Judo – The Most Popular Japanese Martial Art Form

Japan is the house of various martial arts, which are developed for boosting physical and mental strength of people. Judo, karate, aikido, kendo, and Shorinji kempo are a few popular martial art forms that have gained huge popularity not only in Japan but all over the world. ‘Judo’ is a Japanese word that literally means ‘gentle way’ and this martial art form was introduced in 1882, by the famous Japanese educator and sportsman Kano Jigoro.


A person who has gained expertise in practicing this martial art is termed as Judoka. The expert who teaches Judo techniques is known as Sensei and this word literally means ‘one who came before’. It takes considerable time and perseverance to be promoted from a Judoka to Sensei when that person is capable of teaching all the crucial skill of this martial art form to his students. The training place where all these important combat skills are taught is called Judo Dojo and in this way, these techniques pass from one Sensei to another future Sensei.

Specific techniques and skills used in Judo

Like most of the martial art forms, people need to use their limbs as weapons in Judo. It is a defensive combating art that aims in defeating the opponent and also leaves him incapable of striking back after defeated once. The person who practices the Judo techniques is termed as Tori, meaning ‘taker’ and the one on whom those skills are applied is called Uke, which means ‘receiver’. When all these techniques are practiced freely for gaining expertise, this session is termed as Randori, which literally means ‘taking chaos’.

judo throwing
Nicklas Mattsson

Throwing technique – Hence, the foremost technique of Judo is to lift the opponent in arms and throw him with force to the ground so that he falls on his back and gets severely hurt, which is termed as Nage-waza in the Japanese language. There are three stages in performing this technique, which starts with establishing a firm grip over the body of the opponent, called Kumi kata. Then the normal balance of opponent’s body is broken that is termed as Kuzushi; the opponent’s body is turned to fit into the throwing action, called Tsukuri; and finally, the opponent is thrown to the ground that is named as Kake. When all these three stages are repeated, that action is termed as Uchi-komi. When the Tori performs this entire Judo technique while standing in a straight posture, it is termed as Tachi-Waza. If the Tori bends his body to throw the opponent to the ground, this style is known as Sutemi-Waza.

Wrestling technique – Another effective technique is to pin down the opponent to the floor, by applying force with hands and legs, which is termed in Japanese as Katame-Waza. This technique also involves the skills of controlling the opponent. When the Tori presses the opponent on his back to the ground, this holding skill is termed as Osaekomi-Waza. When the Tori applies force to strangulate the opponent, this choking technique is known as Shime-Waza. If the Tori tries to cause pain to the joints of the opponent for defeating him, that skill is termed as Kansetsu-Waza or the joint technique. When Judo is practiced in the form of sport, the joint technique is not allowed to apply on any other joint of the body, except the elbows.

Striking technique – This is an offensive technique where various kinds of joint locks and chokeholds are applied to the opponent player. In the Japanese language, it is known as Atemi-Waza and it may cause severe injuries to the opponent, unlike the other two Waza treatments. The main target of this Judo technique is to make the opponent physically disable to strike back at the attacker. However, this technique is not so popular like throwing and wrestling techniques. It is also not allowed to perform outside the traditional pre-arranged Judo ring called Kata.

Prime health benefits enjoyed by regular practice of Judo

Physical benefits – These vigorous exercises of Judo help in developing body strength and make a person physically fit, when practiced daily. The body becomes more flexible and agile due to these skills, making the person move much faster in all physical actions. These techniques teach to achieve a great static and dynamic balance of the body. The daily practice of each technique helps in improving the automatic reaction time of the body, which is important for combat. The coordination between all the body parts increases sharply while practicing chains of all these techniques. It is found that the physique of a Judo practitioner increases to a huge extent, along with the quick mobility and strength of the body.

Mental benefits – The regular practices of Judo techniques boost the confidence level of the practitioners. They learn to gain better control over their emotional feelings and impulses, which make them mentally stronger. They are also taught several skills to overpower their own fears of fighting stronger people. They learn the mental techniques to be more courageous when they face immense mental pressure or feel really scared. Therefore, this martial art helps in developing the entire personality of Judo players.

Apart from these physical and mental health benefits, Judo also helps in developing the emotional bonds with other people of the society. As Judo practitioners are able to save others from dangers, they learn the skills of socializing with people around them. In spite of learning numerous techniques of defeating the opponents, traditional Judo teachers stress on being fair and just to the other players during the competition. Thus, these trained players give fair chance to their opponents and take care not to hurt them too much.

Though initially Judo was developed as a combating skill, it is now recognized as a popular sport in Japan and also in other countries of the world. More than 22 million people presently practice this martial art, leading to the formation of the International Judo Federation. It is also an event in the Olympic Games since 1932, as many countries are interested in increasing the numbers of their Judo players.

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