10 Reasons Why Freestyle No-Gi Judo Is For You

Hey look, another clickbait martial arts article!

Guilty as charged. Just like Smeagol and the One Ring, I obsessively covet those precious website clicks. What martial arts business owner doesn’t? But rather than insult your intelligence with the old “10 Reasons Why a Trained Monkey Can Write a 10 Reasons Why What Happened Next Will Shock You Article” blog entry, I’d rather use all the trappings of internet clickbait to sucker you into getting…useful information! You know, answers to questions real life human beings ask me on a regular basis.

When I delve into any kind of general purpose martial arts advice-giving, whether it be on this website, in a separate blog, or on my personal Facebook page (i.e. not a direct question asked face-to-face), I tend to imagine that these hypothetical questions are coming from people with low-to-moderate experience in the martial arts, and little-to-no familiarity with Judo.

So far, in the four months that Earthbound Freestyle Judo has been open, this accurately describes most of the leads I get for prospective students. The students who do come to me with a martial arts background, usually have more striking than grappling experience.

All told, many of the people who fit this description from moderate-to-no experience in either martial arts or Judo, want to know why Judo is for them, and in the case of Earthbound Freestyle Judo, why no-gi Judo is great for them to learn.

Here, then, in no specific order of importance, are my 10 best reasons for why no-gi Judo is right for everyone.

10. Judo Is One Of The Most Complete Martial Arts In The World

Many martial art styles teach you how to excel in one area of combat, but Judo offers a codified system of 67 diverse throws and takedowns, along with mat-based grappling techniques including holds, pins, joint locks, strangles, and chokes. There is even a limited set of striking techniques (Atemi Waza) and blocks/parries (Uke Waza). Most important of all (as I will get to further down the list) is the art of breakfalling, also known as Ukemi, which allows for participants to practice safely.

Judo was mixed martial arts before the term existed, and spawned cousin arts Sambo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, each of which took Judo’s approach to a complete martial arts system in different directions (Sambo in the direction of more striking, leglocks, and military combatives, and BJJ choosing to specialize in mat-based grappling with a more limited takedown curriculum).

9. Judo’s Emphasis On Maximum Efficiency Makes It Universally Applicable

Ancient grappling arts, such as Greco-Roman wrestling, were always depicted in artwork as the purview of the strong and mighty. The modern day high school or collegiate wrestling room is the dominion of strong, explosive, athletic individuals. To be fair, competitive Olympic Judo itself is far more reliant on strength and athleticism than was intended.

However, the core principle of Judo can still be expressed as “Maximum Efficiency, Minimum Effort.” Judo’s founder, Jigoro Kano, was not a big man by any means. Judo throwing techniques rely on the application of kuzushi or “balance breaking.” The idea is not resistance, but giving way to the direction of the attack and using the momentum to create a counter of your own that succeeds on the merits of technique, not strength.

As such, Judo is a universally applicable self-defense system for people of all shapes and sizes, male and female alike. It can be a competitive athletic endeavor expressed beautifully by elite Judoka who combine technique with raw power and athleticism, but the vast majority of Judoka are people of varying degrees of natural ability and body type. The application of efficient technique is universal.

8. No-Gi Freestyle Judo is Combat Realistic

The style of Judo that we practice at Earthbound Freestyle Judo is no-gi, or “Judo without a jacket.” While we mostly practice in rashguards and shorts, we believe that Judoka should be able to apply efficient throwing techniques against potential opponents wearing an array of different clothing.

Think about it: the dynamics of balance breaking must be altered depending on the type of clothing that one might encounter. Judo with a gi is almost completely applicable to an opponent in a heavy winter jacket. On the other hand, Judo no-gi, which utilizes underhooks, overhooks, and clinches, would work better against somebody wearing a light t-shirt or tanktop. In between those clothing types, there is a vast middle ground of attire where a combination of grips and underhooks/overhooks/clinches/tie-ups would work best.

In our no-gi freestyle Judo program, we practice with and prepare for all types of clothing, making our curriculum as combat realistic as possible.

