With so many martial arts options available, it can be challenging to narrow it down to one choice of martial art. In my opinion, judo is an excellent choice of martial art for many people because it provides a host of physical and mental benefits alongside a grappling system that is formidable for self-defense.
Let’s discuss why judo might be the best martial art choice for you and what makes it unique amongst the sea of martial arts options available.
Why Judo Is the Best Martial Art
Judo is among the best martial arts for anyone looking for long-term physical and health benefits. You may be wondering how this is possible when Judo, which means “gentle way,” can offer any health-related benefits.
However, the main reason is that Judo training or competition requires its students to develop a wide range of physical and mental skills that in turn contribute to a healthier and happier lifestyle.
But, before we dive into the benefits, let’s take a look at what makes Judo unique and sets it apart from other martial arts.
What Makes Judo Unique?
Judo is unique because it’s both a combat sport and a martial art. It is physically intense while also having a traditional martial arts philosophy of self-development. Judo also has impressive movements and flash techniques which make it an appealing martial art to practice.
Additionally, Judo is open to all age groups and genders who appreciate the sport and want to become Judokas (students of Judo).
Therefore, you’ll find students ranging from young children all the way up to older retired adults on the judo mats.
Physical Benefits of Training Judo
Judo is a physically demanding sport compared to many martial arts or outside even traditional outside sports like soccer, basketball, and baseball. The closest martial art in terms of physical rigor is wrestling which is also a great choice of martial art.
It takes a lot of effort to throw a resisting human being. Judo is uniquely focused on building this capacity and it requires strength, mobility, flexibility, and cardiovascular conditioning to effectively do judo, and as a result, anyone who practices Judo regularly should expect to gain plenty of physical benefits and attributes.
1. Judo Increases Your Physical Fitness and Strength
Judo training involves the whole body since it activates almost every muscle. It’s one of the best martial arts you can leverage if you want to get in shape quickly and healthily while learning valuable grappling skills.
You’re almost always on your feet when you practice judo since the primary objective is to throw your opponent to the ground with power and explosive strength. The sport also involves a lot of gripping, pushing, pulling, and explosive movements which require you to use your entire body as a unit.
As a result, Judo significantly utilizes the following major muscle groups.
- Back muscles.
Over time, you can gain some muscle mass alongside plenty of strength. If your primary goal is to build muscles though you will need to get on a lifting or calisthenics program designed for that and balance it alongside your judo training.
Judo also helps with weight loss because a judo session burns lots of calories, due to the rigor of the sessions. Most people can’t help but lose some fat if they train regularly. Having some awareness of your nutrition and getting decent sleep can be all it takes for some individuals to experience signifcant body transformation.
2. Your Cardiovascular Health Improves With Judo
Judo promotes long-term cardiovascular health and can result in a significant lowering of your blood pressure.
According to research, Judo improves the cardiovascular health of male and female athletes within just a few weeks. Therefore, if you don’t like lifting weights, practicing aerobics, or running on the treadmill, Judo can be the only regular exercise you need to improve your heart health.
Additionally, because of its similarity to HIIT exercises, Judo training helps your body process oxygen more efficiently and improve overall health by getting all the oxygen needed for optimal muscle and brain function where it needs to go.
3. Judo Provides a Competitive Outlet
Judo is an excellent martial art to practice if you want to compete in a combat sport. Judo has a rich history dating of competition going back to the 1800s. The sport requires athletes to develop technical skills alongside developing their bodies in order to be competitive in judo tournaments.
Judo is also an exciting and engaging sport to practice due to its flashy and intense nature.
Additionally, judo competitions are widely available around the world and have divisions for both children and adults to compete in. In fact, for most adults, there aren’t too many options available to have a competitive athletic outlet later in life, and judo provides that.
4. You Learn Real Self-Defense Skills in Judo
Judo helps you build strong basic self-defense skills that you can use to deal with various unfavorable situations like overcoming an attacker or fending off a bully at school.
The best option is always to avoid physical confrontation, and judo students are taught self-control and to only use self-defense skills when absolutely required. Especially since some judo throws can be physically devastating if performed on untrained individuals or on hard floors.
Judo provides you with everything you need in martial arts to keep your feet under you as well as control and subdue an attacker without causing them any significant bodily injury. An experience judoka can establish control over an attacker by doing safer trips, gentler throws, and using powerful pins that can control an attacker while keeping everybody safe.
5. Judo Improves Mobility, Flexibility, and Balance
Judo training includes a variety of techniques like off-balancing (kuzushi), throwing (nage waza), and grappling (katame waza). Each other these types of techniques help you to improve mobility, flexibility, and balance over time.
These gains in mobility, flexibility, and balance result in a better overall athlete that will have reduced chances of getting injured as well as better overall posture and body structure in various positions. Therefore, regular Judo training can build better athletes and have a strong health impact that can show up in other areas of your life.
