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History of Judo

Judo is a fascinating Olympic sport. What follows is a brief history of the development of what is now a modern Olympic Sport.

Judo training is an ideal form of physical exercise and it serves as a great cardiovascular workout, which improves stamina, general health and overall fitness.

Physical strength is also improved as a direct result of trying to control and dictate the movement of the opponent and as well as enhanced power; a Judo player will also improve their flexibility.

Judo is an ideal sport for all ages, males or females and attracts very many disability groups.

Confidence and self-esteem are enhanced as a player progresses through the ranks and the very nature of the grading system ensures that the next goal is always realistic and achievable with effort.

The grading system also ensures that regardless of their skill level all Judo players can actively compete with players of similar ability and hence they have a reasonable chance of emerging victorious.

Strict discipline is essential and great importance is placed on safety, hygiene and etiquette.

Safety is controlled by the contest rules, which are constantly updated to exclude harmful actions - this allows Judo to be practiced in a spirited manner without undue risk of harm or injury.

Judo moral code encourages judo players to have:

  • politeness
  • courage
  • sincerity
  • self-control
  • honor
  • modesty
  • friendship


The founder of Judo Jigoro Kano was born in 1860, Apart from being the founder of judo, Kano was a leading educationalist and a prominent figure in the Japanese Olympic movement.

When Kano began his study of ju-jutsu as a young man, the ju-jutsu masters of the martial arts were struggling to earn a living. Although they were willing to teach the skills handed down to them over many generations, there was little interest among people of the succeeding generation, additionally the demise of the samurai (warrior) class had reduced the need for instruction.

Judo - The formative years

By 1883, Kano had clarified his analysis of ju-jutsu and related methods to the point at which he felt able to instruct the public through a school of his own. To that end he borrowed a small room at Eishoji temple and opened the first Kodokan for the study of Kano judo.
A number of machi dojo (backstreet gyms) decided that the Kodokan was conceited and ought to be put in its place. They visited its premises and caused damage so that if honour were to be satisfied a challenge match would have to be arranged. At such matches the Kodokan was represented by Sakujiro Yokoyama, the outstanding player of his day, and the result was invariably a win for Kano judo.

To gain acceptance from the provinces Kodokan representatives travelled all over Japan giving lectures and demonstrations on the principles behind the new method. The finale of these lectures was a contest, with limb locks and striking excluded, between the Kodokan lecturer and a member of the local training school. A particularly important match took place in 1886 to decide which system of ju-jutsu should be approved for use in military academies, police departments and public schools. The 15 strong male Kodokan team defeated all opponents and judo became a government approved sport.

Judo in Britain

With the intention of establishing a ju-jutsu school in England, Mr E W Barton Wright sponsored a visit in 1899 of a team of Japanese judo experts. The project failed but those who stayed took to the stage to earn a living. Best known among them was Yukio Tani, who toured music halls offering challengers £1 per minute for every minute they lasted beyond five and £50 if they defeated him.

The prize money was rarely (if ever) paid. Over the following decade or so many Japanese "showmen" performed on stages around the country performing frivolous tricks linked with ju-jutsu. For all their showmanship, these men were very capable ju-jutsu players. Their real contribution to the growth of judo outside Japan was made in the books they published and the instruction they gave.

Tani remained in England after his compatriots had returned home and in 1920 was formally appointed chief instructor to a new club for "the study of systems developed by the samurai":the Busdokwai. Neither he nor the club's founder Gunji Koizumi, could have foreseen that they were creating an institution soon to become the most famous judo school outside Japan.


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