Do You Need to Be Fit to Start Judo?

When it comes to starting martial arts like Judo people use all kinds of rationale to put it off, one of the more common ones cited is a lack of fitness or being too overweight to start training Judo. This led me to investigate whether or not Judo requires a certain level of fitness when beginning training.

You do not need to be fit to start Judo training. Judo classes are intense but structured to allow beginners to progress. You can get in shape by starting Judo training and using it to build up your physical fitness and lose weight.

Now that we know that having physical fitness is not a prerequisite for starting Judo classes, let’s go over some other common concerns that come up when you are thinking about starting Judo.

Do You Need to Be Fit to Start Judo?

Being fit is not immediately required to start Judo. Judo is one of the more strenuous martial arts and sparring can be a very exhausting experience. However, every student struggles as a beginner regardless of whether or not they are already fit.

Regularly attending Judo lessons will give you all the cardiovascular and muscular endurance conditioning that you need in order to go from out of shape to fit.

Am I Too Old to Start Judo?

Judo can be started at any age. While it is a physically demanding martial art that is harder on your body due to the amount of falling, there are many older Judokas that train. Extra focus on break falls also known as Ukeme is one of the most important judo techniques for beginners.

If you are an older individual, taking classes at a school that is less competitive may be helpful. Judo programs that have women and children in the class are often indicators of a Judo school that would be ideal for an older beginner.

Do You Need to Be Strong for Judo?

Being strong is helpful for Judo, but not required. A good Judoka will use speed, momentum, balance, and technique alongside their strength to execute Judo movements and throws. Being strong can help to create a good situation for execution, but focusing on technique can be enough.

Aspiring Judo players do not need to have their level of strength be a deterring factor to getting started in training Judo. Most martial artists can benefit a lot from a basic strength program rooted in some simple but high-quality calisthenics or lifting, but it isn’t required.

Do You Need to Be Flexible for Judo?

Flexibility is an asset for Judo, but it isn’t required to become a competent Judoka. If you get started in Judo you will slowly build up your flexibility due to adapting to the typical Judo class structure. Flexibility and mobility do help in technique execution and injury prevention.

British Judo goes over how a good range of movement without control is its own risk factor. So having flexibility and mobility without control won’t be enough. Focusing on controlled movement is far more important than training flexibility on its own.

How Hard is Judo to Learn?

Judo is a fairly complex and intense martial art that has a steeper learning curve than most but has a high payoff. Judokas will learn to combine technical skills, timing, balance, and coordination to perfect even basic techniques.

A beginning Judo player that focuses on fundamentals can succeed in Judo regardless of what fitness level or weight they are.

What to Expect in Your First Judo Class

Judo classes can vary somewhat based on individual Judo school curriculums but usually share a fundamental structure. If you are a beginner talk to the owner of the school to get an idea of what to expect for your first class and what you will need to do before attending.

A typical Judo class like that at Imperial Judo includes the following class sections:

  1. The Warm-Up: flexibility drills alongside calisthenics or gymnastics movements are common in the warm-up section to ensure that muscles are warm and ready for class.
  2. Ukemi (Breakfalls): ukemi are the secret sauce techniques of Judo that teach you how to fall safely and are important enough to get their own section as a natural extension of the warm-up before anybody gets thrown.
  3. Judo Techniques: most sessions will focus on a throw or a throwing sequence and ground-based submission techniques. Partners will spend time drilling the skills after the instructor demonstrates them.
  4. Randori: this section is where live-training practice happens. Students will spar with a medium intensity to work on their skills.
  5. Cool-Down: basic stretching and slower-paced technique work can happen right at the end of class.

What to Wear to Your First Judo Class

Speak to the school in order to get an idea of what clothing and equipment to bring to your first class. Typically you will only be expected to bring yourself and wear gym clothes. If you have workout clothing that does not have pockets that is better since then nothing can get caught in pockets.

If you want to know more about what you would wear to Judo after committing to learning it and how to properly care for the uniform check out my post How To Care for Your Judo Gi.

Final Thoughts

Judo is a high-reward martial art and one that I enjoy practicing whenever I get the chance. I started doing Judo lessons while I had relatively poor fitness and still practice it while relatively overweight. I think that focusing on Ukemi is a great idea if you are looking to get started yourself.

Starting out in Judo while being out of shape is achievable, and you will quickly change your fitness levels if you keep practicing.

For more check out 11 Reasons Why Judo Is the Best Martial Art


Hi, I'm Andre and I am the author of this website. I currently train primarily in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu but supplement with other grappling martial arts as well as help to coach my kid's blended grappling program.

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