Becoming a Judoka

So you want to be a judoka..

First things first, show up to practice. That’s all you really need to do to get started in judo. You’ll find practice times here. Saturday is the best day for beginners, but you’re welcome to come to any of the practices.

What you’ll need..

You’re welcome to come and watch first, but we highly recommend that you get out on the mat and try your throwing and falling skills. For this, you’ll probably want to wear sweatpants and a sweatshirt, or anything sturdy with long legs and sleeves that you don’t mind getting torn. If you decide to stick around, and you most assuredly will, you’ll want to buy a judogi or gi. These can be purchased online or at some local martial arts shops and start at about $50.

If you just can’t wait and want to get your gi right away, here are some things to note:

  • Any judogi will work, but don’t get a gi designed for another martial art (say, karate) because judogis are made to withstand the abuse a lot of grabbing and pulling that is unique to judo. Judogis also have loose sleeves for easy gripping.
  • If you already own a gi from another martial art, you’d still probably be better off wearing a cheap sweatshirt until you buy a judogi. A gi designed for striking arts will likely rip. The pants should be okay, though.
  • Gis most commonly come in white and blue (though they can be purchased in other colors for those with more lavish tastes). Your first should be white, even if Labor Day has already passed.
  • The washing instructions on the gi are important! A gi will shrink in warm water; it will shrink a lot. Unless you want this, wash it in cold water and always hang dry. Never wash your belt.

What to expect..

After laying out the judo mats (tatami), we’ll begin practice with a formal bowing-in. You’ll notice a lot of bowing in judo. Bowing serves to shows respect to your sensei (teachers) and fellow judoka. It is also a way of thanking those who practice with you for throwing you around or allowing you to throw them around, and it can be a nonverbal way of saying, “hey, I’m about to toss you onto your back so you’d better be ready.”

After bowing in, we’ll run through a variety of warm-up and stretching exercises. Some of the warm-up techniques may seem a little weird, but are designed with particular judo techniques or situations in mind, so just do as you’re told. As a beginner, you will be working on falling techniques and a few throwing techniques with one of the sensei. As your skills progress, you’ll join the rest of the class in the activities listed below. Class will vary slightly from day to day, but we’ll be doing each the following quite often:

  • Uchi Komi – Fitting in practice: practice getting into position for a throwing technique without actually throwing your partner.
  • Throwing Line – Throw and be thrown in an orderly manner.
  • Learning of new techniques and practicing of old ones.
  • Randori – Free practice: the judo word for sparring. We usually do either nage waza or tachi waza (throwing or standing randori) or ne waza or gatami waza (grappling techniques on the ground).
  • Mock Shiai – Shiai means competition. In mock shiai, we go through the motions of an actual judo competition. This is usually done in preparation for an upcoming tournament.
  • Self Defense Training – learn to disarm a knife, take down a would-be assaulter, or single-handedly save the planet from a malicious sect of world-destruction bent bad guys.

Regardless of your age, sex, or martial aptitude, you are encouraged to show up to one (or more) of the practices and see for yourself what judo at the U of M is all about. Whether you want to be an U.S. Olympic gold medalist or just out to have some fun and throw some people around, you’re more than welcome to bring your bare feet to our tatami.


In order to formally join the U of M Judo Club, you have to pay only a $20/semester membership fee. First two practices are free, just bring your gi and show up! A fee helps us provide funding for our annual Gopher Collegiate Tournament, as well as other expenses like mat repair.


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