JUDOKA Interview – The bully victim who fought back
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Judo is a modern martial art, combat and Olympic sport created in Japan in 1882 by Jigoro Kano (嘉納治五郎). Its most prominent feature is its competitive element, where the objective is to either throw or takedown an opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue an opponent with a pin, or force an opponent to submit with a joint lock or a choke. Strikes and thrusts by hands and feet as well as weapons defenses are a part of judo, but only in pre-arranged forms (kata, 形) and are not allowed in judo competition or free practice (randori, 乱取り). A judo practitioner is called a judoka.
The philosophy and subsequent pedagogy developed for judo became the model for other modern Japanese martial arts that developed from koryū (古流, traditional schools). The worldwide spread of judo has led to the development of a number of offshoots such as Sambo and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
History of competitive judo
Contest is a vitally important aspect of judo. Early examples include the Kodokan Monthly Tournament and the biannual Red and White Tournament, both of which started in 1884 and continue to the present day.
In 1899, Kano was asked to chair a committee of the Dai Nippon Butoku Kai to draw up the first formal set of contest rules for jujutsu. These rules were intended to cover contests between different various traditional schools of jujutsu as well as practitioners of Kodokan judo. Contests were 15 minutes long and were judged on the basis of nage waza and katame waza, excluding atemi waza.
Wins were by two ippons, awarded in every four-main different path of winning alternatives, by “Throwing”, where the opponent’s back strikes flat onto the mat with sufficient force, by “Pinning” them on their back for a “sufficient” amount of time, or by Submission, which could be achieved via “Shime-waza” or “Kansetsu-waza”, in which the opponent was forced to give himself or herself up or summon a referee’s or corner-judge’s stoppage. Finger, toe and ankle locks were prohibited. In 1900, these rules were adopted by the Kodokan with amendments made to prohibit all joint locks for kyu grades and added wrist locks to the prohibited kansetsu-waza for dan grades. It was also stated that the ratio of tachi-waza to ne-waza should be between 70% to 80% for kyu grades and 60% to 70% for dan grades.
In 1916, additional rulings were brought in to further limit kansetsu waza with the prohibition of ashi garami and neck locks, as well as do jime. These were further added to in 1925, in response to Kosen judo, which concentrated on ne waza at the expense of tachi waza. The new rules banned all remaining joint locks except those applied to the elbow and prohibited the dragging down of an opponent to enter ne waza.
The All-Japan Judo Championships were first held in 1930 and have been held every year, with the exception of the wartime period between 1941 and 1948, and continue to be the highest profile tournament in Japan.
Judo’s international profile was boosted by the introduction of the World Judo Championships in 1956. The championships were initially a fairly small affair, with 31 athletes attending from 21 countries in the first year. Competitors were exclusively male until the introduction of the Women’s Championships in 1980, which took place on alternate years to the Men’s Championships. The championships were combined in 1987 to create an event that takes place annually, except for the years in which Olympic games are held. Participation has steadily increased such that, in the most recent championships in 2011, 871 competitors from 132 countries took part.
The first time judo was seen in the Olympic Games was in an informal demonstration hosted by Kano at the 1932 Games. However, Kano was ambivalent about judo’s potential inclusion as an Olympic sport:
I have been asked by people of various sections as to the wisdom and possibility of judo being introduced with other games and sports at the Olympic Games. My view on the matter, at present, is rather passive. If it be the desire of other member countries, I have no objection. But I do not feel inclined to take any initiative. For one thing, judo in reality is not a mere sport or game. I regard it as a principle of life, art and science. In fact, it is a means for personal cultural attainment. Only one of the forms of judo training, so-called randori or free practice can be classed as a form of sport. Certainly, to some extent, the same may be said of boxing and fencing, but today they are practiced and conducted as sports. Then the Olympic Games are so strongly flavored with nationalism that it is possible to be influenced by it and to develop “Contest Judo”, a retrograde form as ju-jitsu was before the Kodokan was founded. Judo should be free as art and science from any external influences, political, national, racial, and financial or any other organized interest. And all things connected with it should be directed to its ultimate object, the “Benefit of Humanity”. Human sacrifice is a matter of ancient history.
Nevertheless, judo became an Olympic sport for men in the 1964 Games in Tokyo. The Olympic Committee initially dropped judo for the 1968 Olympics, meeting protests. Dutchman Anton Geesink won the first Olympic gold medal in the open division of judo by defeating Akio Kaminaga of Japan. The women’s event was introduced at the Olympics in 1988 as a demonstration event, and an official medal event in 1992. Paralympic judo has been a Paralympic sport (for the visually impaired) since 1988; it is also one of the sports at the Special Olympics.