Judo (柔道 jūdō, meaning "gentle way") is a modern martial art, combat and Olympic sport created in Japan in 1882 by Jigoro Kano (嘉納治五郎). Its most prominent feature is its competitive element, where the objective is to either throw or takedown an opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue an opponent with a pin, or force an opponent to submit with a joint lock or a choke. Strikes and thrusts by hands and feet as well as weapons defenses are a part of judo, but only in pre-arranged forms (kata, 形) and are not allowed in judo competition or free practice (randori, 乱取り). A judo practitioner is called a judoka.
The philosophy and subsequent pedagogy developed for judo became the model for other modern Japanese martial arts that developed from koryū (古流, traditional schools). The worldwide spread of judo has led to the development of a number of offshoots such as Sambo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
What is Judo?
A Tremendous and Dynamic Sport
Judo is a tremendous and dynamic combat sport that demands both physical prowess and great mental discipline. From a standing position, it involves techniques that allow you to lift and throw your opponents onto their backs. On the ground, it includes techniques that allow you to pin your opponents down to the ground, control them, and apply various chokeholds or joint locks until submission.
Judo is Simple and Basic
Judo originated in Japan as a derivative of the various martial arts developed and used by the samurai and feudal warrior class over hundreds of years. Although many of the techniques of judo originated from arts that were designed to hurt, maim, or kill opponents in actual field battle, the techniques of judo were modified so that judo students can practice and apply these techniques safely and without hurting opponents:
- Judo does not involve kicking, punching, or striking techniques of any kind.
- Judo does not involve the application of pressure against the joints to throw an opponent.
- Judo involves no equipment or weapons of any sort.
Instead, judo simply involves two individuals who, by gripping the judo uniform or judogi, use the forces of balance, power, and movement to attempt to subdue each other. Thus, it is simple and basic. In its simplicity, however, lies its complexity, and mastery of even the most basic of judo techniques that often take considerable time, effort, and energy, involving rigorous physical and mental training.
The Principle of Gentleness
The word judo consists of two Japanese characters, ju, which means "gentle", and do, which means "the way". Judo, therefore, literally means the way of gentleness. Although the gentleness may not be immediately apparent to newcomers who see bodies flying through the air and people pinned to the ground, it is this principle of gentleness, or yawara (which is the same character as the ju in judo), on which all judo techniques are based.
Rigorous and Physical Activity
Judo is a rigorous and demanding physical activity. The practice of judo techniques helps people develop basic and fundamental physical fitness in a number of ways, such as the development of strength, flexibility, agility, speed, dynamic and static balance, explosive power, and endurance. The practice of active attack and defense helps develop reaction time, coordination, and overall physical self-confidence. Judo students become physically bigger, stronger, and faster through their practice of judo.
Not only does judo produce tremendous gains in overall physical and athletic ability; judo students learn the specific skills and techniques of judo. They learn a variety of techniques in order to throw their opponents to the ground with force, speed, and control. While judo students are often exposed to many of these types of throwing techniques in their judo careers, they usually master only a handful, and a handful is generally all that is needed to be successful in contemporary judo competitions.
Judo students also learn the fundamental principles and the dynamics of subduing their opponents on the ground through the application of pinning and submission techniques. Their prowess both on the ground and on their feet, combined with the considerable basic physical fitness gained from daily judo practice, affords judo students with a considerable repertoire of techniques, skills, knowledge, and abilities. These, in turn, allow them to be excellent athletes, with a sound physical base of fundamental skills, and formidable and imposing opponents in competition.
Much More to Learn
But beyond the development of physical prowess and athletic ability, judo students learn much more. They learn how to control their feelings, emotions, and impulses. They learn about values of perseverance, respect, loyalty, and discipline. Judo students develop an outstanding work ethic, as well as important social manners and etiquette. They learn to overcome their fears, and to show courage under pressure. Through competition and the rigors of daily practice, they learn about justice and fairness. Through their experience, they learn about politeness, modesty, and many other wonderful values that contribute to their development as successful citizens of society. As such, judo facilitates the development of important moral knowledge and values, those that are important to help people to become active and contributing members of their communities, nations, and the world. In this way, judo students play an important role in developing societies, and creating new and better communities for the future.