How to use Judo in MMA

A couple of days ago I wrote about how there are a a few videos on the interwebs doing a shitty job of incorporating judo into MMA.  It was a bit upsetting to see such poor technique being taught, but on the other hand it’s encouraging to see that there is an interest in adapting judo for MMA.  Hector Lombard, Ronda Rousey (on many occasions here, and here), and even Urijah Faber have been showing how useful takedowns from the clinch can be, which is exactly where judo is useful in MMA.

One Reddit member pointed out a major flaw in the article:

Could someone please suggest some good instructional videos that specifically address using judo techniques in an MMA fight?

The article does a great job of saying the MMASurge video sucks but doesn’t offer any additional guidance other than the obvious suggestion of training at a Judo club.

I realized that he was right!  The article was a rant on a shitty O-goshi tutorial, but, anytime you have a complaint about something you need to show up with some solutions too.

So here was the response that I wrote (slightly edited, original version is here).

In order to use your judo in MMA you need to have judo SKILLS in the first place to adapt. How do you get these skills? I feel very strongly that judo is extremely difficult to learn without practicing at a club. The reason is, that it’s about moveMENT rather than individual tricks and tips. When I first started, as with most people who have any bit of natural athleticism, I found I could approximate triangles, armbars, pins and other groundwork just from watching videos.  Of course they would need lots of polishing, but I could get most of the way there.

Throws on the other hand were completely foreign to me, and any amount of just watching someone would not help me, only after years of getting the FEELING of the use of someone elses momentum and movement was I able to make throws work in the true way they are meant to in judo (i.e. minimal effort, using the other persons momentum against them). And This is after a lifetime of learning to skateboard and snowboard with no peers to learn from, only videos (i.e. i’m half decent at learning from videos)

If you don’t have a local judo club you could

1) find one in the nearest town. Even if it’s an hour or 2 hour drive you could go with a friend once a week. Practice between the two of you for a week and go back to get the instructors to polish your technique. If you practiced enough between the two of you during the week, before much time at all you would develop some pretty decent skills! (open mat, unstructured rolling between friends is such an underrated way of learning, of course you still need regular polishing from coaches though)

2) put an ad on craigslist to see if there are any judoka with reasonable amount of skill who’d be willing to teach? No where to work? Is there a local high school with wrestling mats that will let you practice? A grassy field? Someone’s basement with multiple layers of carpet or puzzle mats? What about making your own mats Gracie style?

3) you tried EVERYTHING above, and you live in a super-remote town of 500 people 500 miles from anyone who does judo.

Watch PURE judo videos. Type these into your YouTube machine:

Watch the videos and practice with a gi on with your friends. Imitate the videos, pretend you are Kim Jae Bum and your friend is Isaev and you are in a judo match with judo rules. This is super-not ideal, but stick to the bigger well known names that play in the Olympics or coach athletes in the olympics and you won’t have to worry about bad technique videos like MMA Surge. Then on your once every 3 month trip out of your ultra-remote town, visit the nearest judo club, and just tell them your story. I bet they would let you practice for free for a week or weeks on end (worked for me!).
I’m sure if you seeked it out, you could find a way to learn judo. The hardest part about it though, is that you can’t just learn one or two throws as if it’s a life-hacker-trick where you get a tip or technique. You really do need to spend at least a bit of time in pure judo (or at minimum grappling with some good judoka) to get the FEELING of it.

Once you get a feeling for judo, translating it into no-gi is actually VERY EASY (or seamless…pun intended ha-ha).


And just for good measure here are some awesome videos for using judo in MMA

and if you’ve developed a good drop seoi nage, here’s how to do it without a gi.  There are a lot of subtleties to her technique, mainly the feeling of when her opponent is moving forward and how she is able to duck under that momentum.

Check out more great Judo for BJJ and MMA in our article “Judo Throws for BJJ, MMA, and No Gi Grappling – 12 of The Best videos on YouTube”.  

Have you adapted your judo skills for no gi/MMA?  How did you do it?

Post in the comments below!


  1. I’m now not certain the place you’re getting your
    information, however great topic. I must spend a while studying
    more or working out more. Thank you for fantastic info I was
    looking for this information for my mission.

  2. Makes judo harder than BJJ for the reasons you cited. BJJ requires movement sensitivity as well, but you can fake it using a fairly linear pathway (probably not at a high level). You can’t just think “combo” in judo, do the moves you know, and expect success. You can sort of do that in BJJ though.

    1. I definitely agree and brace yo-sewf, here comes another steaming pant load of thought:

      Not taking anything away from BJJ but it always feels like there is one more dimension of balance in standup grappling where either person can get flipped at any second. Any split second off balances quickly seized by exploding into a throw.

      In BJJ at least one persons back firmly planted on the ground and the chance for exploding into something isn’t nearly as common and hence it turns into a game of methodically combo-ing from one move to the next and basically cornering your opponent into making a mistake.

      If you know a move your opponent doesn’t you can effectively use this in your combo chain and like you say – expect success. In judo, if you know a magical throw your opponent doesn’t, you still have to off balance him the same as any other throw, and if you can off balance somebody properly it’s checkmate! You could end up with the most god awful follow through of a IPPON seoi -osoto gari and still finish the throw (this is a real thing – happened here )

      I think this is evident in how both sports have evolved over the last few years. Competition BJJ has turned into hundreds of different guards and berimbolos. Know a move your opponent doesn’t? That’s an advantage! In judo everyone does the same damn throws. There’s maybe 6 throws that are used for 90% of scores . Actually I made that stat up, but it’s probably not far off I spend wayyyy to much time watching footage – stupid website….

      Anyways, like I was saying, basically the more physical athletic advantages a person has, grip fighting strategy and the more acute you’re off balancing awareness end up being the determining factors for who the winners will be. The throws themselves are simply the most efficient body mechanics of finishing an off balancing in a certain direction. Hence why there are so few types of throws that are used at the highest levels. The most successful players are stronger, faster, can get their grip faster and throw more efficiently than their opponent.

      …that ended up being a lot more words than I thought. Thanks for helping me turn my random thoughts into another article, Jon!

      1. I agree with everything stated here, but an exception does come to mind now that I have had some time to process. Before the leg grabs were taken out of judo, the judo version of the double leg (morote gari?) sort of behaved like BJJ strategy in the sense that if you setup that throw you were pretty much guaranteed success. Less emphasis on unbalancing?

        As far as BJJ is concerned, yeah, the evolution in technique is partly what you’re talking about, but I also think it has something to do with a trick culture, not unlike surfing. There’s more freedom for improvisation and play because there’s less at stake. If I want to play with an entry for a throw or some sort of combo, I have to deal with the fact that I am going to fail in an uncomfortable manner, that is, get thrown on my ass. Getting up from that over and over is tiring and dispiriting, but in BJJ, if your play screws up, you just get tapped or you flow into something else. No big deal.

  3. If you are looking for youtube resources for real technical Judo, some of the best can be found by searching for Hiroshi Katanishi. He is 8th Dan and currently the Coach for Switzerland. He has lived in Europe for many years and so almost all of his videos are in French – but simply watching his movements and explanations you can pick up a great deal. You are right – getting the feel is the most important, and there is no substitute in learning Judo for working with a qualified teacher, but if you have to do the video route this is a great example!

    1. Thanks Kelly. Katanishi really is excellent. I’ve watched all of his videos and I have to agree with you, even though it’s in French, you still end up picking up almost all of what he is explaining.

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