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Judo: The Gentle Way

Two judokas fighting; Dr Jigoro Kano's photo in the background
Image by master1305 on Freepik

Are you trying to find a martial art whose training is both traditional and sporty? Then judo is the best martial art for you. The word literally translates as “gentle way” since ju means ‘gentle’ and do means ‘way’. It is gentle because its fundamental tenet is to use your opponent’s own weight and strength against him or her, allowing a smaller person to defeat a much larger opponent through ability, strategy, technique and time. The majority of sports judo techniques can be practised by people of all ages and genders.

History of Judo

As the knowledge of unarmed fighting arts (jitsu) spread throughout the Orient, coming last to Japan, the subdivision multiplied as did names by which the arts were known: Wojitsu, Tai-jitsu, Go shin Jitsu, Ai Jitsu, and many others. Dr Jigoro Kano, a Japanese college professor, spent many years studying various ancient fighting arts, evaluating, comparing and practising them. Finally, in 1882, he put together the techniques to create a new art which he called Judo.

Dr Kano’s vision for judo was, as he wrote: “Judo should be one all-pervading principle governing the whole field, and that principle should be the highest or most efficient use of mental as well as physical energy directed to the accomplishment of a certain definite purpose or aim. Once the real importance of this purpose is understood, it may be applied to all phases of life and activity, thereby enabling one to lead the highest and most rational life.”

Present-day Judo

Today, judo is one of the most widely-spread martial arts with over 10 million practitioners. Kodokan is judo’s main centre for training and administration (Kodokan is the name given by Dr Kano to his dojo). You need not be contest-minded to take up judo. It is not purely about physical, it’s also about good attitude, behaviour, and adhering to class etiquette and decorum. We see this reflected in the oath every student joining Kodokan takes: “Once I have entered the Kodokan, I will not end my study without reasonable cause; I will not dishonour the dojo; unless I am given permission, I will not disclose the secrets that I have been taught, unless I am given permission, I will not teach judo; pupil first, teacher second, I will always follow the rules of the dojo.”

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