80/20 combat training

It’s often questioned in many forums how self-defense and combat training relates to sport Judo (or other combat sport) training that govern by strict rules of “the game” and sportsmanship.

Sport Judo training creates solid foundation for developing combat and self-defense skills. Full contact competitive fights build self-confidence, sensory awareness, and physical skills needed for “true” combat. They provide environment for polishing technical skills (that fails within range of rules’ limitation) that hard if possible to do any other way. In the grand scheme of things competitive Judo sport fights serve as the highest form of training in preparation for combat, but not (and it’s very important) imitation of it.

Sport rules (of any combat sport) fail into one of two categories: (1) explicit and (2) implicit.

Explicit rules defined in written documents of sport federations, organizations, clubs, and tournaments.

Implicit rules aren’t written anywhere, but they enforced even more then explicitly written rules.

When explicit rules easy to categorize and to reference, the implicit rules are more important to understand as they evasive, but their effect on combat training is enormous.

The first implied rule of combat sport that it is… a sport. Means you are watched over can loose the fight, but keep your life. Combat training should address and change this perception as it is no “second chance” in real combat and no referee and paramedics around.

Second implied rule (that greatly effect combat training) is that sport fight is who-is-the-best-one-on-one contest. In real life self-defense it is never one-on-one as you never know what is around the corner. Also, in a sport fight no hidden weapon expected, witch is not the case in real life.

Third implied rule is that in sport fight your meeting someone who you know (if not personally, but you know something about him, at least his name) who is expected to be match to your skills. In real life it’s often not the case (even most assaults perpetrated by someone known to victim). It creating two opposite problems: you can underestimate your attacker or overestimate him. When underestimating is critically dangerous, both are important to avoid as overestimating can pose you ether legal problems or “loosing without fight” (I’m not talking about avoiding fight).

It is not a finite list of implied rules that combat training has to address, and you can continue it on your own.

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What is “80/20 rule”?

“80/20 rule” is a general social and business rule generally understood as “20% of causes defining 80% of effects” (like “20% of customers making 80% of purchases”, or “20% of visitors creating 80% of trouble”, or – as it used in defining self-defense training, like Krav-Maga – “80% assaults based on 20% scenarios”).

As with Judo-based combat training you can interpret it in two distinct versions:

  1. “20% of all techniques used in 80% of all situations”
  2. “80% of combat readiness based on sport training and 20% are based on combat-specific training”

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Sport Judo is known outside of Japan in three styles – Olympic Judo,

href="https://www.judo-for-self-defense.com/brazilian-jiu-jitsu.html">Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and SAMBO. Kosen Judo is limited to a few Japanese universities. Those styles are differ in their applicability for self-defense “as-is” and in scope of combat-specific training needed to make sport skills combat-worthy.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu is less suitable for self-defense then Olympic Judo and SAMBO as newaza has limited applicability in real-life self-defense scenarios (and even when on the ground BJJ tactics pose more problems then benefits as goal should be to get out by any means instead of getting good position for secure chock or arm lock – those tactics is better covered by Chinese Di Tang Fa techniques.

There a four (4) points where sport Judo training should be complemented or adapted for combat and self-defense:

  1. Sport Judo throwing techniques.

Sport throwing techniques have limitations in self-defense use:

    • Throwing without firm and continues grip isn’t encouraged and even, in many situations, punished by sport rules. Every sport technique starts with getting grip and initiation of attack by getting grip has tactical advantages.

This where sport habits should be changed for self-defense use where no attack should start with a grip and most throws should be delivered from momentary non-continues grip.

    • Sport rules encouraging throws on the full back when in combat you don’t care if your enemy hit concrete head-first or with the full back – any way it will take him long time to be able to walk again (legal liability in case of assailant’s death is other issue, not related to Judo training specifically).

Good technical proficiency achieved in sport-style throws change to combat-style throws are very easy and requires just short instructions – basically you need to do it “less good” by sport standard.

    • Encouraging high amplitude throws without retaining balance in Olympic Judo (as opposite to sport SAMBO where throw in standing without lost of balance is of higher value then any throws with lost of balance – it’s in line with early Kodokan Judo rules). 

In real combat and self-defense balance (and situational awareness) should always be preserved. Proficient judoka should be instructed not to use such throws outside of dojo and it’s not a problem as throws with lost of balance designed to overcome skillful resistance of evenly qualified judoka by using full body mass, witch be not a case outside of dojo as throws combined with and complemented by using attemi.

  1. Using joint locks and chocks only on the ground (newaza) and restrictions on small joint manipulations.

Standing joint lock techniques instructions are based on (well trained) newaza joint locks technique and more about removing of sport-based restrictions then learning entirely new physical skills.

  1. Defense against and using of strikes.

Strikes of any type explicitly banned in all styles of sport Judo. This is the area where sport judoka needs instructions on defense and on use of strikes (attemi) with throws that in line with how Aikido techniques incorporating attemi.

Working on combat and self-defense striking skills with grappling (Judo, wrestling) masters are different then when striking style (boxing, kickboxing) masters: judokas should learn how to block strike and how to make strike when boxers should learn when and how not to strike as some of sport-style strike defenses and punches and kicks are risky and ineffective in combat.

  1. Sport vs. self-defense tactical differences.

Self-defense tactic should gear toward short brutal repel of any type of attack instead of long grappling engagement typical for sort fight.

Learning self-defense tactic should include instructions on risk avoidance, situational awareness, and typical assault scenarios including group assaults and role play assaults. This is critical part as selecting wrong response tactic and misreading environment by otherwise well trained and effective combat master may coast him life.



Those are four arias where proficient sport judoka needs instructions to adapt his sport skills for real-life self-defense and combat. This adaptation is straightforward. 80/20 combat training based on sport Judo skills is time proven – Russian Special Forces since WWII recruited with preference for combat sport training in SAMBO, boxing, and, later, sport Judo.  

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