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Judo Blog: Judo vs. MMA: Things to Know Before Choosing One

Klaus Müller

Klaus Müller recently wrote this essay which I wanted to share this week.

At the very mention of the acronym for 'Mixed Martial Arts' today, many a mind will probably jump straight to the Style Bender Israel Adesanya, Joe Rogan's podcast, the newest Conor McGregor controversy, or the latest UFC odds for the next event.

The UFC, which stands for the 'Ultimate Fighting Championship,' has seen incredible growth in the past decade and has become one of the fastest-growing spectator sports of the 21st century. In Judo have our own Tour, the IJF World Judo Tour in various places around the globe where athletes can also win prize money. Not just the winners, but all 56 medalists will take prize money. Maybe incomparable to the commercial sport of UFC, but the sport is familiar for the discipline and values such as honor and respect.

When looking at the disciplines of judo and MMA, there is definitely respect, but in advance that is not always visible. There are many things to consider about the two forms of combat, as well as many differences between them. While judo can be seen as a more calm and 'intellectual' way of fighting, MMA is often decried as a brutal blood sport with no safety, which has led to the implementation of new rules and safety regulations within the UFC. Before we start a comparison of Judo vs MMA, let us understand the basics.

What Is MMA?

Dating back as far as Ancient Greece, the combat sport known as MMA is a variation, or a hybrid, of many different techniques from the worlds of boxing, wrestling, karate, and even judo, among others. It's called mixed martial arts for a reason; because it's precisely that. A different mix of various martial art forms has been combined into one discipline. The sport generally consists of a standing element where fighters will look to kick and strike their opponents and a grappling element on the ground where forcing an opponent into submission is the goal. It also draws on some of the striking and wrestling techniques of Muay Thai, as well as the grappling techniques of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

After the first UFC event held in North America in 1993, the no-holds-barred style of fighting garnered negative attention from the public and politicians alike, who blasted the sport for being too brutal, with one politician even referring to it as ‘human cockfighting.’ This forced new management of the growing event to change the rules and add safety measures to the combat, which proved to be a valuable move for MMA in general. The sport gradually grew from the mid-2000s, with superstars like Chuck ‘the Iceman’ Liddell and Randy ‘the Natural’ Couture increasing the events’ popularity and viewership across the United States.

The UFC and MMA, as a whole, have continued to benefit from larger-than-life fighters who have taken to the Octagon and wowed fans and critics alike with their strength and ability. There’s been a new resurgence for MMA for a new generation of fans over the past decade, with fighters like Conor McGregor, Ronda Rousey, and Israel Adesanya attracting large audiences and increasing UFC’s profile at the same time.

What Is Judo?

The discipline of judo began as just that, a discipline. Created in the late 1800s out of the ancient Japanese samurai's jiu-jitsu practices, judo was initially designed as a type of physical education, teaching students how to fall safely and practice mental strength. As the practice of judo became more popular, the focus on the discipline as a sport rather than a way of life began to increase, particularly in the West. The progression to full-on competition was complete when it was officially made an Olympic sport in 1964.

Nowadays Judo is at least an Olympic sport and the team event has an added value since the last Olympics in Tokyo. Judo is in group 3 of the IOC which means better income from TV revenues for the international federation, so they can build out judo. You see that there is a development that ne-waza judo is going deeper now, it's more appreciated and used as a tactics to win the bout, perhaps inspired by the various grappling sports gaining popularity.

Which One Should You Choose?

The answer is largely relative and dependent on what your aim is. While both provide fantastic workouts for the body, these workouts are vastly different in their outworking. Judo will have you on the floor almost every session after getting thrown over someone's shoulder. At the same time, MMA is sure to leave you absolutely exhausted (and possibly bruised) from the high-intensity workload it offers. If you're looking at increasing your core strength and learning a little self-defense in the process, judo outweighs MMA in that regard. There's no striking involved; however, the precision and total body awareness required for judo have proven largely beneficial for all types of people, from young children to older women.

If you’re looking to develop physical and mental toughness, and improve your striking and kicking ability beyond that of a mindless brawler, then MMA is your sport. You’ll also likely learn how to take various strikes to the face, body, and legs in the process. That can be handy! It’s also largely entertaining to watch UFC and actually understand what’s going on.

In Conclusion

As stated above, the best way to go about choosing a combat sport like judo or MMA is to figure out what your end goal is, and go with the one that best serves that goal. Judoka have the skills to adjust quickly to any new fighting sport and seemed to be successful. They have the stamina to come out of judo and experience other combat sports and adjust easily to the level as their condition is so all-round and they are physically ready for any other challenge.

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