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Mikeseishin-do
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Judo- Effective self defence yes or no?

After a little discussion earlier with a friend of mine, whom is a Judoka, we got talking about the defence application of Judo and whether or not Judo is effective as a self defence technique, i.e. could be used in  potentially combative situations on the street. Judo is defined as a "Modern martial art" and after a small amount of research I found that a martial art can be defined as- "any of several Oriental arts of weaponless self-defense" however I doubt that this is entirely accurate.

After being present at a few seminars with Sensei Abernethy and other experienced practioners, it has been discussed in the seminars and lessons that in a street encounter for example it is not effective to employ locks, grabs holds or throws for example, particularly if against two or more opponents.

It may be rather biggoted and opinionated of me to believe that Judo is just locks, grabs, holds and throws, but isn't it, I have noticed that there is much teaching around blocking techniques for example. Also as I discussed before If an encounter is with more than one opponent would Judo be effective, doesn't Judo end primarily on the ground, if groundwork is done on a single opponent the leaves you susceptible to attack from the other. I therefore ask, is there more to Judo than what we see at first glance, or when portrayed through the media in the forms of events such as the Olympics? And would this be an effective means of self defence?

Is there anything suggested in older texts? please note I mean no disrespect to any who practice Judo I was just intrigued.

Thanks

Mike Sheffield

Dave Moore
Dave Moore's picture

I suppose it would depend on what you use and how you would use it. Locks are hopeless on people who are drunk or on drugs as they don't feel the pain needed to make them submit and try them on a none compliant person who is wearing a thin 't' shirt rather than a gi they are nigh on impossible to complete before they turn around to give you a smack for trying to hurth them

Throws can work, depending on what you use and why you want to use it in order to get away.

I did Judo as a teenager and although I had forgotten most things when it was needed  I remembered a throw that has come in usefull more than a few times, Iain did it at a seminar in Bradford a few years back and I have to say done quickly it is very very effective and could be used to simply dump them on their back or keep hold and then take control.

I think that if a Judo person  adds striking then its pretty damn good art and does not have to end on the floor.

I don't do a great deal of study as I don't real have time so I cannot comment on the texts

Black Tiger
Black Tiger's picture

I would say yes it is, in the right context, Judoka say that there is nothing harder than the floor. So a throw to the floor is some instances 'should' resolve issues. The only complication is as Dave rightly pointed out, there are no strikes in Judo (although in a small minority of Dojos Strikes are taught after 4th Dan).

Its the same for most arts, as they have become "striking" or "grappling" arts 'weaknesses' have become apparent in all. As Iain states in his books we need to bridge the gaps between the arts, not to become a jack of all master of none but to iron out the weaknesses of the specific art you practice

 

Mikeseishin-do
Mikeseishin-do's picture

Black Tiger wrote:
The only complication is as Dave rightly pointed out, there are no strikes in Judo (although in a small minority of Dojos Strikes are taught after 4th Dan).

So would it be the case that Judo as a single art, is more a sport, however if used correctly and in the right context, for example with another discipline, such as karate or even something such as boxing, it would become an effective self defence art. Like you have already said I don't believe Judo teaches many forms of stircking, would the most effective means of self defence be one that encorporates many forms or styles?

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Judo is a strong system but, as always, it comes down to context. Most of the Judo guys I know think of what they do purely as a sport (I know that’s not all Judoka, and I’ll get to that).

If I were to ask them how a method would work “in the street” they would look at me in the same way a tennis coach would if I asked them how to use a serve on the street. I have to say that I admire this clarity of focus as they are totally clear on their training objectives.

The sport dictates that it is always one on one, you mainly look to throw (often ending up on the ground yourself in the process), and that when on the ground you look for holds, locks and strangles in order to win.

In reality it is rarely one on one, so deliberately taking a grip with one enemy and leaving yourself entirely vulnerable to others is not at all smart.

