History of Judo|What was Judo during and after the war? Why did it spread to the world?



Motenas Representative
Motenas Representative

I am sure that many of you have learned “Judo” in your school classes.

But I don’t even know the history of judo.

In fact, the history of judo is so long that it can be traced back to the Kofun period, and has been passed down to the present day with many twists and turns.

In this issue, we will take a deeper look into the history of judo, a traditional Japanese martial art loved around the world.

Origins and Origins of Judo

Origins and Origins of Judo

First, let us look at how judo was born.

What is Judo?

Judo is a martial art that originated from “jujutsu,” which was practiced by samurai warriors.

Samurai warriors must train their bodies because their job is to fight on the battlefield.

In addition to physical training, they also practiced “kumiawase,” which is a form of close combat.

Kumiawuchi is a method of fighting an opponent with bare hands, and there were techniques such as “nagewaza” and “shimewaza,” which are connected to today’s judo.

The goal is also to cultivate the spirit, and this spirit has been passed down to judo as “seiryoku zenyo” and “jita kyoei” (co-prosperity for oneself and others).

  • (1) Good use of energy (2) Good use of energy (3) Good use of energy (4) Good use of energy (5) Good use of energy (6)
    … “It means that whatever you do, you should use your mental and physical strength most effectively to achieve your goal.
  • Mutual Prosperity with Myself and Others
    … “To live and prosper together through mutual harmony and cooperation” (quoted from “Mutual Harmony and Co-Prosperity for Myself and Others” by Kodokan ).

The above philosophy was proposed by Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, which will be explained later, but it was also strongly influenced by jujutsu, which was practiced by samurai warriors.

Martial arts” by warriors flourished.

As mentioned earlier, judo is a martial art that originated from jujutsu.

The term “bugei” is a generic term that includes “jujutsu,” which is the basis of judo, “kyujutsu,” which is the art of archery, and “gunjutsu,” which is the art of using a gun.

In fact, no clear record has been found as to when the martial arts were born, but artifacts have been found that indicate the existence of “archery,” a martial art using a bow and arrow, around the end of the 5th century, which was the Kofun period.

From there, through the Heian and Sengoku periods, samurai culture flourished and jujutsu developed as one of the martial arts.

Schools emerged in jujutsu during the Edo period

In the Edo period (1603-1867), various schools of jujutsu, a martial art, emerged.

Each of these schools is passed on from master to apprentice, and the number of practitioners increases.

In the Edo period, jujutsu was so widely practiced among the samurai that it was considered an essential part of the samurai’s daily life.

In addition, some townspeople and farmers other than samurai learned jujutsu, indicating that it was a vigorous martial art at the time.

However, with the changing times, such jiu-jitsu also began to show a shadow of its former self.

Meiji Era|From “jujutsu” to “judo

Meiji Era|From

In the Meiji period (1868-1912), many Western cultures were introduced.

Partly because of this, the momentum of jujutsu, which had existed until the Edo period, began to wane.

At that time, a man named Jigoro Kano breathed new life into jujutsu.

Jigoro Kano, an avid practitioner of jujutsu, established “judo” by combining the strengths of various schools of jujutsu.

Establishment of Kodokan: Started with 9 students

In 1882, when Jigoro Kano was 23 years old, the Kodokan was established as a training center for judo.

At that time, there were only nine students.

Today, more than 200 countries and regions around the world are members of the International Judo Federation (as of February 2024), but when the Kodokan was first established, it may have been hard to imagine that it would spread beyond national borders to other countries.

Kodokan, founded by Jigoro Kano, is still the headquarter of judo with many practitioners, and has become a sacred place for judo where practitioners from abroad also knock on the door.

Female judo practitioners begin to increase in number.

Judo had previously been practiced only by male practitioners, but the number of female practitioners began to increase in the middle of the Meiji era.

Many of the practitioners at that time were women teachers, and it was thought that “in order to teach education, it is necessary not only to have education and physical strength, but also to train oneself spiritually,” and it seems that the spirit of judo was already attracting attention at this time.

