aikido vs. judo article from last year that I figured I'd try my hand at doing a comparison between karate and judo. This is not a 'who would win' article but rather a pros and cons article from my point of view having studied both arts for some years. Who am I, anyway, to disabuse a bunch of poor karate guys of their fantasies about beating up judo guys ;-).
It's hard to guess whether striking or grappling is the phylogenetically older form of combat. In America, both judo and karate were, for a while, generic terms for unarmed combat methods. Judo's heyday was in the 50's and 60's and karate's heyday was in the 70's and 80's. In any case, both striking and grappling are extremely popular forms of combat as well as being ethnic cultural expressions.
Aspects that are considered pros in one art may rightly be considered cons in another. Also, nothing really keeps karate guys from learning some of the stuff in the judo domain and vice versa, so the following generalities might not apply to any particular, specific style or school - especially not yours, Dan ;-). But on the other hand, The following pros and cons of karate can in some cases be applied to similar striking styles, like taekwando or tangsooodo or some forms of kungfu.
Both karate and judo are great fun, great physical education, and great exercise. Both are applicable as sport, art, or self-defense. Both are somewhat oriented toward the single-opponent duel type of conflict and both can be disadvantaged by multiple opponents. Karate is probably better at the multiple opponent conflicts than is judo.
- Ukemi (learning to fall safely) is emphasized from the beginning. Ukemi ends up being the most practical self defense skill that there is because you will fall down many more times in your life than you will be attacked.
- Partners - Everything in judo is practiced with a partner, providing better feedback than solo practice. I have often wished that judo had some solo forms so that I could practice without a partner, but overall the fact that everything you do in judo is done with/against a real person instead of an inagined attacker is advantageous.
- The randori (sparring) system in judo allows a limited set of "safe" techniques to be used full force and full speed against fully resistant opponents. This creates a very practical, testable martial art - if it doesn't put the other guy on the ground, it simply doesn't work. If you can reliably put your opponent on the ground then you can have some confidence in the validity of the art.
- Standardization - Judo has an amazing degree of consistency/standardization throughout the world. What you practice in southwest Mississippi is about the same thing you would practice in Japan.
- Cross-over - Judo guys share part of their niche with amateur wrestling, jiujitsu, and even gymnastics so judoka can benefit from studying how these other guys approach movement and grappling.
- Competition rules - Because of the nature of judo randori, there have to be rules against strikes - the rules prevent even touching the face. Judo guys can become conditioned to this, learning to leave their head and face dangerously open during grappling.
- Grappling problems? - Judoka may become too conditioned with the strategy of taking one opponent to the ground even at times when it would be better to remain in a standing, free-movement phase of combat (e.g. multiple opponents, vs. weapons, etc...)
- Uniform - Unless your club does a decent amount of no-gi randori, you can become dependent on the uniform jacket for grip and leverage. There are great stories of teachers evening the playing field between white and brown belts by making everyone grapple without jackets.
- Solo practice methods (kihon, kata) allow you to practice without a partner, thus allowing karateka to potentially get much more practice time than do judoka.
- Strikers' effective and devastating atemiwaza (striking techniques) can shut down a fight instantly. For that matter, so can a judo throw, but the judo techniques can tend to overcommit the judoka more than the karateka's atemiwaza do.
- Karate is vastly more popular in the USA than is judo, so you are more likely to find good quality karate instruction most anywhere you look. You might be hard pressed to find a good judo school except in a city or larger town.
- Karate can be practiced in any environment and requires less special equipment (i.e. mats) than judo. This makes karate clubs cheaper and easier to operate than judo clubs.
- Cross-over - Karate shares its niche with boxing, and karateka can benefit from studying up on boxing's conservative, practical footwork and striking techniques.
- Sparring rules - In sparring, you have to pull your punches and kicks to avoid injury. This helps karateka develop great control of their limbs, but this type of sparring can become a game of tappy touches. If you subscribe to the idea that in a fight we behave the way we train, then this can reduce the karateka's potential combat effectiveness.
- One punch one kill!? - Realistically, most people can take one punch from most opponents – especially under imperfect conditions (and no, I'm not willing to test that assertion). If the 'one punch one kill' karate theory fails, then you are likely to be outside of karate's domain of practice and into the realm of judo (ie. clinched or grounded).
- Solo kata - Because of the solo nature of karate kata, unless you get a good bit of bunkai (kata application practice with partners) or at least one-step engagements (ippon kumite), the karate kata can allow practitioners to develop fantasies about what they are learning.
- Fragmentation - There is a great deal of fragmentation in the art, creating a lot of diversity between dojos. This can be a good thing if you are able to crosstrain and take the best that multiple karate instructors have to offer, but on the other hand, if you move, it may be hard to find someone doing something similar to what you learned.
- Lack of groundwork - The Gracies demonstrated dramatically that karateka are as helpless as anyone else when they are laying on the ground. There has been a lot of cross-germination of groundwork ideas since then, but still, ground fighting is nowhere near a specialty in karate.
Want to know more about my thoughts on karate-do? Check out this thread of karate blog posts!
photo courtesy of Ambienttraffic____________
Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 601.248.7282 木蓮
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