7. The Art of Falling Will Protect You For Life

If I could only retain one aspect of Judo for the rest of my life, it wouldn’t be the throws or submission grappling. I would choose to retain ukemi – the art of breakfalling. Beginner students tend not to enjoy practicing ukemi, which consists of forward rolls, rolling breakfalls, back breakfalls, side breakfalls, forward falls, bridging overhead falls, and the dreaded freefalls (basically a forward flip).

As an instructor, it would be nice if I could just skip the falling portion and get right into the rest of practice. Problem is, everyone would get injured, because nobody would know how to take a proper fall. Mastering ukemi is the key to practicing Judo safely. But it’s purpose isn’t just to be a good uke (i.e. being an easy partner to work with), or to protect yourself in practice. Ukemi is the most practical, useful skill that you will learn in Judo.

Falling is a part of life. You might never get into a street fight or physical confrontation as an adult – those tend to be rare occurrences for most reasonable people. But you are almost guaranteed to take a fall, trip over an object, or be involved in some type of physical accident where your body will unwillingly be brought to the ground.

Throughout my years practicing Judo (I started in 1999), I can’t remember many street fight stories that my fellow Judoka had. But almost everyone had an experience where they either fell off a bike, a motorcyle, had a skiing accident, or some other type of potentially disastrous fall where the use of ukemi saved them.

Some years back, I was skiing from the summit of a mountain in Vermont. Suddenly I felt unstable, and took a fall at a tremendous speed. Right away I went into a forward shoulder roll, and while my shoulder still felt banged up (ukemi is no guarantee against pain), I was able to avoid injury and went back to ski the next day. Ukemi might have been the difference between having a sore shoulder for one night, and having a concussion or broken bones. A friend of mine was flung from his motorcyle, took a proper fall, and survived with only a few scratches.

I’ve been in a few physical confrontations in my life, and none of those situations posed as much physical risk to me as falling at top speed while skiing from a mountain summit, or being flung from a motorcycle. Self-defense isn’t just the ability to defend yourself in a fight, but to avoid injury in a multitude of life scenarios. There is no martial art on the planet that will help you avoid injury like Judo does. Every Judo instructor worth their salt must place great emphasis on the practice of ukemi.

6. Judo’s Culture of Integrity, Respect, Discipline, and Persistence Is Like No Other

Japan’s culture of respect, honor, and the pursuit of perfection through disciplined persistence is inherent in Judo. The practice of the art certainly has cultural differences depending on which country you’re from.

Certainly the Japanese method of Judo practice isn’t always the best way for Americans, Russians, Brazilians, French, etc, each of whom have their own flavor. But certain traditions have not changed from the early days of the Kodokan, nor should. Even a somewhat non-traditional no-gi Judo class such as ours adheres to these ways. They include bowing before entering or exiting the tatami (mat), lining up opposite from the instructor and bowing to each other before class, addressing the instructor with the proper respect (Sensei, O-Sensei, Professor, etc), keeping proper hygiene, no laying around or leaning against walls, and so on.

These are basic codes of conduct. They are done not only to forge discipline, but to show respect both to each other and this beautiful art called Judo that we practice. Respect the art, respect its founder, respect your instructor for the time he gives, respect your partners for lending their bodies, and most importantly, respect yourself.

Judo will instill an honor code and methodology in you that can be applied to your everyday life. Ask anyone who has practiced Judo for a significant amount of time, and they will tell you the same.

5. Judo Is A Full Body Workout That Will Considerably Raise Your Fitness Level

You don’t have to be fit to succeed at Judo, but succeeding at Judo will make you fit.

By that I mean, anyone can practice Judo regardless of body type. Succeeding at the practice of Judo requires only commitment. But you will undoubtedly notice that, after committing over time, Judo will change the way you look and feel.

Most Judo warmups include stretching and calisthenics, basic exercises that anybody can do. After warmups, ukemi is practiced, which conveys a sense of balance and teaches dynamic movement. Once you get into the practice of throwing and mat-based grappling, every muscle in the body is needed at some point or another.

Judo will raise your cardio level, give you core strength, balance, and good footwork, and will work your every muscle. Getting in shape and learning self-defense are integral by-products of practicing Judo.

