This is the first in a series of articles I plan to write looking at the grappling martial arts used in Mixed Martial Arts, and I have picked one of the most over looked arts in the sport: Judo.
A quick history of Judo. It was derived from the Japanese fighting art of Jujitsu in the 1800s. Jujitsu was the empty hand fighting art of the Samuari. Punching and kicking guys in armor was kinda pointless, the art focused on getting takedowns, securing top position and then choking, gouging, stabbing and other general bad things.
Judo was an attempt to take the disjointed and overly complicated Jujitsu and stream line it around the central concepts of takedowns/throws and gaining secure top position. Judo is the parent of a score of martial arts around the world including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Sambo.
Most fans see images of the signature hip tosses when they think of high level Judo. While this is a key part of Judo, a Judoka brings a diverse skill set to MMA.
Perhaps the biggest and best quality high level Judo players bring to the cage/ring is an outstanding base, their ability to maintain their balance and weight distribution. Once a Judoka is in the clinch or top position they are notoriously hard to move, sweep or reverse.
In the clinch, Judokas are armed with an array of takedowns; the ionic hip throw, but also an array of trips, footsweeps, sacrifice throws and slams. They are excellent at gaining leverage no matter the grips they have and using an opponnet's own force to take him down.
In MMA, many of the hip throws are limited without the grips that provide extra leverage.
Once on the ground, Judo players are armed with strong top position control, an array of submissions and an able guard game.
A fighter with a straight Judo background will have a very, very strong top game, but can have holes in their defensive grappling from off their back. Judo has guard play, but rules in Olympic Judo limit the guard.
A Judoka on his back can be overwhelmed when put in half guard or have given up mount or back mount. Judo also focuses far more on position than submissions, so their submission offenses and defenses can be over-matched at times.
Even with these short comings Judo is an amazing effect martial art, in the cage and in the real world.
Judo has a long history in MMA: From Hidehiko Yoshida choking Royce Gracie to sleep, to Karo Parisyan throwing Diego Sanchez on his head, to Fedor Emelianenko dominating with his Judo tosses, and finally to a new age of Judo fighters in MMA like Hector Lombard, Gegard Mousasi and Yoshihiro Akiyama.