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Throw some shapes on the (padded) floor... Judo, meaning ‘gentle way,’ is a Japanese martial art and combat sport that was developed in the late nineteenth century. It is characterised by the indirect application of force to defeat an opponent, meaning that you don’t have to be a heavyweight to win at this game.
More specifically, Judo is based on the principle of using one's opponent's strength against them and adapting well to changing circumstances. So, if your opponent were to come at you with their full strength, merely stepping to the side and displacing that strength with a well-placed foot and turn of the hand could be enough to throw them. Sounds easy huh?
Well of course, like all martial arts Judo centres upon control, discipline and most importantly, rules to ensure safety and minimise injury. So there’s a bit of groundwork to put in before you hit the mats. Judo is best known for its spectacular throwing techniques, but it also involves considerable grappling on the ground utilising specialised pins, control holds, arm locks, and Judo choking techniques.
Judo develops self-discipline and respect for oneself and others; moreover it provides the means for developing physical coordination, power, and flexibility as well as self-confidence and concentration. As a sport that has evolved from a fighting art, it promotes complete body control, fine balance, and fast reflexive action.
If this all sounds a bit too ‘wax on, wax off’ for you, rest assured that far from requiring you to high kick off a broken pier, most modern Judo environments are welcoming, friendly and open to all. Judo is unique in that all age groups and even most disabled persons can participate together in learning and practicing the sport. Many people over sixty enjoy the sport, as well as young boys and girls of the after school club variety.
Judo training can also be used as an effective self-defence system if the need arises, making it as useful to women as to men. However, it is worth bearing in mind that Judo requires full participation and concentration so if your idea of the perfect workout is an hour on the gym bike while plugged into your iPod, Judo may not be for you.
The philosophy and techniques developed for Judo became the model for other modern Japanese martial arts that developed from traditional schools after the 1890’s. The worldwide spread of Judo has led to the development of a number of offshoots such as Sambo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which was developed after Mitsuyo Maeda brought judo to Brazil in 1914.