Do Judo Throws Hurt? How To Prevent Getting Hurt From A Judo Throw

Do Judo Throws Hurt?

Judo combines many different fighting techniques (rolls, chokes, etc.), but it focuses mainly on throws: throwing (nage-waza) and groundwork (ne-waza). Judo students will spend many hours training both the standing (tachi-waza) and sacrifice techniques (sutemi-waza) to master the martial art. That raises the question: do Judo throws hurt? 

Judo throws can hurt, but they don’t have to during training. Typically, Judo students will train on tatami mats designed to absorb impact from Judo throws and falls. Beginners usually train Judo throws only under their coaches’ strict supervision to prevent or minimize injuries. Learning how to fall is the best thing you can do to avoid getting hurt with a judo throw. 

The rest of this article will explore the fundamental throwing techniques in Judo, the potential injuries they can cause, and tips on how to stay safe during training.

How Badly Do Judo Throws Hurt?

Judo throws can hurt, but you can lessen the pain from falls if you’re careful. When you first pick up Judo, your Sensei will demonstrate essential Judo basics to you and practice them with you step-by-step. You’ll also train on a tatami, a mat used as flooring in traditional Japanese-style indoor settings. 

You can also find tatami mats at the Judo competition arenas. Bear in mind that injuries can still occur, but tatami mats can help absorb the impact from falls and throws. 

It’s always every instructor’s top priority to help students improve their break falls to avoid falling on their clavicle (collarbone) or on their palms, which can lead to severe injuries. Learning how to break fall can minimize the likely hood of getting hurt when getting thrown in judo. 

Judo throws can be emotionally painful, too, especially for beginners. That’s because getting thrown and finding yourself on the ground can be demoralizing. However, as you progress in Judo, you’ll learn that accepting Judo throws can sometimes be good for preventing specific injuries. 

How Dangerous Is Judo?

Like any other sport, Judo comes with risks and can be dangerous even on the mat, but don’t let this deter you from embracing the martial art. While injuries are common, Judo schools can take precautions such as:

  • Ensuring students spend many hours on the mat
  • Giving students more one-to-one training with their instructors/Sensei
  • Having well-trained instructors to reduce dramatic falls, especially among newbies

Unlike boxing and Muay Thai, Judo focuses more on throws, so injuries to the face are not as common. However, Judo throws can cause wounds and bleed — even serious ones — leading to nausea or occasional fainting. During the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, most of the injuries in Judo involved the knees, shoulders, and fingers.

Head injuries aren’t uncommon in Judo either. Neurosurgeons in Japan found that out of the 122 head injuries reported, 20 patients injured their heads during Judo. Falling during judo throws is inevitable, but students can lower their risks by training at a creditable dojo with highly qualified teachers.

I go into this subject in more detail in my article: Is Judo Dangerous? That said like any sport judo does have risks. 

Learn How To Throw Your Opponent Without Hurting Them 

Judo techniques are divided into several categories: throwing techniques, sacrifice techniques, grappling, choking, and more. There are 67 Kodokan Judo throws in all.

Judo throws are categorized into three throwing techniques (nage-waza):

  • Hand throwing (Te-Waza)
  • Hip throwing (Koshi-Waza)
  • Foot throwing (Ashi-Waza)

All these techniques can potentially cause injuries. However, proper training and strict supervision can reduce the risks of injuries, especially severe ones. According to a survey done by the All Japan Judo Federation, the Osoto-gari or Ouchi-gari throw techniques are responsible for most head injuries.

Of course, this might also have to do with the fact that they are very common throws. So naturally, people are going to get hurt more often from judo throws that are performed more often than others. 

Shoulder/Back Throw

Seoi Nage (shoulder/back throw) is one of the commonly used hand throws. With the Seoi Nage technique, you pull your opponent in a straight-forward motion and pick them up on your back before throwing them over your shoulder. 

