History of Judo

A small lesson in Judo

Japanese Culture Judo History

History of Judo

Judo is based on the movements of Jiu-Jitsu. The origins of Ju-jitsu can be traced back two thousand years, though it is probable that the forms practised then were more like modern Japanese Sumo wrestling than Judo as we know it. Some historians think that Ju-jitsu originated in China and came to Japan about 1645, but there is evidence that it was known in Japan long before this date.

The reasons for the growth of
Jiu-Jitsu were: (i) the need for warriors to have a means of self-defense on occasions when they were forbidden to wear their swords, and (ii) the tradition that a warrior should be able to overcome a person of lower rank without the use of weapons. Many schools of Jiu-Jitsu came into being in Japan, differing greatly in the number and value of the tricks their masters taught.

In the middle of the eighteenth century, however, feudalism declined in Japan, and with it the martial arts. Ju-jitsu masters were forced to close their schools for lack of pupils, and the art might have been lost altogether, but for a Dr. Jigoro Kano.

He was at that time a student at the Tokyo Imperial University, and became interested in Ju-jitsu because he was of small stature and he had heard that Ju-jitsu tricks would enable such as he to hold their own in combat with bigger men. Kano studied under various masters, selecting those tricks which he thought most valuable for his own study.

In 1882 he opened his own school, The Kodokwan, in Tokyo. As he progressed, Kano came to see that Ju-jitsu was more than a way of defense against attacks; it was a way of life that developed the intellect and the spirit. Kano selected those movements most suitable for practice as a sport from the many he had learnt, and he called the system he compiled "Judo" as distinct from "Ju-jitsu". "Judo" means "the gentle way", in distinction to "Ju-jitsu", which means "the gentle art".

"Judo" is the word commonly used now throughout the world, and the principles of Dr. Kano have had a lasting effect on the movement. There is a very high tradition of good behavior and helpfulness amongst students.

Judo's beginnings in the United States are rather hazy, but it is believed that the sport was brought to America by President Theodore Roosevelt who, upon witnessing an exhibition, was so impressed that he immediately imported a Japanese instructor from whom he took lessons. Today there are many Judo clubs in the U.S., though most of them are unaffiliated with the main organization, the Judo Black Belt Federation.

In Britain an early school to be established was The Budokwai, set up in London in 1918, by Mr. G. Koizumi. Mr. Tani became the Chief Instructor there. Before the last war there were about forty clubs in Britain affiliated to that school, and of course a number of independent schools as well. Judo became so popular after the war, however, that a larger organization was necessary, and the British
Judo Association was founded in 1948, with The Budokwai and its affiliated clubs as early members.

In the past twelve years about four hundred clubs have become affiliated to this organization. Of more recent years, another organization has grown up, the Amateur Judo Association, with Mr. Pat Butler as its secretary. This organization also has about four hundred affiliated clubs, and a large number of individual members. In addition to these, there is the British Judo Council, having Mr. K. Abbe, 8th Dan, as its President, and Mr. Otani, 7th Dan, as its National Coach. This organization is the British section of the International Judo Council.

The popularity of Judo as a sport throughout the world today is so great that it has been recognized by the Olympic Committee for inclusion in the next Olympic Games.

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