Does Judo Have Strikes? [Explained]

If you’ve ever wondered about the presence of striking techniques in Judo, you’re not alone. The world of martial arts is rich and diverse, with each discipline bringing its unique set of skills and strategies to the table.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the intriguing realm of Judo striking, addressing common questions and shedding light on this fascinating martial art.

Is Judo Striking or Grappling?

Judo is primarily known for its prowess in the grappling department. It’s a martial art that focuses on throws, pins, and submissions.

In Judo, practitioners aim to control and subdue their opponents through these techniques, often leading to victory without any strikes involved. So, at its core, Judo is a grappling art.

Is There Striking in Olympic Judo?

When it comes to Olympic Judo, the story remains consistent with the traditional principles of the sport. Olympic Judo is all about throws and groundwork, and striking is not a part of the game. In fact, striking techniques are explicitly prohibited in Olympic Judo competitions. This highlights the purity of Judo’s grappling nature on the world’s grandest stage.

Why Is There No Striking in Judo?

The absence of striking in Judo can be attributed to its historical roots and philosophical foundations.

Judo was developed by Jigoro Kano in Japan in the late 19th century, with a strong emphasis on self-improvement, self-defense, and the concept of “maximum efficiency, minimum effort.” Striking techniques, while effective in their own right, were excluded to prioritize the core principles of balance, leverage, and control that define Judo.

judo origin
Jigoro Kano; Google Images caption

Does Judo Have Any Striking? – Reddit and Forums Discussion

To gain deeper insights into the world of Judo striking and how enthusiasts perceive it, let’s turn to the discussions on Reddit and various martial arts forums.

CommentMain Points
Forget atemi-waza… Judo as practiced today effectively has no striking worth mentioning.Judo today does not emphasize striking. Cross-train in other striking arts like Boxing, Kyokushin, Muay Thai, or Sanda if interested.
Judo has striking (Atemi Waza) but is mainly taught in kata and not emphasized in sparring or competition.Judo includes striking techniques in the form of Atemi Waza but is mainly practiced in kata and self-defense forms at the black belt level or higher.
Striking techniques were part of traditional Judo but are now neglected in many Judo clubs due to the sport’s focus.Striking was originally part of Judo but has been neglected due to the sport’s competitive focus. Some clubs only teach them before black belt tests.
Judo’s primary focus is on throws and grappling, with strikes practiced in forms training (Kata) mainly for self-defense.Judo’s primary focus is on throws and grappling, with striking techniques mainly practiced in kata forms for self-defense purposes.
Striking in Judo is rarely taught outside of kata, and it’s more common at higher levels of training.Striking techniques in Judo are typically taught in kata and often only to brown and black belts.
Judo incorporates striking techniques from its historical roots but emphasizes throws and grappling in practice.Judo incorporates striking techniques from its historical roots but emphasizes throws and grappling in practice.
Atemi Waza exists in various kata forms in Judo, but its practical application is limited.Atemi Waza techniques exist in various kata forms in Judo, but their practical application is limited in modern practice.
Judo primarily uses throws and ground techniques, with little emphasis on strikes.Judo primarily focuses on throws and ground techniques, with minimal emphasis on striking.

These insights from real practitioners and enthusiasts reaffirm the fact that Judo’s essence revolves around grappling rather than striking.

What Are the Striking Techniques in Judo?

Atemi Waza

While Judo is primarily a grappling art, it does have a subset of techniques known as “atemi waza,” which translates to “striking techniques.” These are relatively less emphasized but are worth exploring for those curious about Judo’s broader arsenal.

Atemi waza includes moves like strikes to pressure points and vital areas, designed to momentarily stun an opponent and create an opportunity for a throw or takedown.

These techniques involve striking an opponent with various parts of the body, such as the fists, elbows, knees, or feet, to create openings, disrupt an opponent’s balance, or create opportunities for throws or other Judo techniques.

Atemi waza is an integral part of traditional Judo and was originally included in the martial art by its founder, Jigoro Kano. Kano incorporated atemi waza from his study of various Japanese jujutsu schools and other martial arts to enhance the effectiveness of Judo techniques.

In Judo, atemi waza is typically taught and practiced as part of kata, which are prearranged forms used to demonstrate Judo techniques. Atemi waza can be found in several kata, such as Kime-no-kata and Goshin Jutsu, which focus on self-defense scenarios and include striking techniques as part of the responses to attacks.

