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What is Judo?

Judo is a combative Japanese martial art and competitive Olympic sport that involves largely the practice of throws, pins, strangles and arm-locks which are used in contests against uncooperative opponents. Contests are also available for Judo 
Kata forms, which are 2-person pre-defined and choreographed demonstration series. Beside the physical practice of techniques, Judo also encompasses moral teachings and fostering the belief that Judo should be used only for defense and for the mutual welfare and benefit of the community.

Origins of Judo

He who fears loss, has already been beaten. - Jigoro Kano

Judo was founded by Jigoro Kano in Tokyo, Japan in 1882 and is derived from the many schools of Jujitsu (“the gentle technique”). Jujitsu uses punches, kicks, blocks, wrist-locks, leg-locks, throws, pins, arm-locks and strangles to defeat and/or control an opponent. Kano studied at various schools and found that Jujitsu was a very effective and admirable fighting form, however, severe injuries were very common during the learning process. So, Kano developed a form that would strengthen mind and body but also could be learned safely as a form of physical education and used as a competitive sport. The result was Judo. Once Judo was established in Japan, Dr. Kano sent many of his students abroad to teach judo to others making it an international sensation. Today, a few relatively new combative art forms owe their roots to judo including Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ) and Sambo.


“Judo” is a Japanese word that literally translates to “gentle way,” but is more accurately understood as “reasonable conduct.” This is because the “ju” and “do” in “judo” are meant in the context of Taoist philosophy where “to be gentle” is “to be reasonable” and “way” refers to both physical and moral conduct. Below is a list of other words and phrases commonly used in Judo and their generally understood meaning:

ashi-waza = foot/leg techniques newaza = ground techniques
dan = degree black belt randori = free practice
dojo = place where judo is practiced sensei = teacher
ippon = 1 point / perfect throw shiai = fighting competition
joseki = where VIPs sit shido = penalty in shiai
judogi (gi) = judo uniform shimewaza = strangling techniques
judoka = person who practices judo sutemiwaza = sacrifice techniques
kaeshiwaza = counter techniques tachiwaza = standing techniques
kumikata = gripping methods tatami = mats
kuzushi = breaking opponent’s balance uchikomi = practice fitting-in for throws
kyu = student judo rank ukemi = break falling
nage-waza = throwing techniques

To view the new IJF Rules or download a complete set of the International Judo Federation Refereeing rules, go to the IJF Web Site.

The most complete book written about Judo is still Kodokan Judo, written by Jigoro Kano. Kodokan Judo includes a brief history and etiquette as well as the throws, pins, armlocks, strangles and counters for these techniques and it contains descriptions of the seven Kata of the Kodokan. This book is available from by clicking on the logo to the right. Kodokan Judo by Jigoro Kano

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