Attacking Judo vs. Defensive Judo - Which is Better?


My original Sensei, George Hamm, came to both my Junior High School, and our rival Junior High School in the area, and performed Judo demonstrations. Although I’d been interested in Judo before this point, this was my introduction to the Hueneme High School Judo Club - where I trained from white belt to Ikkyu.

We had rather intense competition between the students that came from Blackstock Junior HS. versus the students that came from E.O. Green Junior HS. At the very top, it very quickly evolved into a competition between just two people, me and Jim Robertson. We went neck and neck in each of the club shiai, first I’d win one, and then he’d win one.

But this is just the background… for Jim was the perfect defensive Judoka, and all I ever did was attack. There were times that I just hated to begin a throw on Jim - as I just knew I was going to get countered and slammed hard to the mat. I’ll have to credit Jim with my waza - since I had to learn how to attack without being countered. To this day, you’re not going to counter my Ouchigari - Jim taught me too well! (hint - the trick is putting your head on the opposite side of uke’s body to the leg you’re attacking)

But Jim always had to wait to see what his opponent offered him. Since he virtually never initiated an attack - he needed to wait and hope that he could counter what his opponent did. And he did it well - he placed in the High School Nationals with his defensive Judo skills.

Meanwhile, I played the attacking game, and was always on the offensive - always at least feinting with De Ashi Barai, and looking for the openings. I used a wider variety of Judo than Jim did - his main specialty was Ura nage or Tani Otoshi. I’m convinced that my style of Judo was better in the long run, although it’s hard to tell at this stage - Jim stopped practicing Judo not too long after reaching Shodan.

But the concept behind either attacking or defensive Judo can be revealing… a defensive player is determined not to lose, while an attacking player wants to win. And sometimes, it’s differences as small as this - the idea behind the decisions of what Judo skills to emphasize - that can make tremendous differences in ultimate skill. When you look at International and Olympic Judoka, can you think of anyone that can be considered a ‘defensive’ player?

It’s this fundamental difference in the concept behind Attacking Judo vs Defensive (or ‘Counterplay’) Judo that makes all the difference in the world.  For your attitude about Judo will move into the rest of your character and the way you treat life… and rather than reacting to what happens, it’s my opinion that it’s better to make things happen.

And while it’s certainly important to learn how to react to your opponent’s attacks, it’s more important to learn how to force the play.  That’s my opinion, anyway!