Throws are also arguably the most difficult methods to make work so that makes then a “low percentage technique” and therefore not a good choice and “high percentage” methods should be favoured in self-protection.

In reality the ground is the worst possible place to be, it should never be deliberately sought, and if you do end up there the aim is to get up fast and not look to hold and lock.

So for the above reasons I would say sport Judo is not a good self-defence option; not because it is flawed, simply because it is not designed for use in self-protection. Likewise, the methods used for driving a rally car in a race are not ideal for your everyday commute. They work great in their given environment, but you can’t swap environments and expect things to work just as well.

If you want to learn to win Judo bouts then sport judo is ideal. If you want to learn self-defence, then you need to train specifically with that goal in mind.

Many of the judo methods of breaking grips, escaping from holds, keeping your balance, etc do have relevance to self-defence, but they need to be drilled in that context. You need to be working to escape from multiple enemies in live practise and not on taking a single to the floor. You also need to move outside the rules i.e. permit striking, encourage shouting for help, use of surrounding environment, etc.

A judo teacher who understands that “what works” is always entirely dependent on context, and who understands the nature of self-protection, will be able to make what they do relevant and effective. It’s therefore not so much if Judo is effective or not, but whether the teacher can define context, understands context, and can make appropriate to the self-protection context.

If they teach sport judo and believe that what they do is entirely relevant to self-protection without modification in technique and tactic, then we have an issue. However, if they get that differing contexts mean that what a “win” is changes, and hence the method of application also needs to changes, then we are on to a winner. And I think that’s true of any martial art / combative method you can think of.

If the awareness, avoidance, law, pre-emptive striking, the need to escape, etc are all understood then the physical skills of judo can be a good backup if all that fails … IF it is drilled in the right context and IF it is acknowledged that things like the above are also a vital part of training that take precedence over the physical grappling skills.

Basically, the methods of Judo could be highly effective or highly ineffective depending on the manner in which it is taught and an understanding of context.

This podcast covers this in much greater depth and would be a good listen for those who have you to yet to hear it:

http://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/content/martial-map-free-audio-book

With regards to the physical side of things, pre-emption is that way to go and a pre-emptive strike is much easier to make work than a pre-emptive throw. So when physical conflict can’t be avoided, striking is the best option (the possible exception being those who can’t strike but have an extensive grappling background).

However, if all goes wrong and a “fight” develops then the highly developed grappling skills associated with Judo can be a very effective “last resort” (providing the emphasis remains on escape and not fighting to a conclusion as you would in a judo bout).

The bottom line is that it’s all about context and the need to train with the right context in mind. I know we have a few judoka as members here who certainly get the context right and hence what they do would be effective for self-defence. As I say, it’s when people, from all arts, fail to move outside “mono-context thinking” that things become ineffective when the context changes.

All the best,

Iain

Mikeseishin-do
Mikeseishin-do's picture

Iain Abernethy wrote:

If you want to learn to win Judo bouts then sport judo is ideal. If you want to learn self-defence, then you need to train specifically with that goal in mind.

I am really grateful for the responses that have been given, I know understand that for an art to be effective it must be used in correct context and when in training the practioneer must realise several concepts or a goal, for instance they need to train specifically in the use of Judo as self defence. Like Iain has said if the fail to move out of Mono-context thinking" then it would become ineffective. I suppose some who are entirely passionate about Judo and only Judo (My friend for instance) will percieve that their style is perfect for all instances, they may not see the larger picture when it comes to self defence.

After some research and through this discussion, I now think that it would be an effective means of defending ones self, however only as part of a larger system of techniques. It would be incredibly effective if for example the self defence aspect of Karate was combined with some aspects of Judo. I.e. techniques on the street in which opponents are thrown and dealt with quickly afterwards with use of some karate technique. this would be beneficial as it would remove this problem of Judo as a self defence technique against many opponents.

