Judo meaning "gentle way", is a modern Japanese martial art that originated in Japan in the late nineteenth century. Its most prominent feature is its competitive element, where the object is to either throw one's opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue one's opponent with a grappling manoeuvre, or force an opponent to submit by joint locking the elbow or applying a choke. Kicks, punches, and thrusts are also practised, but only in pre-arranged forms (kata). They are not allowed in judo competition or free practice (randori).
Ultimately, the philosophy and subsequent pedagogy developed for judo became the model for almost all modern Japanese martial arts that developed from "traditional" schools. Practitioners of judo are called jūdōka.

History and philosophy

Kano Jigoro.
Kano Jigoro.

Early life of the founder

The early history of judo is inseparable from its founder, Jigoro Kano. Kano was born into a well-to-do Japanese family. His grandfather was a self-made man; a sake brewer from Shiga prefecture in central Japan. However, Kano's father was not the eldest son and therefore did not inherit the business. Instead, he became a Shinto priest and government official, with enough influence for his son to enter the second incoming class of Tokyo Imperial University.

Founder pursues jujutsu

Kano was a small, frail boy, who was often picked on by bullies as a child. He first started pursuing jujutsu, at that time a flourishing art, at the age of 17, but met with little success. This was in part due to difficulties finding a teacher who would take him on as a serious student. When he went off to the University to study literature at the age of 18, he continued his martial studies, eventually gaining a referral to Fukuda Hachinosuke (c.1828–c.1880).
A little more than a year after Kano joined Fukuda's school, Fukuda became ill and died. Kano then became a student in another Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū school, that of Iso Masatomo (c.1820–c.1881), who put more emphasis on the practice of pre-arranged forms (kata) than Fukuda had. Through dedication, Kano quickly earned the title of master instructor and became assistant instructor to Iso at the age of 21. Unfortunately, Iso soon took ill, and Kano, feeling that he still had much to learn, took up another style, becoming a student of Tsunetoshi Iikubo. Like Fukuda, Iikubo placed much emphasis on free practice; on the other hand, Kitō-ryū emphasized throwing techniques to a much greater degree than Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū.


By this time, Kano was devising new techniques, such as the "shoulder wheel" (kata-guruma, known as a fireman's carry to Western wrestlers who use a slightly different form of this technique) and the "floating hip" (uki goshi) throw. His thoughts were already on doing more than expanding the canons of Kitō-ryū and Tenjin Shin'yō-ryū. Full of new ideas, Kano had in mind a major reformation of jujutsu, with techniques based on sound scientific principles, and with focus on development of the body, mind and character of young men in addition to development of martial prowess. At the age of 22, when he was just about to finish his degree at the University, Kano took 9 students from Iikubo's school to study jujutsu under him at the Eisho-ji, a Buddhist temple in Kamakura. Although two years would pass before the temple would be called by the name "Kodokan", or "place for teaching the way", and Kano had not yet been accorded the title of "master" in the Kitō-ryū, this is now regarded as the Kodokan's founding.

Meaning of "judo"

The word "judo" shares the same root ideogram as "jujutsu", "Ju" which may mean "gentleness", "softness", "suppleness", and even "easy", depending on its context. Such attempts to translate are deceptive, however. The use of in each of these words is an explicit reference to the martial arts principle of the "soft method" The soft method is characterized by the indirect application of force to defeat an opponent. More specifically, it is the principle of using one's oppon.ent's strength against him and adapting well to changing circumstances. For example, if the attacker was to push against his opponent he would find his opponent stepping to the side and allowing (often with the aid of a foot to trip him up) his momentum to throw him forwards (the inverse being true for pulling). Kano saw jujutsu as a disconnected bag of tricks, and sought to unify it according to a principle; he found it in the notion of "maximum efficiency". Jujutsu techniques which relied solely on superior strength were discarded or adapted in favour of those which involved redirecting the opponent's force, off balancing the opponent, or making use of superior leverage.
The second characters of judo and jujutsu differ. Where jujutsu means the "art" or "science" of softness, judo means the "way" of softness. The use of "" meaning way, road or path has spiritual or philosophical overtones. Use of this word is a deliberate departure from ancient martial arts, whose sole purpose was for killing. Kano saw judo as a means for governing and improving oneself physically, mentally, emotionally and morally. He even extended the physical principle of maximum efficiency into daily life, evolving it into "mutual prosperity". In this respect judo is seen as a holistic approach to life extending well beyond the confines of the dojo.

Combat phases

Judo assumes that there are two main phases of combat: the standing (tachi-waza) and the ground (ne-waza) phase. Each phase requires its own mostly separate techniques, strategies, randori, conditioning and so on, although special training is devoted to "transitional" techniques to bridge the gap. Jūdōka may become quite skilled in one phase and be rather weak in the other, depending on where their interests most lie, although most are rather balanced between the two.
Tachi-waza ends and ne-waza begins once the jūdōka go to the ground. The throw pictured is ōuchi-gari.
Tachi-waza ends and ne-waza begins once the jūdōka go to the ground. The throw pictured is ōuchi-gari.
external image magnify-clip.pngōuchi gari.


