John Whipp – Origins of the Olympic Sport of Judo

ORIGINS OF THE OLYMPIC SPORT OF JUDO

Judo as we know it today was founded by Professor Jigoro KANO (1860-1938) in Tokyo. Japan

Professor Jigoro KANO
Professor Kano started training in the art of Ju Jitsu and was a former graduate of two of the major Ju Jitsu schools in Tokyo. In 1877 he enrolled at the Tenshin Shinyo Ryu which specialised in Atemi (nerve centre attacks) and kansetsu waza (holding, choking and bone locking techniques).

Following his graduation from Tokyo University in 1881 he began study at the Kito Ryu School which specialised in throwing techniques. This gave him an overall view of attacking an opponent through striking, holding, choking & strangling, joint locking and throwing techniques.
In 1882 in Tokyo he was appointed a teacher in the prestigious Gakushuin, Peer’s College and opened his own Martial Arts school the
same year calling it Kodokan Judo. Around this period Martial arts in Japan were very competitive. In 1886 the Tokyo Metropolitan Police organised the Tokyo Martial Arts Tournament at which the Kodokan Judo team won first place from all other Ju jitsu and Judo schools. This victory ensured the recognition of Kodokan Judo by Japan’s Budo authorities.

In 1889 he was sent on his first European tour to inspect educational facilities by the Japan Education Ministry. He used his spare time while there to promote Judo.  In 1891 he was appointed a Councillor of the Japan Education Ministry, an honour in itself. In 1909 Professor Kano became the first Japanese member to be appointed to the International Olympic committee (IOC). That year his private Judo school was declared a National Japan Foundation.

In 1911 at fifty two years old, he was made the founder and President of the Japan Athletic Association. Over these years the Kodokan continued to grow in students and there was a need over the next decade to expand to larger training halls (Dojos).

The Kodokan
In 1922 Professor Kano founded the Kodokan Dan Grade Holder’s Association and in 1930 organised the first All Japan Judo Championships. He was seventy one years old.  During his many overseas travels for the Japan Olympic Committee he continued to develop Judo as well as throughout Japan. Sadly he passed away on board a ship returning to Japan from a Cairo IOC meeting that ironically nominated Tokyo as the site for the 12th Olympic Games. He was seventy nine years old and died of pneumonia. His memorial service was held in the Tokyo Kodokan in May 1938.
Kodokan Judo’s dojo was initially opened with twelve mats and nine students in 1882. By 1919 the Kodokan had 514 mats and a membership numbering thousands. The existing Kodokan Judo Institute is seven stories high and was built in 1956. It comprises a main dojo, six special dojos, changing rooms, showers, dining room, student’s rooms, library and offices. Membership is more than 600,000 Dan holders.

The wish of Professor Kano was to have Judo in the Olympic Games. However this first required the creation of an International Judo body which was acceptable to the International Olympic Committee. Judo and Ju Jitsu’s popularity had spread outside Japan to Europe, Pan America, Asia and Oceania prior to the 1900’.s.
Moves began in the 1930’s to form a European Judo Union, however due to the Second World War this was delayed until 1948.

The All Japan Judo Federation was established in 1949 from the former Kodokan Dan Holders Association.

Following negotiations between the European Judo Union and the All Japan Judo Federation it was agreed to establish an International Judo Federation (IJF). The International Judo Federation was founded in 1952 with nineteen member nations from Europe, Asia, Pan America and Oceania. The first Congress was held that year in Switzerland. The first Presidency was granted to Mr Risei Kano, son of the founder. The IJF constituted itself into five continental Unions of Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and Pam America along with their affiliated Judo Federations.

The first World Judo Championship was held in Tokyo on the 3rd March 1956. There were 31 competitors from 21 nations. Japan won first and second place with Anton Geesink from Holland taking third place. There were no weight divisions.

The 2nd World Judo Championships were also held in Tokyo, Japan in 1958.

In 1961 the 3rd World Championships were held for the first time outside of Japan in Paris, France. At this event Anton Geesink of Holland became the first non Japanese to win the coveted World Judo Champion Title. The first three Championships were held in an Open Class with no weight divisions.

In 1965 at the 4th World championships three weight divisions were introduced.

In 1967 at the 5th World Championships held at Salt Lake City, Utah, USA the divisions were increased to five.

In 1979 Judo had developed so greatly that the weight divisions were increased to seven divisions, plus an Open weight division.

The first Olympic Games to have Judo as an Olympic sport was held in Tokyo, Japan in 1964. This was the realisation of Professor Kano’s dream. Anton Geesink won the Open division and an Australian won the Bronze Medal.

The first Women’s World Judo Championship was held at Madison Square Gardens, New York, USA on the 1st November 1980.

 The IJF has a strict Dan Grade Award System based on the criteria used in Japan. Applications for IJF Dan grade recognition, diplomas and personal identity cards are sent by the Presidents of each affiliated National Judo Federation to the President of their respective Continental Union. Australia is part of the Oceania Judo Union (OJU). The President of the OJU is also a Vice President of the IJF.  The Vice Presidents have the authority to approve gradings for 1st Dan to 7th Dan and issue diplomas and identity cards. All procedures follow strict IJF criteria. For awards of 8th Dan to 10th Dan applications are submitted to the IJF with a Union recommendation and full documentation. The applications are then decided by the IJF Directing Committee whose membership includes some of the highest Judo Grades. It should be noted that there have only been three non Japanese 10 Dans.

In conclusion Judo is now established as a fully developed Olympic sport and Martial Art in over 180 Nations affiliated to the IJF. It has come to this goal through dedication and discipline amongst its own members, as well as the respect earned in the International Olympic movement as a modern day sport for all

I have taken extracts from several articles and thank their authors. I will add more to this article at a later stage.

The author JOHN WHIPP AM, CSM. is a IJF 7th Dan Judo grade and a member of the Kodokan since 1967. He is a Life Member of the Judo Federation of Australia Inc and Patron of the JFA (Queensland) Inc. John was a member of the Australian Judo team to the 5th World Judo Championships in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA in 1967. He currently is the AMAHOF Vice President and Chairman of the Sokeship Council since March 2010.