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Dr. Jigoro Kano


"Judo" is a Japanese word meaning "gentleness" or "giving".  Judo is derived from the ancient martial art of Jujitsu, is which the dangerous holds and blows of Karate and Sumo were excluded.  There are nearly 6 million people that practice Judo in Japan.  Initially, the Japanese considered skill and technique (not force) as the main aspects for success in Judo.  For this reason, early competitors did not have weight categories.

The first World Championships were held in Tokyo, Japan and were won by the Japanese.  Olympic Judo (male) competition was first held at the Tokyo Games in 1964, when the host country was allowed to include a sport of it's choosing.  There was no Judo at the 1968 Games in Mexico City, but the 1972 Games included competition in 5 weight categories and the Open category.  Prior to the summer Olympic Games of 1984, a Judo athlete was permitted to compete in a weight category plus the Open.  That procedure was abolished effective for the 1984 Games.  Presently in the Olympics, an athlete cannot "double compete"; however, in the World Championships, "double competing" is permitted.


Dr. Jigoro Kano (1860 - 1938), founder of Kodakan Judo, was born in the sea-side town of Mikage.  Not being a large and physically powerful young man, he yearned for physical conditioning and training that would allow him to feel as confident of his body as he did of his mind and spirit.  At the age of 18, he started studying the art of Jujitsu under numerous master teachers in order to strengthen his body, and attained an expertise in the art that was hitherto unknown.  Dr. Kano found that each of the various Jujitsu schools had techniques of merit, but no one school gave him compete  mastery.  Also, at this time in Japan, the Jujitsu schools had a reputation of having aggressive, thuggish students, who would use their techniques in an antisocial way.

This led Dr. Kano to found the Kodokan Judo in 1882.  It combined a compilation of what was best of the Jujitsu techniques, added to the techniques and philosophy of Dr. Kano.  He wanted to teach not just a dangerous martial art, but a new system of physical culture and mental training that would benefit each student's whole like, and that of society as well.


The first Kodokan Judo dojo was a modest 12-mat (about 12 x 18 foot) room in Eisho Temple, where Dr. Kano lived.  There were only nine students the first year.  The year 1886 marked a watershed in Judo's history.  The Chief of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Board was interested in choosing a form of physical conditioning for his police officers.  He admired the tenets of the new Kodokan Judo, but like many others, felt that its practical merits had never been proven in combat.  To settle this matter, a tournament was held between the Kodokan Judo and the Totsuka School of Jujitsu, the school with the greatest martial arts reputation.  Each side sent 15 men.  With the Chief of Police looking on, Kodokan members won 13 matches, and drew two!  No Kodokan Judo member was defeated.  In this decisive fashion, Dr. Kano's new art proved itself to be more that just theory.


Dr. Kano felt that all people would benefit from Judo, and therefore introduced Judo to the world.  But Judo is not only for the competitor.  It is for men, women, boys and girls; it is for the strong and the not so strong; it is for those that desire a sport that can be practiced from 3 to 93.  Most importantly, Kodokan Judo is a way of like for those that embrace this sport and the guiding principles of its founder.  Judo is now the national sport of Japan.



Last modified: 02/02/2018