4. Judo Is Fun And Unique (Especially No-Gi Freestyle Judo!)

With the exception of Sambo (which partly descended from Judo), there isn’t another martial art that resembles Judo. Even BJJ practice feels much different.

Judo is truly unique in both its style and application. It’s not all about static uchikomi (practice throws) either. There are many different games that Judo coaches have devised over the years that are both fun and convey basic principles of balance, throwing, footwork, and matwork.

Judo practiced no-gi is also great because it shows a side of the art that is becoming more and more utilized in MMA, and is relevant to self-defense where the opponent is not wearing heavy clothing. It’s just another fun and effective method of Judo training!

3. Judo Is An Olympic Sport With Excellent Role Models For Men And Women Of All Ages

Having role models is important, not only for children but adults as well. Visualizing one’s own success is aided by the ability to identify those who have attained what we set out to accomplish, and looking to their conduct and methods for inspiration.

Every successful athlete has role models that inspired them, and I believe it is no different from non-athletes who simply work jobs that make them happy, raise families, or generally just have a positive attitude in life. For some, their role model was a star athlete or celebrity. For many, that role model was their mother, father, sibling or other family member.

Judoka in the United States have some excellent role models. Two-time Olympics gold medalist Kayla Harrison is a survivor of sexual abuse, but persevered to become the most decorated American athlete in Judo history, the embodiment of strength and honor. She now runs the Kayla Harrison Fearless Foundation, which is dedicated to empowering survivors of sexual abuse, and shining a light on the issue through education and awareness.

Olympic bronze medalist Ronda Rousey became the first and most dominant woman champion in UFC history. Through the use of her immense celebrity status, Ronda has been an outspoken advocate for women’s body image issues and mental health services, and does incredible charity work for Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services and the Free Price UN World Food Programme. This is all from a woman who once lived in her car, and lost her father to suicide at a young age.

You can also look at Silver medalist Travis Stevens, the embodiment of hard work and perseverance in Judo, a man who sacrificed his life and body to finally attaining an Olympic medal which he won by defeating the #1 world ranked Judoka in his weight class.

Coaches Jimmy Pedro and Jason Morris, themselves former Olympic medal winners, have dedicated themselves to making an impact in the lives of others, and have coached many of the best champions in Judo, including the three names listed above.

There is no shortage of excellent role models in Judo, which is one of only two martial arts that are Olympic sports.

2. For Martial Artists Looking To Cross-Train In A Second Or Third Art, Judo Is Perfect For Making You Well-Rounded

Whether you are a BJJ practitioner, or come from a striking martial art such as Muay Thai or Karate, Judo can help round-out your overall skill level by teaching you not only takedowns, but how to seamlessly flow from a grip or clinch, into a setup to a throw, transition into matwork, hold a pin, improve the position, and move to submitting your opponent.

I believe that there are enough simple and effective, efficient techniques in Judo that an athlete cross-training from another combat sport can put in limited time and gain some beneficial knowledge that will be of use to them.

Better yet, if they put in the time and commit to Judo over the long haul, they will gain an array of offensive weapons, including many attacks that take most people by surprise, as they usually expect takedowns to resemble a collegiate wrestling single or double leg.

Judo throws such as uchi mata, harai goshi, and ouchi gari are becoming regularly used techniques in MMA competition, even if the fighter using them isn’t known as a “Judo Fighter” per se.

1. Judo Is The Ultimate Confidence Building, Stress Relieving Activity!

All told, from the full body workout to the throws and submission grappling, to the code of conduct and respect, Judo will not only help relieve stress during a hectic week or work or school, but build a confidence in you that will remain for life.

No person that chooses to pursue Judo as a hobby, sport, or lifestyle was the same after they made the commitment. Judo has so much to offer, and requires only your time and diligence in return. It is fun, challenging, rewarding, and perfect for both children and adults.

If you live close enough to our Judo program in Selden, come on by and train. Or look up local Judo schools in your community, they are all over the place and most offer anywhere from a free class, to a free week, and sometimes a free month.

You’ll see exactly why so many people have been positively impacted by this art we call Judo.

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