Judo is a Martial Art that makes use of throws, strangles and joint locks. It is one of the few sports accessible to almost anyone, including children, adults, and senior citizens. Because it emphasizes physical and mental development, its influence extends to every area of a person's life.
More than a martial art, Judo is also a way of life, one that stresses self-respect and respect for others. Physically, Judo improves flexibility, coordination, balance and reflexes. It is a means of Self-Defense that requires skill rather than just size or strength. Mentally, it promotes concentration, self-confidence and leadership. Because Judo requires a clear and focused mind, it encourages participants to be fully present in the moment. Judo participants benefit from practice, but just as important, they learn respect for others. With its strict moral and ethical principles, and its humanitarian approach to life, Judo fosters a sense of respect and consideration. Participants are taught to strive for physical, intellectual and moral perfection, so they can not only improve their own life, but also contribute to the greater good.
Judo is derived from the ancient martial art of jujitsu, the hand-to-hand combat technique of ancient samurai warriors. Unlike other techniques, Jujitsu emphasized skill over force: the goal was to know how and when to strike an opponent in order to throw him off balance. Samurai in Japan's feudal period studied Jujitsu as part of their training, which also included swordsmanship, horsemanship, archery and etiquette. During this violent period, Jujitsu was used often on the battlefield, but during the 300 years of peace following the Japanese civil wars, heavy warfare was less frequent. Instead, Jujitsu found its greatest use in unarmed combat among common citizens, and the art was adapted for everyday life. In 1873 the Japanese government banned the samurai from wearing their weapons in public, and jujitsu became popular with the warrior class. However, it soon began to lose popularity with the public, and it was from here that the martial art of Judo - the gentle way - was developed by Jigoro Kano. He developed judo at a time of great modernization and industrialization when the Japanese people were on guard against anything inefficient or antiquated. In 1886 the Tokyo police department arranged a competition to find out which was the best form of unarmed combat for its officers. Fielding a team, judo defeated all other Martial Arts without losing a single bout!
Judo has since spread rapidly around the world. As Judo spread throughout the Western world it slowly gained the form of a sport. Its eventual popularity in World and Regional Games and in the 1964 Olympic Games led more and more to an emphasis on the physical and competitive aspects of the art, sometimes at the expense of its intellectual, moral and spiritual underpinnings.
Achievement in Judo is recognized by a series of ranks. When Kano developed Judo's ranking system, there was no official system in the martial arts; student achievements were usually acknowledged by the presentation of certificates or scrolls. Today, Kano's system has been adopted for needs. Originally, the Judo ranking system consisted only of white and black belt ranking, until the 1930s when Kano created a belt to acknowledge the achievements of high-ranking black belts. The red belt and brown belts were also added. The more extensive system used today was developed after Judo spread outside Japan. Judo instructor Mikonosuke Kawaishi introduced a more complex ranking system, featuring several more colored belts, when he began teaching in Paris in 1935. He felt Westerners would have more incentive to practice if they had a system in which achievement was regularly recognized. He included white, yellow, orange, green, blue and purple belts, awarded before the traditional black and brown belts.
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