At DC Judo, we welcome experienced and inexperienced martial artists of all disciplines as well as complete beginners. Judo itself is a fusion martial art which brought together techniques from a range of jujutsu disciplines into something new over 132 years ago. We’ve had students who have studied tae kwon do (TKD), karate, aikido, hapkido, sambo, boxing, wrestling, krav maga, and MMA and even kendo and fencing! (For more on Judo and BJJ, click here)
Since we started sharing Judo in downtown DC in 2008, we’ve answered a lot of questions about how Judo is like other martial arts and how it is different. The best way to find out is to come to class and try it out. If you are curious though, read on for info about your martial art and Judo. Each section will tell you a little of what to expect and how you might find things that are similar to what you have done and things that are different.
Tae Kwon Do and Judo/Karate and Judo
TKD practitioners often have an excellent sense of timing, ability to gauge and manipulate engagement distance (think punch or kick), and good ability to turn, spin, and twist. Karateka often have excellent ability to develop power from their posture and sharp, intense exertions and a good sense of the attack-counter-counter rhythm. Competitors often have good skills for managing stress in a one-on-one contact sport environment. All of these qualities are useful in Judo.
Sport Judo has no striking so striking skills won’t be developed in a Judo class. Instead grappling skills (gripping, position control, off balancing and grappling attacks) need to be learned and developed. Constantly having a hold of the opponent is a different world that can be exciting or daunting. Falling on your own and then falling on account of someone else’s action develops awareness of where the partner’s center of balance is and how to move or manipulate it through Judo throwing techniques.
Groundwork techniques – pins, chokes, and elbow locks – will be new and develop a whole range of new abilities and perceptions. Judo tends to be more of an anaerobic challenge (more like weight lifting) than typical TKD or Karate classes while still maintaining a fairly high aerobic impact.
Aikido and Judo
Aikido and Judo share similar roots in venerable jujitsu schools. An Aikidoka coming to Judo class will recognize many movements like falling, rolling, and controlled walking as well as throws that use the same principles as Aikido. Generally Aikido experience translate pretty directly into Judo class and aikidoka can pick up Judo pretty quickly. Higher level Judo kata tends to resemble Aikido techniques in responding to a combination of striking and weapon attacks.
The biggest difference aikidoka face coming to Judo is a philosophical one. Aikido principles are rooted in non-violence and, as such, one learns to redirect the opponent’s attack rather than making an attack oneself. Judo recognizes a need on occasion to be the attacker and strike first. Sport Judo is based entirely on competition which is at odds with core Aikido concepts. Students who can make this philosophical adjustment can enjoy a great deal of synergy between the sports.
Judo influenced the development of Sambo so many Judo techniques will look familiar. Gripping and throwing skills will carry over directly as will maintaining balance and moving with a partner. Groundwork techniques are also similar. Most Sambo players can begin practicing and even competing in Judo with minimal orientation.
Sambo includes a wider range of joint lock techniques in competition than are permitted under sport Judo rules. Ankle, knee, and leg locks are no longer practiced as part of regular Judo classes and are excluded from competition. Generally Judo emphasizes throwing even more than Sambo.
Boxers find Judo a big transition but still leverages the athleticism, timing, and speed of boxing. Good balance and strong posture along with the ability to develop force through whole body motion serve boxers in good stead as they begin Judo training.
Students who have boxed often find the range of Judo contact a little disconcerting. Judo is done close in while keeping the opponent at good striking range is often emphasized in boxing. As mentioned for karate and TKD, striking skills do not play a role in sport Judo and grappling skills need to be developed from scratch.
Wrestlers find Judo a close cousin of what they have learned and practiced. Takedowns and tie ups are quite similar. Engaging and controlling the opponent and making transition from standing to the ground represent a jump start for wrestlers coming into Judo. Generally wrestlers transition to Judo easily.
The most obvious difference is the judogi. Gripping and holding the gi change the opportunities available to throw and hold. Wrestlers can find the gi constricting and a little confusing at first since some things that work great without one don’t work at all with one on. Recent changes to sport Judo rules has eliminated single and double leg takedowns from sport Judo competition and that change steals good techniques from the wrestler’s repertoire.
Experienced Krav Maga practioners find that many short range techniques carry over since Judo and Jujitsu were influences on the development of Krav Maga. Grappling itself will be familiar as will transitions from standing to groundwork which are emphasized in Krav Maga.
Krav Maga emphasizes finishing techniques often with striking as the final technique. Judo finishing emphasize chokes and elbow locks. Judo is more collegial than Krav Maga as the goals are quite different between the self-defense approach and a sporting one.
MMA/Mixed Martial Arts
“Modern” MMA — that is MMA since Royce Gracie rocked the world with decisive defeats of experienced strikers with Brazilian Jujitsu — has meant a balanced cocktail of striking, grappling, and submission techniques. Judo shares the grappling and submission techniques and much of the intensity of competition.
Modern Judo competition restricts itself to a narrower range of techniques than are allowed in MMA. Striking is not part of Judo competition and Judo joint locks are limited to elbow locks only, so shoulder, knee and ankle locks are absent in Judo competition. MMA practitioners may find that intense Judo practice can support and develop cage skills – especially strong takedown skills. Ronda Rousey and Karo Parisyan both studied Judo on their road to MMA notoriety.
Judo and Kendo share a heritage as Japanese martial arts and both practices developed in their modern form in the Japanese school system. Kendoka find that managing engagement distance, maintaining good balanced posture from which to act, as well as footwork will be similar. Timing and reading the opponent’s subtle cues also carry over from Kendo to Judo.
Judo demands quicker timing at the shorter range at which Judo techniques are executed. Obviously sheathing your shinai will be required too. Falling — on a mat rather than the wooden floor usual for Kendo practice — is a big change as well.
Fencers do surprisingly well in Judo. Fencing requires timing, reading the opponent, and coordinated whole body movement. These skills carry over well into Judo. Good skills in gauging and changing range also give fencers a leg up when they start Judo.
Obviously weapon handling and tactics don’t carry over into Judo. New grappling skills at short range and developing awareness of the partner’s balance will expand the fencer’s skill set.
Whatever your background or previous experience, we hope you will find a way to employ some of the skills you have and help develop new ones when you practice with us at DC Judo.