Can You Learn Judo at Home? – Complete Beginner’s Guide


Judo is one of the most popular martial arts and one of the few that’s in the Olympics. But with so many people wanting to learn things online, I wondered can you learn Judo at home?

Here’s what I know from doing lots of virtual martial arts classes:

Some basic Judo moves can be learned at home, especially using a practice dummy. But,  Judo involves a lot of throws and grappling movements, making it challenging to master alone.

So yes, you can get a good grasp of the basics, if you’re determined and consistent.

But you’ll eventually want to find a dojo where you can upgrade your skills, or at least get a consistent training partner.

After all, Judo is a contact activity, so you’ll be better at it when you practice with other people. But sometimes that’s not always possible.

So today, I’ll review all the best moves to learn alone at home, and the best ways to do it, both free and paid.

Let the fun begin!

Is Judo easy to learn by yourself?

Judo basics can be easily learned by yourself by taking online classes or watching videos, in conjunction with using a practice dummy to master the throws utilized in Judo.

So, it won’t be as easy as if you were in a dojo with a teacher and other students, but you can still learn a lot at home.

Judo has 40 key throws. It was designed by its creator to be highly-accessible for an average person who is not necessarily super tall or super strong.

Of course, it’ll take time to master. But, it’s not complicated. And, it’ll fill you with more confidence and skills to defend yourself.

Knowing what you’ll stand to gain and remembering it will help you withstand those inevitable times when learning seems hard, and you’re tempted to give it all up.

Don’t. Judo is fun. And, it offers many benefits to boot.

One key is to realize that you can get the fundamentals down pat in about 6-12 months. But mastery in any martial art usually takes years. Yeah, years. With this in mind, you won’t put any unnecessary stress on yourself. You’ll simply have to practice, practice, and practice.

Before you get started with Judo, you must become more flexible.

It’s even dangerous to do some moves if you’ve not already conditioned your body. So, there’s a need to warm up your muscles and joints.

And, clear out a room, or a part of a room, so you have enough space. It would be best if you considered safety as you practice. Make sure there are no sharp objects in the space. Ensure you’ve got mats on the floor.

Then, get started with stretching exercises.

Be gentle. Use skipping ropes. Push-ups, punch a bag, stretches, breathing exercises, frog jumps, and squats. In a nutshell, do basic exercises in the first few weeks so that your body can be more supple and strong.

How to learn Judo by yourself

You can learn Judo by yourself through online courses, live-streaming classes, or YouTube videos. And a practice dummy will be essential for mastering throws and basic grappling positions.

It’s good to use several resources, but visual guides will be better than books.

For one, you can actually see the techniques being displayed, rather than merely reading about them and trying to use your imagination.

But, I’ll suggest you focus on online courses or classes. Why? A lot of YouTube videos are random productions.

They’re decent, don’t get me wrong. However, structured online courses are better. You don’t want to randomly watch videos meant for advanced students when you have no clue what the basic moves are.

Structured courses are more aligned with how we learn and the stages involved. So, you have stuff for beginners, intermediate and advanced students.

With videos on YouTube, you could hop from one to another. There are so many resources, but make one your definitive course. That’ll help you focus.

It’s fun, and there’s nothing wrong with checking other resources now and then. But, if you want to experience progress faster, use structured courses, and have one main course as your guide.

And don’t rush through the beginner stage. It’s the foundation upon which you’ll build your Judo mastery edifice, make it strong.

Watch and practice. Watch and practice over and over again until the moves become intuitive.

Here are my top sources for learning Judo online (not paid endorsements):

Platform Name/Link Why I Like It Cost
YouTube Nakano Judo Online Academy Over 4,000 subscribers and tons of videos and playlists to help you work on specific things, including a whole series on practicing at home alone. Free
Online Lessons Ronda Rousey Ronda Rousey was the 1st woman to win an Olympic medal in Judo, and she’s amazing. She has tons of video lessons on her website on specific topics. Appears to be free which is amazing!
YouTube JUDO Lots of videos, although most have a music background rather than a spoken tutorial. The videos were also obviously posted to Instagram originally, so they aren’t full-width. But there are some great videos on specific movements and techniques. Free
Live Virtual Training  Hanabi Judo This is a physical dojo in the Bay Area of California offering Zoom classes M-F for all ages and experience levels. Multiple memberships from drop-in rates to monthly rates up to $179/month

You’ve heard that Aikido is a cool martial art.

But is it better than Judo? That’s what I explored in a recent article of mine. I’ve done a little of both, but especially if we’re talking self-defense skills, one is clearly better than the other.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What Judo moves have to be done with someone else?

The Judo moves most commonly requiring a training partner include: Ippon-seoi-nage, Uchi mata, and Kesa gatame. Judo is a contact sport, and many of the movements are designed as partner work.

But don’t worry, I’ll get into more about those and other moves below.

Ultimately, all the moves are conceived as interactions between the “tori”(initiator of the attack) and the “uke”(receiver of the attack).

