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US Army Judo Training; A Film From History

US Army Judo Training; A Film From History

There is a lot to enjoy in this old us army Judo training video on the use of Judo in self-defence and combat. I love the fact that in parts there is a text that appears that says "Top Secret" It is great to see the use of Judo as a practical martial art rather than a sport. I also think that it's very impressive to see just how serious the look on the demonstrators faces.

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I am sure you could watch for the fascination and historical value alone. Nevertheless, this is a blog and I want to make some comments on the film.

The Throws and The English Names

Almost all of the throws are variations but don't let that take away from the fact that they are still perfectly effective.

Personally, I don't really like that they have renamed all the throws demonstrated. Some of my students don't like the Japanese names of the throws because they say they have trouble remembering them. From my point of view, I prefer the traditional names because it means that no matter what Judo video you are watching or where you are in the world watching Judo, you can talk to other Judoka about a throw and they can know more or less exactly what technique you are talking about.

The problem with renaming the throws into English is there is no uniformity, in some cases I've even heard numbering systems being used. The result is more confusion than there would be if you just learn the names. I any case the more you hear the name the more likely it is that you will remember it so the name is what I always use in my club.

But the name changes in this case only makes sense really. For the generation in which the video was made there would have been quite some potential resentment remaining about Japan and even using the name Judo may have been a concession.

Self Defence

It is important, I think, that the more martial elements of Judo are kept in mind way more than they are. There are a variety of reasons for this, History, Art but most of all I teach these things in my ladies self-defence classes. Judo is today still, a very effective self-defence and this video demonstrates some of its effectiveness.

Many of the self-defence responses are not what I would have chosen but in the right set of circumstances, they work.

It also makes nonsense of the recent popular axiom that "there is no such thing as a Judo chop". Clearly, there is as amply demonstrated.

It is worth noting that the self-defence moves are clearly orientated to men and tend to be a little strength dependant. This is not wrong as despite what some would say there are throws that are strength dependant. According to the primary principles of Judo that makes such throws less desirable but not illegitimate.

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I must say that I am impressed with, for the most part, the safety action that is brought to the attention of the watcher. Safety is all too often forgotten about in Judo videos.

Knife Attacks

The video defence against knife attacks is a little limited. When it comes to defending against a knife you are not limited to another knife (which is actually not the most recommended option unless you are well trained with one but it is an option) or a rock or a bottle. You can also use a walking stick, an umbrella, dirt, coins, a belt and the list goes on. After all your objective should only be to distract to give you enough time to respond (which should always include the option of running away). In terms of responses, there is a range of responses beyond that which is presented that is contained in Judo Kata. Many of which I would prefer as a response to the ones presented in the video.


It should be noted that the armlock defence to the knife may result in the attachers having a broken arm provided you don't get stabbed first. It should also be noted that the sweeping defence could end up with your attacked having a smashed head if they do not know how to fall, which may be irrelevant if they are attacking you with a knife but you should be aware of it.

The defences utilised in the video work, there is no question about that but no one should delude themselves that using these moves in real life would be easy. Just take the grabbing of the arm. It is a lot harder to grab a moving arm in reality than in practice. This too should be kept in mind when viewing.

The "Japanese rear chock" With A Batten

Please don't ever do this unless you are in a genuine life or death situation. This action brings a very high risk of the death of your opponent. I imagine that the US army would have very quickly learned never to use this on someone you only wanted to subdue. 

Of course, whether that would be even relevant to the US Army is another question. It's interesting within the context of the video but way more dangerous than practically anything else on the film. In fact, any of the batten moves should be avoided as the rigid nature of the batten makes it far more dangerous than chokes or strangles using hands or arms alone.

The video is kinda long. But I found it entertaining to try to give the correct Judo name to each of the throws as I was watching.

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