Judo is a martial art derived from the ju jitsu schools of Japan. It was invented in 1882 by Professor Jigoro Kano.
Kano took the best elements from a number of different ju jitsu schools, abandoning all those techniques that he deemed to be too brutal or not based on sound scientific principles of movement, action and reaction, balance etc. Greater emphasis was placed on breakfalling (ukemi) practice, and the concept of randori, a free practice as opposed to kata, a prearranged sequence, was introduced.
Judo is comprised of throwing and ground grappling techniques, and at adult levels also includes armlocks and strangles. Kata forms such as kime-no-kata and goshin-jitsu also involve the use of weapons in realistic self-defence situations.
Great Britain was one of the first countries outside of Japan to have a judo club – The Budokwai, in London, founded by Gunji Koizumi in 1908. It is still going strong.
Many clubs have a picture of Kano or Koizumi on display, and finish the training session with a bow to the picture. We bow to a picture of Kano.
Kano was a member of the International Olympic Committee, and died on board ship whilst returning from a meeting in Cairo just before the Second World War. He can be seen presenting medals in photos of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
The British Judo Association, formed in 1948, was the driving force behind the creation of the European Judo Union and the International Judo Federation.
Judo first appeared in the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964, and has been a regular feature since 1972. Originally contests were split by grade, not weight, however these days a number of different weight categories are in use for safety’s sake, and Olympic competitors must have achieved a minimum grade and world ranking.
World Championships are held every two years. Great Britain hosted the World Championships in 1999, in Birmingham, where Graeme Randall won a gold medal, and Karina Bryant, Kate Howey and Karen Roberts won bronzes.
Hampshire’s Kate Howey won a silver medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and was World Champion in 1997. Great Britain has won many other World and Olympic medals, making judo one of the country’s most successful sports.