What IS Judo???

Some History

Dr. Jigoro Kano Dr. Kano (Left) and a student (Right) practicing 'Randori', or Free-Fighting Eishoji Temple - Kano's training ground

     In 1882, Dr. Jigoro Kano began to refine an ancient form of fighting called Ju-Jitsu.  Combative, unarmed martial arts such as Ju-Jitsu had already been practiced in Japan for somewhere between 600 and 1000 years.  Dr. Kano made a comprehensive study of many of these ancient arts and integrated the best of each of their techniques into what is now known as Judo.  Dr. Kano founded the first Judo institution (named "The Kodokan") in Tokyo, Japan, of that same year.

A More Detailed Description

     Judo can best be described as a martial art which resembles wrestling but emphasizes throws as well as grappling techniques.  In fact, Judo is best known for its spectacular throwing techniques.  A common misconception is that Judo involves dangerous punches and kicks.  However, since it does not, Judo can be a true full-contact sport that poses minimal risk of injury.  Because Judo is a full-contact sport, players must wear a relatively thick, cloth outfit known as a "gi" and play on padded (or traditionally, straw) mats known as "tatami" for safety.

     Judo has been in the Olympic Games since 1964 and is practiced by millions of people throughout the world.  In fact, Judo has been ranked as the second-most popular sport in the world, bested only by soccer.  It is especially popular in Canada, the European countries, Russia, Japan, Australia, North Africa, and South Africa.  Although its exposure in the United States has been rather limited, with each passing year the influence of Judo grows stronger and faster than ever before.

     Although Judo is now widely known as a sport, there is another traditional aspect to Judo.  Since Judo evolved from Ju-Jitsu, a self-defense martial art, there are many useful techniques which can be utilized in a "street" situation.  Although these techniques would not be permitted in contest or sport Judo because of their self-defense nature, they are an integral part of the whole martial art.

Exercise Benefits

     No matter what level of conditioning of physical fitness you currently have, Judo will improve it.  Judo can cater to any level of fitness through both instruction and free practice with peers.  A recent study, which included Judo, has shown that a person will on the average burn 363 Calories per half-hour of workout.  Naturally, each workout will vary in intensity, but on the average, a typical 90-minute workout will burn over 1000 Calories!  But more importantly, you will be learning a valuable form of self-defense while you meet new and interesting people.  Another recent study has suggested that regular exercising facilitates electrochemical transmission in your brain and actually allows for clearer thinking and decision-making.

Principles and Goals

     Judo, when translated from Japanese means "The Gentle Way," in that finesse or gentleness is preferred over strength.  A person who makes efficient use of balance, leverage, and momentum can easily throw another person.  Skill and timing are the essential ingredients to Judo, not brute strength!

     Dr. Kano felt that healthy social attitudes, as well as a sound mind and body, could be developed through proper training.  He states this philosophy in the form of two maxims.  The first maxim, "Maximum Efficiency," means that whatever one does, it should be done with optimal use of mental and physical energy.  Simply put, Judo will help you learn how to make the most effective use of your mind and body.  This efficiency is the basic principle behind success and achievement in everyday life.

     The second maxim, "Mutual Benefit and Welfare," is one that all players of Judo faithfully uphold.  It means that we should be considerate of and helpful to others.  In Judo, people leave their outside lives behind and everyone cooperates to achieve a higher level of experience.

     It is no coincidence that the ultimate goal of Judo as expressed by Dr. Kano is the "harmonious development and eventual perfection of human character."  In short, the true goal of Judo is to help you become the best that you can be.


     As previously stated, one of Judo's most important philosophies is "Mutual Benefit and Welfare."  Because of this philosophy, Judo is extremely low-cost.  Judo instructors everywhere have dedicated their lives to this philosophy and are not out for personal financial gain.  In fact, many Judo clubs are run in community centers, which means that there are only limited expenses.  Each player is expected to purchase or provide a durable Judo gi and become nationally registered with a Judo organization so that any promotions in rank will be certified.  The cost of these two things is typically less than $200 per year.  Active competitors incur additional expenses for traveling and entry fees to tournaments.


     Regular Judo can develop a competitive spirit and a feeling of self-confidence.  Judo promotes self-discipline through scheduled practice sessions and evokes a sense of self-respect and respect for others.

     As a sport that evolved from a fighting art, Judo develops complete body control, fine balance, and fast reflexive action.  As stated earlier, it will also develop a sharp reacting mind coupled with the same kind of body.  Judo utilizes virtually every muscle in the body and is an excellent overall conditioner.


     As you progress in Judo you will earn rank known as "kyu."  Each of these kyu is representative of your skill level and are accompanied by different colored belts.  Advanced players earn black belt rank known as "dan."  Every promotion earned is nationally certified so it is valid at any club across the country.  In fact, most ranks are internationally recognized as well.

Who Is Judo for?

     Judo is an extremely adaptable martial art.  It does not matter how young or how old, or whether you are male or female.  If you want to improve your self-confidence or self-control, have fun and meet new people, learn how to effectively protect yourself, and get a great workout, then Judo is for you.  Many people begin as young as five years old and continue through their seventies.

     For those who are interested in competition, there are separate divisions according to a person's sex, age, weight, and rank to keep everyone's safety in mind.

     It is a sport for which the road to learning and improvement never ends.

© Jonathan Raymond 2005