A brief look at the Martial Art and Olympic Sport of Judo
'He who fears loss, has already been beaten.' - Kano Jigoro (1860 – 1938)
Judo is a Martial Art, and Olympic combat-sport. It is useful for self-confidence, self-defence and strength of body and spirit. It is physically and technically challenging. It can be fascinating, exhilarating, frustrating, For some, it becomes a way of life, as its founder intended.
Judo is derived from the many Japanese Martial Arts Schools of Jiu-Jitsu (or JuJutsu). The founder of Judo was Kano Jigoro, a highly-educated and inspirational student of Jiu-Jitsu. A relative weakling, he sought to become physically strong through exercise. In so doing he chose the ancient, dangerous and increasingly unpopular Martial Art of Jiu-Jitsu over more fashionable modern sports.
Kano developed his 'Judo' method at the age of 22 (in 1882), initially as an ideal form of physical exercise. Judo utilised effective Jiu-Jitsu techniques, but excluded the more martial techniques, which commonly left participants unable to train with full intensity for fear of serious injury. He had in fact developed a safe to practise combat-sport from a deadly Martial Art.
"Maximum Efficiency with Minimum Effort"
精力善用 (Sei-ryoku Zen-you)
At the heart of the technical art of Judo is the concept that to be efficient in the use of movement or force will allow great things to be achieved with a minimum amount of energy required.
It is better to apply technique and use an opponent's force against him, than to use your own strength.
"Softness Subdues Hardness"
柔よく剛を制す (jū yoku sei gō)
Closely aligned to'Sei-ryoku Zen-you', the principle of softness ('Ju') has many applications in sport, but is so central to the philosophy of Judo that Kano named his new approach to Jiu-Jitsu the 'gentle way'. Another way of expressing this is 'flexibility overcomes rigidity' - and it is this that allows the smaller, weaker Judoka to overcome someone stronger, heavier or more physically dominant.
Jiu-Jitsu had not previously focused strongly on the breaking of balance (Kuzushi) before the proper execution (Kake) of technique.
"Mutual Welfare and Benefit"
自他共栄 (Ji-ta Kyou-ei)
Perhaps the most fundamental difference between Judo and the forms of Jiu-Jitsu that went before however is encapsulated in this basic philosophy of Judo - that it exists for the 'mutual benefit' of those who practise it. There were many who were very seriously injured in both training and competition in traditional and unforgiving forms of Jiu-Jitsu.
Whilst Judo does not lack the power of traditional Jiu-Jitsu, it does allow those who train together to do so safely. The philosophy of Judo requires that in most forms of training Judoka are not adversaries, but 'partners' - working together (even when sparring in Randori) to progress in capability and skill. There is as much to learn in being thrown (perhaps more) that in the throwing. The 'Kata' of Judo are good examples of exercise designed in part to mutually benefit both participants.
For Kano, the fundamental benefits of practising Judo were that etiquette, courage, and perseverance, kindness to and respect for others, impartiality and fair play would become the guideline by which Judoka would live their lives. And thus Kano's Judo was of as much spiritual and moral significance as it was simply a Martial Art or combat-sport.
Judo began on 6 mats in a small Japanese Dojo (training hall or, literally 'home of the way'), called the 'Kodokan' ('home for the study of the way').
Today, the Kodokan has 1,200 mats across the five main Dojo —Main, School, International, for Women, and for Boys—plus a special Dojo for veteran Judoka and special technique study purposes. The Kodokan is the international home of traditional and modern Judo.
Contest Judo (Shiai)
The true purpose of Kano's Judo was not to produce champions (or killers as had always been the aim of classic forms of Jiu-Jitsu). It was to provide a method of physical training and for the development of character.
The importance of Shiai was as one tool to achieve this.
Contest Judo should be experienced by all Judo practitioners ('Judoka') and some will love the heat of competition. However it must be understood that Shiai is simply a method of training and not the sole reason to train.
Win if you can, win if you must, but not at all costs.
After its introduction in 1968, Judo was recognised as an established Olympic Sport in 1972. Tens of millions of people practice Judo each year around the world; 200 separate countries are members of the International Judo Federation.
CJC - 2017