While atemi waza is an essential aspect of traditional Judo, it is less emphasized in modern Judo, which places a greater focus on throws, pins, and submissions. In competitive Judo, striking techniques are not permitted, and the sport has evolved to prioritize the application of throws and groundwork techniques within the rules of Judo competition.

Despite its reduced emphasis in modern Judo competition, atemi waza remains a valuable component for self-defense training and preserving the martial aspects of the art. It is a reminder of Judo’s historical roots and its practical application in self-defense situations.

Allan Smith, U.S. Army Captain and 3d Dan Kodokan Judo, teaches as an instructor to U.S. Army Infantrymen:


Kime-no-kata is one of the Kodokan Judo’s official kata forms, which are a set of prearranged techniques that practitioners use to practice and demonstrate various aspects of Judo. Kime-no-kata specifically focuses on self-defense techniques.

The term “kime” in Japanese can be translated as “decisiveness” or “focus,” and this kata emphasizes the decisive application of Judo techniques in self-defense situations. It includes a series of techniques where one person plays the role of an attacker (uke) while the other person plays the role of the defender (tori). These techniques are designed to address common self-defense scenarios and involve counters to various types of attacks, including strikes, grabs, and holds.

Kime-no-kata is typically practiced by advanced Judo practitioners, often those who have attained the black belt ranks. It serves as a way to refine Judo techniques for self-defense and to demonstrate proficiency in applying Judo principles in practical situations.

The kata is divided into several categories, each focusing on specific types of attacks and defenses, and it is practiced with a high level of precision and control. Mastery of Kime-no-kata requires a deep understanding of Judo principles and their practical application in real-world scenarios.

Overall, Kime-no-kata is an essential part of traditional Judo training, emphasizing the martial and self-defense aspects of the art.

Can Judo Practitioners Benefit from Learning Striking Arts?

Absolutely. Cross-training is a common practice in the martial arts world, and Judo practitioners can certainly benefit from learning striking arts. While Judo excels in throws and ground control, striking arts like Karate or Muay Thai offer valuable skills in stand-up combat and self-defense. Combining these disciplines can make a martial artist more well-rounded and adaptable.

Does Judo Work in a Street Fight?

The effectiveness of Judo in a street fight largely depends on the practitioner’s skill level and the specific circumstances of the encounter. Judo’s throws and groundwork can be highly effective in ending a confrontation quickly, especially when dealing with untrained opponents.

However, it’s essential to remember that street fights are unpredictable, and the best self-defense strategy is often to avoid conflict whenever possible.

How Do Judo Practitioners Defend Against Strikes?

Judo practitioners are trained to control and manipulate their opponent’s movements, which can be advantageous in defending against strikes.

By using throws, clinches, and groundwork, a skilled Judoka can neutralize an attacker’s ability to strike effectively. Additionally, Judo’s emphasis on balance and leverage can help practitioners maintain their own stability while under attack.

Famous Judo Practitioners Who Transitioned to Striking Martial Arts

Several notable Judo practitioners have made the transition to striking martial arts, showcasing the adaptability of their skills.

One such example is Ronda Rousey, an Olympic medalist in Judo who later became a successful MMA fighter known for her striking abilities.

Ronda Rousey
Ronda Rousey; Google Images caption

Hidehiko Yoshida, a Japanese Judo Olympian, transitioned to MMA and demonstrated the effectiveness of Judo in the cage. He combined his Judo skills with striking techniques, making him a formidable MMA fighter.

Hidehiko Yoshida judo

Karo Parisyan, an Armenian-American Judo black belt, competed in MMA (UFC, Bellator, and Impact FC) with a strong background in Judo throws. He also incorporated striking techniques into his fighting style, demonstrating the adaptability of Judo principles in the world of mixed martial arts.

Karo Parisyan judo

This transition highlights how Judo’s principles can complement and enhance skills in other martial arts.

