Q&A

Q: What is Judo?

Judo is a Japanese martial art founded by Jigoro Kano in 1882. It is a form of grappling, rooted in the concept of off-balancing a potentially larger, stronger opponent, and using their own momentum to throw them to the ground. The Kodokan Institute, Judo’s worldwide headquarters established by Kano himself, recognizes 67 official throws. Throwing techniques (Nage-waza) are sub-categorized in terms of Hand Throws (Te-waza), Hip Throws (Koshi-waza), Foot Throws (Ashi-waza), and Sacrifice Throws (Sutemi-waza).

Judo also features a category of ground-based techniques referred to as Katame-waza or, more popularly, Ne-waza. Judo Ne-waza consists of pins and holds, as well as submission techniques involving chokes, strangles, and joint locks. For this reason, Judo is also a form of submission grappling, as it not only stresses the throw, but the ability to immediately control your opponent on the ground, improve the position, and apply a submission technique to end the fight or match.

The Kodokan has also canonized a very limited set of strikes and blocks/parries, respectively referred to as Atemi-waza and Uke-waza. These techniques are not featured in the sport form of Judo, and are generally stressed in the art’s self-defense aspects. For example, if an opponent throws a punch at you, an Uke-waza form might be used to parry or block the punch, followed by a punch or kick (Atemi-waza), and finished off with a throw into hold down, then a submission.

Judo is one of the most popularly practiced martial arts in the world, and some would argue that it is the most practiced. It is one of only two martial arts recognized as an official Olympic Sport (the other is Tae Kwon Do), and has been used with great success in mixed martial arts competition by some of the most prominent MMA fighters of all-time including Ronda Rousey, Fedor Emelianenko, Karo Parisyan, Hector Lombard, Hidehiko Yoshida, Manny Gamburyan, Shinya Aoki, Rameau Thierry Sokodjou, and Yoshihiro Akiyama.

Mitsuyo Maeda, a Kodokan Judo blackbelt who specialized in newaza, is credited as introducing Judo to Brazil by teaching Carlos and Helio Gracie. The Gracies went on to significantly develop and expand Judo’s newaza ground techniques into its own martial art, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), now considered to be the world’s premier submission grappling-based art. While BJJ retained some of the throwing techniques found in Judo, it primarily focuses on newaza.

Judo also gave birth to Sambo, a Russian martial art that incorporated unorthodox gripping techniques as well as karate-based striking techniques.

Q: So what’s the difference between Judo and Freestyle Judo?

In terms of the officially recognized, Kodokan Judo techniques, there is no difference between Judo and Freestyle Judo. They are one and the same.

Where they differ is in the sport application of those techniques. International Judo competition is governed by the International Judo Federation (IJF). Over the years, the IJF has altered the rules of Judo in such a way that many popular throws (primarily those that feature the grabbing of pants) have been ruled illegal. Unorthodox gripping has been largely phased out too. The rule changes were numerous and many in the Judo community felt that sport Judo was changing for the worse. Because Judo is an Olympic Sport, not many tournaments featuring “classic” Judo rules were being organized, as winning such a tournament wouldn’t earn an athlete points towards the major regional and international tournaments (Pan Ams, Euros, Olympics, etc.).

Of course, Judo is a martial art as well as a sport, and competition rules need not impact what is practiced in the dojo, but the reality is that many Judo schools and clubs are not going to waste much time teaching a style of Judo that is irrelevant to competition. Compare this to Judo’s cousin arts, BJJ and Sambo, which certainly have international governing bodies that enforce standardized competition rules, but also feature prominent tournaments with alternative rules that athletes are happy to participate in. Students of those arts often learn a full curriculum of what each style has to offer, because there is a place for it on the competition circuit. This is important, because even students with no desire to compete can enjoy practicing within the full spectrum of their art.

In response to this negative trend toward uniformity in the Judo world, prominent members of the community formed the International Freestyle Judo Alliance, whose motto can be summed up as “Good Judo is good Judo.” Freestyle Judo does not seek to rival the organizations within USA Judo (USJA and USJF). Supporters of the Freestyle movement cheer just as loudly for our Olympic athletes, who are the very best of what Judo has to offer. However, Freestyle Judo seeks a structure where classic, less restrictive forms of Judo can flourish independently of organizations that are largely handcuffed to the IJF’s repressive, ever-changing ruleset.

