Today, Judo is practised by more than 20 million people, making Judo undoubtedly the most popular combat sport in the world. In fact, Judo is the second most popular sport in the world after soccer.
In 1997, there were 2.2 million Judoka worldwide according to the International Judo Federation. Most of the black belts are in Asia, with the most colour belts in Europe.
Meaning, Judo can be considered the second most popular combat sport in the Olympics.
The Kodokan Mottos
Seiryoku-zenyo and Jita-kyoei are the Kodokan mottos, meaning maximum efficiency and mutual welfare and benefit respectively.
These mottos emphasize the spiritual and moral training that comes in addition to the physical part of training in Judo.
In fact, the ultimate goal of Judo was to improve the individual so that he or she can be of value to society.
More People Practice Judo in France than in Japan
France has over three times more Judokas than that of Japan, with approximately 800,000 Judokas as compared to Japan’s 200,000.
At this rate, France has reached the level where it can produce an Olympic Champion- and it already has.
The French team won Gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in the team event, beating the Japanese team. Clarisse Agbegnenou became Olympic Champion in the Individual event.
Even though the Japanese won the most medals at the Olympic Games in Judo, the most titled Judoka in the world is Teddy Ringer- the French heavyweight Judoka.
Teddy became Olympic Champion three times (twice in the Individual event and once in the team event), won 11 World Championships and 5 European Championships.
The Heaviest Heavyweight Judoka of Our Time
On the international sports scene, a small island nation in the Pacific Ocean- Samoa, achieved little success. However, Derek Sua went down in history. Firstly, he qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games by Wild Card. Secondly, he is the heaviest heavyweight Judoka of our time at 175kg.
Samoa is known for its Rugby, and that’s where Derek started his career- later taking up Judo.
There Were No Weight Categories At First
Keep in mind, until the 1930s, there was no division of Judokas into weight categories. In fact, the introduction of weight categories was strongly opposed in fear of losing Judo as a skilful art. Previously, everyone fought everyone and weight differences were not considered important.
When Judo made its debut at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics it was a men-only discipline and there were just four weight classes, namely: Lightweight up to 63kg, Middleweight up to 80kg, Heavyweight up to 93kg, and Openweight.
The addition of weight classes was the first development in Judo.
Women in Judo
The first Judo World Championships that included women took place in New York City in 1980. From then on, the World Championships would alternate each year between men and women, until 1987- when the two competitions were merged together into one World Championship.
At the 1988 Olympic Games, women were allowed to participate in Judo as a demonstration sport thanks to the determination of Rusty Kanokogi.
Up until 1992, only men competed at the Olympic Games. Since 1992, women were officially included in the Judo program at the Olympics and awarded with medals.
There Are 12 Degrees of Skill in Judo
Only one person has been awarded the 12th Dan, and that is Jigoro Kano- the founder of Judo. Today, 10 degrees of skill are used. There are Judokas who have reached 10th Dan, but they are few- 15 in total, including 14 men and 1 woman. Although theoretically it’s possible, no one has ever been awarded the 11th Dan.
Children and Judo
In the early days, the teaching of Judo to children was avoided as it was thought much too dangerous to teach children as it was a risk for them to use their skill outside the club. However, as a second development in Judo, many clubs are composed largely of Junior membership today.
A Shift In Practice
With the inclusion of Judo in the Olympics, the style of the sport has changed over the years. For instance, there’s been a shift towards a contest style practice. In many clubs, this style is being taught- which transforms training into a continuous contest. This style of club could be considered more competitive.
Other clubs stress skill with repetitive movements, development of speed through practice and little resistance. Usually in such clubs, Kata is also taught. This style of club could be considered more traditional.
Striking techniques are prohibited in free practice and in competition. The only striking techniques in Judo are during Kata practice, which involves two Judoka practicing pre-arranged patterns together.
Judo At the Paralympics
Judo was included in the Paralympics in 1988, and has been included ever since. Judo is a popular sport among athletes with physical disabilities. Athletes with visual impairments do especially well with Judo and grappling arts in general.