History Of Judo

Judo, known as the way of gentleness, was developed by Prof. Jigoro Kano based on various martial arts. It serves as an excellent form of physical exercise and self-defense, while also promoting education and character development. Prof. Kano emphasized the importance of utilizing both mind and body efficiently for personal growth. As the first Olympic sport originating from Asia, Judo holds a unique place and significance.

The origin and evolution of Judo as a combat sport highlight the superiority of technique over brute strength. Its development was guided by high ethical standards, always respecting the technical system and combative methods.

(as narrated by Prof. Jigoro Kano, Father of Modern Judo)

“Most people are familiar with the terms jujutsu and judo, but few can distinguish between them. Allow me to explain the difference and why judo came to replace jujutsu.

During Japan’s feudal age, numerous martial arts were practiced, including the use of the lance, archery, swordsmanship, and more. Jujutsu, also known as taijutsu and yawara, encompassed a range of attack techniques such as throwing, hitting, kicking, stabbing, slashing, choking, joint manipulation, and defenses against these attacks. While the techniques of jujutsu were known since ancient times, systematic practice and teaching began in the latter half of the sixteenth century. During the Edo period (1603-1868), it developed into a complex art taught by masters from various schools.

In my youth, I studied jujutsu under many distinguished masters. Their extensive knowledge, gained through years of research and experience, greatly benefited me. However, each master presented their art as a collection of techniques, without recognizing the guiding principle underlying jujutsu. When encountering discrepancies in the teachings, I often struggled to discern the correct approach. This led me to search for a fundamental principle in jujutsu that applied universally, regardless of the specific technique employed. After thorough study, I discovered an all-encompassing principle: the efficient utilization of mental and physical energy. With this principle in mind, I reviewed all the attack and defense methods I had learned and retained only those in accordance with it. Techniques that deviated from this principle were discarded, making way for the inclusion of techniques where the principle was correctly applied. This resulting body of techniques, which I named judo to distinguish it from its predecessor, is what we recognize as Judo today.

Both jujutsu and judo are written with two Chinese characters. The character ju, meaning “gentleness” or “yielding,” is common to both terms. Jutsu signifies “art” or “practice,” while do conveys the concept of “principle” or “way,” representing the essence of life itself. Jujutsu can be translated as “the gentle art,” and judo as “the Way of gentleness,” implying the initial act of yielding to eventually gain victory. Judo extends beyond mere techniques of attack and defense; it encompasses a way of life.

To understand the concept of gentleness or yielding, let’s consider a scenario. If a person with a strength of ten were to push against me while my strength is only seven, even if I resist with all my might, I would be pushed back or knocked down. This is a case of directly opposing strength with strength. However, if I yield to the extent of my opponent’s push, withdrawing my body and maintaining balance, my opponent will lose their balance. Weakened by their awkward position, their strength decreases to three. While I retain my balance, my strength remains at seven. Thus, I become

stronger than my opponent and can defeat them using only half of my strength, reserving the other half for other purposes. Even if you are stronger than your opponent, it is more advantageous to initially yield. By doing so, you conserve energy while exhausting your opponent.

This example demonstrates how yielding can lead to victory over an opponent.

The prevalence of techniques based on this principle resulted in the art being named jujutsu. Let’s explore a few other examples of what can be accomplished through jujutsu.

Imagine a person standing upright like a log; with a single finger, they can be easily tipped off balance, either forward or backward. If, at the moment they lean forward, I apply my arm to their back and quickly maneuver my hip in front of theirs, my hip becomes a fulcrum. By slightly twisting my hip or pulling on their arm or sleeve, I can effortlessly throw them to the ground, regardless of their weight compared to mine.

Similarly, if I attempt to unbalance an opponent forward, but they step forward with one foot, I can still easily throw them by pressing the ball of my foot just below their Achilles’ tendon a split second before they fully place their weight on that foot. This demonstrates the efficient use of energy, allowing me to defeat a significantly stronger opponent with minimal effort.

What if an opponent rushes up and pushes me? Instead of pushing back, if I seize their arms or collar with both hands, position the ball of my foot against their lower abdomen, straighten my leg, and sit back, I can make them somersault over my head. Alternatively, if my opponent leans forward slightly and pushes me with one hand, throwing them off balance, I can grab their upper sleeve, pivot so that my back is close to their chest, clamp my free hand on their shoulder, and suddenly bend over, causing them to fly over my head and land flat on their back.

These examples illustrate that the principle of leverage is sometimes more critical than simply yielding. Jujutsu also incorporates direct forms of attack, such as striking, kicking, and choking. Thus, the term “the art of giving way” fails to capture the true essence. If we define jujutsu as the art or practice of efficiently utilizing mental and physical energy, then judo can be seen as the way, the principle, of accomplishing this, leading to a more accurate definition.

In 1882, I founded the Kodokan to teach judo to others. Within a few years, the number of students rapidly increased, drawing individuals from all over Japan, including those who left their jujutsu masters to train with me. Eventually, judo surpassed jujutsu in popularity within Japan and gradually gained recognition worldwide.”

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