6. Judo Teaches Fall Prevention
Of the most unique aspects of judo is the emphasis on learning how to safely fall to the ground without sustaining significant injuries. Judo is based upon throwing and has become increasingly focused on the throwing aspects of the martial art over time through rule changes that encourage action and excitement as a spectator sport.
This results in judokas needing to develop excellent falling ability and judo is incredibly effective in teaching both how to stay on your feet as well as how to fall gracefully.
In fact, it is so effective that judo is used as the foundation of programs preventing fall-related deaths in older people. This is a slept-on benefit for many people, it is incredibly impactful in safety in day-to-day life.
I’ve personally had judo-style break falls prevent me from taking significant damage in some relatively high-velocity trips and falls.
Mental Benefits of Training Judo
Judo training is beneficial not only to the physical body but also to mental and emotional well-being. According to a 1992 study, Judo can be an educational and therapeutic tool for disabled children.
Let’s get into some of the mental benefits of training in judo.
7. Judo Boosts Self-Esteem and Confidence Levels
Judo training can significantly boost self-esteem and confidence, whether for an adult or a child. This can show up in adults as confidence that they have options to protect themselves against attacks or as a child being able to prevent bullying at school.
In many ways, the self-esteem and confidence levels gained from judo come because students are committing to long-term training and goals, and participating in something difficult and working towards mastery is fundamentally good for self-esteem and confidence levels.
For students that have trouble with socialization, judo offers an outlet to develop their social skills. In modern times people are increasingly isolated and having a group of like-minded people like those sharing the judo mats can help bring balance to many students.
Also, on a more obvious note, if you lose weight and gain strength, which is rather common, that often gives boosts to self-esteem and confidence.
8. Judo Helps Reduce Stress
Any exercise, including judo, helps your body reduce stress levels by releasing endorphins, responsible for instilling mental peace and calmness. Endorphins also improve your mood, allowing you to maintain a positive outlook on life despite the challenges.
So it isn’t that hard to make an intuitive leap that getting started and committing to judo can really help reduce stress and provide some serious mental benefits over the long haul. I personally find that participating in judo and other martial arts is an amazing form of moving meditation and has a strong positive effect on my overall stress levels.
9. Judo Improves Your Memory and Mental Capabilities
According to a Harvard health study, regular exercise boosts learning skills and memory by causing physical changes in the brain. According to the New York Times, different types of exercise increase memory and mental clarity in different ways. Judo combines steady exercise with HIIT-style exercise in training, so it isn’t hard to conclude that your mental faculties get boosted in multiple ways.
Judo techniques require a lot of attention to detail alongside repetitions to perfect and execute techniques. As a result, the mental muscles for maintaining focus and concentration demanded by judo training provide your brain with strong stimuli, enhancing your overall mental capabilities.
10. Judo Develops Perseverance and Determination
Judo is one of the most physically demanding sports since it entails throwing another resisting human being to the ground. Anybody who has tried to take somebody down who is fully resisting can attest to how hard that is, and that’s even without people being trained.
As a result, you can count on judo training to test and build your perseverance skills and overall determination. Doing something as physically demanding as judo which also happens to be highly skill-oriented just requires a huge amount of commitment, which will build up your ability to persevere.
11. Judo Teaches Self-Discipline and Strong Work Ethic
Many martial arts tout the self-discipline and work ethic benefits that you might receive from practicing them, but judo really makes its students walk the walk due to its physical rigor and technical complexity.
When training in judo, you will build a good work ethic and stronger self-discipline simply because it is a tough sport and you are doing it. The more that judo is practiced, the greater the level of ability to maintain discipline and work hard becomes.
Judokas can translate this self-discipline and work ethic to many aspects of their life, after all, how much do tasks really stack up when compared to bouncing back from a rigorous judo session or a tough loss at a judo tournament?
Is Judo Effective in a Real Fight or Self-Defense Situation?
Judo advocates for a gentle approach when resolving most situations. Avoiding fights and threatening situations is always the best approach for self-defense. However, skilled judo athletes have a strong arsenal of skills in cases where altercations cannot be avoided.
Judo students are adept at controlling space and determining whether or not fights end up on the ground. They also have brutal pinning techniques and submission grappling techniques that happen on the ground. Skilled judokas can gently control fights against opponents or end them quickly.
As a result, judo allows its practitioners to gain control of these dangerous situations and allows students agency in decision-making if they are not able to make an exit from a fighting or self-defense situation.
Judo is a brutally effective martial art that happens to have a strong traditional martial arts self-development sensibility. This combination provides amazing and unique opportunities for self-development that just go beyond what you can expect in many other combat sports and martial arts.
I personally find it so effective and appealing that it is my first choice of martial art that I prioritize training for my child.
For more check out Do You Need to Be Fit to Start Judo?