In the late nineteenth century, a noted Japanese educationalist, Dr Jigoro Kano, developed judo, using techniques from various Ju-jitsu styles, but removing the more violent or brutal techniques, and called his new style "Judo", which means way of non-resistance: when an opponent pushes, you do not push back but yield and allow the opponent to become unbalanced.
Kano intended judo to be a way of learning about yourself through a series of physical exercises and challenges. The ethos of judo is very important: in training, you work with your partner for the mutual benefit of both of you. Even in contest, respect for your opponent and the concept of mutual benefit is important: Kano said, "in skill opposed, in spirit united."
Judo has three aspects: randori, shiai and kata. Randori is free practice, which can take many forms but is not competitive: the aim is to improve technique. If you get thrown during randori, it does not matter: what matters is to work on making your own techniques effective. Shiai is contest, with a referee and judges (and, these days, video replay - we are way ahead of football here!). Kata is the formal display of judo techniques, where the two players work as a team to present moves of high quality and effectiveness.
In a judo contest, the aim is to throw the opponent onto their back WITH CONTROL. Control is important because we do not want to hurt our opponent. A high quality throw with control can win a contest outright (ippon), or can gain a lower score (waza-ari) or just be considered an attack. Also, if the players go to the ground without an ippon being scored, a player can win by securing a ground-hold on their opponent, pinning them down largely on their back for 20 seconds. There is an example of a judo contest in the video section of this website and examples of ippon throws.
Kata is a way of homing pure technique. Sadly, kata is often neglected at many judo clubs, but Samurai are more active than most in kata. In a kata competition, the pairs are judged purely on the skill shown, and they are judged as a team. To date, Samurai have had 16 British Kata Championship gold medal pairs, more than any other club in GB.
A key part of the judo ethos is to look after those who are less experienced, younger or smaller. This is helped by the belts the players wear, which shows their level of experience. Higher grades will help and look after lower grades. At Samurai Judo Club, this principle of looking after others is the one we value above all else.
Testing and challenging yourself in order to improve is also an important aspect of judo. The great American President Theodore Roosevelt said it best: "Far better to dare mighty things than rank with those poor timid souls who know neither defeat nor victory." What is not generally known is that Roosevelt was a judo player: Kano sent one of his best players to teach Roosevelt in 1902.
Like all sport, judo provides healthy exercise, the opportunity to make new friends and a way to channel energy and concentration. But somehow, judo is more than just sport.