Judo is known as an Olympic sport, martial art and self defense system that has its roots in the ancient samurai traditions. The main objective in Judo is to take the fight to the ground, and then immobilize the opponent with either a joint lock or a choke. Judo also teaches strikes and thrusts using the hand and feet but only as a means of defense against weapons, and are not allowed in free practice or competitions.
Due to its effectiveness, Judo has given birth to a number of offshoots like Sambo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and it’s highly popular in MMA where ground fighting is an important part of any fight, or sparring session.
My first exposure to the art was having a Jeet Kune Do training partner who had 8 years of experience with Judo. This guy could literally have his way with me (or any other individual in our club) once he got a hold of you. It was so frustrating dealing with his grip, and his ability to throw me to the mat, and deliver a “pants down spanking” with his holds, and joint manipulation techniques. Luckily, I had several years of Karate before the JKD days, so at least I could deliver my own forms of retribution once we were on our feet again. But back to Judo.
Judo was created by Shimnosuke Kano. He developed Judo drawing from the ancient samurai martial art of jujitsu. However, in the 1860s, after the Meji Restoration where martial arts were almost banned, it was hard to find an instructor. Hence, the young Kano had to search for someone willing to teach him. He found Fukuda Hachimosuke, who was teaching Tenjin Shin yo-ruy, a form of jujitsu.
When Fukuda died in 1880, Kano was one of his top students in both randori (free practice) and kata (prearranged forms of fighting). He then studied under Iso Masatomo and Iikubo Tsunetoshi.
Kano then opened a dojo in 1882, that would be later named Kodokan (meaning place for expounding the way). This was the start of judo.
Kano believed that emphasis should be placed on maximum efficiency and minimum effort. He emphasized the concept that gentleness controls hardness. This, alongside Kano’s Confucianist influenced belief in jita kyoei (mutual welfare and benefit) led to the development of judo, by rejecting the jujitsu techniques that didn’t conform to the above principles. Due to the fact that the name ju-jitsu didn’t truly describe what he was teaching, he chanced the jitsu (that meant art) to do (that means way). Hence, his art, was more in line with the philosophical Chinese concept of tao, and it showed that it implied a more philosophical context.
In Judo, you’ll find several categories of training. The first in called judo waza, and it includes three major techniques: nage waza, katame-waza and atemi-waza.
Nage waza are the throwing techniques in judo. These techniques are used to put an opponent on his back either by throwing or tripping him. Nage waza in itself has three parts, the initial break stance (kuzushi) the turn and fit into the throw (tsukuri) and the execution of the throw (kake).
Katame-waza are the grappling techniques used in judo. They comprise of holding techniques (osaekomi-waza) where the executioner of the technique traps the opponent and pins him on the floor, strangulation and choking techniques (called shime-waza) and joint locks (called kansetsu waza).
Atemi-waza are the strking techiniques that the judoka (judo practitioner) uses to disable the opponent by striking a vital point. However, outside kata atemi-waza is not permitted and it’s only used for self defense (it’s not included in competitions).
In training, judo puts emphasis on both free practice and forms. The first is called randori while the latter kata.
Randori is a very important part of judo, as it allows the students to practice their skills based on their level of expertise. There is the compliant style of randori called yakusoku geiko ( a prearranged practice) where both training partners put no resistance to the throws, and of course, there is the harder style of randori where the style of judo that we see in competition is emulated, the partners fighting back and blocking the throws. Both attempting to impose their will on the other.
The Katas are important parts of judo as well, as they are great at demonstrating the correct execution, while allowing the practice of techniques that are not allowed in free practice, and hence preserving the techniques that are no longer used in contemporary judo but are equally important. All katas are executed with a partner, except for the Seiryoku-Zen’yō Kokumin-Taiiku.
Judo as a sport and Olympic event
Judo always stresses emphasis on contest, and it’s seen as an important and vital aspect of this martial art. The first All-Japan Judo Championships were held in the 1930s. However, in 1956, judo gained international recognition, with the introduction of the World Judo Championships.
Judo was first performed at the Olympic Games in 1932 where Kano made an informal demonstration. However, Kano was ambivalent when it came to the inclusion of judo in the list of Olympic events as he said in Koizumi (1947):
“I have been asked by people of various sections as to the wisdom and possibility of judo being introduced with other games and sports at the Olympic Games. My view on the matter, at present, is rather passive. If it be the desire of other member countries, I have no objection. But I do not feel inclined to take any initiative. For one thing, judo in reality is not a mere sport or game. I regard it as a principle of life, art and science. In fact, it is a means for personal cultural attainment. Only one of the forms of judo training, so-called randori or free practice can be classed as a form of sport. Certainly, to some extent, the same may be said of boxing and fencing, but today they are practiced and conducted as sports. Then the Olympic Games are so strongly flavored with nationalism that it is possible to be influenced by it and to develop “Contest Judo”, a retrograde form as ju-jitsu was before the Kodokan was founded. Judo should be free as art and science from any external influences, political, national, racial, and financial or any other organized interest. And all things connected with it should be directed to its ultimate object, the “Benefit of Humanity”. Human sacrifice is a matter of ancient history.”
But, since 1964 it was an Olympic event for men, then it became an Olympic event for women in 1992. In 1988 it was a Paralympic sport (for the visually impaired) and it’s been also one of the sports at the Special Olympics.
Judo as an everlasting martial art
Due to its effectiveness, judo is a highly appreciated martial art, self defense system and sport. It’s been one of the primary martial arts displayed in MMA and it’s been used as a base for a number of styles, including Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Kosen Judo, Sambo, and others.
Today, we cannot undermine the impact that Judo had and still has in the martial arts world, and for this, we need to be always thankful and respectful to this amazing martial art.
For further study on Judo, I recommend the following resources… Judo Resources
Thanks for reading, and remember…
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