Can Judo Be Used in a Real Fight?

Judo is loved by millions all over the world. It’s been in the Olympics for decades, but is it just for show or sport, or can Judo be used in a real fight?

Judo can be utilized in real fights as it encompasses effective grappling, throws, holds, and locks to take down one’s opponent to the ground using their momentum against them. But practitioners of Judo may be at a disadvantage because they always train in a Gi.

In a real fight, there is no Gi (clothes that are worn by Judokas and most martial artists), and because it’s a grappling art, most Judokas are often focused downward, leaving their faces unprotected.

This could be a fatal flaw in a real fight.

I’ve done a little Judo, although most of my experience is with BJJ and Systema. In this article, we’ll explore some vital info around Judo’s effectiveness in real fights and how it compares with Muay Thai and Karate.

Let the fun begin…

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Is Judo good for self-defense?

Judo is good for self-defense because it is a system of effective grappling techniques. It includes skills relating to grabbing and throwing opponents to the ground and using holds or chokes to subdue them. And a Judoka knows how to avoid injury if they get knocked down.

Unless your opponent is a trained fighter, Judo will give you an edge because it equips you with skills to be able to grab and throw folks who are stronger and bigger.

You could gently throw them, or if you so choose, throw them in such a way that they’d probably end up with a broken arm or back.

Once they’re on the ground, you could hit them with an arm-lock, and that could just be all you need.

They’d most likely beg you or have to make peace with getting their arm broken!

The great thing is that you’d be able to do this with relative ease.

There’s a way you could pull an opponent toward you, plant one of your legs behind theirs, and trip them. In a fight, they could land on their head!

If they’re being tough, you could pull a Kani Basami on them, and if it’s properly executed, the fight’s over. Trust me. It’s a technique that’d catch your opponent unaware.

They’re thrown backward and are likely to hit their head on the pavement. One other thing that gives you an edge is that as a Judoka, you’re hip to how to break a fall. It’s a skill on its own.

Even if an opponent were to push you, even as you’re falling, you’re already positioning your body in a way that minimizes the impact of the fall.

Yeah, Judo is awesome for self-defense. But can you learn it at home on your own?

In a recent article of mine, I did not merely show that you could. I also shared actionable strategies that’ll help you, including the 1 way you could actually get a black belt doing it at home.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is Judo better than Karate?

Judo is not as well-rounded as Karate as it is focused primarily on ground movements, whereas Karate focuses heavily on punches, kicks, and blocks, in addition to throws.

Judo is visually impressive and works great in a dojo on the mats. But with this martial art, you win after a takedown and submission. Street fights are not like that. Most people don’t stop fighting until they are unable to, or someone comes and stops the fight.

If a Judoka can grab and throw an assailant, they’ll temporarily have an edge.

That’s if the other party knows nothing about the art of falling (one of the techniques one learns in Judo). If the assailant is strong, they’ll keep fighting with all they have, even while on the ground.

Their legs and hands are still lethal weapons.

A takedown can’t stop an excellent Karateka. Karate is more effective because it’s more proactive and focused on consciously inflicting harm on the other, while Judo is softer and defensive.

Whether standing up or while on the ground, a Karateka is deadly. Most Judo guys could become less effective once they’re on the ground.

That’s not to suggest that there are no techniques to handle being on the ground.

There are, but if a person has trained in a Judo style that stresses the sport aspect, some of these deadly ground maneuvers may not have been taught or mastered.

As long as a Karateka can move their arms and legs, they’re a lethal weapon. Kicks to the liver, repeated elbow strikes to the head or neck, can stop, if not cripple, a Judoka.

The idea of leveraging an opponent’s strength and momentum against them could be effective against someone clueless about fighting.

But against another trained fighter, they’re already clued-in to the danger, and they’ll resist it with all they’ve got.

Interested in more info on Judo vs. Karate?

Check out a recent article of mine where I showed that Karate is a better choice if self-defense is what you’re after.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is Judo better than Muay Thai?

Judo is a better choice than Muay Thai for smaller or weaker practitioners who wish to leverage an opponent’s energy against them. Muay Thai is more physically demanding, requires greater strength, and has a higher probability of injury than Judo.

So the truth is it is difficult to say which is “better”.

Both martial arts are highly effective and are like complements. Judo is a grappling art, while Muay Thai is a striking art. A contest between skilled practitioners of both would be a tough call because one party’s strength is the other’s weakness. Therefore, there is a kind of balance.

First off, a grappling art is not necessarily better than a striking art and vice-versa.