So, all the interactions are ideally meant to be between two people. Let’s look at some moves you MUST do with another person.

The following are some fundamental moves:

  1. Ippon-seoi-nage (a 1-arm shoulder throw)
  2. Uki goshi (one of the most basic and fundamental hip throws)
  3. Kubi nage (a neck throw typically done when your arms are trapped)
  4. Ouchi-gari (a type of sweep kick takedown)
  5. Uchi-mata (an inner thigh sweep and throw)
  6. Tomoe nage (an overhead throw from the ground)
  7. Kesa gatame (known as Scarf Hold – a type of choke)
  8. Kami Shiho gatame (a grappling hold done chest to chest)
  9. Nami-juji-jime (a type of choke typically done with a gi)
  10. Ude hishigi juji gatame (a type of arm bar/joint lock)

BJJ stands for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. You’ve probably wondered if it’s better to learn BJJ OR Judo. 

After all, Judo is an offshoot of Jiu-Jitsu. But is it better? Which one should you choose? If you were faced with the possibility. That’s what I explored in a recent article of mine.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What Judo moves can be done alone?

Here are some of the best Judo moves which don’t require a partner:

  1. Uchikomi
  2. Ashi Waza
  3. Ne Waza
  4. Gymnastics

I’ll share the basics of each one below:

Uchikomi


To be fair, Uchikomi isn’t really a move as much as a practice. Specifically, it’s training the same throwing move repeatedly. And it can be done with or without a partner

One of the secrets of outstanding martial artists and athletes is visualization.

It’s a practice that’s backed by many studies. You don’t need to be in a dojo or be with anybody. You can do it even while you’re lying on the bed.

The process is simple but powerful. It’s essentially about doing your drills in your mind, over and over again. See yourself in the movie you’re writing and directing, as you effortlessly repeat the techniques flawlessly as many times as possible.

To practice this alone, simply tie a martial arts belt or a rope that won’t hurt your hands too much to a post, pole, or another stationary object.

Tie it about the same height as where your shoulders are when standing straight up.

Then grab the end of the strap with both hands with the strap going over your shoulder. Then simply pull as if you were trying to pull an opponent over your shoulder.

Repeat.

Ashi Waza (foot sweeps)


Also, to clarify, Ashi Waza isn’t just 1 foot sweep. It’s the name used to describe the collection of all foot sweeps (20 of them). These must be performed with a training dummy if you don’t have a partner.

Ensure that your feet and upper body are being actively engaged. The following are foot sweeps from the collection that you can practice by yourself:

  • Kouchi Gari
  • Ouchi Gari
  • Harai Tsurikomi Ashi
  • Okuriashi Harai
  • Deashi Harai

Pay attention to how they’re being executed in the instructional videos you’re using.

Notice that the emphasis is on technique, not strength. In fact, Judo means “the gentle way.” Its focus is using leverage and holds to unbalance an opponent.

In other words, using their strength and advances to your own advantage.

Ne Waza (ground techniques)


As with the others, Ne Waza again isn’t a specific move, but a collection of moves.

Ne-waza techniques are part of the  larger group of grappling techniques called Katame-waza. They include a variety of holds and joint locks and are designed for both opponents to be on the ground as opposed to having 1 standing.

The aim is to hold an opponent down and disable their movement. Osae komi Waza (hold-down) and Kansetsu Waza (joint locks) are the main moves.

Gymnastics

Basic gymnastic drills, such as handstands, forward and backward rolls, and cartwheels, will help you become nimble and supple, and both will help you defend yourself better and be swift in your attacks.

So it’s ideal to practice these every day for 15 or more minutes. And it’s a great warm-up too.

Is a training dummy good when learning Judo at home?

When learning Judo by yourself, a training dummy will be essential in working on basic throws, and grappling techniques; ideally a training dummy that can quickly and easily go from standing to the ground.

CLICK HERE to get the one I recommend on Amazon.

A training dummy will allow you to practice throws, sweeps, and basic grappling (wrestling) movements that you would normally do with a partner. And with this dummy, you can even practice submissions such as joint locks or chokes.

Without a practice dummy, many of the Judo moves will be impossible to fully learn, and certainly impossible to master.

I like this training dummy as it’s made of durable and easy to wash military-grade vinyl. It comes in a variety of sizes and weights, so you could easily choose the one for your “division.”

It also has hundreds of reviews and most are 5-star.

Practice strikes, submissions, throws, and takedowns secure in the knowledge that you aren’t hurting anybody. And, it’s inexpensive.

And unlike some training dummies that ship empty and need to be filled, this one is shipped ready to go!

Conclusion

In the preceding paragraphs, we explored whether you could learn Judo all by yourself.

But more importantly, we looked at how to do that, whether it’s easy, the moves to learn by oneself and the ones to learn with others.

And we wrapped up with whether a training dummy could help.


Photo which requires attribution

Judo styles in each country by Chadi had a still frame cropped from the video and is licensed under CC2.0

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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