Judo emphasizes ‘maximum efficiency with minimum effort’ and ‘mutual welfare and benefit for all.’ As such, Judo seeks to improve the health and well-being of its practitioners and the community. However, as a martial art form, the main aim of judo is to teach self-defense, and there are a few simple throws even new practitioners can learn.

The best judo throws for self-defense include Osoto Gari, De Ashi Harai, Ouchi Gari, Seoi Nagi, Harai Goshi, O Goshi, Uchi Mata, and Tai Otoshi. Each of these throws will help you defend yourself either in a judo match or in everyday life.

In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at these basic judo throws, and how to execute them, so you’re prepared to protect yourself if you’re dealing with an aggressive opponent.

1. Osoto Gari

The Osoto Gari translates to ‘large outer reap’ in English and represents how your leg moves while performing this throw. The Osoto Gari is one of the original Judo throws, created by the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano. The Osoto Gari is also one of the first moves you will learn after joining a dojo, after learning to fall correctly.

To perform the Osoto Gari, start by placing your hands on your opponent in the classic judo hold. This hold typically involves one hand on the sleeve and one hand near the collar area.

To explain this move adequately, we will use the left side of the body for reference.

  • Once you have a firm grip on your opponent, try to ensure your left leg is somewhere between your opponent’s legs.
  • Now step forward with your right leg and bring your left leg behind the opponent’s left leg.
  • Sweep your left leg backward in a wide arc, lifting the opponent’s leg off the floor.
  • Push forward and into your opponent as you sweep your leg back, causing them to lose balance and fall.

It’s crucial to mention that while the technique seems straightforward enough, it’s best to practice it with a judoka (someone who practices judo) to avoid injury to yourself and your partner.

The Osoto Gari is probably one of the quickest ways to get your opponent on their back, making it an excellent self-defense tactic, even for inexperienced fighters. And the best part is that this throw is even more effective against larger and heavier opponents.

Here’s a YouTube clip of the Osoto Gari in action to help you get a better idea of how it looks:

2. De Ashi Harai

The De Ashi Harai can be tricky to pull off during randori, especially against experienced fighters who have developed counters to this move. However, as a self-defense maneuver, few techniques are as effective as the De Ashi Harai.

This move is typically used when an opponent pulls you towards them as the force exerted by the opponent can be quickly turned against them. Here’s what you need to do to execute the De Ashi Harai:

  • When you practice this move, ask your partner to pretend to pull you towards them, making the setting more realistic.
  • Step back with your right foot, centering your weight on the floor as you get pulled.
  • As a counter, your opponent will bring their left foot forward to close the distance.
  • When your opponent steps forward, bring your right foot on the outer side of their left foot and perform a sideways reap, lifting the opponent’s left foot into the air and towards the opposite side.
  • Tilt your hips to the side while you perform this movement, and you will be rewarded with your opponent quickly landing on the ground.

Unlike most other Judo throws, the De Ashi Harai involves unbalancing your opponent, using the opposite foot. As such, it can be a tricky move to counter, especially if you’re facing an inexperienced attacker.

3. Ouchi Gari

The Ouchi Gari is also one of the forty foundational throws invented by Jigoro Kano when he first developed the sport of Judo. Along with the Osoto Gari, this throw is one of the first few maneuvers learned by new Judo practitioners.

Ouchi Gari means ‘inner reap’; unlike the Osoto Gari, this move involves unbalancing your opponent from between their feet. Here’s a quick breakdown of how to perform the Ouchi Gari. Here we’ll explain how to perform the Ouchi Gari using your right leg.

  • Start in the traditional Judo hold, with one hand on the opponent; ‘s collar and one on their sleeve.
  • Step forward with your right leg to close the distance between you and the opponent.
  • It’s best if your right leg is placed somewhere between your opponent’s legs when you take this first step.
  • Now put your left foot behind your right leg with the heel slightly off the ground and hold your opponent in position.
  • Your left heel must stay off the ground at this point because you will need this position to drive your opponent into the ground.
  • Start the inner reap by moving your right foot between the opponent’s legs and behind their left leg.
  • As you sweep the opponent’s left foot off the ground, press your left heel into the ground and shift your weight forward, causing your opponent to lose balance and take them to the floor with you.

The Ouchi Gari can also be performed on the opposite leg, and this variation can be useful against opponents caught off–guard. Fortunately, the Ouchi Gari also works well on more powerful opponents. Here’s a snippet of how it looks:

4. Seoi Nage

The Seoi Nage is a more fancy-looking throw, and one of the first moves aspiring judokas seek to learn when they join a dojo. The Seoi Nage is popular in competitions as it can be difficult to counter or outmaneuver.

This move is also effective in a street fight when appropriately performed, as it can knock the wind out of an opponent and give you time to take stock of the situation.

seoi nage 1

The Seoi Nage is one of the hip throws in Judo, and here’s how you can execute this move.

