Learn Effective Judo Strategies for Competition and Self-Defense From Olympic Medalist Mike Swain, Part 2

Action and Reaction

Many judoka have a favorite throw they’ll use whenever the opportunity presents itself. Contrary to what some instructors claim, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, Olympic judo bronze-medalist Mike Swain says. In fact, it can make all the moves in their judo arsenal more effective by intimidating their opponent. And since they’ve probably practiced the technique to perfection, it ought to serve as a devastating method of self-defense.

“If the person you’re facing fears your favorite throw, your other techniques like the backward throw and foot sweeps work better because your opponent reacts to you coming in for your favorite throw,” Swain says.

Sometimes your opponent will employ as a counter the same judo technique you’re using — which is often the case with the osoto gari, or outer-reaping throw. “What makes a throw work is the courage to attack with your entire body,” Mike Swain says. “You can’t just come in halfway because that’s when you get countered.”

Take It to the Street

Virtually any judo technique that works in competition will work on the street, Mike Swain says. In addition to the technical knowledge you have — and which your opponent probably doesn’t — you’ll have an advantage because you’re used to employing force against force in grappling range. Just as important, you’ll know how to fall without hurting yourself.

Mike Swain

If you determine there’s a need for it, you can always throw a punch or kick to set up a judo technique or to finish one. “In competition, you’d have to use the person’s uniform to pull him off-balance,” Swain says. “On the street, you can just strike him and he’ll be off-balance. Then you can follow through with your throw.”

Your follow-through can include just about any judo move you like with the exception of the hip throw, he says. That’s because in a street fight, the last thing you should do is turn your back to your opponent, even if it’s for an instant.

The most effective moves in such a post-strike situation are sweeps and rear-leg trips, he says. “When someone’s grabbing you and pushing you, he’ll usually have one leg forward. You can take that leg out with your foot, and it’ll happen so quickly that he can’t even see it.”

Extreme Techniques

As soon as your opponent falls, you should keep him down while you try to turn him over and control him or lock his arm, Mike Swain says. Alternatively, you can shoot for a choke. Usually executed from behind, judo chokes are so effective because they cut off the blood supply to the brain, causing the person to pass out in seconds.

judo choke

If you’d rather not mess with unconsciousness, you can go for a standing arm lock. Although it’s no longer permitted in judo competition, he says, it’s still a great self-defense tool that can hyperextend a limb and incapacitate an assailant.

The technique is executed as follows: When the aggressor punches, you grab the wrist of his attacking arm and pull it forward. Then you press your chest against his elbow and put all your weight on the joint, Swain says. At that point, he has two options: to hit the floor face-first or allow his arm to snap. Neither one will be pretty.

Read Part 1 of this story here!

Text by Sara Fogan and Robert W. Young. Mike Swain’s website is mikeswainjudo.com.

Bonus! The Best of Mike Swain

  • Best time to do a choke: When your opponent is distracted, such as during a transition.
  • Best way to prevent a choke: Keep your chin down.

Olympic judoka

  • Best way to keep your opponent from getting close enough to choke you: Position your hands by your throat so that when he reaches for your neck, you can grab his hands or sleeves.
  • Best way to escape from an armbar: Once it’s caught, there’s no way. When your arm is hyperextended, you can’t just pull it back.
  • Best way to stop an armbar: If you know he’s going for it, you can pull your arm in and grab your own jacket—or your arm or leg.
  • Best way to execute the triangle choke unexpectedly: When your opponent is on all fours. They do it from their back in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, whereas in judo, they apply it when the person’s on his hands and knees. It’s the same technique but applied in a different way.
  • Best way to maintain your upright posture: Keep your head above your hips. You always want to stand up straight. When you’re bent over, it’s easier for the person to throw you.
  • Best way to fight a bigger and stronger attacker: Turn around and run.
  • Second-best way to fight a bigger and stronger attacker: Polish your judo techniques and couple that knowledge with superior speed.

Own the Ultimate Judo Reference Guide!

From the pen of Hayward Nishioka comes Judo Training for Competition: Coaching, Strategy and the Science for Success. Published by Black Belt Books. Get your copy here.