Judo is a grappling art meant for close combat. It has no strikes or punches, and it’s about using the minimum power for maximum efficiency. So, it’s a cerebral game. It’s about technique.

A skilled Judoka can effortlessly and swiftly grab and throw someone stronger and bigger than they are.

And, once the person hits the ground, because they are not trained like a Judoka on how to break their fall, they are likely to stay on the ground or even break a part of their body.

As if that’s not enough, while they are on the ground, there are holds and chokes a Judoka can apply that would subdue, break their arm, or even kill them!

Now, Muay Thai is as lethal as Judo.

It’s a striking art, where punches, strikes, and kicks are the norm. Muay Thai (MT) practitioners undergo a lot of drills to condition their bodies, so they are usually lean and mean.

They are light on their feet. One of the most interesting features of MT is the roundhouse kick. It’s awesome to watch but deadly for the unlucky dude who will get hit.

It’s a lightning-fast head-high kick to the opponent’s head! It’s lethal, but it’s also difficult to execute and could expose the MT dude…that’s if they miss or lose their balance.

In addition to knee strikes, elbow strikes are some of the go-to techniques MT practitioners rely on.

Muay Thai can be so devastating that some practitioners die in the ring!

It’s hard to say which one is better, Judo or Muay Thai, seeing as both are equally good, but if one has to choose, I’d say: go for Muay Thai. And, work on having super-fast reflexes so that you can avoid being grabbed or taken down by a Judoka.

Skilled Judokas almost always aim for takedowns. BJJ is also a grappling art. Which one do you think is better, BJJ or Judo?

Check out an in-depth take on both in a recent article of mine. After all, they are similar (Judo came from Jiu-jitsu), but both have been modified heavily from Japan’s original Jiu-jitsu.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Can Judo be used against multiple attackers?

Judo training does not usually involve how to contend with multiple attackers. But any amount of Judo training against multiple attackers is better than none.

One of the most riveting parts of a martial art movie is when “our guy” is giving multiple attackers a gruesome beatdown at the same time, right? It’s so fun to watch.

I suppose it’s because we imagine that it’s something we could also do. The reality: It’s hard to beat up one single person.

The variables in a street fight are just too many that a Judoka would most likely be crushed if they were to attempt to fight more than two people at the same time.

Let’s check out two reasons why Judo is not ideal for dealing with multiple attackers.

  • Judokas are not trained for it.
  • They are essentially grapplers.

“We fight how we train.” Now and then, we may get lucky, but if we haven’t been trained how to do something effectively, the odds that we’d be able to do it well in the heat of action is very low.

Grappling can be super-effective, but in a real fight, there are no rules. Your opponent would not only grapple, but they’d also try and sucker punch you or kick you to the curb!

A person who’s just a grappler is at a disadvantage when several people are eager to grapple, punch, kick them at the same time.

Which fighting style is best for street fights?

Krav Maga is the best fighting style for street fights because it is about quickly incapacitating an opponent with minimal harm to oneself. It has no rules. Therefore, it is an “anything goes” style that is focused on the most vulnerable parts of an opponent’s body.

Krav Maga was designed solely for defending oneself. There are no extraneous spiritual or philosophical concepts to grasp and no fancy, graceful dance-like moves to master.

It’s about “getting the job done.” The goal is to be able to protect yourself from harm by any means necessary.

This is one of the reasons it is super-effective. It’s one of the defense systems NAVY SEALS are taught. (And, that’s saying something.)

It’s most useful in a situation where there’s a high possibility that one would be seriously injured or even killed.

It has some techniques that may seem crude when we’re in a comfortable situation but may save our lives in the heat of a serious altercation.

They include kneeing the groin, eye-gouges, and elbow strikes.

When properly executed, there’s hardly any man that can remain standing when a swift, unexpected knee connects to their groin. They’re going down.

I shared more info in a recent article of mine where I compared Krav Maga to Judo. Of course, both are totally different from one another, and one isn’t even a real martial art. But there’s a clear winner!

Just click the link to read it on my site.


We learned that Judo is good for self-defense because there are highly effective grappling techniques that practitioners learn.

They are taught how to use the minimum power for maximum efficiency. So, it’s not about brute force.

We checked out how it compares to Karate and Muay Thai, whether it’s effective against multiple attackers, and we wrapped things up by checking out the best fighting style in a street fight.

Photo which requires attribution:

anatomy of a street fight by shay sowden is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped with a graphic and text overlay added.

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