At the end of this I just believe that no martial art is perfect in any repect. Many Martial artists are doing the correct things by combining styles, i.e. Soo bahk doo has many influences from the chinese arts, and some aspects of Judo. In the end the only way for a perfect style of self defence is to be achieved is through the co-operation of many styles.

Thanks everyone

Mike Sheffield

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

MikeSeishin-Do wrote:
I am really grateful for the responses that have been given, I know understand that for an art to be effective it must be used in correct context and when in training the practioneer must realise several concepts or a goal, for instance they need to train specifically in the use of Judo as self defence. Like Iain has said if the fail to move out of "Mono-context thinking" then it would become ineffective. I suppose some who are entirely passionate about Judo and only Judo (My friend for instance) will percieve that their style is perfect for all instances, they may not see the larger picture when it comes to self defence.

Hi Mike,

I think your above full post is spot on and good summation of the issues. On a personal note, it's the first time I've used the term "mono-context thinking", but I like it lots so everyone should be prepared to hear it a lot more from now on wink

All the best,

Iain

Mikeseishin-do
Mikeseishin-do's picture

I enjoyed the term to Iain, Thanks for the Response.

P.s it is a good term for people who think martial arts is for only single purposes, all in all a good word.

Thanks again

Mike Sheffield

Stan Meador
Stan Meador's picture

I like this question and the discussion - I think it has been handled well, but I felt like posting some more on it too.

I watched some judo bouts recently and a couple of things struck me where self-defense is concerned.

When the players are squaring off they get into a stance with their heads low and have virtually no guard against strikes. Anyone who trains to the point that they assume this stance in a fight will have a great disadvantage.

The goal seems to be to gain an advantage of positioning and balance in order to throw the opponent, with only positioning, pushing or pulling as the set up.

These two observations are probably greatly oversimplified.

Now, can some judo throws and other techniques be used in a real fight? By all means. Several Judo throws are included in the book Street Stoppers: The Martial Arts' Most Devastating Trips Sweeps and Throws for Real Fighting. The book is written by two police officers who are martial artists and who have used the techniques live.

I don't find all of the techniques in the book to be the wisest choice. Some do involve sacrifice throws which place both people on the ground.

What I do find useful in the book is to see how the techniques can be integrated into one's training and self-defense.

Basically, one could train the four basic punches of boxing with low line kicks added, learn elbows, knees and headbutts for in-fighting and a few basic, simple trips, sweeps and throws and one would have a pretty capable arsenal if it were trained well and with good flow drills. A system does not have to be "complete" in the sense of knowing every technique in order to be "complete" in the sense of being a well rounded system for realistic self-defense.

However, it is often easier to work within one or more existing systems than it is to design one's own.

Where judo is concerned, someone who has trained for years in judo may be able to added the striking side more quickly and easier than someone who has trained the striking side for years can add the trips, sweeps, and throws. So, when one realizes the reality of "multi-context thinking" and decides to come out of "mono-context thinking" the judoka may be in a better situation than the striker.

Just my two cents worth.

Stan

nielmag
nielmag's picture

Quote:
Dave Moore:

I did Judo as a teenager and although I had forgotten most things when it was needed  I remembered a throw that has come in usefull more than a few times, Iain did it at a seminar in Bradford a few years back and I have to say done quickly it is very very effective and could be used to simply dump them on their back or keep hold and then take control.

Just out of curiosity, which throw was that?  The cross buttocks throw?

Jon Lean
Jon Lean's picture

As an experienced Judoka I tend to agree with much of the comment above, especially Iain's. Judo, as taught in the majority of dojo's does not have self defence as a key focus. Sport-centric judo dominates, and while routine practice including physical conditioning, drills, randori and club contest builds useful attributes to self defence, they are probably insufficient if one's key aim is effective self defence.

Of course sport Judo is, in itself, a narrow focus of a wider judo curriculum, one where self defence and strking is puported to be taught via kata. Indeed there was a recent discussion here on judo's Kime-no-kata and Kodokan Goshin Jitsu, but to be honest, if these are the "vessels" of judo self-defence, then in and of themselves they are pretty "leaky".

