Judo physical skills: role of physical skills in Judo.

The idealistic view of Judo, started by early Western advertisement, is that in Judo physical skills aren’t important. This view is caved pretty deep in non-martial-art public mindset and setting Judo apart from any other martial art and combat sport (even it is just stand-alone style of Judo like SAMBO or Brazilian jiu-jitsu). Anyone, who ever put his foot on tatami, would tell you that this view is seriously misguided at best.

Judo is very a technically diverse martial art and this diversity allows to accommodate physical weaknesses and to leverage strengths in very wide spectrum.

Many very prominent Judo masters are known for their comparative physical weakness compensated by unparallel technical skills. History of SAMBO knows one-armed silver winner of Ukraine championship – Master of Sport of the USSR Dmitri Dashko lost his right arm in childhood accident long before starting his training. Judo is successfully taught to blind students. All this are just extreme cases.

On the other side is Dr. Kano’s original desire to see Judo as universal teaching tool for both, physical and emotional, skills development. Positive aspects of Judo training for well round-up physical development specifically pointed out in "Judo Kyohan" by Sakujiro Yokoyama and Eisuke Oshima, first published in 1915.

In sport Judo physical skills development is vital part of day-to-day training.

Every judoka needs to know his objective physical skills as-is and in relation to his potential opponents. Every coach needs to understand his student physical strengths and weaknesses and build personalized training program upon it (well, it’s in ideal word, I know -:).

As it comes to self-defense the physical skills aren’t any less critical. It’s not enough to know how to defend yourself, but also be physically capable of doing it – everyone knows how to lift eighty pound suitcase by the handle, but not everyone able to do it.

As in sport Judo training, in self-defense evaluation of student’s physical skills is important part of instructor’s job.

Physical skill groups:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility
  • Endurance
  • Movement coordination

Each group has subdivisions within – strength can be static (resistance or controlled slow motion) and dynamic (fast motion, explosion strength), endurance can be aerobic (based on efficiency of oxygen consumption) or anaerobic (from muscle-internal glycogen resources), etc.

Highly specified detail analyses (often involving sport medicine specialists) make sense for high-achievement athletes, including top-tier sport Judo players, who are pushing upper limit of human abilities.

In mass-level Judo training and in self-defense more coarse analyses will suffice.

With Judo technical diversity all four physical skill groups are important and can be leveraged. On the same token this diversity, coupled with matching tactic, allows to compensate (at least partially) for some particular skill weakness. With Judo-based self-defense the same rule would apply. The difference between self-defense and sport Judo training is that in self-defense instructor doesn’t have the luxury to defer teaching of some technical elements “for later” coupled with development of some missing physical skills, but should find best substitution from the technical set that leveraging student’s current strengths while solving same tactical goal. The good news that self-defense training doesn’t technically limited to legal sport Judo techniques and can utilize the notion of asymmetric warfare witch makes instructor’s creative task a bit easier (given that instructor is well versed in wide range of self-defense technique and tactic that not limited to single formal martial art).

Other valuable point to mention is that plain static physical strength, as important as it is, can’t substitute for other Judo physical skills. Overdevelopment of muscle based on the weight training popular nowadays (like used for bodybuilding) may lead to reducing muscle efficiency (per cent of muscle strings that take active part in movement) and impede effective strength, speed, coordination, and endurance.

Even in combat sport like sumo where brutal power and weight plays very important role, in some cases top-tier masters had to lose body weight (and as a result the total strength) in order to improve their tournament results (Konishiki, as example).

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