What is Judo?
Judo is one of the most popular martial arts and international sports in the world. It is an extremely popular event in the Olympics. It includes powerful throws, pins, chokes, and joint locks. It is very similar to wrestling but a judo gi (uniform) is worn. Judo’s ancient roots are tied to unarmed combat used by armor-clad warriors when they lost their sword or spear on the battlefield. Judo was developed from different forms of Jujutsu (often called Jiu-Jitsu). Judo eventually replaced Jujutsu in Japan, although traditional Jujutsu is still practiced there. Judo was brought to Brazil and, eventually, became known as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu — this has become a very popular martial art and retains many similarities to traditional Judo.
The word Judo means “the gentle way.” The science of physics and physiology are ever-present in Judo. It is considered a “defensive” art where an opponent’s strength or force is diverted and used to one’s advantage. Most of the significantly dangerous techniques (striking, kicking, knee-locks) have been removed from daily practice and competition; these combat techniques remain as an important part of Kata (forms) which are practiced by higher ranking Judoka. Judo’s ultimate goal is to help benefit the student’s health and character for the good of Society. Humility, confidence, respect for self and others, courage, honor, mercy, and mutual benefit and welfare are, all, the defining characteristics and overall goal of Kodokan Judo.
A Short History of Kodokan Judo
Excerpt from USJA Junior Handbook
Dr. Jigoro Kano, founder of Kodokan Judo, was born in the town of Mikage in the Hyogo Prefecture, on October 28, 1860. Dr. Kano never viewed the martial arts as a means to display physical prowess or superiority. As a pacifist, he studied Martial Arts to find a way to live in peace with other human beings. In his youth, Kano studied Jujitsu under a number of different masters. Sensei Heinosuke Yagi was his first teacher, but at the age of 18 he entered the Tenshin-Shinyo headed by Sensei Hachinosuke Fukuda. Upon graduation from Tokyo University he studied the Kito tradition under Sensei Iikubo. By his mid-twenties, Dr. Kano had been initiated into the secret teaching of both ryus. Kano’s search for a unifying principle for the techniques he learned led him to the first principle of Judo â€“ seiryoko zenyo (maximum efficiency in mental and physical energy). To him, only techniques that kept practitioners from spending too much physical and mental energy should be incorporated into the system. One should use the energy of one’s opponent to defeat his or her aggression.
He called the resulting body of knowledge Judo. To propagate his art, Kano founded the Kodokan (the “school for learning the way”) at the Eishoji Temple in 1882. It is important to note, as a matter of historical accuracy, Kano did not want to replace other Jujitsu styles with Kodokan Judo. Rather, the Kodokan was initially used as a central place where all Jujitsu masters could preserve the techniques in their system. Shortly after the founding of the Kodokan, there was a campaign to support the premise that the new Kodokan Judo was superior to all existing Jujitsu systems. This culminated in 1886 with a contest conducted at the Central Police Headquarters dojo, with 15 men representing each side. Kano made up his team from his top students as well as several Jujitsu masters who taught their systems through the Kodokan.
The result was 13 wins and two draws in favor of the Kodokan. This famous encounter was not a contest like a modern shiai. It was a Jujitsu contest, which had no rules and was more like a sanctioned dueling. There was no victory in throwing your opponent safely onto his back where he could get up and continue. Victory was obtained in one of four ways: when one person was rendered unconscious, forced into submission, incapacitated so that he could not continue, or was killed.
Kano built Kodokan Judo around major sets of techniques: throwing techniques (nage waza), grappling techniques (katame waza), and striking techniques (atemi waza). The throwing techniques, drawn primarily from the Kito ryu, were further divided into standing techniques (tachi waza) and sacrifice techniques (sutemi waza). Standing techniques include hand (te waza), hip (koshi waza) and foot (ashi waza) throws. Sacrifice techniques include back sacrifice (ma sutemi waza) and side sacrifice (yoko sutemi waza) throws. The grappling and striking techniques of Kodokan Judo were drawn more heavily from the martially oriented Tenshin Shinyo ryu. Grappling was organized into holds (osaekomi waza), strangulations (shime waza) and joint locks (kansetsu waza).
