Judo as a martial art 柔道
A personal perspective

Judo's effectiveness as a martial art in combat has been long established by people who were far more skilled than me from its founding period to today. As a lifelong martial art ethusiast, I thought perhaps my potential students could benefit from reading about judo from a personal perspective to decide if it suits their goal.

As a young boy, I had always been fascinated by martial arts and dreamed to become one myself some day. Growing up with a father who was a boxer and part of the national boxing team, my first introduction to combat sport was boxing. However, I always had a preference for the martial arts. As a teenager, I studied several years mainly in striking as I was a minority in a school with a strong bully presence and had to defend myself. It was my training that kept the bullies away, but that was not without few fights to defend myself.

As I grew older, I became interested to become a more complete martial artists and wanted to study a grappling art. I ended up with judo for its balanced approach to standing and ground grappling. It is commonly said during my early adulthood that "many fights end up on the ground", and while it is true, the corrolary  is that "all fights begin standing". Judo allows a skilled person to decide how to control the fight, whether to keep it standing or on the ground. It has many tools from the gripping tactics to controlling the distance, changing angles against a striker or an attacker welding a weapon.

People who have experienced a throw executed by a highly skilled judoka on a proper mat may not think that a throw is very effective. After all, on the proper training mat, no one gets hurt from the throw as it is necessary to protect people from each fall. However, on a much thinner mat or the floor, a fall is a different story. It can instantly finish the fight. That's why in competition when an player is thrown with speed, amplitude and force largely on his back, it is given an ippon and the match terminates. That is why in judo beginners must learn to fall properly with time. Even with a proper mat, people who don't know how to fall can get the "wind" knocked out of them or worse. Besides the throws, judo has some very effective standing joint locks and strangles which could be used to finish a fight standing. It has even more on the ground to immobilize the attacker. Ippon is also given for pins and submissions.

Through many randori, or free practices, against resisting partners of different height, weight, build, strength, flexibility, one could really gain rich experience about realistic close grappling combat. As one's skill increase, his control over his own movement and his opponent increase, as well as his confidence in physical or psychological confrontations.

Judo's use of leverage allows a smaller and weaker person to overcome a bigger and stronger person, given that the smaller person is better trained, or more technical. I realized this lesson many times in randori against bigger opponents, even black betls. It was in the 2013 U. S. National Championships Master open weight category that I had successfully applied this in competition to win the gold. I was the smallest person having just competed that day at 73 kg (161 lb.), with my lightest opponent outweighing me by 20 kg, and my taller opponent in the final outweighing me by over 50 kg. If I can overcome my much bigger and stronger black belt opponents in a match, against an bigger and stronger person untrained in judo is going to be as if not more effective. Of course, in training, I had been on the receiving end of many throws and pins by smaller judoka who were more technical or prepared than me. 

As I experienced over time, judo skills can be effectively used against skilled opponents from other styles when applied with intelligent adaptation. Whether it is a boxer, kickboxer, wrestler, or ground specialist. A skilled judoka can control the distance and position of a fight. I don't say it is the only effective self-defense system, but it is a highly effective one that because of its training method and wide range of realistic techniques; also because it can leave you in a much position of control consistently.

What judo teaches beyond effective techniques, is the mental aspect which are just as important in a self-defense situation. As one makes progress and becomes more skilled, the training becomes tougher, and one has to be mentally tough to get through the training day to day. From thousands of randori sessions, one can gain a true confidence of one's ability and techniques. Because every randori is a physical confrontation (within rules), one acquires the habit to be decisive, calm, and aware in a stressful situation. Above all, the confidence gained from years of practice allows one to remain cool in the face of threat. By remaining cool, one could think rationally to use mental judo and diffuse the situation. Afterall, the best outcome in a self-defense situation is not needing to fight.


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