Judo atemi

In Judo atemi is only part of self-defense kata – Goshin Jutsu – and never trained or used in randori. Does it show Judo weakness that strikes aren’t really trained, but just shown?  

I once saw opinion attributed to Aikido founder O’Sensei Morihei Ueshiba that in a real fight 80% is atemi and only 20% [grappling] technique. Morihei Ueshiba knew what he’s talking about, but he never included striking training in Aikido on the same level as it emphasized in karate. The question is why?

I think answer to this question, for both – Judo and Aikido, is in how strikes are used in those arts versus how they used in karate or Gentleman’s Art of Self-defense Boxing.

Judo and Aikido build on the foundation of the old Japanese jujutsu tradition that developed as military combat system(s) in the times when body armor was the norm on the battlefield (this legacy preserved by kito ryu school of jujutsu - forerunner of Judo). To punch turtle-shell armor was like to pat to your enemy. On the other hand, karate was developed in Okinawa for non-military combat environment and was introduced in Japan in 1930th when body armor became historical artifact and boxing, from its beginning in early 18th century – long after body armor was abolished in Europe, was always spectacular sport (“London Prize Ring”) that double as civilian self-defense.

Strikes in Judo applied in the form of atemi.

As traditional Judo doesn’t incorporate specialized striking training, I’m turning to the techniques that have been developed in striking based arts – karate, Mai-Tai, Savate, boxing. It’s common approach, but it has its limitation: you need always to adjust for difference between Judo atemi and punches and kicks in striking arts.

Two of such differences I would like to spell out:

  1. In Judo strikes should not be used in form of “strike fencing” – strike is not a defense against strike.
  2. Judo strikes are bare-handed and they're rare delivered with the full power (see atemi).


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