Musa Betsu Kyu Judo club

Greater Moncton Judo (official JudoNB affiliate)

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Top 10 Judoka in MMA

The following is a list of the “Top 10 Judoka In MMA” using again like the previous post, no particular scientific formula, just going with general consensus. These are ranked not in order of their accomplishments but in the order in which they represent Judo exclusively, or made big shifts in consciousness towards awareness of Judo’s practical use in real fighting situations:

  1. Ronda Rousey (Strikeforce / UFC)
  2. Yoshihiro Akiyama (K1 / UFC)
  3. Karo Parisyan (UFC / Bellator)
  4. Hidehiko Yoshida (PRIDE / Sengoku)
  5. Rick Hawn (Bellator)
  6. Kazuhiro Nakamura (PRIDE / DREAM)
  7. Hector Lombard (UFC)
  8. Dong Hyun Kim (UFC)
  9. Shinya Aoki (OneFC / RizinFF)
  10. Fedor Emelianenko (PRIDE / Strikeforce / RizinFF)

1. Ronda Rousey (Strikeforce / UFC)

Despite her polarizing personality (you either love her or hate her), it goes without saying that this woman has probably done the most for Judo in MMA. She ran through the female divisions of Strikeforce & UFC without any serious competition until finally being stopped by Holly Holm. Nothing can take away her amazing accomplishments though, having some of the fastest submissions and shortest fights in MMA history, all against the best female competition of her generation:

Top Ronda Rousey defeats Cat Zingano via Juji Gatame (armbar) in 14 seconds

In the gym, she even throws top MMA guys twice her size:
<Ronda throws Nick Diaz, Luke Rockhold & Gegard Mousasi>

2. Yoshihiro Akiyama (K-1 / UFC)

Perhaps known more for his pop musical talents (with a massive following in Korea where he is known by his birth name “Choo Sung-hoon“) as well as his theatrics and elaborate ring entrances than his fighting skill, Akiyama was actually once Gold medal Judo champion at the Asian Games and representing both South Korea and Japan (he was born in Japan to “zainichi Korean” parents). He has pulled off some of the most impressive Judo throws in the history of MMA. Here are but a few examples:


3. Karo Parisyan (UFC / Bellator)

Karo “the heat” Parisyan is well known for being one of the first to substantially represent Judo in the UFC with some beautiful throws.


4. Hidehiko Yoshida (PRIDE / Sengoku)


He is also very humble despite being at the top echelon of the Judo community in Japan, here’s an interview after his infamous match with Royce Gracie:

5. Rick Hawn (Bellator)


6. Kazuhiro Nakamura (PRIDE / DREAM)

7. Hector Lombard (PRIDE / UFC)

8. Dong Hyun Kim (UFC)

9. Shinya Aoki (One FC / RizinFF)

10. Fedor Emelianenko (PRIDE / Strikeforce / RizinFF)


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Judo in MMA

Sure, as an experienced Judo practitioner it is completely easy to throw some random person out on the street who has no grappling experience (newsflash: you’d probably be able to do it within your first few Judo classes). It is also relatively easy to throw a Judo beginner or someone with an intermediate or lower level of other grappling Martial Arts, once they’ve finally decked themselves out in a starchy brand new Gi for the first few times and are just getting used to break-falling. However, it takes years to be able to pull-off a clean Judo throw against a resisting and experienced opponent, even if they’re wearing a Gi and competing under Judo rules. Against a fully-resisting, grappling-experienced, striking-empowered, aggressive, not to mention barely clothed and sweaty opponent? It’s damn near impossible. So remember that next time you are watching any combat sport like MMA or grappling events like Metamoris / ADCC and say “why doesn’t he just throw him on his head and win already” or “I thought he does Judo, so much for that being effective”.

The problem with many Judo techniques in the context of MMA is that if you commit completely to the technique (which you often have to for an effective throw) but the opponent somehow manages to resist then you are typically in a very bad situation where your back, neck and/or head are completely exposed; or, you are otherwise off-balance and can be countered or taken down hard & painfully yourself with low center-of-gravity wrestling techniques. With this level of risk, its no wonder only a select few are able to pull off Judo techniques with any amount of consistency or grace when competing at the highest levels. That said, it does happen. So long story short, what are the highest percentage techniques to attempt in the MMA ring/cage?