But judo is far from alone in this, I would say the vast majority of karate as taught worldwide faces similar criticisms. Indeed I (personally) believe that the randori element and fitness and physical conditioning of the average sport judoka might actually make him better placed to survive a random SD situation, because I (personally) do not not think the average karate club stresses these to the same degree, and the via "transferred attributes" the judoka may be at some advantage. I'm also a firm believer that the most useful thing a judoka learns of application to self defence in its widest application is "Ukemi" or falling. I've limited injuries in a number of accidents by knowing how to protect myself in a fall - it is a very important skill to learn for EVERYONE.

Finally let me say that judo is not a martial art - that is ju-jutsu. Judo is a "martial way", and the way is one of education. Kodokan Judo is a learning pedagogy to improve physical, mental and spiritual well being via physical practice, by exploring the key judo principles of "maximum efficiency" and "mutual welfare and benefit". As such self defence is not a primary focus of judo - even though it is often "sold" as being such .Even Kano was guilty of this - I believe he stressed self defence benefits of judo too much in his writings as collected in say ""Mind over Muscle", a book well worth reading if one wants to explore the real methods, principles and aims of judo in more detail.

Mikeseishin-do
Mikeseishin-do's picture

Stan Meador wrote:

When the players are squaring off they get into a stance with their heads low and have virtually no guard against strikes. Anyone who trains to the point that they assume this stance in a fight will have a great disadvantage.

Hi Stan, when I was discussing this topic with my friend, a similar topic arose. as I have been discussing with some of the other repliers, it is how they are trained which causaes them to instantly move to this stance. My friend suggested that if in a fight he wouldf throw his opponent and if they landed on there back it would be an ippon and he would win. I then replied with "However Lewis you don't get ippons in a real fight" he said this with out realising because had been primarily taugh sport Judo. Which is designed for competition. all in all a good point Stan.

Thanks Mike

Stan Meador
Stan Meador's picture

Mike,

I agree that there are no ippons in a real fight, but a throw that places the attacker squarely and forcefully on his back on concrete or asfault will likely end the fight. I just wouldn't be willing to use a sacrifice throw to attain it, given the reality of multiple attackers.

A friend once asked me how I would fight a judoka when we were watching a televised match. Given the posturing of the players I figured an eye attack would be good for starters. Of course, that's against the rules. Oops, there are no rules in the street.

Stan

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Jon Lean wrote:
But judo is far from alone in this, I would say the vast majority of karate as taught worldwide faces similar criticisms. Indeed I (personally) believe that the randori element and fitness and physical conditioning of the average sport judoka might actually make him better placed to survive a random SD situation, because I (personally) do not think the average karate club stresses these to the same degree, and the via "transferred attributes" the judoka may be at some advantage.

I think this is a very valid point and why I feel live training is so important. The Judo people I know are all extremely hard trainers and the physicality of that they do develops a “hardiness” that one-step sparring, line works, etc simply will not. Getting slammed into a mat a few hundred times a session in technique training will do that too :-) All martial artists would do well to emulate that physicality in their practise. A topic covered in this month’s podcast :-)

Jon Lean wrote:
As such self defence is not a primary focus of judo - even though it is often "sold" as being such .Even Kano was guilty of this - I believe he stressed self defence benefits of judo too much in his writings as collected in say "Mind over Muscle", a book well worth reading if one wants to explore the real methods, principles and aims of judo in more detail.

Another good point and I’d highly recommend the “Mind Over Muscle” book to everyone who has not yet read it. His explanation of the “do concept” far surpasses anything I have read from the karateka of the past.

Stan Meador wrote:
When the players are squaring off they get into a stance with their heads low and have virtually no guard against strikes.

A point that Kano himself expressed concern about in the aforementioned “Mind Over Muscle” book.