  • Begin by holding your opponent in the traditional way, with your right hand on their left sleeve and your left hand on their collar.
  • Pull your opponent’s left arm with your right arm, deftly stepping into the space between you.
  • As you step into this space, turn both feet, facing the same direction as your opponent’s feet. Your back should be in contact with the front of your opponent’s body.
  • As you pull their left arm and turn your feet, bend your knees and place your left elbow into their right armpit.
  • Squatting slightly like this and placing your elbow into their armpit will cause your opponent to lean forward and throw them off balance.
  • Now lean forward and lift your opponent into the air, using your left elbow and right hand to flip them over your shoulder and to the ground.
  • As you execute this last maneuver, look down at the ground, so the force is directed at the right spot.

The Seoi Nage is an excellent counter to opponents who appear larger and well-built. While it may seem challenging to drop them, the Seoi Nage is set up in such a way that the forward momentum of the opponent is all you need to take them to the ground.

5. Harai Goshi

The Harai Goshi is similar to the Seoi Nage in that both are types of hip throws. However, the technique for Harai Goshi differs slightly and involves engaging different muscles. As such, learning this technique is helpful if you’re stuck in a position that’s difficult to get out of.

  • The setup for Harai Gosh is similar to Seoi Nage, with the tori (thrower) stepping into the space and turning their back towards the opponent (uke).
  • Grab your opponent in the traditional hold, and step in like you do when executing Seoi Nage.
  • Now you place your left arm on the opponent’s lower back while bending your knees and leaning forward to throw them off balance.
  • As you step in and bring your opponent’s weight forward, sweep your left leg back and upwards while pulling your opponent in front, as this will get them off the ground, allowing you to throw them in front of you.

The Harai Goshi will require considerable practice to master and execute during a street fight. However, it’s an effective technique that can quickly de-escalate a violent situation. Here’s a quick video of how this throw looks in action.

6. O Goshi

The O Goshi is a classic judo move and one of the favorites of founder Jigoro Kano. As such, it’s a move taught early on in a judoka’s journey.

o goshi 1

O Goshi is also a hip throw that you can quickly execute with little practice. This move is best used when the opponent has a stance opposite yours (left foot forward versus your right foot).

  • To perform the O Goshi, grab your opponent in the traditional judo hold, with your left hand on their right sleeve and right hand on their collar.
  • Step forward into the space between you, keeping your left hand in place and placing your right on the opponent’s lower back.
  • As you step in, you want to turn both feet in the direction of the opponent’s so you’re facing the same way.
  • Bend your knees to enhance stability, so your hips are below your opponent’s hips.
  • Lean forward and toss the opponent over your back, using your hips to propel them into the air and over your head.
  • Ensure you keep your left hand in place, holding the opponent’s right arm when they land on the ground, as this will give you the advantage of striking if necessary.

The O Goshi is especially useful in street fights as you keep holding the opponent in place with your hand, ensuring they can’t recover quickly from the fall. And while it may seem tricky, O Goshi is a pretty straightforward move and can even be taught to people who don’t practice judo.

7. Uchi Mata

The Uchi Mata belongs to the second set of throws developed by founder Jigoro Kano, and as such, it can be a bit more challenging to execute than the other flips on this list. The Uchi Mata is like the other hip throw techniques mentioned here and requires roughly the same setup as Seoi Nage or Harai Goshi.

  • To execute the Uchi Mata, start by holding the opponent in the regular judo stance, with your right hand on their left sleeve.
  • Now step into the space between the two of you, making a wider circle with your right leg outside the opponent’s stance while your left leg is somewhere in the middle of your opponent’s feet.
  • As you step into this space, raise your opponent’s left arm and push your hips into theirs to throw them off balance.
  • Now, lift your left leg in a straight line to catapult your opponent into the air and over your hip onto the ground in front of you.

One of the best things about the Uchi Mata is that once you learn it properly, you won’t need the perfect setup to execute this move. You can toss an opponent to the floor without them standing the way you would require them to.

uchi mata

8. Tai Otoshi

The Tai Otoshi is more about timing than speed or strength. If executed correctly, this maneuver can drop even the most formidable opponents to the floor, quickly ending the fight.

  • For the Tai Otoshi, start by holding your opponent’s left sleeve with your right hand and collar with your left.
  • Now step forward with your right leg and turn your hips in the same direction as your opponent, like the previous hip throws.
  • But instead of stepping both feet close together and bending your knees, move your left leg in a wider circle, placing it on the outside of your opponent’s stance.
  • Once you’re in this position, pull your opponent forward, allowing the left leg to act as a barrier to trip them as they move in front.
  • Drop your hips and pull forward, allowing the left leg to trip your opponent and cause them to go down hard.

This judo throw (and others) can be performed with both hands by switching the sides mentioned in these instructions.