While Kano taught ground holds to lower ranked students, the secrets of shime and kansetsu waza were saved for those who had attained a higher ranking in the art. High-ranking students were also expected to know the art of resuscitation (kappo), to conduct their training in a safe and responsible manner.
Judo’s striking techniques included hand/arm (ude ate) and leg/foot (ashi ate) blows. Amoung the striking techniques were those utilizing fists, elbows, hand-edges, fingers, knees and feet as striking weapons. Because of its potential lethal nature, atemi waza was taught exclusively to high-ranking Judoka at the Kodokan.
Judo was taught in a well-structured process. Throwing techniques were organized into five sets (the Gokyo-No-Waza).
Grappling and striking techniques were organized in sets as well. They were introduced slowly as Judoka became more proficient in the art. Students were divided into mudansha (ungraded students) and yudansha (black belt or graded students).
Ranks indicated the student’s level of experience in the art as well as different techniques were introduced at each new rank.
To complete the transition from “jutsu” (martial art) to “do” (way of life), Kano added a strict code of ethics and a humanitarian philosophy to his newly created system.
Kodokan instructors and students were expected from the beginning to be outstanding examples of good character and honest conduct.
Any fighting outside of the dojo, public demonstrations for profit, or any behavior that might bring shame to the school could lead to suspension or expulsion from the Kodokan.
Kano’s ultimate concern for the well-being if the whole individual and of the community is reflected in his teaching methods and in Judo’s second guiding principle.
Kano utilized four teaching methods in his dojo: randori (free practice), kata (prearranged forms, considered the more technical rituals of the art), ko (his systematic lecturing), and mondo (periods of questions and answers).
The debates between Doctor Kano and his disciples led him to the second principle of Judo, jita kyoei (the principle of mutual benefit and prosperity).
Kano believed that the diligent practice of Judo would lead to the realization that one could not progress at the expense of others; that in mutual prosperity lay the key to any real progress in human life. He was so taken with the principle that he regarded its diffusion, through the practice of Judo, as his greatest mission in life. Most of Judo’s development took place around the turn of the century.
In 1889, Kano traveled to Europe and America to promote his martial art. He would make as many as eight trips to other countries to propagate Judo. On his last trip he went to the International Olympic Council meeting in Cairo, where he was successful in getting Tokyo nominated for the 1940 Olympics.
Sadly, on his way home from the conference, on the S.S Mikawa Maru, he died at sea on May 4, 1938 from pneumonia at the age of 78.
The technical aspects of Judo came into maturity in 1900 with the founding of the Kodokan Yudan-shakai (association of black belt holders). On July 24, 1905 eighteen masters representing the leading Japanese Jujitsu ryus gathered at the Butokukai in Kyoto to join Kano’s system.
Kano’s work had triumphed over Jujitsu in Japan, replacing the Tokugawa’s period of aggressive martial arts with the more sophisticated way of life he had envisioned.
The final touches were added in 1909 when the Kodokan became a foundation and continued in 1920 with the revision of the throwing techniques called the Gokyo-No-Waza.
The art’s intellectual and moral philosophy came into full being in 1922 with the creation of the Kodokan Cultural Judo Society.
Between 1912 and 1952, when the International Judo Federation was founded, several of Kano’s disciples migrated to other continents, spreading their master’s teachings. Sensei Gunji Koizumi, 7th dan, went to the Great Britain in 1918, founding the London Budokwai. Mikinosuke Kawaishi, 7th dan, one of the world’s foremost experts on Judo kata, went to France in 1922.
Sensei Sumiyuki Kotani, 8th dan, trained the first team of American Air Force Judoka at the Kodokan in 1952. That team became the seed of what is now the USJA.
As judo spread throughout the western world, it slowly gained the form of a sport. Its popularity led to its inclusion in the 1964 Olympic Games.
Sensei Brian Money
Riverside Youth Judo Club