Stan Meador wrote:
I agree that there are no ippons in a real fight, but a throw that places the attacker squarely and forcefully on his back on concrete or asphalt will likely end the fight.

True, but one that lands him on the point of his shoulder or head will be far worse! If you look at the older Jujutsu throws – while generally not as technically refined as their modern judo counterparts – they are executed in such a way as to encourage a “bad landing”. It’s also worth noting that in some cases it can be tactically better for the recipient to land on their side as the thrower effectively ends up “behind” the thrown enemy and hence is less likely to be hit by them kicking out from the floor. Being powerfully driven into a hard floor, however they land, is likely to end things though. As an old jujutsu acquaintance of mine once said, “The floor is the biggest fist I’ve got” :-)

Worth pointing out that most throws can end up being “sacrifice throws” in the rough and tumble of conflict so we need to practise methods for quickly getting pack to our feet post-throw i.e. impact, push, gouge and bite to make them let go, using the knees on the head and chest to keep them down as we rise, etc. This is of course different from sport judo where the aim would be to secure a hold as opposed to break it … which brings us back to the ever important notion of “context” and clearly defining what a “win” is in any given context.

All the best,

Iain

Gavin Mulholland
Gavin Mulholland's picture

I have had a couple of good Judo players work with me on the doors and both put it to very good effect on a regular basis.

Two of my brothers were also BJA Southern Area Sqaud members and they also were pretty fearsome when it came to it.

So I would say that it can be very effective. Having said that I also love the fact that they call themselves judo 'players' and make very little of the potential figfhting skills that they undoubtedly have.  I think it frees them from a lot of the BS that we have to wade through on a daily basis.

BRITON55
BRITON55's picture

Remember Judo was designed as a derivitive of Jujitsu for a sport  scenario for one on one confrontation..its source Jujitsu is more appropriate for multiple attack street scenarios. I will probably get crucified for that statement...but please enlighten me on the real story of Judo.

Pyung Ahn Peacer and Harmony

Yours in Budo

Steve cool

Jon Lean
Jon Lean's picture

BRITON55 wrote:

Remember Judo was designed as a derivitive of Jujitsu for a sport  scenario for one on one confrontation..its source Jujitsu is more appropriate for multiple attack street scenarios. I will probably get crucified for that statement...but please enlighten me on the real story of Judo.

A common question......"Is judo a sport?". It has definitely evolved nowadays to the point where most people think so, and most judoka train their judo under the sporting paradigm for the most part.

However that is evolution; another obvious question is how did Jigoro Kano, Judo's founder, define judo way back in the late 1800's? He defined judo, as I have stated before as a process of physical, mental and moral education, using ju-jutsu as the physical basis. He defined two self supporting key principles to this martial way or "Do"; "Maximum Efficiency" and "Mutual Welfare and Benefit". He then created practice methods to explore these principles, physical techniques (waza) , forms (kata), free practice sparring (randori) and contest (shiai), and also the much forgotten lecture (mondo). All defined as essential to proper judo practice.

So sporting "contest" was part of judo from the beginning, the ultimate crucible in which judo was to be tested in a fully non-compliant environment, but within a defined ruleset. But it was only one part and I doubt Kano conceived of the scale of modern Olympic/IJF style sporting judo when he thought of shiai, more a club level activity no more or less important than any other.

Remember though the timing, the late 1800's, and think back to Western Victorian sporting ideals - Kano was fully aware of western philosophy of physical education prevalent at the time, and his Kodokan Judo incorporated these modern concepts. When Association football was codified did the FA dream of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa? When the modern Olympic movement was formed by Baron Coubertain did he similarly envisage what we have now as the Olympics? No way! They saw sport as an wholly amateur endeavour to build better people, physically, mentally and spiritually, and bring them together for sporting practice and competition to foster  mutual peace and prosperity.

