Judo as we know it today was born from the ancient Japanese art of Ju-Jitsu. This ancient Japanese art applied principles of leverage against force, redirection of an opponent’s energy and harmony of motion. It consists of throws, holds, chokes, joint locks and grappling. Between the twelfth and the nineteenth century Japan was ruled by the Samurai, a class of professional soldiers who in addition to fighting with swords and bows and arrows, developed jujitsu to fight enemies at close quarters on the battle field.
Professor Jigoro Kano (1860-1938), one of Japan’s leading educators and long time student of Jujitsu, being alarmed with the mental and moral fibre of Japan’s youth, decided to modify Jujitsu to a form of a sport with a high standard of physical and mental discipline. In order to ensure that Judo would benefit all people, whether as a sport, study or hobby, he based it on two principles. SEIRYOKU SEN’ YO – Maximum efficiency with minimum effort and JITA KYOEI –mutual welfare and benefit for all.
These principles stressed the flexibility and suppleness of mind and body necessary for the practice of judo. They are exemplified by ‘JU’, the Japanese word for gentle and yielding, and ‘DO’, the way or method; thus the origin of the word Judo. The place where Judo is taught and practiced is called a "Dojo”. Indirectly translated from the Japanese language, it means “hall of the temple” – gymnasium. Judo instructors consider the Dojo a place of dignity and cleanliness. Since Judo is a truly contact sport which includes throwing, grappling, choking arm-locks and: atemi waza” (assaulting technique), rules and regulations are rigidly enforced to ensure sporting harmony. All well-organized Dojo are run according to rules – these rules must be learned and carried out universally. One of the most important and practical reasons for Dojo rules and Judo etiquette is safety. Safety precautions are never to be apologized for. It must be stressed that everything done in a Dojo is based on “safety first”.
Strict adherence to Dojo rules and regulations is the cornerstone for efficiency in the sport; and it provides the basis for courtesy and respect. Courtesy is the mark of a well trained Judo student and although it begins in the Dojo, it must continue as a part of the student’s daily routines. Courtesy should never be thought of as something that is merely applicable during Dojo hours.
Judo was introduced to the Olympic Games in 1932, in an informal demonstration hosted by Professor Kano. Professor Kano passed away in 1938, and it was not until 26 years later, in 1964, that Judo was introduced as an Olympic sport for men. Women were only allowed to compete at Olympic levels in 1992, but Judo became a Paralympics sport in 1988. Judo is now practiced in over two hundred countries by millions of people of various age, race and religious influence.
Judokas wear white uniforms called Judogi abbreviated as "Gi". The Judogi was introduced by Kano, with the thinking that white depicted the values of purity, avoidance of ego, and simplicity, where everyone is stripped of their social class – all judokas begin as equals. The Judogi comprises a heavy cotton kimono-like jacket called an uwagi (jacket), similar to traditional hanten (workers jackets) fastened by an obi (belt), coloured to indicate rank, and worn over a cotton draw-string zubon (trousers).
The development and understanding of the art is symbolized by a system of ranks introduced by Professor Jigoro Kano, in 1883. The Judo ranking system is divided into Kyu and Dan grades, each depicted by a different color belt (obi). The Kyu grades are represented by various coloured belts; white, yellow, orange, green, blue and brown. The level of Dan grades (black belt) indicates a student has attained a higher level of competence. There are ten degrees of black belt; Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yodan, Godan, Rokudan, Shichidan, Hachidan, Kudan and Judan- Kodokan respectively.
The modern use of the blue judogi for high level competition was first introduced around 1986. With one competitor wearing a blue judogi, it was easier for the judges, referees, and spectators to distinguish between the two competitors. It is also used for convenience in minor competitions, but is only mandatory at the regional or higher levels, depending on organization.