In terms of our program here in Selden, Earthbound Freestyle Judo, the decision to cast our lot with the Freestyle Judo movement was an easy one. We are a no-gi Judo school, which is unique as most Judo schools do not practice very often without the gi, and even fewer are 100% dedicated to no-gi traning. Freestyle Judo has been very supportive of no-gi Judo from the start, and in fact is the only Judo organization to officially support this style of Judo. Freestyle Judo tournaments often feature no-gi divisions, a new and welcoming development.

Speaking on behalf of our own program, Earthbound believes that the future of Judo lies in its ability to modernize as a self-defense form, as well as its application to MMA and sport grappling. We feel that the development of exclusively no-gi Judo curriculum is a positive and necessary step in this direction.

Q: Do I need to be “in shape” to practice Judo?

No. Judo was developed with the needs of the average citizen in mind. It had to work for the physically weakest person in the room, not just the strongest. Our program believes deeply in the idea that a teacher is only as good as their “weakest” student. In other words, if a student comes to us in poor physical shape and we allow that to be a hinderance to the quality of their education, then we have failed as a program. We take our students’ individual development seriously. Earthbound Freestyle Judo was created to remove as many barriers to entry as possible, while still retaining the best possible training methods.

Plus, if you enroll in our Judo program and attend regular classes, your fitness level will improve quickly, guaranteed. Judo athletes and submission grapplers, even common practitioners who don’t compete, are some of the most well-conditioned people you will ever meet.

Q: Is your Judo program female-friendly?

Yes. Providing a comfortably integrated environment for female students is one of the most important aspects of our program. The number of women in the U.S. who participate in fitness and fitness-lifestyle sports such as CrossFit, running, biking and yoga has grown rapidly. Judo is no different, and our brand of no-gi Judo is exactly the type of modernized, combat-fitness activity that many women are seeking. After all, the two most prominent Judo athletes in the world are also two of the most prominent athletes of any sport, period, and they are both women: UFC superstar Ronda Rousey, and Olympic Judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison (the first American Olympic athlete to win a gold medal in Judo). American Judo belongs to the women as much it belongs to the men.

Though our program is new, one of our goals is to grow large enough in terms of both male and female students that we can offer a women’s class, taught by a female instructor, in addition to the integrated classes.

Q: Why don’t you discuss pricing on your website?

When it comes to providing a service, especially a martial art, we believe that you should know exactly what you are paying for before the price is discussed. The only way to do that is to take a free class, see how you like it, and personally interact with our instructor who is happy to speak in private after class and answer any questions you might have.

We believe in conducting business ethically. No strong-arm sales tactics, no bait-and-switch financial trickery that is common in many large “McDojo” type schools. You can tell us “no” without 30 minutes of rebuttals from polished sales team members. Sometimes the answer is just no!

Our terms and pricing are crystal clear. We offer flexible levels of enrollment, so that you can choose the plan that best fits your schedule and finances. If you are familiar with tuition rates at other martial arts schools in the area, then you will quickly find that our rates are competitive and reasonable. We’re confident that there is a right plan for every student.

Q: Why “no-gi”?

The goal of our program is to teach a Judo curriculum that best applies to three levels of combat: street self-defense, submission grappling competition, and MMA competition. The best way to accomplish that was to teach Judo without the heavy jacket uniform, commonly referred to as the “gi”.

There are many benefits to training in the gi. We are not anti-traditionalist in any sense of the word, and will feature special nights where we train in the gi so that students can familiarize themselves. But there are many, many Judo schools that teach Judo in the gi. There are so few that teach regular no-gi classes, and almost none that exclusively focus on no-gi training. Other grappling arts have been experiencing the growth and benefits of no-gi training for some time now, whereas Judo has lagged behind in this department. We believe that there is a need for schools that make a serious practice of no-gi Judo, as opposed to taking off the gi “on the fly” for a quick demonstration of how a throw can be performed without the jacket.

Grappling arts such as Judo and BJJ have long been tasked with the question, “What is better for street self-defense, gi or no-gi?” The answer is that there is no right answer. It depends on what your opponent is wearing, and people dress differently for all seasons. Gi training is the most relevant to winter clothing, such as heavy winter jackets and sweaters. The gripping techniques utilized in gi training are still relevant in Spring and Summer, when clothing material becomes lighter, but must be modified so that techniques do not unexpectedly fail on account of a ripped shirt. People tend to wear material on their legs that can be grabbed, such as shorts or loose-fit jeans, and there are also handles on the waist in the form of belts and belt loops. Gi training prepares you for all of these aspects, but so does no-gi training as the uniform requirements allow for students to wear shirts, shorts, gi pants and sweatpants, providing a more “street-realistic” wardrobe to practice with.

