The history of judo
Judo was developed in Japan over 100 years ago by Professor Jigaro Kano the President of the University of Education in Tokyo. Professor Kano was bullied as a young boy and had learned the ancient martial art of jujitsu for his own self-defence. In his professional life, he strongly believed that the physical – as well as mental – development of children was critical to help them grow into healthy, well-rounded adults. He believed that physical education in schools was sorely lacking and believed, through his own experience, that jujitsu could not only develop the body but was also an excellent way of developing mental and moral values. However, he felt that jujitsu techniques were too difficult and dangerous to be used in schools and set about integrating what he considered to be the best of the jujitsu techniques into a gentler system whose goal would be physical fitness for all.
And so judo was born. The word judo consists of two Japanese characters – ‘ju’ which means ‘gentle’ and ‘do’ which means ‘the way’. So judo literally means ‘the way of gentleness’. The place where judo training occurs is called a ‘dojo’, which means a ‘place to learn the way’. The traditional dojo is floored with mats called ‘tatami’. The dojo is not just a place to come and learn about the technical aspects of judo – it is a place to learn about the way of judo.
Judo Moral Code
Judo players bow when entering and leaving the dojo to signify their respect not only for the place but also for the teachings and learning that occur there and the institution of judo. Judo players wear a special outfit called a ‘jodogi’. The judogi is made of heavy cotton material, and consists of a jacket, trousers and a belt. The colour of the belt signifies the ‘grade’ or the experience of the player. Judo was introduced into the Olympic Games in 1964 and is now practiced by millions of people throughout the world. People practice judo to excel in competition, to stay in shape, to develop self-confidence, and for many other reasons. But most of all, people do Judo just for the fun of it!
What is Judo?
Judo has many different facets and brings with it many benefits. Most obviously judo provides children with physical exercise, a good cardio-vascular workout and the opportunity to learn a new sporting skill. As a sport that has evolved from a fighting art, it develops complete body control, fine balance and fast reflexive action.
It is essentially a defensive sport involving two players, each of whom uses specific techniques and quick reflexes, plus balance, power and movement to get the other partner off-balance and take him/her down onto the mat. Skill, technique and timing, rather than brute strength, are the ingredients for success in judo. For example, in judo classes you learn how to give way, rather than use force, to overcome a stronger opponent. Unlike some other martial arts, there are no kicks, punches or other attacking movements.
Playing and rolling together on the mat develops equilibrium, spatial orientation and awareness, agility and responsiveness, flexibility and basic strength. Psychological Judo provides the means for learning self-confidence, concentration and leadership skills. Children who learn the simple and effective self-defense techniques are more self-aware and confident, less prone to bullying or victimization.
Children of all shapes, body sizes and fitness levels can find their niche in judo. Overweight children will often come to judo because they don’t have to run, catch or hit a ball but can develop their overall body confidence in learning how to fall, throw and rumble with a lot of fun along the way. Judo’s role in helping with problems such as obesity stems not only from the actual exercise involved, but from the children’s’ growing confidence in their ability and the realization that they need not fear either falling or physical intimidation.
Social Much of the teaching of judo is based on respect and discipline. Whilst classes will be fun, judo has been proven to help with children’s’ general development, interactive skills and self-discipline. Also as there is a requirement to train with a partner, and each partner is dependent upon the other to progress, judo is good for developing teamwork and mutual responsibility.
Different children gain different things from judo – some love the dynamic nature and the rough and tumble of the sport. Others relish the competitive edge and the opportunity to advance through the grading system. Others appreciate the more technical aspects of judo. The trick is to recognize these different motivations and use this knowledge to develop individuals and maintain enthusiasm.
Confidence can be built by rewarding not just the best player – but the most improved player – the hardest worker – the most enthusiastic – the most knowledgeable. Over the year every child can excel in one or more ways. In summary, Judo is a dynamic sport with many facets. It provides an attractive alternative to the more ‘traditional’ school sports and can also help performance across all sports by improving balance, co-ordination, body-awareness and reflexes.