In the Taisho era (1912-1926), the number of female judo practitioners also increased, as the first women’s judo seminars were held that included self-defense methods.

Jigoro Kano becomes IOC Commissioner.

In 1909, Jigoro Kano became the first IOC commissioner in the Orient.

Jigoro Kano put into judo the idea of “honing not only technique but also spirit,” and his enthusiasm for educational reform through sport is said to have struck a chord with the IOC president at the time.

Almost 30 years after taking office, he also accomplished the feat of deciding to host the Olympic Games in Japan for the first time.

At that time, most participants in the Olympics were from Europe and the United States, but the IOC wanted to “make the Olympics global.

However, because airplanes and other means of transportation were not developed at that time, it was difficult for countries far away to participate.

Travel between Japan and Europe took more than half a month by ship or Trans-Siberian Railway, so it is not surprising that many countries were reluctant to participate.

Jigoro Kano took advantage of this fact and worked to bring the Olympics to Tokyo.

At that time, Japanese athletes were beginning to participate in the Olympics, and he argued that “despite such a long distance, many athletes from Japan have participated in every Olympics since 1912, and therefore, it is no big deal for Western athletes to gather in Japan like that, considering the hardships of the Japanese team, but rather by doing so, the In fact, by doing so, the Olympics will be transformed from a Western event into a global cultural event” (cited from JOC – Olympism | Olympic Movement and Jigoro Kano ).

As a result, the decision was made to host the Tokyo Olympics in 1940.

Unfortunately, the Tokyo Olympics did not come to fruition due to the Sino-Japanese War that took place around the same time. However, Jigoro Kano’s active friendship with foreign countries toward the Olympic bid and the introduction of judo as part of the bid led to the prosperity of judo today.

Showa Period|Judo becomes popular in Japan

Showa Period|Judo becomes popular in Japan

It was not until the beginning of the Showa period (1926-1989) that judo became widely popular in Japan.

Until then, judo had been steadily increasing its number of practitioners, but an event during the Showa period led to a rapid increase in the number of competitors.

Judo adopted as an official school subject

In 1931, judo became an official school subject.

More and more students were exposed to judo, and tournaments were held throughout the country.

This event can be said to be the catalyst for the rapid increase in the number of judo competitors.

Furthermore, Judo grew to become a national martial art as it was adopted in the training process for police officers and the number of town dojos increased.

Change to Judo Education for War

Judo had grown into a national martial art, but World War II began to gradually change its standing.

Judo was changing from being solely for the purpose of spiritual training to being designed to attack in actual combat.

This was because of the prolonged war and the possibility of a decisive battle on the mainland.

At that time, children were learning not only judo, but also kendo and bayonet sports as classes at the national school (the equivalent of today’s elementary schools).

Martial arts banned due to defeat in war

At the end of the war in 1945, martial arts, including judo, were banned.

This was an order by the Allied Forces occupying Japan after the war.

The Allies may have thought that martial arts were the factor that led Japan to become a militarized nation.

In fact, during the war, martial arts were incorporated into training as a means of attack, but at the same time, martial arts were an important tradition for the Japanese that had been handed down from their predecessors.

There, despite the Allied ban, he began steadily taking action to revive the martial arts.

Postwar|Judo revived and spread overseas

Postwar|Judo revived and spread overseas

Judo was banned immediately after the end of the war, but was successfully revived through the efforts and beliefs of our predecessors.

It also expanded overseas, showing even more development than in the prewar period.

Judo to be revived from school education

Even after judo was banned after the war, the Kodokan, the head temple of judo, as well as members of the Diet and those involved in school judo, had a growing desire to somehow revive judo.

The Ministry of Education, which took this desire into consideration, had been demonstrating judo, kendo, and kyudo to the Allied nations since the year following the end of the war.

These efforts bore fruit, and the Allied nations’ view of Japanese martial arts improved.

In 1950, about five years after the end of the war, school judo was restored as limited to junior high school and above.

