It is practiced by tens of millions around the world, but there is no doubt that the spiritual home of judo is Japan, where the martial art was developed and made its Olympic debut.
It is becoming the sports most watched by home fans at the Tokyo pandemic delayed Games, and is so deeply anchored in Japanese society that it even has its own branch of medicine.
Japan dominates judo at the Games and has won 39 gold medals since its Tokyo debut in 1964, more than the next four countries combined.
Perhaps this is no surprise given Judo’s roots in Japan, where it was founded in 1882 by the revered Jigoro Kano, his benevolent portrait looks down on judoka in dojos around the world.
Born into a sake brewing clan from the Kobe region, Kano combined various forms of jujitsu with his own ideas , including spiritual discipline.
He called his martial art « Judo », which means « the gentle way », and saw it as a means of developing body and mind. Kano was a teacher by profession and was enthusiastic about sport in general and led Japan to celebrate its first Olympic appearance in Stockholm in 1912.
In competition, judo is played on a mat with the aim of an « ippon » or full To score point that ends a fight. Ways to do this include immobilizing an opponent for 20 seconds or throwing them so that they land on their back. Half-points named Waza-ari can also be earned and added up.
The fights at the games last four minutes, and the action is often fast-paced and very physical.
Hifumi Abe and Shohei Ono get hot with the men while Japan also has female stars with Uta Abe and Akira Sone, an egalitarian spirit is seen by some as an important part of judo. Winter training at the sacred Kodokan Judo Center in Tokyo is open to all, and women have been practicing the sport since its inception.
In fact, Kano told his early students that the more subtle form of martial art practiced by women at the time , would be the « true legacy » of judo.
However, the competition in Japan was not opened to women until 1978, and female judokas made their first full-fledged Olympic appearance in Barcelona in 1992.
The Kodokan is home sport and in pre-pandemic times it attracted enthusiasts from around the world. It will serve as a training center during the Games, with competitions at the famous Nippon Budokan, which hosted everything from Olympic judo to Beatles concerts.
However, some fear the martial art is losing its luster in its place of birth, including Judoka Tadahiro Nomura, who is the only one who has ever won three gold medals in judo.
« How it is carried out, how it started, how it spread around the world, the essence of judo, what it can teach children and such further – all of that has somehow been forgotten. «
Kodokan officials said they hope » excellence and behavior « by judoka around the world will inspire children to feel like they are learning judo too want « .
» It can be an opportunity for people to start judo. If there’s a local dojo nearby, it’s easy to join in and try it out. «
» It has to be fun or learn etiquette somewhere or do something for your health, « he said.
» I think if local dojos can meet people’s diverse needs, judo can gain a little in popularity. «
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