Judo was the first martial art I have ever practiced and, even after many years, I have good memories of the experience and I can still use good part of what I have learnt at the time.
Judo is essentially a martial art based on throwing techniques: the intent, when two people start fighting, is to drop somehow the opponent and then follow up with grappling. Grappling means wrestling on the floor using various techniques to immobilize the opponent (keeping both shoulders on the floor for at least 10 seconds), to strangle her or to apply joint locks, specifically elbows: once one of the fighters is caught in one of these situations she will have to give up by tapping with one hand the floor or the opponent body to avoid real damage.
Judo is a Japanese martial art that was defined by Jigoro Kano in the late 19th century as a fair, sport orientated, derivative of Ju Jitsu. Most ancient martial arts were invented and practiced for situations when loosing a fight meant being seriously injured or killed. Ju Jitsu is a martial art with over 500 years of history that was taught to samurais, useful to fight bare handed in a broad range of situations with the intent of surviving life threatening attacks. Many applications of Ju Jitsu are meant to seriously arm or kill the opponent and this obviously doesn’t apply very well in a competitive sport. Judo was the first martial art to be an Olympic sport and it gained at some point great popularity in the US and Europe as long as it was one of the few martial arts broadly available.
What I like about Judo
Judo teaches and greatly improves awareness about balance and how to cause an opponent to loose it: it works well if and when an attacker grabs you by the lapel or any part of your clothing. It is also ideal when somebody pushes you aggressively: with a simple movement or a little sweeping technique you can simple drop the attacker on the floor and, if she has no experience in martial arts, she won’t know how it happened. In a typical Japanese fashion Judo classes are highly structured, instilling good discipline and great respect for the opponent. Although much of its training is very physical it is reasonably safe and a great work out of for most parts of the body. Given the relatively gentle approach that can be applied to its teaching, Judo can be taught to young children both male and female: it could be a great starting point for children interested in martial art and for parents that support the idea.
What I don’t like about Judo
I find Judo inadequate for self defence purposes because of its basic structure. Although its aim is to redirect the opponent’s force and use it to your advantage I found it not as applicable as it sounds. I met many people, with senior ranks in Judo, that had the opportunity of testing this on their on skin, with dear consequences. It is known that Judo’s curriculum includes, for top ranked practitioners, strikes similar to the ones used by Karate or other striking styles. Nonetheless I never encountered or heard of anybody practicing these techniques. That means that all training relies on the opponent grabbing you with the intention of applying a Judo technique. This is pretty much useless if somebody, as it can happen in many cases in the street, attacks you with a strike of some kind, either a punch or a kick. The other bad habit instilled by Judo is relying on an opponent wearing a Gi (typical jacket and trousers made out of thick cotton fabric) that has broad and strong sleeves and a belt: if you face an opponent wearing t-shirt and shorts you’ll find that good part of the common techniques of this style do not work because you cannot grab your opponent in a way that allows you to apply the technique itself. Although in terms of safety Judo training is reasonably safe I know of many joint and shoulder injuries caused by excessively zealous joint locks or wrong fall breaks.
I am convinced that some of the basics of Judo are very useful concepts to be aware of: at the same I would not rely on this martial art for self defence because of its intrinsic limitations. I therefore would not suggest considering Judo as a unique martial art to be learnt.
In any case I firmly believe that a decent or good knowledge of two or three martial arts is fundamental to have a reasonable understanding of how the same thing can be done differently.