The Top 10 Judo throws most commonly pulled off in MMA include:

  1. Osoto Gari
  2. Sumi Gaeshi / Hikikomi Gaeshi
  3. Kosoto Gake
  4. Kata Guruma
  5. Harai Goshi
  6. Uchi Mata
  7. Drop Seoi Nage variations
  8. Ouchi Gari
  9. Kouchi Gake
  10. Harai Tsurikomi Ashi / Hiza Guruma


1. Osoto Gari

Large Outside Trip


Cleanly performed Osoto Gari in MMA

2. Sumi Gaeshi / Hikikomi Gaeshi

Corner Reversal & Pulling-In Reversal are two common sacrifice throws, especially since they can be done easily without a gi. The grip simply needs to be modified to over and underhook an arm or body lock from over-the-top. The legs use either the front of a bent leg (softly kicking/springing type of motion) from head-on for Sumi Gaeshi or outside of the leg (hip-hinging type of motion) from an angle, from having your back taken, or from a rotated position at 45 degrees for Hikikomi Gaeshi. The nice thing about this throw is that it isn’t that high impact so isn’t likely to hurt your opponent too much, it easily puts you in top-position on the ground without a battle, and if it fails for some reason, you can pull guard, slide to a leg-lock or even technically stand back up safely.


Ronda Rousey – modified grip Sumi Gaeshi

3. Kosoto Gake

Small Outer Hook


Kosoto Gake with a bit of a push

4. Kata Guruma

Shoulder Wheel


A dropping Kata Guruma variation

5. Harai Goshi

Sweeping Hip Throw


Harai Goshi with an overhook

6. Uchi Mata

Inner-thigh Throw


Uchi Mata against opponent rushing in

7. Drop Seoi Nage variations

One-arm Shoulder Throw


One-arm Seoi Nage varation

8. Ouchi Gari

Large Inner Reaping


Ouchi Gari when grabbed around neck

9. Kouchi Gake

Small Inner Hook


Kouchi Gake to defend being lifted

10. Harai Tsurikomi Ashi / Hiza Guruma

Lifting Pulling Ankle Sweep / Knee Wheel
Both the Harai & Sasae Tsurikomi Ashi (forward-lifting-ankle-block & backward-pulling-ankle-sweep) variations, as well as Hiza Guruma’s “knee wheel” separate throw mechanics all look very similar to the untrained eye. These are popular because they can be done from many different grips, including 2-on-1, over-under, body-lock, double-overhooks, wrestler’s tie-up, Thai clinch, etc…


Harai Tsuri Komi Ashi for a retreating opponent trying to pull you


Hiza Guruma when stuck in a body-lock

In fact, here’s one of the few throwing techniques from traditional Muay Thai which looks just like Hiza Guruma:

As you can see there are only so many ways to throw a person or take them down to the ground, many Martial Arts have commonalities and unique interpretations. There are many downsides to MMA competition including a “tough-guy/thug” culture it can potentially breed, along with the risks of permanent injury (especially in light of recent evidence of the effect of cumulative head trauma contributing to long-term negative effects on the brain, something always expected but only recently measurable by scientists). However, certainly sanctioned bouts in a ring with a referee are preferable to senseless violence in the streets, if certain people were going to be fighting anyway it might as well be regulated and overseen for some amount of safety. There are also some benefits to the Martial Arts community for getting to see the best practitioners from separate disciplines face each other safely, under a reasonable rule set, to see how techniques compare.


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The importance of Kata in Judo

A typical discussion on the topic of Kata in Judo might go something like this:

Sensei: "People today don't appreciate Kata"
Student#1: "What the heck is a Kata?"
Sensei: "A routine of techniques and movements practiced as a tool for learning"
Student#1:  "Ohh, that stuff, like punching in the air and yelling ki-ai, well that's nice but Judo doesn't have Kata right?"
Student#2: (looks to Student#1 next to him)... "Pssst, I think it's a joke/test, he's trying to see if we confuse Judo with Karate or something?!"
Sensei: (slaps forehead)... "You both still have a lot to learn, now drop and give me 20 pushups."

The basic movements in a Kata can be used to assist in balance, strength & flexibility training in a manner relevant to most throwing techniques. Kata also assist in training spatial awareness, gripping, overall control, concentration, timing & that very important element of breathing.

“When properly performed, ju no kata gives a balanced exercise for the whole body. Constant use of this kata over an extended time period results in a harmoniously developed, flexible, and strong body, as well as giving the user the fundamental mechanics for sport and self defense Judo applications”
~ Donn F. Draeger.