Judo emphasizes a free-style sparring, called randori, as one of its main forms of training. A part of the combat time is spent sparring standing up, called tachi-waza, and the other part on the ground, called ne-waza. Sparring, even within safety rules, is much more effective than only practising techniques. There are several types of sparring exercises , such as ju renshu (both judoka attacks in a very gentle way where no resistance is ever applied) and kakari geiko (only one judoka attacks while the other one relies solely on defensive and evasive techniques, without the use of sheer strength).


In the standing phase, which has primacy according to the contest rules, the opponents attempt to throw each other. The main purpose of the throwing techniques (nage waza) is to take an opponent who is standing on his feet, mobile and dangerous, down onto his back where he cannot move as effectively. Thus, the main reason for throwing the opponent is to control the opponent and to put oneself in a dominant position. In this way the practitioner has more potential to render a decisive outcome. Another reason to throw the opponent is to shock his body through smashing him forcefully onto the ground. If an exponent executes a powerful yet fully controlled throw, he can win a match outright due to the theory that he has displayed enough superiority. In actual fact, this kind of victory is very difficult to achieve if the opponents are equally matched. Therefore points are given for lesser throws in the standing phase of combat.


In the ground phase, which is considered the secondary phase of combat, the opponents try to pin each other, or to get the opponent to submit either by using armlocks or by chokes and strangulations.
Hold-downs are important since in a real fight the person who has control of his opponent can hit him with punches, knees, headbutts, and other strikes. If osaekomi is held for 25 seconds, the person doing the pinning wins the match. (This time requirement is said to reflect the time necessary for a samurai to reach his knife or sword and dispatch his pinned opponent. It also reflects the combat reality that a fighter must immobilize his opponent for a substantial amount of time in order to strike effectively.) In a match, a pin must be held for ten seconds to gain any score; a pin of less than 25 seconds will score, but will not win the match.

Joint locks

Joint locks (kansetsu-waza) are effective combat techniques because they enable a jūdōka to control his opponent through pain-compliance, or if necessary, to cause breakage of the locked joint. Joint locks on the elbow are considered safe enough to perform at nearly full-force in competition to force submission from one's opponent.
Chokes and strangulations
Chokes and strangulations (shime-waza) enable the one applying the choke to force the adversary into unconsciousness and even death. Strangulation cuts off the blood supply to the brain via compression on the sides of the neck, while a choke blocks the airway from the front of the neck. The terms are frequently interchangeable in common usage, and a formal differentiation is not made by most jūdōka. In competition, the jūdōka wins if the opponent submits or becomes unconscious. A strangle, once properly locked in, can knock an opponent unconscious in 3 seconds. Although these are potentially lethal techniques, a properly-applied chokehold, if released promptly upon submission or unconsciousness, causes no injury or lasting discomfort.

Judo practitioners traditionally wear white uniforms called jūdōgi, which simply means "judo uniform", for practising judo. Sometimes the word is seen shortened simply to "gi" (uniform). The modern jūdōgi consists of white or blue cotton drawstring pants and a matching white or blue quilted cotton jacket, fastened by a belt (obi).
The modern use of the blue judogi was first suggested by Anton Geesink at the 1986 Maastricht IJF DC Meeting.[2] Before competition, a blue jūdōgi is assigned to one of the two competitors for ease of distinction by judges, referees, and spectators. In Japan, both judoka still use a white judogi and the traditional red sash (based on the flag's colours) is affixed to the belt of one competitor.

Rank and grading

Jūdōka are ranked according to skill and knowledge of judo, and their rank is reflected by their belt colour. There are two divisions of rank, below black-belt "grades" (kyū), and black belt "degrees" (dan). This ranking system of was introduced into the martial arts by Kano and has since been widely adopted by modern martial arts. As initially designed, there were six student grades which were numerically ranked in decending order, with 1st kyū being the last before promotion to first degree black belt (shodan). There are ordinarily 10 dan ranks are in ascending numerical order. For dan ranks the first five are coloured black, 6th, 7th, and 8th dan have alternating red and white panels, and for 9th and 10th dan the belts were to be solid red.
The tenth degree black belt (jūdan) and those above it have no formal requirements. The president of the Kodokan, currently Kano Jigoro's grandson Yukimitsu Kano (Kano Yukimitsu), decides on individuals for promotion. Only 15 individuals have been promoted to this rank by the Kodokan. On January 6, 2006, three individuals were promoted to 10th dan simultaneously: Toshiro Daigo, Ichiro Abe, and Yoshimi Osawa. This is the most ever at the same time, and the first in 22 years. No one has ever been promoted to a rank higher than 10th dan, but,
Theoretically the Judo rank system is not limited to 10 degrees of black belt. The original English language copy (1955) of Illustrated Kodokan Judo, by Jigoro Kano, says: "There is no limit...on the grade one can receive. Therefore if one does reach a stage above 10th dan... there is no reason why he should not be promoted to 11th dan." However, since there has never been any promotion to a rank above 10th dan, the Kodokan Judo promotion system effectively has only 10 dans. There have only been 15 10th dans awarded by the Kodokan in the history of Judo.[3]
Although dan ranks tend to be consistent between national organisations there is more variation in the kyū grades, with some countries having more kyū grades. Although initially kyū grade belt colours were uniformly white, today a wide variety of colours can be seen.

Judo Federation of Australia - http://www.ausjudo.com.au/

Judo NSW - http://www.judonsw.com.au./

Australian Black Belt Register - http://www.judonsw.com.au./