The History of Judo through the eyes of a child

More than 130 years ago, on an island on the other side of the world called Japan, there lived a boy whose name was Jigoro Kano. He wasn't very big and sometimes he was pushed around by other bigger and stronger boys in school and in the street. So, when he got a bit older, he thought there must be something he can do, even though those boys were bigger than him.

Now, not far from where he lived in Tokyo, the capital of Japan, there was a building with a big room. It was called a Dojo. One day he was so curious he found the courage to go and have a look. Little Kano could see people throwing each other over their shoulders. Very often, he noticed that it was the smaller people who were doing the throwing. This was Ju Jitsu which in English means the gentle art. It didn't really look gentle to him, but when he tried it, he found that after a while, he could do it. He was able to throw boys quite a bit older and bigger than him. This really encouraged him, and soon he was completely hooked.

Kano started to practice once a week, then twice, then three times and then nearly every day of the week. He just couldn't get enough. He learnt many things. He learnt how to throw his friends to the left and the right and even over the top. He learnt how to hold them on the ground so hard that all they could do was wiggle their toes and never once, able to escape. But this Ju Jitsu was hard and a little dangerous – after all, Ju Jitsu had been used by the samurai, the warriors of Japan for thousands of years. The people fought with Armlocks, strangles and leg locks as well as body strikes. He got many bruises and a few of his friends were injured. So after a few years, and after he got his black belt, he decided to start his own style which would be much safer but still great fun. Kano decided to take out all the hitting and kicking. He called it Judo, which means the gentle way and he managed to open up his own club which he named it as the Kodokan.

The first thing his pupils had to do was to learn how to land safely when they were thrown – even when they were thrown by a very tall man. And when they were throwing each other, Jigoro Kano said they had to do it well and not hurt each other. He said it was very important to be polite so before and after practice, the pupils had to bow to each other all the time to show respect.

Judo became very popular very quickly. First of all it was popular in Japan, but Jigoro Kano who was a sensei (meaning teacher in Japanese) travelled right across the world to teach people his Judo. He didn't only teach adults, but boys and girls as well. So not only did English children, French children and American children learn this new fighting style, they even learnt some Japanese words. These were the names of Japanese throws and hold-downs. For example, they called the body drop throw 'Tai-Otoshi' Ippon Seoi Nage shoulder throw and the scarf holds 'Kesa Gatame' Juji gatame. In 1964, Judo was seen in the Olympic Games for the first time and now it is one of the most popular sports practiced by millions of judoka all over the world.