I’ve been practicing Judo (“the gentle way”) for a while now. It’s an amazing sport.
Judo has its roots in the Japanese art of Jujitsu, the battlefield art of the Samurai. It was Dr. Jigoro Kano (The Father of Judo) who, in 1882, removed the more deadly movements of the Samurai fighting style in order to give birth to the new sport of Judo.
Judo’s primary objective is to “defeat” your opponent by either throwing them or pinning them to the ground for a set period.
I knew that the best way to get to a reasonable standard as quickly as possible was to train whenever I could.
I attended the dojo twice a week but I wanted to see if there was a way to supplement this by training at home.
After quite a bit of research, here’s the routine I ended up following.
Judo Resistance Band Training
One of the aspects that I wanted to focus on was my strength development.
I had trained using a dumbells previously but I became increasingly aware of the ‘principle of specificity’. This states that “sports training should be relevant and appropriate to the sport for which the individual is training in order to produce the desired effect”.
Essentially by practicing bench presses at the gym, all I was doing was becoming better at performing bench presses; this wouldn’t transfer to make me a better judo player.
What I really needed to do was find a way of matching my strength training to the resistance patterns found in judo.
With conventional weights this is really difficult to do, as gravity only acts in one direction – downwards. In judo, you need to exert power in multiple directions, often when twisting the body at the same time.
I needed a form of resistance that I could apply to the dynamic movements found in judo.
After a bit of experimenting, I decided to incorporate resistance band training into my home training.
It was this video that eventually convinced me. It’s a Russian Sambo fighter but the principles can easily be applied to Judo.
I particularly liked that part where he stresses the importance of practicing with correct technique. If you don’t move as though you are training with a real partner then you are simply ingraining a bad movement pattern into your judo repertoire. This will only make you a poorer judo player.
I ran the bands behind a solid object at around shoulder height. One end of the band became the opponents “arm” and the other either their “arm” or “lapel/collar” depending on which technique I was practicing.
I then moved as though I was trying to throw my opponent. I typically focus on one technique in each training session and then just repeat the movement over and over again.
It’s a really good way of training, and I’ve noticed my strength has improved considerably. The bands are also highly portable, meaning I can take them anywhere.
Do you have to be strong to do judo?
This is a question that’s often asked.
People often say that Judo means the “gentle way” and that if you’re using strength then you can’t be performing the technique correctly.
However, look at any Olympic Judo player and it’s evident that not only are they highly technically proficient but they’re also extremely strong.
If two equally skilled opponents are competing, then chances are that the stronger one will win the contest.
How do you get in shape for judo?
In addition, to the resistance band training, I’m also a great fan of isometrics.
Essentially it involves pushing or pulling against an immovable object with near maximum intensity for 7-10 seconds at a time.
It sounds overly simple but it really does develop fantastic raw strength.
Quite often in judo, you can get locked into a tug-off-war type scenario with an opponent. Usually, you’d try to suddenly release the tension and then throw them backwards.
This technique is particularly powerful when your opponent is really straining against you and using all their effort to move you in a certain direction.
When you release the tension, they find it hard to change the direction of their resistance.
When you develop your strength by practicing isometrics, you’re far less likely to strain in this scenario, allowing you to rebalance and redirect your effort when your opponent tries to manipulate you around the mat.
An amazing Indian wrestler nicknamed the Great Gama used isometrics as part of his training. When he was asked by a boy the secret to his success, he is rumoured to have responded as follows:
“It’s really quite simple,” the Indian said good-naturedly. “In the Punjab, where I lived there was a large tree behind my house. Each morning I would rise up early, tie my belt around it, and try to throw it down.”
“A tree?” the boy marveled.
“For twenty years.”
“And you did it?”
“No, little one,” Gama smiled, “but after a tree…a man is easy.”
Judo Basic Training
As well as develop my strength I also wanted to practice my actual techniques.
At home, I didn’t have anyone to fight against so again I looked to see what I could do.
I dressed it in an old judo jacket (tied with a belt to keep it in place).
I didn’t go for the heaviest dummy I could find as this would be trying to move a dead-weight.
In judo, you try to create a bit of momentum first by either pushing or pulling your opponent in a certain direction before executing the throw itself.
Getting a dummy that’s too heavy wouldn’t actually be realistic as the momentum you initially generate negates much of the weight of your opponent.
Again I would focus on a particular throw and concentrate on that for the session.
This combined with the strength training made for a fantastic workout.
The only problem with a using a dummy to practice your throwing techniques is having to pick it up after each throw. This seems quite trivial but after several rounds of picking up the dummy and getting it back in position, it soon became quite tiresome.
I wasn’t long before I transitioned into another form of training using the dummy.
What is Uchikomi?
“‘Uchikomi’ (Repetition training) is a term borrowed from Kendo, and is used in Judo to refer to the repeated practice of a throwing motion up to the point where the throw would actually be executed (the simulation stops at that point).’
Here’s a video showing what this actually looks like:
Instead of actually throwing the dummy to the ground, I would complete the move up until the actual throw.
I ended up completing the movement to where the dummy was just off balance, before I reset my position.
This worked much better than when I was throwing the dummy to the ground, as I could fit far more “throws” into my session as I wasn’t spending the time having to constantly pick up the dummy.
Solo Judo – my thoughts
Having supplemented my judo dojo session by also training at home, I thought it would be useful to give my responses to the following common questions:
Can you train by yourself?
It’s entirely possible to train by useful using the equipment I’ve outlined in this article. It’s amazing how the extra hours training adds up over time.
I’ve also noticed considerable increases in my strength using the resistance workout I’ve outlined to the extent that it’s been commented on by my ‘live’ opponents in the dojo.
Can I teach myself judo?
I’ve also reflected quite a bit on this question.
Learn judo online
I do think it’s possible to significantly improve your Judo technique using online resources. I personally use YouTube quite a bit to pick up hints and tips on how to properly execute a technique.
Here’s a great example of a move being broken down into its components.
I also take the time to occasionally record myself using the dummy to see that I’m actually completing the move correctly. Quite often what you think you’re doing differs considerably to what you’re actually doing. Recording yourself is a good way to check.
Judo Near Me
Whilst training at home can be very productive, there’s no substitute for a ‘live’ opponent.
Training at a dojo is a great way to train against multiple opponents and to learn new techniques.
You can find a local judo dojo here: https://www.usja.net/clubs
The techniques I’ve outlined should be used as a supplement to your dojo sessions.