16 Basic Judo Throws for Self-Defense

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Judo for beginners can be a bit challenging, but this article will help you learn the basic judo throws that are both effective in street fights and in a competition setting. You will also learn about the basics of the judo competition system in case you want to pursue Judo as a sport.

Judo is one of the best martial arts to learn for self-defense, mainly because of its effectiveness in a street fight. The meaning of Judo in English is “gentle way”. We can attribute this to the judo throwing techniques being reliant upon the momentum of the opponent and using it against them.

16 Best Judo Throws for Self-Defense (Nage Waza)

Judo techniques can be split into three main categories:

This article focuses on throwing techniques useful for self-defense as well as in competition.

1. Osoto Gari

The English meaning of Osoto Gari is large outer reap. This move is one of the oldest throws in Judo and is commonly used against a larger opponent by utilizing your lower center of gravity. To do the Osoto Gari:

  • Establish your hand position on the opponent.
  • ​While in the fighting stance, position your right foot in between your opponent’s open legs.
  • ​Move your left foot forward and 45 degrees towards the left. This will make your opponent shift his/her balance towards the foot you are going to sweep.
  • ​Transfer your right foot towards the back of your opponent’s foot and sweep it. The sweeping motion must come from the hip rotation. ​

2. Ouchi Gari

The English meaning of Ouchi Gari is inner reap, which is the opposite of the Osoto Gari. These moves along with the Osoto Gari are simple but help open the enemy up to more advanced techniques. The best time to use this is when the enemy takes their attention off their footing, even if it just for a bit. To do the Ouchi Gari:

  • Do a slight pull on the opponent towards yourself to distract him for a moment.
  • ​Once caught off-guard, pull the opponent’s shirt with your right hand in a downward diagonal motion away from you. This will cause him to lose balance and make him fall backward.
  • ​At the same time that you pull on his shirt, move 3-5 inches forward.
  • ​Immediately place your lead foot at the back of the opponent’s foot to trip him.​

3. Deashi Harai

Deashi Harai is also one of the oldest techniques created. It is a type of sideways judo throw usually executed when the attacker is trying to pull you by force. To do the Deashi Harai:

  • As your attacker tries to pull you towards him, step backward.
  • ​As he tries to close the distance again and is preparing to pull you back in, start your foot sweep.
  • ​As soon as your opponent’s foot lands, move your foot to the outside and sweep his legs out from under him.
  • ​Twist your hips as you do this in such a way that you are pulling the shoulder parallel to the foot being swept towards you and the other shoulder being pushed backward. This motion is like a lever which will increase the probability of the attacker being taken down.

4. Uki Goshi

The Uki Goshi is a hip toss technique that is most effective when used against someone stronger than you. You must execute this move quickly so it’s easier to toss your opponent over your hip. Your opponent might counter your technique so watch out for him climbing on your back while executing it. The following steps are for an Uki Goshi done to throw the opponent to the left.

  • While you are backpedaling, when the opportunity presents itself, turn your body 90 degrees to the left. Place your hand around the waist of your attacker.
  • ​Pull the opponent’s left hand towards you and do a twisting motion with your hips.
  • ​As you do this, slowly raise your hips and then your heel.
  • ​These steps must be done in one fluid motion for the move to be effective.

5. Seoi Nage

The Seoi Nage uses both hands to pull your attacker off balance. It is a type of forward judo throw that relies heavily on hip rotation and arm placement to work. Seoi Nage is not only one of the most effective moves in a street fight, but it also one of the most popular throws used in Judo competitions. The following steps are for throwing by your opponent’s right hand.

  • Pull the enemy’s right hand with your left hand.
  • ​As you pull his hand, twist your hips towards the left.
  • ​As you twist your hips, hook your right hand under your opponent’s arm.
  • ​Pull in as you twist further to your left.
  • ​Slightly raise your heel as your back becomes aligned with his front.
  • ​The move must be done in a fast and fluid motion.

