Judo (Kodokan Judo) was started by Kano Jigoro Shihan (professor) in 1882. He was 22 years old and had just graduated from a university.

Judo was derived from Jujutsu that was a Japanese traditional martial art. Jujutsu is a martial art that uses techniques such as throwing, holding, choking, hitting and kicking to subdue the opponent.

Kano Shihan studied two styles of Jujutsu, Tenjin Shinyo-ryu and Kito-ryu among many Jujutsu schools. Not only learning Jujutsu techniques, he began to think that he was able to develop fine people by indicating the way of living through Jujutsu training.

Finally, he sublimated Jujutsu that was a fighting method into Judo that aims at character-building. His dojo was named Kodokan that means "a school for studying the way", "the way" being the concept of life itself. Then he started to teach Judo there.

Kano Jigoro Shihan

Kano Jigoro Shihan

History of Judo

Judo is derived from Jujutsu. It was created by Professor Jigoro Kano who was born in Japan on October 28, 1860 and who died May 4, 1938 after a lifetime of promoting Judo. Mastering several styles of jujutsu including Kito-Ryu and Tenjin-Shinyo Ryu in his youth he began to develop his own system based on modern sports principles. In 1882 he founded the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo where he began teaching and which still is the international authority for Judo.

The name Judo was chosen because it means the “gentle or yielding way”. Kano emphasized the larger educational value of training in attack and defense so that it could be a path or way of life that all people could participate in and benefit from. He eliminated some of the traditional jujutsu techniques and changed training methods so that most of the moves could be done with full force to create a decisive victory without injury. The popularity of Judo increased dramatically after a famous contest hosted by the Tokyo police in 1886 where the Judo team defeated the most well-known jujutsu school of the time. It then became a part of the Japanese physical education system and began its spread around the world. Dr. Kano, President of the University of Education, Tokyo, dedicated his life, studied these ancient martial art of Jujutsu and integrated what he considered to be the best of their techniques into what is now the modern sport of Judo.

Judo is many things to different people. It is a fun sport, an art, a discipline, a recreational or social activity, a fitness program, a means of self-defense or combat, and a way of life. It is all of these and more.

Judo was introduced into the Olympic Games in 1964 and is practiced by millions of people throughout the world today. People practice Judo to excel in competition, to stay in shape, to develop self-confidence, and for many other reasons. But most of all, people do Judo just for the fun of it.

Principles and Goals of Judo

Judo, which is translated as the “gentle way”, teaches the principle of flexibility in the application of technique. This is the flexible or efficient use of balance, leverage, and movement in the performance of Judo throws and other skills. Skill, technique and timing, rather than the use of brute strength, are the essential ingredients for success in Judo. For example, in Judo classes you may learn how to give way, rather than use force, to overcome a stronger opponent.

The principles of Judo, such as “Maximum Efficiency” and “Mutual Welfare and Benefit”, can also be used in our dealings with others in life. The ultimate goal in Judo is to develop oneself to the maximum extent possible, always striving for perfection, so that you can contribute something of value to the world.

The Purpose of Judo

Judo is loved by all generations. You can see people of all ages from six to over eighty years, and people of all professions, nationalities and sexes enjoying Judo at the Kodokan. They all have their own purposes. Some of them want to be strong, some want to be healthy, some want to strengthen their mind, some want to appreciate the pleasant feeling after perspiring, some want to be able to defend themselves, some want to become instructors of Judo, and some are already devoted to training others. Why is Judo attracting people of all ages and people with so many different purposes?

Prof. Kano created Judo from Jujutsu as the means to learn the great principle of humanity, not only to learn Waza. He named the training institution "Kodokan". The word "Kodo" means to learn, prove and practice the principle. The fact that Prof. Kano named Judo "Kodokan Judo" shows us how he made much of the principle and made it a principal objective of life to learn. Prof. Kano himself said that the purpose of Judo is to strengthen body by practicing attack and defense, to complete the personality by training the mind, and finally to devote oneself to society.

Kano Shihan throwing Yoshitsugu YAMASHITA with Uki-goshi

Kano Shihan throwing Yoshitsugu YAMASHITA with Uki-goshi

The Principle of Waza

Female trainees learning from Kano Shihan (early Taisho period)

Female trainees learning from Kano Shihan (early Taisho period)

Waza is based on the fundamental principle of Judo that is, "Maximum Efficient Use of Mind and Body". The theories of Tsukuri and Kake are expressing the principle from Waza's viewpoint.

Tsukuri is made up of Kuzushi which means to destroy your opponent's posture or balance, and "holding yourself ready" to make your attack easier. To actually apply your contemplated technique, when his posture has already been broken by Tsukuri, is called Kake. Tsukuri and Kake can also be called technical principles of Judo.

While you are practicing Tsukuri and Kake, both depend upon the fundamental principle of "Mutual welfare and benefit" and "Maximum efficiency," you can understand and master the principle which can be applied to all phases of human life. You proceed from Waza to Way by practicing Judo.


What images was the Kodokan symbol derived from?

Meaning of the Kodokan Emblem - Yata no Kagami, or "The Mirror Yata"

Contrary to common belief, the Kodokan emblem is not a cherry blossom, but rather a representation of a mythical 8 sided mirror given to the first emperor of Japan by the Gods, as the legend goes.

The red circle expresses an iron-core that is fired, and the white outward means the floss silk that wraps the core. The floss silk is pure white and has toughness although it is soft. The more one forges iron, the more it becomes strong.

The symbol expresses the idea that Kodokan members should always have the following spirit: Soft-outward and hard-inward. That is to say, they should have a mighty heart and strengthened physical ability while they behave softly, calmly and rightly to others.

The symbol was made in 1940 improving a symbol that was set by Kano Shihan in the early days of Kodokan. It expresses the spirit of soft-outward and hard-inward. The flower-shaped outward expresses a flower shaped mirror that means trainees should have always Shihan's words in their mind.

The Judo Rank System

Judo created the system of ranks, now used in most other martial arts, that recognize a person’s degree of knowledge, ability, and leadership. There are separate ranks for juniors (under 17) and seniors. Judo ranks are identified by colored belts, and ten degrees of advanced grades for black belts. Regular advancement encourages students to achieve more.

Judo is Fun!

As in all sports, Judo has a strict set of rules that governs competition and ensures safety. For those who want to test their skills, Judo offers the opportunity for competition at all skill levels, from club to national tournaments, to the Olympic Games. There are separate weight divisions for men and women, and boys and girls.

Judo is best known for it’s spectacular throwing techniques but also involves considerable grappling on the ground utilizing specialized pins, control holds, arm locks, and Judo choking techniques. Judo emphasizes safety, and full physical activity for top conditioning. Judo is learned on special mats for comfort and safety.

Judo is unique in that all age groups, both sexes, and most disabled persons can participate together in learning and practicing the sport. Judo is an inexpensive, year-round activity, that appeals to people from all walks of life. Many people over sixty years of age enjoy the sport, as well as very young boys and girls.

Judo develops self-discipline and respect for oneself and others. Judo provides the means for learning self-confidence, concentration, and leadership skills, as well as physical coordination, power, and flexibility. As a sport that has evolved from a fighting art, it develops complete body control, fine balance, and fast reflexive action. Above all, it develops a sharp reacting mind well-coordinated with the same kind of body. Judo training gives a person an effective self-defense system if the need arises. Judo is often a part of the training done by athletes preparing for MMA matches.