No-Gi Judo: A 25-Class Lesson Plan

Kuzure Kesa Gatame – a valuable Judo newaza hold.


Over a year ago, I launched Earthbound Freestyle Judo with the intention of not only providing low-cost Judo classes to the general public, but serving as a learning portal for the wider martial arts community. I believe students and instructors in various arts from Judo, to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, and Boxing, can improve and complement their skill-set by incorporating basic no-gi Judo techniques into their training regimen.

Today, this website and our YouTube Channel (now at 122 subscribers) have been accessed by thousands of visitors from 63 different countries all over the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to communicate directly with some of these individuals, and one of them, GledysonCS, a martial artist from Brazil, made a request of me that I thought would also benefit the rest of the community.

Gledyson asked me to outline a basic novice level lesson plan for no-gi Judo instruction. To this point, my blog posts and videos have focused on singular technique demonstrations and training/combat philosophy. But from a practical standpoint, I think it’s time to share the nuts and bolts of how my students train at Earthbound Dojo.

No-gi Judo, as I’ve witnessed it over the years, is always presented within the context of a technique here, or a technique there. I recently watched a public demonstration of no-gi Judo that looked more like wrestling than Judo. It’s as if Judoka are hesitant to showcase Kodokan-style classic Judo without the gi. But there are many examples of these techniques succeeding in not only MMA, but no-gi BJJ, no-kurtka Sambo, and variants existing in Greco-Roman wrestling. And where there are not, I believe it’s time to practice, experiment, refine, and either fail big or succeed big.

What this requires is a no-gi Judo curriculum; a system of practice designed to produce consistent results. Perhaps your club has one – great. Or maybe, like most forward-thinking Judo and BJJ clubs, you practice no-gi Judo and takedowns, but there isn’t a system, just a handful of tricky techniques that loosely resembles Judo.

So here’s a sample of the Earthbound Freestyle Judo beginner’s curriculum – or a version of it (the one I use looks a bit different due to our class being for all levels).

This is a 25-Class lesson plan, for a student with absolutely no martial arts experience. It is a ground-up method for building good Judo into a novice, no-gi. Not only is the intention to build good no-gi Judo, but to create a foundation for a grappling-based martial artist who can use their Judo skill in any circumstance or context.

For Earthbound Judo as a club, the plan from the beginning was to create students who can successfully apply Judo techniques any time, anywhere, in any combat situation from competitive to self-defense. We don’t practice Judo as a specialty, but a system of combat that is adaptive to environment. If one of our students were to make the switch to learning BJJ, they would already have good core principles of guard play and ground attacks to which their Judo easily transitions.

If they wanted to train full-time at an MMA gym, they would already have an idea of how to punch their way into a clinch and mix throws with strikes and basic defensive boxing. The psychology of street self-defense, including weapons defense, and how to successfully use Judo to protect yourself in a real fight, with techniques adjusted as appropriate, are lessons that our students learn from the beginning. We also mix in training days with both the gi and heavy clothing.

Some of these lessons do not occur in the ideal first 25-Class lesson plan I’ve laid out, and I will be doing a second part that covers classes 26-50. These 50 classes comprise what is called Level 1 in our grading system. To graduate to Level 2, it is likely that a student will need close to 100 classes based on the material laid out in 1-50.

Let’s begin with a summary of terms and methods, before laying out an actual Class Plan.

Summary of First 25 Classes:


Heavy focus on Ukemi (Breakfalling and Rolls), Calisthenics, and footwork/movement exercises. Warmups should include body and limb circling, as well as some deep stretches. Borrow exercises from Military, Yoga and Gymnastics.

10 back breakfalls, 20 side breakfalls (10 each side), a front fall, and a bridging fall from hand/head stand. Start practicing falls by laying down, tucking chin and slapping mat. Progress to squatting falls, low crouching falls, then full back and side breakfalls.

4 roll outs (2 each side), 4 rolling breakfalls. Begin from a squat and tuck arm all the way through legs towards the tailbone to create a safe roll, or begin rolling with yoga ball. Progress to standing with hands already touching the ground, push off with legs. Then progress to full standing roll outs.

Mix in frog leaps, spider crawls, shrimping/side escapes, and cartwheels across distance of the mat.

Use agility ladder exercises for footwork.


Explore concept of pathways to control: Neck, Shoulders, Torso, Knee line. To control your opponent on the feet or ground, you need to occupy/control these areas of the body.

Over/Under swim drills. Do these from stationary position, and while walking the mat. Also perform while walking and circling – learn to step and pull your partner in a circular direction.

Practice transition from over/under to two-on-one anchor grip. Push/pull your partner, anchor down on that arm, drag step with them, circle step. Drill an entry to a body lock, and transition from over/under to two-on-one grip.