The video below by Efficient Judo demonstrates how the Seoi Nage technique is done:

Hip Throw

When it comes to hip throws, O Goshi (major hip throw) is pretty popular. With the O Goshi move, you grab your opponent’s gi sleeves using one hand and the other hand gripping your opponent’s back or belt. 

If you’re dealing with a bigger opponent, you should have your shoulder deep under their armpit, as demonstrated by the video below:

Foot Throw

For foot throws, one of the most popular techniques is Ashi Guruma (leg wheel). Ashi Guruma is similar to Osoto Gari (big outer reaping). But instead of trapping an opponent’s leading leg and throwing them directly to their rear, the attacker traps their opponent’s trailing leg to twist their torso. 

Their opponent will fall from the attacker’s tripping leg, as seen in the video below:

Back Pain from Judo Throws 

When facing an opponent, accepting throws can sometimes do you less harm. However, Judo throws can hurt you if you don’t have an excellent falling technique. When falling, you must maintain safe weight distribution throughout your body to prevent excessive back pressure.

Ensuring that your weight is distributed appropriately throughout your body can reduce the risk of injuring your back. It would be best if you weren’t tense when falling because this, too, can increase back pain risk. You must be comfortable with falling to help you manage the pain from your fall.

Learning how to break fall is probably the first thing your Sensei should show you other than how to tie your belt. 

How To Avoid Getting Hurt From Judo Throws 

Compared to some other forms of full-contact martial arts — Judo is often considered less dangerous. That doesn’t mean you should ever take safety measures for granted. In addition, following these guidelines will certainly not ensure that you will not get hurt. 

As discussed earlier, Judo can cause injuries, usually of the knee, finger, and shoulder. Injuries can take several months to recover from completely. 

Schools need to take every measure to keep students as safe as possible during training. Every dojo should have first-aid kits in case accidents happen. And instructors should know about a student’s chronic illness, if any, to ensure that the student is fit enough for the sport.

Here are some tips for staying safe during Judo training and competitions:

  • Choose a reputable dojo. Look around for schools that best suit your goals and budget, but make sure they have certified teachers, too. You might want to consider schools that often compete in Judo tournaments.
  • Train on tatamis with shock absorbers. Schools aren’t required to have tatamis with shock absorbers, but it’ll help if you choose a dojo that offers them to lower the impacts of your falls. It’s also essential that tatamis don’t easily move around.
  • Don’t push yourself too hard. In Japan, 118 students died from Judo, and over 300 students have become disabled from the sport in the last 30 years. These unfortunate events occurred when instructors excessively pushed their students who were already suffering from injuries. Avoid tough training if you’re injured.
  • Choose a suitable training partner. To prevent injuries, beginner students should always train with other students of similar weight and height. You can always practice with a bigger partner next time once you are more experienced.
  • Taping. Judo students can use elastic taping for better ankle support. Ankle taping won’t affect performance; instead, it’ll help to prevent injuries during judo training or competition.  
  • Practice your falls. Avoid getting thrown until you learn to fall without feeling pain each time. Once you’ve improved your falls, you can proceed to practice with higher-level students trained to fight you without hurting you.
  • Always warm-up before training. Don’t forget to stretch before and after each training session to minimize soreness. Since yoga is excellent for improving one’s flexibility, it’s wise to incorporate it into your Judo training. Working on your mobility can also help prevent injuries in judo. I go into better detail on this in my article: Is Judo Hard On The Body

Final Thoughts

Judo throws can hurt, but they don’t have to, at least during training sessions. With proper training by certified and ethical instructors, students can practice Judo safely. 

Judo throws include three techniques:

  • Hand throwing 
  • Hip throwing 
  • Foot throwing

Since these throw techniques can potentially cause injuries, it’s essential that Judo beginners only train under the supervision of their coaches. 

Dojos must also ensure that their training centers are safe for all students. Warming up before and after training will help minimize soreness.

Joshua Paul

Joshua Paul is a BJJ purple belt who lives in Austin, Texas. Joshua loves all forms of grappling and when he is off the mats he is likely spending time with his wife and son.

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