However, at that time, it was not yet positioned as a “martial art,” but rather was restored to school education as a “sport.

All Japan Judo Federation formed.

Around the same time that school judo was being restored, the All Japan Judo Federation was also formed and began to show signs of full-scale recovery.

The All Japan Judo Federation is the organization that remains today and holds many judo tournaments each year.

Not only tournaments for students, but also the National Police Judo Tournament will be held, reviving the excitement of judo in Japan.

First World Judo Championships Held

The first World Judo Championships were held in 1956.

The fact that the world championships could be held just over 10 years after the end of the war gives a sense of the tremendous pace of Japan’s recovery at that time, doesn’t it?

The first world convention was held at Kuramae Kokugikan in Tokyo.

The Kuramae Kokugikan is now demolished, but at that time it was the site of Japan’s first international professional wrestling match and many other famous matches.

The first such World Judo Championships held at Kuramae Kokugikan was won by a Japanese competitor.

Eight years after the first World Judo Championships, judo took a further leap forward.

Judo becomes an official Olympic sport

Judo is now an established Olympic sport, but it was not until 1964 that it was adopted as an official Olympic event.

More than 20 years after the death of Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, the adoption of judo as an official Olympic sport was a major turning point in the history of judo.

This was also due to the enthusiastic efforts of the International Judo Federation and the European Judo Federation.

Judo has also joined the ranks of world-class sports with its adoption as an Olympic sport.

Modern Judo and Future Development

Modern Judo and Future Development

What steps will Judo take in the future?

Judo was born in the Meiji era (1868-1912) and also developed overseas in the Showa era (1926-1989).

The number of competitors has been increasing at a tremendous rate, but let’s take a look at where judo stands today and make some predictions about the future of judo.

Junior High Schools to Make Martial Arts a Necessity

First, in Japan, martial arts became compulsory in junior high schools in 2008.

Although some schools had already introduced judo into their physical education classes, more schools are expected to do so now that martial arts have become compulsory.

In modern times, Western sports are easier to compete in casually, and many students have an image of martial arts as being high-stakes and formal, so it is not uncommon for students to be exposed to judo for the first time in physical education classes.

Some students may actually learn judo, which may spark their interest and make them feel closer to the sport.

Students who say that they have not had the opportunity to go to a dojo to learn judo on their own would be able to learn about the appeal of judo if they had the chance to experience it as a class at school, and as a result, the number of future competitors would increase and be passed on to future generations.

In today’s internationalized world, judo education overseas is also becoming more prominent.

Judo Introduced to School Education Overseas

Judo is increasingly being incorporated into many Brazilian school curricula.

In fact, judo is a popular sport in Brazil, with more than 2 million competitors (as of February 2024), more than the number of competitors in Japan.

Combined with the educational aspect of judo, there is a movement to utilize judo for education in impoverished areas in Brazil.

Judo will continue to thrive as more and more people are exposed to it, transcending national borders and differences between rich and poor.

Currently, Japan is the most powerful country in judo, but the growth of judo athletes from overseas may be remarkable in the future.

I hope that through friendly competition with such overseas athletes, Japanese athletes will also hone their skills and spirit, and that judo will serve as a bridge for international exchange.



Judo was created in the Meiji era (1868-1912), and now has spread to competitors all over the world.

It is said that the origin of the culture has existed as far back as the Kofun period, and although it has been tossed about by the waves of the times, such as the samurai culture, the Meiji Restoration, and world wars, our predecessors have carried it on to the present day.

I would like to continue to protect “Judo,” which is also filled with the good old spirit of Japan, and pass it on with pride.

[Reference site
History of Kodokan Judo | Kodokan
History of Judo/Home Mate.”
JOC – Olympism | The Olympic Movement and Jigoro Kano
History of Judo in Brazil | Japan Brazilian Central Association WEB SITE

[Reference book
Judo: Its History and Techniques” (published March 20, 2014, by Yoshiaki Todo)