6. O Goshi

The O Goshi is a classic judo move and is one of the favorite moves of the founder of judo, Jigoro Kano. This forward-throw move is commonly used under a left stance vs right stance situation. This means that you should align your lead foot (right foot, for example) with the opponent’s lead foot (left foot, for example). To do the O Goshi:

  • As you step in towards your opponent with your lead foot (right foot in this case), at the same time that your foot lands, wrap your right arm around the hips of your opponent.
  • ​Your left hand should pull on your opponent’s right arm at the same time that you are spinning towards the left.
  • ​To successfully throw the opponent forward, your hips must be lower than their hips. As soon as your back aligns with your opponent’s body, lift your body a little to create leverage from which the opponent can be thrown.
  • ​Do not let go of your opponent’s left arm, even after the takedown. This will give you the striking advantage, especially in a one-on-one situation street fight.

7. Uchi Mata

Uchi Mata is a type of inner thigh throw and is one of the most popular moves practiced in Judo. In a competition setting, it is the most-used technique at the international level. To perform the Uchi Mata:

  • Establish your grip first by holding the part of the attacker’s arm before the elbow.
  • ​Pull the arm upwards and as you do this, turn your body 90 degrees to your left. You should raise your hand as you pull the opponent’s arm with the back of the hand facing you.
  • ​Support the pulling motion of your left arm with your right arm. Your right arm should push on an upward motion to make the opponent lose their balance for a moment.
  • ​As you turn around, your rear foot lands in the middle of your opponent’s leg.
  • ​Your back must be very close to your opponent’s stomach. Sweep your opponent’s leg using your rear foot by raising it upwards. Your rear foot starts the sweeping motion at the knee area of the opponent.
  • ​As you throw your opponent forward, drop your hips to assist the throw.

8. Tsuri Goshi

This move is a hip throw technique that is like Uki Goshi but the difference is that you are tossing the opponent over your hips. To do the Tsuri Goshi:

  • While holding your opponent’s arm, pull him down towards you.
  • ​Once his head is lower than yours, grab his back. In a street fight, it is advisable to grab him by the back of his pants.
  • ​Step in so your back touches his and establish a strong footing.
  • ​Lower your hips as you step in and pull him in as you twist. Your hip must be lower than his.
  • ​Raise your hips as you turn to throw the opponent.​

9. Koshi Guruma

Koshi Guruma is another forward hip throw but is most useful when used against someone around your own height. This move is like most forward throws but involves pulling in your opponent's head. To perform the Koshi Guruma:

  • ​Pull your opponent’s hand downwards to make him bend.
  • ​As soon as he lowers his head, put your right arm over his neck.
  • ​Turn your hips around so your back touches his body. As you do this, lower your hips so they are not any higher than your opponent’s hips.
  • ​As you pull your opponent towards you, raise your hips to throw him.

10. Ura Nage

Ura Nage is a rear throw technique that is commonly used to counter hip throws. This move is a sacrifice throw because it involves throwing yourself along with the opponent. Only use this as a counter-attack when throwing techniques are being executed on you by the attacker.

There are several ways to execute Ura Nage. This one is a front Ura Nage throw.

  • This move requires you to be at the side of the opponent. In this case, you are on the right side of your opponent with your body facing to the left.
  • ​Put your right arm on the waist part of his pants.
  • ​Turn to face your opponent and reach your left arm over his back. As you do this, drop your hips lower than his.
  • ​Your left leg should be in between your opponent’s legs.
  • ​Bend backward and raise your heel as you turn your hips to the right to execute the throw.

11. Ushiro Goshi

Ushiro Goshi is a back-hip throw technique. It uses a bear hug to throw the opponent to the ground. This move is a counter used against an attacker attempting to throw you forward.

Ushiro Goshi is only done when the attacker is facing away from you. To perform the Ushiro Goshi:

  • Pull your opponent forward with both of your hands. Step forward as you do this.
  • ​Grab your opponent’s collar from under his arm.
  • ​Grip your opponent and bend your knees as you grab him.
  • ​Extend your legs and lean backward to pull and throw him onto the floor.

12. Utsuri Goshi

The Utsuri Goshi is a hip-shift throw technique that is also used as a counter-attack against someone trying to grab your neck. To do Utsuri Goshi:

  • As your opponent’s arm wraps around your head, wrap your arms around his waist.
  • ​Drop your hips and knees lower than your opponent’s.
  • ​Raise them up as you raise your heel and extend your legs upward.
  • ​Turn your hips 90 degrees and throw your opponent.