Exploring Atemi Waza in Judo

To understand Judo’s striking component better, let’s dive deeper into “atemi waza.” These striking techniques, while not the primary focus of Judo, add a layer of versatility to a Judoka’s skill set. Here are a few atemi waza techniques:

  • Tsuki (Punches): Judo includes basic punches like jodan-tsuki (upper-level punch) and chudan-tsuki (mid-level punch). These strikes are designed to target an opponent’s vulnerable areas.
  • Atemi to Pressure Points: Some atemi waza techniques involve striking specific pressure points to disrupt an opponent’s balance and control. This can create openings for throws or takedowns.
  • Kicks: While not as common as punches, Judo includes a few kicking techniques, such as ushiro-geri (rear kick) and mae-geri (front kick). These kicks are used sparingly and strategically.
  • Elbow Strikes: Elbow strikes like hiji-ate are utilized to strike an opponent at close range. They can be effective in tight grappling situations.

While these striking techniques exist within the framework of Judo, it’s crucial to note that they are not the primary focus of the art. Judo’s philosophy and training methods are deeply rooted in throws and groundwork.

The Benefits of Cross-Training for Judo Practitioners

As mentioned earlier, Judo practitioners can benefit significantly from cross-training in striking arts. Let’s explore some of these advantages in more detail:

  • Improved Stand-Up Game: Striking arts like Karate and Muay Thai provide extensive training in stand-up combat. Judo practitioners who cross-train in these disciplines enhance their ability to defend themselves in a stand-up fight.
  • Enhanced Striking Skills: Learning striking techniques hones reflexes, coordination, and precision. These skills can be invaluable when it comes to self-defense situations or even transitioning to mixed martial arts (MMA).
  • Better Understanding of Range: Striking arts emphasize understanding and controlling the distance between you and your opponent. This awareness can help Judokas avoid getting into unfavorable clinching or grappling situations.
  • Adaptability: In a real-world self-defense scenario, adaptability is key. Cross-training broadens a martial artist’s toolkit, making them better equipped to handle various situations.

The Effectiveness of Judo in a Street Fight

The effectiveness of Judo in a street fight is a topic of much debate. While Judo’s techniques can be highly effective for self-defense, several factors come into play:

  1. Skill Level: A skilled Judoka can use throws and groundwork to control an opponent quickly and effectively. However, proficiency in Judo techniques requires dedicated training.
  2. Multiple Opponents: Judo’s strength lies in one-on-one combat. Dealing with multiple attackers can be challenging, regardless of your martial art.
  3. Environmental Factors: The terrain, obstacles, and the presence of weapons can significantly impact the effectiveness of Judo techniques in a street fight.
  4. Legal Implications: Using Judo techniques in self-defense can have legal consequences. It’s crucial to use only proportional force and consider local laws.

In summary, Judo can be highly effective in a street fight, especially when facing a single opponent. However, its effectiveness depends on the practitioner’s skill level, the context of the confrontation, and adherence to legal and ethical guidelines.

How Do Judo Practitioners Defend Against Strikes?

Judo practitioners have several tools in their arsenal to defend against strikes:

  • Controlled Throws: Judo throws are designed to off-balance and control opponents. A well-executed throw can neutralize an attacker’s ability to strike.
  • Clinching: Clinching techniques in Judo involve grabbing and controlling an opponent’s upper body. This can prevent them from delivering powerful strikes.
  • Groundwork: Judo’s ground control techniques, such as pins and submissions, can be used to immobilize an opponent and minimize the threat of strikes.
  • Footwork and Evasion: Judo practitioners are trained in footwork and movement techniques that can help them avoid oncoming strikes.
  • Atemi Waza: While not the primary focus, knowledge of atemi waza can allow a Judoka to strike an opponent’s vulnerable areas in self-defense.

It’s essential to remember that defending against strikes requires training and practice. Judo’s emphasis on leverage and control can provide valuable skills in this regard.

In Conclusion

Judo, with its rich history and philosophy, is primarily a grappling martial art that does not emphasize striking techniques.

However, it does include a subset of striking techniques known as atemi waza. While Judo excels in throws and ground control, practitioners can benefit from cross-training in striking arts to become more well-rounded martial artists.

The effectiveness of Judo in a street fight depends on various factors, including skill level, context, and environmental factors. Judo practitioners can defend against strikes using their controlled throws, clinching, groundwork, footwork, and knowledge of atemi waza.

Finally, the transitions of famous Judo practitioners to striking martial arts showcase the adaptability of Judo’s principles in the broader world of martial arts.

Whether you’re a Judoka looking to explore striking or a martial arts enthusiast curious about Judo’s nuances, this guide should provide valuable insights into the fascinating world of Judo striking.

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