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The History of Judo

Judo is an historic Japanese martial art that can be traced back to the 7th century AD. Its subsequent evolution through the 13th century Samurai warriors of Japan has seen it grow into an Olympic sport, governed by the International Judo Federation.


Judo's roots lie in the traditional Japanese sport of wrestling, Sumo, which can be traced back more than 1,300 years. Sumo is first mentioned in the Nihon Shoki - the Chronicle of Japan - a document dating from 720 that describes the history of the nation during the reign of Empress Jito (686 to 697).

In the 12th century, Sumo began to branch out into other forms of martial arts, largely due to the influence of the Samurai who were professional soldiers. The Samurai traditionally fought with swords and bows and arrows but they developed hand-to-hand combat techniques such as jujitsu to fight enemies on the battlefield at close quarters.

Different forms of jujitsu evolved, as hand-to-hand combat became a recognised part of military training. However, the era of Samurai rule ended in 1868 as a result of the Meiji Restoration; a revolution which restored imperial rule to Japan under Emperor Meiji.

Birth of judo

Western culture slowly started to filter into Japanese society in the late 19th century and as a result, the teaching of jujitsu began to decline. However, a young man called Jigoro Kano rescued it from obscurity and he later became known as the founder of judo.

Kano, an intelligent man of small stature, decided to become an apprentice of Yanosuke Fukuda at Tenjin Shin'yo school of jujitsu; at the age of 17 he wanted to improve his physique. In May 1882, at the age of 21, he invented modern judo by taking his favourite elements from every jujitsu style and creating a single new discipline.

Initially, he had only nine students and they practiced at a tiny hall measuring only 24 square yards. However, undeterred Kano travelled to Europe in 1889 to take judo to other nations.

It was documented that on the voyage, another man on the ship teased Kano, who then threw him to the floor using judo techniques. However, demonstrating how judo combines fighting techniques with respect for one's opponent, Kano put his hand under the man's head so he wouldn't get hurt!

Olympic sport

He visited France, England and Germany and thanks to his determination to introduce judo to a global audience, he was invited to meet the International Olympic Committee in the early 20th century. In 1909, he became the first IOC member from an Asian nation, serving for 29 years until his death in 1938.

It wasn't until the Tokyo Olympics of 1964 that men's judo was finally recognised as an official event, with various weight divisions. Japanese competitors swept the board in the medals table, winning all except the open event.

Women's judo was launched as a demonstration event only at the 1988 Seoul Olympics but it was finally added to the official programme at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Future of judo

Today, the International Judo Federation has 184 member countries and the sport is very popular in Europe, with statistics showing that more people participate in judo in France than in Japan! Officials in Japan continue to promote judo across the world, sending instructors to countries where the sport isn't as well-known, such as Oceania and Africa and donating judo kits for participants.


If you're interested in taking up judo, it's essential you use the correct safety equipment to prevent accidents and injuries. Durable, resilient and functional, Coruba stocks a wide range of rubber gym mats that are ideal for use in gyms, sports facilities and other fitness centres.

Choose from products such as the KwikMMA connectable exercise mats with a shock-absorbing design that helps reduce the pressure leading to swollen and stiff joints or the hammered rubber gym mats with an anti-slip pattern design.

Keiotsuke! To view these products and to see our other gym mats, please visit our website. Alternatively, you can give us a call!


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