Is Judo Effective In A Street Fight?

When discussing if Judo is effective in a street fight, the most prominent critics usually have no judo training whatsoever. People who take part in martial arts are fiercely loyal creatures. Their particular martial art is the best, and that is the end of the discussion. Anyone that wants to learn some basic self-defense skills can start practicing Judo as millions worldwide seem to do.

Judo is effective in a street fight; it is mainly due to the three techniques (Waza) taught in judo training. When you are skilled in them, you will be effective in a street fight:

  • Nage-Waza (Throwing techniques)
  • Katame-Waza (Grappling techniques)
  • Atemi-Waza (Attacking techniques)

Have you ever thought about what would happen if you got involved in a messy street fight? Will you throw punches or use kicks to stop the attacker? What if you are small in stature, and your punches and kicks won’t do much damage? Judo does not teach how to kick and punch; instead, the art of using an opponent’s strength against them. Forcing a heavier and stronger opponent to the ground nullifies their power and size advantage, putting you in control of a dangerous situation.

Why Is Judo Effective In A Street Fight?

Why will Judo be effective in a street fight? If we look at the techniques being taught, we can see that it has a certain effectiveness level. Judo does not actively teach you how to punch and kick. If your dojo teaches Atemi-Waza (22 Striking Techniques), then you and your fellow students are some of the lucky ones! Judo training instead focuses on the following:

  • Using the opponent’s strength against them
  • How to fight on the ground
  • It teaches you how to fall
  • Grappling techniques instead of striking techniques
  • How to fight with a naturally defensive stance
  • Practicing street fighting through Randori
  • How to neutralize an attacker by using different throwing techniques

Let us explore how Judo techniques make it effective in a street fight:

Nage-Waza (Throwing Techniques)

This Japanese term refers to a grappling technique that describes the lifting of an opponent and throwing them to the ground. These throwing techniques are practiced and performed by using a pulling and rotation motion.

If you are doing the throwing, you will be taught how to stay balanced and, more importantly, on your feet while executing the throw. All the throwing techniques that leave you standing after the throw are completed fall under the term Tachi-Waza (Standing techniques).

What are the different standing techniques used in Tachi-Waza?

There are many techniques employed when it comes to the training of Tachi-Waza. These techniques will teach you to throw your opponent with different parts of your body.

In a street fight, these techniques could save your life. These moves will lead to your attacker hitting the solid ground with you still on your feet when performed correctly. Ready to escape the mayhem that a street fight usually attracts.

Te-Waza (15 Hand Techniques):

  • You will use your hands/arms when you employ these throwing techniques.
  • One technique that could work in a street fight is the Tai Otoshi (Body Drop). This throw is done by firmly gripping your attacker (The arm or the shoulder, preferably both).
  • You will then twist your body around, stretching your legs out.
  • Proceed to pull and rotate the attacker over your outstretched leg, making him hit the ground.

Ashi-Waza (21 Foot Techniques):

  • You will use your feet/legs when you execute these throwing techniques.
  • Some of these techniques involve sweeping, reaping and hooking throws.
  • They are not the most straightforward techniques to master. If you can perform some of them, like the Uchimata (Inner Thigh Throw), it will send a clear and painful message to your attacker in a street fight.

Koshi-Waza (11 Hip Techniques):

  • You will use your hips when you execute these throwing techniques.
  • You will be taught how to get your opponent to lose his balance by pulling or using your body motion and then throwing them over your hip.
  • Some of the moves you could use in a street fight include the Harai Goshi (Sweeping Hip Throw) and the Koshi Guruma (Hip Wheel).

Katame-Waza (29 Grappling Techniques)

These techniques can be used when you find yourself on the ground with your assailant. A scenario that can happen to you in a split second when being dragged into a street fight.

When you are being trained in Judo, you will practice the following choking, pinning and joint locking techniques. They are categorized as follows:

Shime-Waza (12 Choking Techniques):

  • Twelve choking compression techniques will be taught to you.
  • Compression of the neck veins (How to restrict the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain).
  • Compression of the chest and lungs (Prevents the attacker from breathing).
  • Compression of the trachea.
  • Moves include the Jigoku Jime (Hell choke) and the Ryo Te Jime (Two-hand choke).

Oseakami-Waza (7 Pinning Techniques):

  • This technique aims to subdue the attacker, exerting control over your opponent.
  • Moves include the Kata Gatame (Shoulder Hold) and the Uki Gatame (Floating Hold)

Kansetsu-Waza (10 Joint Locking Techniques):

  • These techniques can be used to lock many different joints of the body.
  • You will be taught how to use your arms, legs and knees to grasp an opponent’s joint, bending it in the opposite direction to lock the joint.
  • When you can perform a joint lock, it will almost certainly leave your opponent in a vulnerable position.
  • Moves include the Kannuki Gatame (Wrist Lock) and the Hiza Gatame (Knee Lock performed on the arm).

Atemi-Waza (22 Striking Techniques)

The founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano, tried to incorporate these striking techniques into his training methods (He took certain moves from ancient Japanese Jui-Jitsu styles). In Judo competitions, these techniques are not allowed and are only ever taught in self-defense classes, kata, and practiced during informal Randori sessions.

Should your dojo teach these techniques, you are in for some fighting action!

Ashi-Ate-Waza (6 Leg Striking Techniques):

  • Some of the moves include the Mae-Ate (Front Knee), Mae-Geri (Front Kick), Naname-Geri (Roundhouse Kick) as well as the Ushiro-Geri (Rear Kick).

Ude-Ate-Waza (16 Arm Techniques):

  • Some of the moves include the Tsuki-Age (Uppercut), Tsukkake (Straight Punch), Ryogon-Tsuki (Upward Throat Strike) and the Ushiro-Ate (Rear elbow strike).

The techniques mentioned above will be effective in a street fight if you employ them correctly. In a street fight, the chances are excellent that you will face an attacker with no martial arts experience. Street fights are usually started by drunk people looking for trouble. You will rarely have to face an MMA skilled fighter.

If you can defend yourself by throwing people around, performing chokeholds and joint locks on them, you have a distinct advantage. The guy who only knows how to swing their arms is at a disadvantage when you can control him on the ground.

Should your dojo or trainer be able and willing to teach you the art of Atemi-Waza (22 Striking Techniques), you will have some experience in how to punch and kick as well. If your dojo does not provide this training, you can still practice it via Randori Judo.

What is Randori Judo?

Randori means “free exercise.” Here is when you will practice what you have learned under similar conditions as an actual contest. Randori is when you will test your throwing, choking, holding and locking techniques.

This type of sparring is crucial in preparing you to fight in Judo competitions. The experience gained from sparring with a live partner will also prepare you for any fight outside of the dojo.

Even better will be if your dojo offers or allows Atemi-Waza (22 Striking Techniques) training in their Randori. The head instructor will usually guide students practicing these techniques.


When it comes to an unpredictable street fight scenario, I would rather have some martial art background than relying on my fighting skills. Judo is a martial art that will teach you how to defend against an attack through its unique style.

When you have mastered the throwing, choking, joint lock and striking techniques and have practiced them through Randori, you should feel very confident in your ability to fight. If your attacker has no martial arts training, you will automatically have an advantage and be more effective than him in a street fight.

We can all agree that should a street fight develop, the main aim is to get out of it as quickly as possible. Judo can and will provide that opportunity when you employ the techniques you have learned.


The Ultimate List of All Judo Techniques. | Judo Info

Classification of Judo Techniques (

Classification of Techniques in Kodokan Judo | Judo Info


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