I'm in Japan teaching English (as part of the JET Programme) at a middle school, and I joined their Judo club. At 183+ cm (6 ft+ - I actually have to be careful of some doorways) and ~76 kg (~167 lbs) I enjoy a significant physical advantage over (most of) the students.

However, I'd like to avoid hurting any of them (or being hurt by them); what do I need to be careful of? Thankfully this isn't something like Karate (which I did some of in elementary school), so no punches or kicks. Also, I fully tore my right ACL and had it replaced several years ago (this seems to be a family problem). Are there any specific things I should watch out for?

  • As a side note, despite being half my age, they're probably all better than me (certainly some of them are). A number of them try to help me with my technique (I'm not to good at new physical activities), although we don't speak much of each others' languages. Mar 24, 2014 at 10:06
  • Seio nage, they don't have to bend the knees to lift you ;-)
    – user1778
    Mar 31, 2014 at 5:37

4 Answers 4


I trained Judo in my high school's Judo club. Our high school was physically joined right next to a middle school. And so the middle schoolers would attend our Judo class also. While I was 5 foot 10 inches tall and about 140 pounds, the middle schoolers were probably barely even 5 feet tall and about 90-100 pounds. Huge difference.

Our instructor paired us up with kids our own ages and sizes usually, but occasionally I would have no choice but to partner with the younger kids.

My advice:

First, try to partner with the instructor whenever you can. If your instructor doesn't do that in class, then you have no choice but to find the strongest, tallest, heaviest children if you can.

When you do partner with children, keep in mind that they are children. That means do not lift them very far off the ground, despite being fully able to do that. Don't throw them long distances. Don't go really fast. Don't fall hard on top of them into your ground holds. If you do those things, they will be afraid of you and won't want to partner with you. So be gentle and work on NOT using your muscle power but instead using graceful technique, fluidity, and leverage.

Above all else, relax! Keep good posture, etc., but work on keeping yourself from tightening your muscles and powering through stuff. Especially when you're on the ground rolling. When you have such a huge advantage over them physically, you need to just let go of your athleticism and instead learn to flow, gently. Give to any resistance you feel, and instead look for the smart way around obstacles. This will also help you when you do eventually encounter an opponent your own size, by the way.

When you are receiving their throw, be ready to protect your face, head and neck, because their throws might end up going short due to the fact that they're not used to the extra weight, and you can fall in an uncontrolled manner. You should practice the one-armed cartwheel and dive-shoulder-roll breakfalls. Those will help you recover from a bad throw done to you.

You might need to squat down a bit by lowering yourself at your knees in order for them to actually be able to throw you. But try not to do that habitually. Let them try to throw you normally. Only offer to lower yourself if they seem frustrated. Of course, do whatever the instructor tells you to do.

Definitely do not jump into their throws, trying to be helpful or trying to make them look better. Jumping into a throw does them no good, and it's frowned upon by them and your instructor. They are learning a lot when they get to partner with someone much larger than they are. Don't take that learning experience away from them.

As for your ACL tear, make sure your knees are ready for practice ahead of time. That means doing about 10 minutes of "functional stretching" and warm-ups before class. You'll practice squats in place, lunges while walking across the room (do whatever height you feel comfortable with), running in place or around the gym, jumping in place, jumping side-to-side on one leg and jumping jacks, seiza posture to standing posture and back, shoulder roll then stand, and anything else you might want to throw in there. You're just trying to put your knees through the motions and stresses that you might encounter in a typical Judo session. Obviously, if anything causes you pain, stop right away.

Hope that helps.

  • 1
    The good news is, some of them are trying to help me with my technique, so I doubt they're overly afraid of me... Apr 10, 2014 at 13:41

I'm rather short, 5'7" and the biggest issue that people have working with me is because of my low center of gravity, I'm very difficult to be thrown but I'm in a good position to throw people. So you'll find that you have to make changes to your game in order to compensate for the height difference. I'd also recommend that anyone you train with knows about your knee to reduce the risk of damaging it again.


Speaking from past experiences: To avoid injuries when fighting poeple with vast strength, or height difference there is only 1 rule: Don't force it.

Just like when you practice with students: If one smaller guy / kid manage to put you off balance, don't use raw strength to stay up. You will overpower him, and you might hurt him the process. Roll along, fall correctly and no one will be hurt.

Same for you; if you make someone fall, make sure to hold them correctly and don't use powerthrow on them (stuff like holding their head and jumping on the ground and rolling even if you don't have them off balance).

If it's in a more "competitive" setting, you have to tell your partner the same thing though, if you make a move and they feel you "have it", they can't try to powerthrough and avoid it, they'll get hurt in the process. But, restraining your movement choices to avoid dangerous one, and doing throws only when you have perfect timing instead of using brute strength is an awesome way to improve too!

Remember, it's all practice, no one will die by taking the fall instead of trying to stay up.


I'm not incredibly tall, but I've dealt with shorter opponents before. Mostly, you're just going to have to rein yourself in for being a bit stronger presumably. Aside from that, you're going to weigh more, so you may want to remind them to use proper technique to avoid a situation where they overstrain a joint or have you fall on top of them. From a center of balance standpoint, you have the disadvantage in many ways, but they will have to adjust their technique wherever they've been relying on having leverage due to being about the same height as their opponent.

Overall, I think it's going to be good for them to learn working with you.

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