Introduction to judo

Judo overview

Here’s our guide to the positive effects the popular martial art of judo can have. We'll tell you everything you need to know, including how the sport began, some of the basic rules, and how you can get involved.

Judo is a system of self defence, which makes use of an opponent's strength to overcome them, meaning that a smaller opponent can defeat a larger opponent.

Introduction to judo

‘Ju’ means gentleness or giving way, and ‘do’ means way of life, thus making Judo mean literally ‘the gentle way’ or ‘the way of giving way’. Judo was founded in 1882, in Japan, by Professor Jigoro Kano, who envisioned it as a way of becoming physically and mentally fit through disciplined training.

Judo can be practised by all ages and is a relatively safe sport as it does not involve any kicking or striking techniques. It is an excellent activity to increase physical fitness, boosting key leg and arm muscles, improving agility and flexibility, and developing the body's cardiovascular system.

Judo is open and accessible to participants with a wide variety of disabilities. Because of the close contact involved in judo it is the ideal sport for the blind or visually impaired.

In 1964 at the Tokyo Olympic Games, men’s judo was included in the Games at the request of the host country Japan. In 1988 women’s judo was a demonstration event and in 1992 became a full medal event.

In the Olympics, judo competitors compete in the following weight divisions:

Extra lightweight: Men — 60kg (132lb), Women — 48kg (106lb)

Half lightweight: Men — 66kg (145.5lb), Women — 52kg (115lb)

Lightweight: Men — 73kg (161lb), Women — 57kg (126lb)

Half-middlewight: Men — 81kg (178.5lb), Women — 63kg (139lb)

Middleweight: Men — 90kg (198.5lb), Women — 70kg (154.5lb)

Half-heavyweight: Men — 100kg (220.5lb), Women — 78kg (172lb)

Heavyweight: Men +100kg, Women +78kg

Getting started in judo

If you fancy taking to the mat and trying your hand at judo, then it is best to start with a properly registered club who provide professionally qualified coaches.

There are nearly 1,000 judo clubs in the UK registered with the official governing body, the British Judo Association. The British Judo Association website provides a list of clubs registered with them, which can also be provided by contacting:

British Judo Association

Suite B

Loughborough Technology Centre

Epinal Way

Loughborough LE11 3GE

Tel: 01509 631670

If you are serious about the sport, you will want to think about buying a judo suit. Judo suits are available at most sports shops, but it may be worth waiting 'til joining a club as these also supply suits (often at a better price) and second-hand kit is often available from clubs.

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