karate chop. It is not to be used like a crazy person wielding a sword but rather in a controlled manner that protects your knuckles from getting damaged whilst inflicting damage on an opponent.

It is important to remember, however, that it has no place in Judo tourneys or competitions – where strikes, of any kind, are not allowed.

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