“Kata is possibly the most misunderstood and sidestepped subject in nearly all judo circles”
~ Kenji Osugi


Kata can be a very important part of any judoka’s training.

The following is a set of links to the official Kodokan Kata:


Kosen Judo Ne Waza and the roots of BJJ

Sankaku Jime (aka. “Triangle Choke”) applied during a Kosen Judo tournament, 1920

&What is Kosen Judo?

Kosen Judo (高專柔道) is one of two main approaches to Judo training and competition (the other being Kodokan Judo) which are taught within Japan, the birthplace of that martial art and sport. Today, Kodokan Judo is by far the most dominant in terms of the number of clubs, instructors, students and competitions worldwide. While Kodokan Judo competition rules are recognized globally as the standard by the International Judo Federation (IJF) and are used for all Olympics and Worlds Judo competition, Kosen Judo is by contrast rarely heard of outside of Japan where it is still used during inter-University competitions (高專大会 kōsen taikai). Several organizations abroad such as the Freestyle Judo Alliance in North America, International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Foundation (IBJJF) in South America and the European Sambo Federation, have adopted similar competition rules based on a combination of the more permissive ground fighting Kosen Judo rule set, blended to some degree with the stricter Olympic/Kodokan Judo rule set (some being even more permissive to allow striking, others adhering closer to Judo principles of using only throws and holds). Unlike Sambo or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) though, Kosen Judo is neither a different Martial Arts “style” nor is it simply a set of competition rules; rather, it is a spirit of preservation of Judo and Jiu-Jitsu traditions within the modernized sport-focused Judo community. Kosen Judo arose with this aim during the Meiji Era (1868–1914).

Development of Kosen and Kodokan Judo

Kodokan Judo was established primarily to turn dangerous yet effective techniques designed for the battlefield from traditional Jiu-Jitsu (which Samurai trained in for hand-to-hand fighting) and make them safer and more appealing to the general public (and thus, a broader array of potential students). Jiu-Jitsu was at the time, quite unfortunately, fading into obscurity as a relic of the old Samurai culture that was quickly being left behind by the Japanese public who seemed to be in favour of industrialization and modernization (not to mention the fact that it was being rendered much less important for the government due to ballistic advancements in military technology). Kodokan founder, the honorable Jigoro Kano, knew from his early studies in human anatomy, physiology/kinetics and anthropology that people are competitive by nature; yet he also observed when learning under Osteopath and Jiu-Jitsu master Hachinosuke Fukuda that people do not like to get hurt and injuries in a sport/activity often lead to abandonment of that sport/activity or outright inactivity. This lead him to develop a set of rules for safe competition, as well as a new school called the Kodokan Institute in 1882.

Military Rifles and Jiu-Jitsu practice at an “Agricultural School” in early 1900s Japan

The departure from the traditional schools of thought on “fights to the death” and “survival (i.e. participation) of the fittest” which were so prevalent before the founding of the Kodokan, represents some key improvements Kano introduced. Like all new schools of thought though, there was initially stern condemnation of Kano’s approach and constant challenges from traditional Jiu-Jitsu masters within Japan. Despite this adversity, Kano’s own abilities, passion for teaching and unwavering dedication to his vision saw Judo rise in prominence across the country at the turn of the 20th century. It was becoming apparent that the only way many traditional Jiu-Jitsu techniques may survive would be to find a way to get included in the new “Kodokan curriculum” and “sport of Judo” being developed by Kano. As a result, followers of the old ways of Jiu-Jitsu had three choices: quit altogether, join him, or ignore him. A vast majority of those who chose to “ignore him” could at least agree that he had a brilliant idea to make Martial studies more appealing to the masses, and attempted to develop their own streams of sport Jiu-Jitsu (their own “Judo”, in essence).

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Official Judo rules

What are the official Judo rules?

This is a common question amongst students, and up until recently, the answer has been “I don’t know, it changes every other year!” (see: history of Judo rules)
Well the International Judo Federation (IJF) has finally agreed on competition rules for the next three years forward so we now know that at the very least, starting from January 1st, 2014 until December 31st, 2016 we will have the same set of rules for Judo competitions.

Here’s the abberviated (or “Coles Notes”) summary of the rules for quick reference, while the new full rules follow below:
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