13. Hane Goshi

Hane Goshi or hip spring is like Harai Goshi but it involves the use of your foot to aid the throw. To do Hane Goshi:

  • This technique involves pulling your opponent from the side. Step in with your right foot and raise your attacker’s elbow while he is still holding your collar or arm.
  • ​Put your left foot behind your right foot. This is like a preparation for a hip turn.
  • ​Raise your knees to block the attacker’s foot. In this technique, your legs will act as a lever so it is easier to throw the opponent.
  • ​As you turn your hips to the left, drop your waist and remember to sweep the opponent’s leg with yours.

14. Tai Otoshi

Tai Otoshi or body drop is a hand throw technique that heavily relies on timing rather than lifting your opponent. This technique is like Hane Goshi because it uses the right foot like a lever but does not require a sweeping motion to start the throw. To execute the Tai Otoshi:

  • Pull your opponent’s left arm towards you and step in with your right foot.
  • ​As you step in, turn your hips to the left in such a way that your left foot circles to the left. Support the turning motion of the throw by putting your right hand on the back of your opponent.
  • ​To initiate the throw, raise your right foot and extend so it acts like a lever to trip your opponent. As you do this, drop your hips.
  • ​Now, the only thing left to do is to pull downward. The extended leg helps start the throw as you pull him down.

15. Okuri Ashi Barai

Okuri Ashi Barai or sliding foot sweep is a technique used to take down an opponent moving sideways. For this technique, we will use an opponent moving to your right. To execute the Okuri Ashi Barai:

  • While you are moving sideways to the right, wait for your opponent to lift his left foot.
  • ​As he lifts his foot, sweep that foot to trip him. It is vital to wait for your opponent to shift his weight to his left foot because once he shifts his weight towards his right foot, the foot sweep will be ineffective.
  • ​Do a slight twisting motion on the opponent’s chest when executing the move.​

16. Harai Tsurikomi Ashi

Harai Tsurikomi Ashi or lift-pull foot sweep is like Okuri Ashi Barai but is executed while the opponent is moving backward. To perfectly execute this move requires great timing. Like other foot sweeps, you must be able to read your opponent’s weight shift from one leg to the other. To perform Okuri Ashi Barai:

  • ​While your opponent is moving backward, wait for him to shift his weight to his rear foot (the opponent’s left foot in this case).
  • ​Use the momentum of your opponent’s lead foot (the opponent’s right foot in this case) against him. As soon as he is going to move his lead foot backward, sweep that foot using your lead foot (your right foot in this case) in a 45-degree diagonal sweep to the right.
  • ​As you do the sweep, turn your hips to the left to ensure that the opponent will be taken down.

Basic Rules of Judo Martial Arts

For those who are interested in pursuing it as a sport, it is encouraging to know that Judo is included in the Olympic Games. The martial art first appeared in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Although Judo and BJJ are closely related in terms of techniques, the rules by which Judo is played in the Olympics are different.

Leg-grabs are forbidden judo techniques in competitions which has resulted in the decrease of schools teaching them. This is because they cause common judo injuries.


Those who are practicing judo as a sport must wear a gi. A gi is a traditional uniform that originated from the kimono and was adopted by the martial art discipline as its uniform. The gi should be durable and its length should not be more than 5 cm above the wrists and ankles. Practitioners are also expected to wear their belts, and it must be tied using the traditional knot.

Find judo uniforms here.

Combat Area

Judo matches are done on mats that are called tatami. These mats measure 14 meters x 14 meters in which the combat area within the mat is measured 10 meters x 10 meters. Practitioners during competition or practice must bow before entering the mat.

Get your Tatami here.

Bout Duration

Usual competitions such as international ones last for five minutes. A judoka (judo practitioner) wins if the judges award him an ippon. If the judges has not awarded any ippon, the player that has the highest score at the end of the match will win the match.

Forbidden Attacks

Techniques such as leg-grabs and joint-attacks have been deemed too dangerous in competition and are therefore banned. It is also illegal to punch or kick your opponent, touch their face, and intentionally injure them. Doing so will result in your disqualification.

Judo Throws Conclusion

Practicing judo for self-defense will not only teach you how to protect yourself, but will also help you learn self-discipline and have a healthier lifestyle. This list of judo techniques will enhance your street fighting IQ and will equip you with techniques that will come in handy during specific situations. If you are interested in learning SDHjudo, there are some schools that allow free judo lessons in the first few sessions.

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