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What is Judo?

By Bronwyn Harris
Updated May 23, 2024
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Judo is a Japanese word meaning "gentle way," and is a type of martial art that comes from the ancient Japanese martial art of jujitsu, meaning "yielding way." In 1882, Dr. Jigoro Kano, president of Tokyo's University of Education, incorporated what he thought to be the best jujitsu techniques into what is now the sport of judo. It emphasizes using balance, leverage, and movement in all of its skills, especially throws.

Practitioners of judo wear a cotton uniform called a judogi, meaning "judo uniform," and sometimes referred to simply as a gi. These uniforms are usually white but can also be blue. They consist of loose drawstring pants and a quilted jacket that is fastened by an obi, or belt. The uniforms were originally created for the sport but are now used for many different types of martial arts.

The most noticeable thing to someone watching judo would likely be the variety of powerful throwing techniques. Grappling techniques are also important to learn, and include various control holds, arm and joint locks, pins, and choking techniques. Safety is emphasized in practice, and the sport places importance both on fighting done standing and on the ground.

Judo prizes the idea of flexibility in the techniques, tailoring the technique to what is required in a particular moment. Strength is not as important as technique and skill, as well as timing. This enables the techniques to be performed effectively by a smaller person on a much stronger person.

This sport is popular today with people of all ages, throughout the world. It is an excellent way to stay in shape, as well as increase self-confidence and learn self defense. Body control is developed, as well as quick reflexes, balance, and effective self-defense should the need arise.

Judo is also a competitive sport, introduced as such at the 1964 Olympics. This Olympic sport was only open to men until 1988, when it was a women's demonstration sport; in 1992, it became an official Olympic medal event for women. There are also collegiate competitions in the United States.

The system of ranks found in many martial arts, usually identified by belts of different colors, was first used in judo. The ranks recognize hard work, as well as increased knowledge and ability of the martial art. There are separate junior ranks for children under 17 than there are for adults. Black belts are the highest ranks, with ten different degrees of black belt.

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Discussion Comments
By truman12 — On Jun 23, 2011

Judo has always fascinated me and I love it when I get a chance to watch. Unfortunately, Judo rarely shows up on TV. Even though it is an Olympic sport, Judo rarely gets any television coverage during the summer games. I wish people could appreciate this sport more. Surely it is more fun to watch than people running around in circles or swimming back and forth across a pool.

By jonrss — On Jun 22, 2011

I work as a laborer but as a kid and through high school I took regular Judo lessons and practiced rather diligently. I have found that a lot of the skills I learned from Judo translate into the work I do now.

The basic principle of Judo is using your own weight to your advantage and manipulating some other weight to its disadvantage. Through Judo you learn many techniques for shifting you own weight and grappling with large and unwieldy objects like another human being.

I have found that I can often lift more than my colleagues or lift awkwardly shaped things with more ease. At the end of a long day my body is often less fatigued than theirs. This is not because I am stronger or in better shape but only because I know techniques which make it a little easier to lift 2 sacks of cement. Anyone who work with their body should study a little Judo. It might make your life a lot easier.

By BabaB — On Jun 22, 2011

@Esther11 - I actually have taken lessons in judo. It was fun, once you get used to it. Practicing skills in awareness of your opponent and also timing skills and flexibility helped me feel more confident and sure of myself. I hate to think about ever having to use it for self defense, but I might have to someday.

My instructor was very patient, realizing that most women don't have the same feelings of aggression as most men. When I'm finished with a session, I'm really exhausted. It's good exercise.

By Esther11 — On Jun 22, 2011

It seems to me that the martial art of judo is probably the most refined (almost an art form) type of martial arts. The important aspects of the sport are such things as speed, flexibility, controlled movements, and good timing.

Today, some people practice this sport to keep in shape and to learn to protect oneself. I think I would rather do another activity to keep in shape. How many of you would participate in judo?

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