The history of Judo
Modern Judo has its origins in jujitsu, a fighting art that can be traced back over a thousand years into Japanese history. Judo itself, however, is a relatively recent synthesis and owes its existence to the genius of one man: Dr. Jigoro Kano, a Japanese educator.
Kano, born in 1860, resolved to improve himself by studying at two jujitsu schools, and soon realised that each school had its strengths and weaknesses. Because it was difficult to practice without injury, he began to reconstruct jujitsu. As he states, “…by taking together all the good points I had learned from the various schools and adding thereto my own devices and inventions, I founded a new system for physical culture and mental training.” Kano called his new system Kodokan Judo to differentiate it from the jujitsu forms. Kodokan generally means “a school for studying the way”, “the way” being the concept of life itself, with judo meaning “the gentle way”.
Judo emphasizes “Maximum Efficiency with Minimum Effort”, by using an opponent’s weight and strength while preserving your own mental and physical energy. In a judo match, a slight person can overcome a heavier, stronger opponent with proper technique. There are no kicks or punches. Instead, players score points by throwing their opponent or by using submission techniques.
Judo is a mental discipline as well as a physical one, as the second judo principle being “Mutual Welfare and Benefit”. Kano stated that “physical education should train the body to be strong, healthy and useful in actual life and also make a contribution to the culture of the mind.” His system of judo is just that.
A typical Judo Lesson
A typical lesson starts with a bow. All judo players line up in grade order, with the dan grades (black belts) on the opposite side of the mat. When the instructor is ready, the students and dan grades bow to each other and the class begins.
After a warm-up, each student performs a sequence of breakfalls so they know how to protect themselves when thrown. The instructor then demonstrates a technique to learn, including variations, counters and combinations to and from the technique. Students and dan grades then enter into free practise (randori) where they attempt to use the techniques they have learnt. Randori is used to develop grappling, throws and groundwork techniques against an opponent. To bring the class to a close, students warm down and stretch before ending with a bow to show their respect.
Judo has a reasonably relaxed etiquette compared to many other martial arts. Below are a few basic rules that need to be followed.
- Come to training with clean feet and clothing
- Arrive early to allow time to change and tape up
- Keep your finger and toenails clean and cut short
- All cuts and wounds need to be covered up
- Do not come to training if sick or contagious
- Remove all jewellery before training
- Long hair must be tied back
- Footwear must be worn to the side of the mat
- Bow before training with your partner
- Bow after training with your partner
- Always listen to your coach’s instructions
- Let the senior instructor or coach know if you need to leave the mat
- Treat each other with respect