Gripping drills – Break wrist grabs, learn to re-grip off a grip break and establish two-on-one or Russian tie. Grip the wrist and behind the neck, learn to defend as well. Learn a standing guillotine choke.

Grip Fighting – Free form battle for control with a partner, fighting for the grips/clinches noted above.

Ashi Waza

Foot/Leg based throwing techniques; a category of Judo nage waza (all throwing techniques). In our view, this category is a crucial beginning phase of judo learning, as they can be easily practiced while at the same time conveying the basic footwork patterns of Judo. Ashi waza are high percentage throws and the falls are relatively easy to take compared to the other throwing categories.

Begin learning ashi waza techniques from the tie-ups/grips you have drilled thus far. Use these lessons to convey the principles of kuzushi (balance breaking).

O Soto Gari from two-on-one (hopping style) and over/under. From stationary and setting up off a circle-step. Learn to shift partner’s weight disproportionately onto the leg you are attacking.

O Uchi Gari and Ko Uchi Gari from wrist/neck control and body lock.

Deashi Barai while walking.

Kosoto Gake from over/under off a circle step.

Try to primarily focus on one or two of these techniques while working in drills for the others. My suggestion is to focus on O Soto Gari and Kosoto Gake. Uchi Komis should be loose, not yet rigid until about halfway through the first 25 classes. Drill at your own pace for 20-25 mins per class, two variations of a single technique during this time, standing only. This should occur in back-to-back classes – pair lesson plans together, with minor variation between them. Give people time to drill and get used to techniques before moving on. By the end of the first 25 classes, you can begin to introduce students to throws from other categories, such as Tani Otoshi or Ippon Seoi Nage.


Ground-based grappling techniques, otherwise referred to as matwork or katame waza (the latter term more specifically means joint-locks and strangles but is often used to describe all matwork). Our curriculum in this regard is a mix of basic Kodokan ne-waza that classic Judo students should recognize, and more up-to-date beginner material that BJJ students are familiar with, such as passing of the closed guard and transitions from the knee on belly position.

Focus on 4 primary newaza positions to start, with a submission from each position

Kesa Gatame/Kuzure Kesa Gatame (Submission: Kata Gatame) (Escape: Bridge/Wedge/Roll)
Side Control (Submission: Ude Garami) (Escape: Frame/Hip Escape/Retain Guard)
Full Mount (Submission: Kata Gatame) (Escape: Trap/Bridge/Roll)
Full Guard (Submission: Kimura) (Pass: Hip Heist)

Drill each of these holds/submissions and the simplest corresponding escape/pass. 5 of the first 25 classes should focus solely on newaza, with no standing techniques. 5 of those 25 classes should only contain standing techniques. The rest of the classes, though, should work in a transition from a throw into a newaza hold, into a submission, then your partner drills the escape before switching. It is also important that from each position, you cover the concept of distance management, especially from inside the closed guard.

Closed distance protects you from punches, wears your opponent down, and makes it easier to attempt submission holds. Staying tight to your opponent keeps your position strong. The person on top wants to keep their opponent flat to the ground, and apply force to isolate their hips as much as possible. The person on the bottom wants to get onto their side, create space, move their hips, and protect their shoulders from underhooks as well as the space along the side of their body from being occupied. Cover the concepts of posture, basing, and leverage.


Body striking techniques, and the incorporation of throws into self-defense scenarios that involve striking.

Before getting heavily into self-defense, it is important that students learn concepts, movement, conditioning, and the basic techniques covered above. Everything we’ve covered so far factors heavily into self-defense. Once you have an idea of how to utilize these principles and techniques, you can start to learn how they can be applied specifically to combat self-defense scenarios.

Drill basic punch parrying, as well as how to block punches, throw jabs, straights, and hooks. Take a few classes to drill these techniques and put them together in combinations. Towards the end of the first 25 classes, drill grips and clinches off of punch parries and blocks. Drill punches from the clinch, and transition to a simple ashi waza throw. Drill punches from top positions, and how to utilize distance management and tie-ups from the bottom position to defend from strikes.

It is also important that you talk about the psychology of combat scenarios. When it is in your best interest to engage and not engage. How to not leave yourself vulnerable to attack during verbal disputes where violence is a threat.

25 Class Lesson Plan (Novice – Level 1 – Earthbound Freestyle Judo)

All Classes Begin with Warmup and Ukemi

Class 1: Intro to basics of Ukemi, Gripping, and Kuzushi. Finish w/ intro to Osoto Gari.

Class 2: Gripping Drills, Osoto Gari into Kesa Gatame, transition to Kuzure Kesa Gatame and then Side Control w/escapes.

Class 3: Gripping, Standing Guillotine, Osoto Gari, Deashi Barai, intro to Kata Gatame.

