As a judoka, I've the bad habit of turning my back when ever I get in trouble in groundwork.

In competition judo, you only get points for throwing your opponent, and landing stomach down doesn't score anything.

Groundwork on judo only last for a typical of 10 to 15 seconds, if there's no progress. On the ground, you get points only for pins, or submissions. (Armbars, chokes, no leglocks)

Because I rather stay standing, if I get forced to work on the ground, and I'm the one in trouble, I just defend against chokes and armbars flat on my stomach, without the possibility to see what's coming at me and fully exposing my back.

It's very common in judo, if you're not a ground type fighter, you just have to survive for 15 seconds and you get back up.

However, my groundwork has developed a huge amount of what it used to be (still no match against a BJJ practicioner, of course), and I'd like to learn how not to turn my back, and instead try to get advantage of the situation.

Could anyone suggest me on how to get rid of this habit?

3 Answers 3


You've taken the first step in doing so - acknowledging that you're doing it.

Now, where do you go from there? That largely depends on the situation, but here's a few things that might help to get you started.

Learn to roll.

You've been put in an arm bar, or you've been thrown, or basically any other situation that if it follows through to its natural end, you'll either end up with broken bones/joints (or you tap out or whatever in a competition scenario), or you're on the ground. Guess what? Most of those moves, you can roll out of them if you know how. Rolling is actually a counter to a lot of holds, locks, and bars.

So, this does two things for you - gets you out of the hairy position you've gotten yourself into, and (hopefully) gets you back on your feet. Even if it doesn't get you back on your feet (yet), it gets you off your stomach.

Learn how to get off the ground.

This sounds obvious, but it can be harder than you think. This isn't just about standing back up, it's about getting up as quick and efficiently as humanly possible, hopefully before your opponent gets you pinned.

Learn to get out of a pin.

The details of this depend largely on the nature of typical pins in Judo. I'm not familiar with Judo, but I am with BJJ and "street" fights. In many cases in those environments, at least at one point or another, you're pinned because you're opponent is sitting on top of you, somewhere on your torso. Start with that, and learn how to get out of it, regardless of whether you get off the ground or not.

From there, advance into more advanced pins, including the ones you'd face in a Judo match. Don't forget, too, your escape methods that you might use while standing. The details might be different, but there's actually a lot of crossover between standing and ground techniques.

Learn how to reverse a pin without standing back up.

This is a powerful thing to know. It's pretty self-explanatory, and the details will depend on what's legal in a given environment.

Practice more ground fighting.

In the end, though, you're not going to be able to get better at ground fighting, even enough to get off the ground, unless you practice it more. See if your Judo class/teammates will do some groundwork-specific sparring. Same rules apply, except you have to start and stay on the ground. This forces you to do more ground fighting, and forces you to use tactics you wouldn't normally use.

  • I've learnt how to get away from jujigatame, but chokes are the ones I simply can't defend. For example, triangle choke or bow & arrow. In these cases, it's only a matter of luck if I can get away.
    – user1221
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 6:18
  • 1
    When a choke is performed correctly, it's pretty much impossible to get out of it with anything other than pure strength. Best way to defend against them is to put your chin on your throat.
    – MilanSxD
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 8:57
  • @MilanSxD I know, but in most of my cases, it's not perfect, and possibly to get out, if I knew how to do that.
    – user1221
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 9:07
  • If it's not perfect you can try slipping your hands through his arms, or the parts he's using to strangle you. From there on out you can widen your elbows and use your own arms like a crowbar to loosen his grip.
    – MilanSxD
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 9:11
  • 2
    Chokes are hard, but you need to start countering them before they are fully applied. And beware of strong opponents. They will do serious damage to your jaw if you drop your chin into your throat as your only defense. Rather practice on feeling the choke coming and start counter before you are locked up.
    – AquaAlex
    Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 13:50

The general goal of not turning belly-down in judo competition is not enough. You need to develop specific, actionable goals to work on in newaza randori (and even, perhaps, with proper etiquette, to set up in tachiwaza randori) and to try out in shiai.

Judo groundwork, in my view, is composed of several broad strokes:

  1. Rapidly applied chokes, which generally start from a specific, drilled position that you'll find yourself in after a failed throw by you or your opponent
  2. Scrambling and specific rolls (e.g. the Peterson or Granby)
  3. Landing on top from a non-ippon throw and fighting for a scoring position
  4. Rapidly applied armbars, which may start from a specific position or found opportunistically

Numbers 2 and 4 are particularly difficult skills to develop quickly. For those you just need copious groundwork time under a newaza-oriented instructor.

For number 1, it is possible to find some simple chokes that don't take as long to learn. The hadakajime applied to a belly-down opponent is a fundamental, as is the hip choke, koshijime, known as the clock choke in BJJ. Both of these are readily applicable to failed throw situations, and you should be able to find someone proficient with them to show you.

For number 3, you should spend your newaza time passing the half-guard ("trapped leg") situation and looking for armlocks and chokes to be applied from there. Some of the submissions are rather brutish and inelegant, but this is judo. Make sure to spend time drilling pins, both maintaining and escaping them, to develop your transition skills between pins and to eliminate any fear of being pinned.

Generally, of course, if you want to transition into a different kind of judoka the two most powerful elements at your disposal are Time and an appropriate Instructor.

  • Actually, half guard is my favourite ground situation, as I've a few methods for getting my leg free, and I'm pretty good with udegarami. I'm not into chokes, as I'm simply not good with them, some basic bow & arrow and rear naked chokes are what I can do.
    – user1221
    Commented Nov 6, 2013 at 6:16

Question is a bit old, but this is my input as a fighter who never did any ground work in competition.

I Never liked it and never used it. I've always fight standing, and if my oponent went on the ground, I didn't even bother going on him for 10-15 seconds, I just stand up.

Things you need to learn though if you fight like this :

A- get up FAST. If you have time to turn around and sit flat on your stomach, you had time to get up too. If you let me half a second on the ground without controlling me, I was up.

B- You dont need to "defend" or apply chokes or w/e. Referee are normally pretty quick to stop ground work if they dont see a clear evolution. Whatever your oponent does, he will only get 1 chance to try it, and only a few seconds. Its pretty rare he will have good control of you, so use this to your advantage.

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