Self-defense Technique & Tactic

As Judo techniques in general are very diverse, not all of them can be used as a self-defense technique. Those are specific requirements for any fighting technique to be used in effective self-defense:

  1. it should be response technique and not initiating
  2. it should be non-lethal by design, not considering possible or probable collateral damage
  3. it should be quick act and not to take long struggle to be effective
  4. it should not trap you in struggle and allows quick unilateral abort
  5. it should not impair your environmental awareness
  6. it should not impair your mobility


It should be response technique and not initiating

Leaving aside purely defensive blocks, I’m talking about ability to use technique in intuitive response to attack without extensive tactical preparation. All punches, low-level kicks, and vast majority of throws satisfy this requirement. Also in this category are arm/wrist locks as defense against arm or clothing grabs and head/spine locks (not strangulations!) as defense against body or legs grabs.

The meaning of this requirement is that only response technique could be used in self-defense as if technique requires preparation that means that fight already moved beyond self-defense phase and became bi-lateral and you were on prepared offense at that moment.

I need to address two categories of techniques that I omitted above: high-level kicks and non-defensive throws.

I excluded high-level kicks because they applied on the long distance (in hand-to-hand combat terms) and requires some preparation. If, due to your excellent physical conditions, you can use them as intuitive response, do it!

Non-defensive throws is not a standard term. By this I mean non-dynamic slow lift-n’-drop throws. Such throws more typical for low quality Greek-Roman Wrestling then for even low quality Judo. However shoulder wheel (kata-guroma a.k.a. windmill throw) can be executed in such manner.

It should be non-lethal by design, not considering possible or probable collateral damage

You’re in self-defense.You’re not planning to furbish to that villain slow and painful death. Things can happen when you will throw him onto this wall that five yard away. He can break his head, but it’s all his fault as you just threw him away.

You got the picture? Right? Strangulation became effective by killing (it can’t even be used for motion control as joint locks where moderated pain threatcan be used as means of persuasion), but punch or throw not designed to kill.

If you using strangulation or eye gauging you going for the kill or grave body injury without any option to stop midway without loosing the fight (presumably for your life). So, in this case you can’t clam self-defense unless you have very special circumstances.

It should be quick act and not to take long struggle to be effective

In self-defense ideally you’re going for quick hit-n’-run action. You just want to get out as soon as safely possible. Also, you don’t know if you were attacked by one bastard or all his gang near by. Anyway, you don’t have much time to spend.

So, this is other reason why strangulation is not self-defense technique: besides of been designed to kill it takes three seconds (sic!) of oxygen block to the brain to induce pass-out.

It should not trap you in struggle and allows quick unilateral abort

This is the issue with Brazilian jiu-jitsu and other ne-waza oriented fighting styles as it comes to self-defense technique: when you on the ground and performing effective arm-bar, or mounted chock, or you devastating ground-n’-pound attack on your enemy you’re very susceptible for all kind of beating that his friends can furbish for you. Are you absolutely sure he has no friends? What, it is only your friends around? Then it’s probably not self-defense.

In self-defense you don’t know what is going around! If you knew, you wouldn’t be here!

Your self-defense techniques should make you available for the next round of fight before current is over.

It should not impair your environmental awareness

As I said above, in self-defense you don’t know what is going around. This is another reason not to get trapped in ground fighting: your field of vision will be limited by more obstacles and you’ll be last one to notice any changes on the ground, such arrival or leaving people, opening or closing getaway roads, etc. 

It should not impair your mobility

In self-defense situation you should keep yourself mobile as you need to make and implement life-critical decisions momentarily. So, any technique that impair your mobility, such otherwise effective arm-lock, that you can’t release without been attacked again, should not be used. In general, arm-locks used to control your enemy movement by moderated low-to-high threat of pain. However, in real self-defense scenario you better realize the threat by dislocation his joint and disabling his arm than locking yourself in fine pain-control disposition, but make sure that risk to your live is real, otherwise you will have hard time to explain your actions in court (anyway, you didn’t cause death but just moderate and, most certainly, reparable body injury, so, you most likely will be OK, however I’m not a lawyer to give such advise).


After saying that ground-fighting is not suitable as self-defense technique, I have to make a clarification: It is not suitable to be seen as primary mode of self-defense technique. So, don’t initiate ground fighting, but if you found yourself on the ground against your will, by all means fight back! Use all you ne-waza skills to get out of there!


As a conclusion, this is the list of technical categories applicable for self-defense:

  1. blocks and disarming techniques
  2. punches and low-level kicks
  3. throws (when you still in standing or can get into standing unobstructed at the completion)
  4. joint-locks – standing or semi-ground (you’re in standing or semi-knelled position)


Home Self-defense Rules Judo self-defense technique

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