道 (“judo”) meaning ‘gentle way’, was created as a physical, mental and moral method of practise and teaching. Judo was created in 1882 by 嘉納治五郎 (“Jigoro Kano”). This sport is categorized as a modern martial art, but it is also a combat and Olympic sport now. One of the key elements in this martial art is its competitive element, as the objective is to throw or takedown an opponent to the ground. How one does this, is by immobilising (by disrupting the balance of the opponent) or subduing (by a pin, a joint lock or a choke) an opponent. Strikes or kicks are not allowed in a normal judo competition. Someone who practises judo is called a ‘judoka’.
The history of Judo
As previously mentioned, Judo was established in 1882 by Jigoro Kano. The sport was developed by combining jujitsu with mental discipline. Jujitsu derives of sumo again, and sumo has a long history. Sumo goes as far back as the year 720.
From the 12th to the 19th century, Japan was ruled by the samurai. The samurai were a class of professional soldiers. This caused various martial arts to develop. In addition to fighting with swords and bows, the samurai developed jujitsu to fight enemies at close quarters. Several different styles of jujitsu developed from that, and was spread as an important form of military training.
The samurai era came to an end in 1868. Then Western culture began trickling into Japanese society. Jujitsu lost its popularity, but it was kept alive by one young man; Jigoro Kano. This is the founder of judo. Jigoro Kano:
In May 1882, when he was 21 years old, he took the best things about each jujitsu style and created one, new school. Modern judo was born. At first he had just nine students, and his dojo (a practice hall) measured just 12 jo (about 18.37 square meters). Two dojo’s:
In 1889 Kano went to Europe to introduce people to judo outside of Japan. There is a famous story that actually happened when he was traveling to Europe. When a foreigner made fun of Kano on a boat he was travelling on, he threw the man down but put his hand under the man’s head to prevent him from getting hurt.
This perfectly demonstrates how judo combines fighting technique with thoughtfulness for one’s enemy. Kano kept working all his life to spread his martial art.
Eventually, Kano’s dream came true. At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, men’s judo was recognized as an official Olympic sport. Japanese competitors won gold in all divisions, except for the open division. As Japan lost in one division, this proved that judo had already taken root in other countries than Japan.
Currently 184 countries/regions are member of the International Judo Federation. Judo is particularly popular in Europe. Oddly enough, many more people in France practice judo than in Japan. Japan is continuing to promote up to this day, by sending instructors to continents like Africa.
Judo matches are fought between two people on a square mat measuring between 8 to 10 meters per side. There is one head referee, who stands on the mate and walks around looking if everything is going according to how it should. And two assistant referees who keep track of the score and penalty points. Any one of 67 throwing techniques and 29 grappling techniques in total may be used to win.
Scores are awarded for various techniques, the highest being ippon. An ippon is when you throw your opponent on their back fully. When their back hits the mat, the match is over. A different way a match can end is by your opponent submitting. The opponent lets everyone know he gives up when he taps twice with his hand or feet on either the mat or his opponent. This only happens during chokes and arm locks.
The other way in which you can win is by points or by penalties. If you get a yuko, this means that you have thrown an opponent on their side or have held a hold for 15 seconds. You can also get a wazaari. This gets awarded to a judoka when someone was either almost thrown straight on their back or when a hold is held for 20 seconds. Two wazaari’s is an ippon. A wazaari is worth more points than a yuko.
There used to be a koka. You could get this when you threw an opponent and he/she fell on his/her knees or when you held a hold for 10 seconds. A koka was worth less than a yuko. The koka was removed from the scoreboard.
If no points are made, a judoka can win by penalties committed by the opponent. These penalties can be stalling, moving out of the mat, or not attacking. Illegal or dangerous techniques can lead to disqualification.
If the score at the end of the match is even, the three referees decide the winner by each raising a flag to signal who they think fought better.
One of the appeals of judo is that the martial art emphasises etiquette. This shows that you respect your opponent. Contestants bow before and after a match; bending their upper bodies forward at an angle of about 30 degrees.
They bow when they enter and leave the competition area, before stepping onto and after coming off the mat, when facing the opponent at the start and end of a match, and when the referee announces the result.
A judogi (“judo uniform”) consists of: a joi (“judo top”), shitabaki (“judo pants”), and an obi (“belt”). One competitor wears a white uniform, the other wears blue. Traditionally both were white, but in 1997, the International Judo Federation officially decided to use blue judo uniforms.
This was done to make it easier for spectators to distinguish between the competitors. In this way it is easier to see what is happening when one judoka pins the other to the floor. The judoka’s also didn’t wear their own belt in the tournaments I did. In this way you do not know if you are better than your opponent or the other way around. This makes you worry less and makes it a more neutral and fair match.
As I have practiced judo myself from age 4 to age 11, I remember quite a lot of throws and holds. I had a brown belt and I was certainly not bad at the sport. I won multiple local tournaments but I quit a year after I earned my brown belt, as you have to wait until you’re 16 years old then until you can earn the black belt. I would only get to do that this year. Practicing the same things over and over did not seem too attractive to me, so I quit.
3 prizes I won:
As I still remember quite a lot of the techniques, apart from most Japanese names for them, I know that discussing all techniques in detail will take a long time. That is why I chose to discuss some of the most basics ones, and my personal favourites.
Seoi nage (“shoulder throw”)
The shoulder throw is just what it sounds like. You grab the arm of your opponent, you hook your elbow in their elbow, you turn your back to your opponent, then you squat so that when you throw the opponent over your head, he/she is thrown by your hip. You can also do a shoulder throw on one knee and on two knees.
Harai goshi (sweeping hip throw)
In this throw, you pull your opponent towards you as you turn your body, just like in the shoulder throw. You then throw your opponent with your arm power and hips. The hips are more powerful. In addition, you also sweep both of your opponent’s legs away. If you hold your opponent’s arm at your side when sweeping, it becomes harai makikomi (sweeping wraparound), in which you throw your opponent while wrapped around their body, without sweeping the legs.
Osoto gari (outer leg sweep)
This is the first throw I learnt. You place your leg past the opponents right leg (form the opponents point of view), then you push your opponent off balance and sweep your leg backwards. supporting their body weight out from under them with your leg.
The tani-otoshi is a counter to any hip throw ( like the shoulder throw and the harai goshi). When your opponent has turned their back on you, you put your right foot past their left (left from their point of view). Then you fall down to your left side. If this goes wrong it could give your opponent a point, since you are the one that fell on your side. That is why you do not land slightly on your back, to prevent giving the opponent a wazaari or even an ippon.
Yokoshiho katame (four-direction hold)
This is the most basic pinning technique. In it you hold down your opponent involves holding down your opponent on their back by wrapping one arm around their shoulder and wrapping the other around the opponent’s farthest leg. By moving your own chest against your opponent’s, he has less chance of getting out of it.
Ude hishigi juji gatame (arm-crushing cross hold)
This is the classic armlock and the first one you learn. With your opponent on their back, you sit beside them and hold one of their arms by the wrist with two of your own hands. Both of your legs are over your opponent’s body. You sit as close as you can to your opponents, you put your knees togethers and then your pull the wrist back, or to the side so that you don’t crush your balls ?.
If the opponent endures being held like this, it could result in a broken arm or damaged ligaments, so this technique forces them to submit. This is also why you can only use this technique in a tournament when you are 16 years or older. You can also apply this technique straight after a throw. See the clip.