No-gi training also allows for the use of rashguards and spats (spandex pants), which is uniquely relevant to the speed at which MMA and no-gi submission grappling competitions are conducted. In this regard, gi training loses a great deal of relevance. There is also the possibility that you may face a street attacker who is wearing sleeveless attire, or no shirt at all, for which training in rashguard and spats would also apply.

Q: I’m an experienced Judo/BJJ/Sambo player. How would I benefit from practicing no-gi Judo?

See the previous answer. For experienced Judoka, the benefits and need are obvious, as you can’t get serious no-gi Judo training in most Judo schools. Samboists do seem to practice more without the gi than their Judo compatriots, but there is still a preference toward traditionalist kurtka (gi/jacket) training. In addition, there just aren’t that many Sambo schools on Long Island, let alone Sambo schools that train significantly without the kurtka. Lastly, BJJ players can benefit immensely from the practice of no-gi Judo. BJJ schools vary in their focus on standup techniques – some place a large emphasis on starting rolls from the feet, whereas others mostly start from the knees or closed guard, and pick and choose which nights to focus on takedowns. BJJ takedowns range from classic gi-based Judo throws, to single and double leg takedowns without the gi, ported over from freestyle wrestling. There is definitely some no-gi Judo being taught now and then at BJJ schools, but a BJJ student would gain much from cross-training in our no-gi Judo program, where they could begin to specialize in no-gi throws that many of their tournament opponents aren’t accustomed to seeing. In street situations, where pulling guard is not optimal, having Judo in your arsenal that can be applied no matter what type of clothing your opponent wears is a huge benefit to the BJJ student.

Q: What is your program’s plan in terms of tournament participation?

We are big proponents of tournament participation as a means of testing out our methods, and using the results to refine and improve our program. Competition isn’t everything; certainly there are other reasons to train in Judo or no-gi Judo. But some students find competition to be a big part of their personal development and, to be honest, tournaments are really fun! So if you do join our program with plans on competing, we will definitely accommodate. One of the great aspects of no-gi Judo is that it is portable to many different competitive formats. In addition to getting involved in and potentially hosting some Freestyle Judo tournaments that feature no-gi divisions, we plan on sending competitive students to no-gi submission grappling tournaments including NAGA, Good Fight, and many others.

Q: What is the class etiquette?

At Earthbound Freestyle Judo, we believe in some solid, traditional aspects of martial arts etiquette that have stood the test of time. That means we bow before stepping on and off the mat, in a show of respect to what we practice. We bow to each other before class, showing respect to one another for being present and participating in this great art. Having fun and having discipline are not viewed as mutually exclusive – we believe that people can laugh, have a great time and build fantastic camaraderie while still focusing on the task at hand. There is no cult-of-personality weirdness here. The instructor is “Professor” or “Will”. Traditionalist terms for teacher such as Sensei, Soke, Shihan, Sifu – basically anything that sounds creepy and begins with ‘S’ – will not be used. The instructor does not lord over the student in a one-way street relationship. Respect is given from all sides. We don’t recite mottos or credos, or infuse our practices with new age mysticism. All that stuff is fine for you to practice outside of the school. On the mats, we are concerned with only one thing: being the best Judo students possible.

In addition, we have a zero-tolerance policy towards harassment of any kind, including unwanted sexual comments or advances, bullying, racist or prejudicial remarks, assault, spitting on the mat, intentionally injuring fellow students, etc. Look, we can all have fun, speak our minds, even offend each other from time to time with opposite viewpoints or sensationalism that doesn’t involve sexual harassment, bullying, assault or racist/prejudicial BS. We promote a laid back, fun environment – just not at anyone else’s expense. Our basic policy is “don’t be an asshole.” Simple to follow!

We also ask that students obey some basic personal hygiene tenets. Wash the clothes/uniform that you plan to wear to class, keep your nails /toenails short, and don’t step onto the mat with profuse body odor.

Q: Where do you conduct private lessons?

Private lessons will be conducted at the instructor’s home studio, located across the street and around the corner from Extreme Martial Arts in Selden (literally within walking distance of the school). The studio is a 220 sq. ft. room with a separate entrance at the front of the house, with proper heating and air conditioning. It features four two-inch thick, 8×4 gymnastics mats that are velcro-connected. The room is secured by video surveillance, to ensure students that they are practicing in a totally safe, professional environment.

Private lessons are available for all students enrolled in the program, and must be scheduled with the instructor.