Class 4: Gripping, Standing Guillotine, Deashi Barai, Osoto Gari into Kesa Gatame into Kata Gatame, w/escapes.

Class 5: Newaza Class: Intro to the Guard. Posture, distance management from top and bottom, Submission from Bottom. Hip Heist Guard Pass.

Class 6: Newaza Class repeated from previous, greater emphasis on closed guard pass.

Class 7: Guard Pass Drill, Deashi Barai, Intro to Ouchi Gari from two different setups.

Class 8: Guard Pass Drill, Ouchi Gari to 3-Step Knee On Belly Open Guard Pass to Mount w/escape.

Class 9: Kesa Gatame, Side Control, and Mount Escape drills for half class, Kouchi Gari for other half.

Class 10: Deashi Barai, and Kouchi  Gari. Mat walk drill – walk mat and attempt to sweep/reap/tangle your opponent’s feet/legs.

Class 11: Grip fight drills, Deashi Barai, Ouchi Gari, and Kouchi Gari. Review of Kesa Gatame and bridge/wedge/roll escape.

Class 12: Grip fight drills, Ouchi Gari, Kosoto Gake into Side Control into Knee On Belly into Mount into Kata Gatame.

Class 13: Grip fight drills, Osoto Gari, Kosoto Gake and Ankle Pick off Leg Lift, all from circling/pivoting.

Class 14: Newaza Class: Side Control (two methods), Escapes (two methods), and Ude Garami from side control.

Class 15: Newaza Class: Drill Side Control to Ude Garami, Side Control Escape. Drill Kimura and Guillotine from Closed Guard, plus Guard Pass.

Class 16: Grip fight drills, begin Uchi Komi drills. While walking the mat, 20x Osoto Gari, 5x throw, 20x Ouchi Gari, 5x throw, and 20x Deashi Barai, 5x throw. From circling/pivoting, 20x Kosoto Gake, 5x throw.

Class 17: Kesa Gatame and Side Control Escape Drills, Guard Pass Drills. Favorite Throw (Tokui Waza) into a newaza hold of choice, into submission of choice. Light roll from the knees with instructor.

Class 18: Grip fight drills, Intro to Self-Defense Principles. Difference between defending against a wide looping punch, a well-placed overhand, and a straight punch. Review blocks and parries. Parry/block right straight into head-arm clinch, into Osoto Gari, into Kesa Gatame. Blocking overhand punch, counter-striking with elbow into two-on-one grip, into Osoto Gari, into Side Control, into Ude Garame.

Class 19: Drill punch parrying and blocks from previous class. Intro to throwing jabs, overhands, and hooks. Principles of Self-Defense Situational Awareness. Review self-defense block/throw combinations from previous class. Drill punching into clinch, into throws. Basic knife and stick/bat defense primer.

Class 20: Grip fight drills, heavy bag drills. Intro to basic kicks. Review knife and stick/bat defense. Shotokan Karate-style straight and round house kicks and movement, coordinated with clinching and throws. Knees from the clinch into throws.

Class 21: Newaza Uchi Komi – 25x 3-Step Knee On Belly, 10x Closed Guard Pass, 10x side control escape to full guard retention. Ashi Waza Uchi Komi – Osoto Gari, Ouchi Gari, Kouchi Gari, Deashi Barai, all from walking. Kosoto Gake from circling.

Class 22: Newaza Class: Principles of the Mount. Two mount escapes. Kata Gatame from Mount. Intro to Armbar from Mount. Light rolling with instructor.

Class 23: Newaza Class: Intro to Attacking the Turtle defense. Opening the turtle for combat scenarios w/hammer punches and knees, plus opening turtle for submission grappling. Drill windshield wipe stepover into RNC from side control with back turned. Drill seatbelt to hooks and RNC against turtle.

Class 24: Grip fight drills, armbar from mount drill, RNC against turtle drill. Ashi Waza Uchi Komi – Osoto Gari, Ouchi Gari, Deashi Barai, all from walking. Kosoto Gake from circling.

Class 25: Grip fight drills, guard pass drills, mat walk drill – walk mat and attempt to sweep/reap/tangle your opponent’s feet/legs. Light randori from standing and ground with instructor.

Many of the techniques discussed above have accompanying demonstration videos available for free on the Earthbound Freestyle Judo YouTube Channel. For your convenience, here is a link to a list of techniques described above, including some techniques that will be discussed in Part 2: Lessons 26-50.

O Soto Gari (See: first of three throw counters)

O Uchi Gari

Ko Uchi Gari

Ko Soto Gake

Tani O Toshi

Ippon Seoi Nage

Sliding Leg Seoi Nage

Te Guruma

Koshi Guruma

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