Before we get into Judo and it’s importance in MMA, first a quick story.
I started Judo when I was about 8 years old and although classes stopped in my town after a few years I still maintained an interest in the sport.
I will never forget my first Judo loss at a community game. The opponent standing, several inches smaller in height, standing across the mat from me. Of course in my head, I thought this was going to be easy. The match started and I confidently hurried towards him.
My opponent using my momentum grabbed my arm, turned his back to me and used the momentum and hip movement to catapult over his shoulder. Landing flat on my back I was immediately winded and the fight was over before I was even pinned.
That is the beauty of the sport using momentum and throws to take down your opponent.
The short answer is yes. Judo is used in MMA by several fighters. It is extremely important to know even basics Judo throws in MMA.
Why don’t we break this down even further.
What is Judo?
Judo is a style of fighting that has been around since the nineteenth century. It consists of grappling techniques that are used to gain leverage. Unlike it’s more aggressive father, Jiu-jitsu, judo focus on using your opponent’s strength against them.
You have most likely heard the term judo throw, and you might’ve seen it in action; then there are those who have had the pleasure of utilizing such a move (an amazing feeling I know).
This move is the most well known because it is visually stunning and is used by actors in Hollywood all the time. Yet, there is so much more to this technical, and potentially devastating style of fighting.
True professionals are dangerous, their foot placement, when they sink their hips, how they use your force against you are all reasons they come out on top in grappling matches.
Judo was born during the near-death of Ju-Jitsu. Fighting and martial arts in and of itself was becoming more westernized during the nineteenth century. The concept of grappling had become obsolete compared to hand to hand combat techniques.
Along comes Kano Jigoro. A man who was brought up in wealth, and desperate for a master. He searched for someone to teach him Ju-Jitsu, but it was becoming a tedious process. Most Ju-Jitsu masters had pursued other careers, but lucky for us there was still one man who passionately taught the style to only five students: Fukuda Hachinosuke.
Fukuda skill over all else, sewing the idea that Ju-Jitsu was all about brute strength into the mind of Kano. Kano became Fukuda’s greatest student, and once he passed, Kano was given the dojo.
Kano was, eventually, able to open up his own dojo and teach what was taught to him. Kano, unlike his master, focused on getting the job done with the least amount of effort as possible.
In teaching Ju-Jitsu, he began to think of the fighting style in a more philosophical way. While most fighting styles of tradition were based on strength, and grace during those times, Judo was a fighting style that looked towards gaining leverage and shifting weight.
Judo in MMA
MMA is, as explained by the name, a combat sport that requires combatants to have experience in multiple forms of martial arts. While the flying knees are amazing, and a roundhouse off the cage makes for a good highlight, grappling is arguably the most important aspects of this combat sport.
Once you get on the ground, your chances of losing due to a quick chokehold or joint locked submission skyrocket. A majority of fights are won or loss on the ground, and this is why some of the most formidable MMA fighters utilize Judo in their fighting.
Fighters that use Judo in MMA
Two notable combatants that are officiant in Judo are Ronda Rousey and Rick Hawn.
Rick Hawn, I would say, is far more proficient due to his extensive background in Judo. These fighters will use grappling to frustrate and/or tire out their opponent. The only way to combat Judo, is to get off the ground or be better than your opponent at Judo.
A true master of the craft is not going to be toppled by brute strength alone. Relying on brute strength will fatigue the muscle quickly, therefore whenever they are able to get up and fight, they are far too tired to do so.
Ronda Rousey is dangerous in her grappling and has won a majority of her fights by grappling her opponent to the ground and finishing it there. Let’s ignore the fact that Amanda Nunes beat her into WWE back in 2016 and remember that she was one of the great female grapplers in our era.
Judo, above all else, is a delicate fighting style. Completely dedicating yourself to judo alone will get you hurt in the octogen, but ignore it and all you’ll do is embarrass yourself. Judo is a tactical fighting style that requires a calm and well-educated mind. If you are preparing for a fight with someone who is stronger, faster, and more experienced, you can hope to beat said adversary by being smarter than them.
I would say that all professional MMA fighters have some form of Judo under their belt. One big flaw of having a heavy background in judo while participating is MMA is that you have a heavy background in judo and you are trying to participate in MMA.
Judo alone is not enough to fight on the level needed for MMA. Judo is a technical fight that consists of counter-attacks that are used while grappling. It is not enough for a fighter to win against every fighter he steps in the ring with. Judo should be learned, but it also needs to be applied to whatever fighting style you are most proficient in (you see, mixed martial arts) While training in your main sector, practice moving into the judo techniques and finishers.
Judo is a fighting style that goes at the end of your attack. The moves are meant to put your opponent down or tire them out. Judo is a necessity whenever participating in MMA. The fact that professional combatants utilize it is evidence enough.
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