Kano himself was IOC representative for Japan.He died on ship on the way back to Japan after securing Tokyo as the venue for the 1940 Olympics - history was somewhat against this ever happening! Interestingly though he never promoted Judo for inclusion as an Olympic sport, there is at least nothing in his writings to support any such wishes. Maybe he could see how the Olympics had already become a political tool - i.e 1936 Olympics in Berlin - Jesse Owens and all that, and he distanced judo from that potentially sticky situation.

So I contend that thinking of Judo as a sport is indeed wholly appropriate, but only in the paradigm of the victorian ideal of sporting excellence, where it is better to play fair than to win, it's all about the taking part. play up, play up and play the game etc etc.

We must also conclude that modern martial arts, or at least "Gendai Budo" arts have as much basis in the Western Victorian Philosophy of mass-education (education for all people, for all time, both mental and physical to build a better future!) as they do in Eastern (neo) Confusionist philosophy. Read philosophical works by English libertarian educators such as Jeremy Bentham or J.S Mill, available in Japan after the Meiji Restoration, and you will see where the great educator Kano derived  much of his inspiration for his vision of Kodokan Judo. 

  

Fred Moore
Fred Moore's picture

 

Quote:
   Basically, one could train the four basic punches of boxing with low line kicks added, learn elbows, knees and headbutts for in-fighting and a few basic, simple trips, sweeps and throws and one would have a pretty capable arsenal if it were trained well and with good flow drills. A system does not have to be "complete" in the sense of knowing every technique in order to be "complete" in the sense of being a well rounded system for realistic self-defense.

Stan

Yes, Stan; If you have been to Iain's seminars , then you will know all this is covered therein and therefore comprises a fairly holistic self protection regime.  

Stan Meador
Stan Meador's picture

Well, I have not yet had the joy of attending one of Iain's seminars.

This comes basically from my own training in Shotokan, Aikijutsu and a mixture of several other arts from people I have trained with.

I'm glad to see I'm on the right track! smiley

Stan

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Jon Lean wrote:
We must also conclude that modern martial arts, or at least "Gendai Budo" arts have as much basis in the Western Victorian Philosophy of mass-education (education for all people, for all time, both mental and physical to build a better future!) as they do in Eastern (neo) Confusionist philosophy. Read philosophical works by English libertarian educators such as Jeremy Bentham or J.S Mill, available in Japan after the Meiji Restoration, and you will see where the great educator Kano derived much of his inspiration for his vision of Kodokan Judo.

Great post Jon! Thanks for that. I think the above is a very important and often forgotten point: The western education system had a big influence on Japanese martial arts. In Itosu’s 1908 letter to the Okinawan schools he makes direct reference to the English schools:

“The purpose of karate is to make the muscles and bones hard as rock and to use the hands and legs as spears. If children were to begin training naturally in military prowess while in elementary school, then they would be well suited for military service. Remember the words attributed to the Duke of Wellington after he defeated Napoleon, “Today’s battle was won on the playing fields of our schools”.”

It was specifically Eton that the Duke of Wellington is said to have made reference to as opposed to schools generally, but the point stands: The English education system provided much inspiration and had a huge effect on the way many Japanese arts came to be practised.

All the best,

Iain

richo
richo's picture

I've only been doing Judo for 7 months, but I've never heard any mention of 'self defence' when training; it's very much geared toward sport and competition in my club. Getting into a position to cleanly throw an opponent who is resisting during randori is VERY hard and would be difficult in the street, but throwing someone to ground on a hard surface would be pretty effective if you could pull it off. As others mention, the ground moves are effective on the mat, but would be very risky in the street if other people might get involved.

Having said all that, the judo players I train with are very fit and strong and they train damn hard, so my fitness has improved a lot which is great. Better understanding of break falls, breaking opponents balance and incorporating a few basic throws has really helped my karate now. I'd hate to get into a tussle with a judoka, that's for sure.

Cheers,

Rich