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(jo͞o`dō), sport of Japanese origin that makes use of the principles of jujitsu, a weaponless system of self-defense. Buddhist monks in China, Japan, and Tibet developed jujitsu over a period of 2,000 years as a system of defense that could be used against armed marauders and yet would not be in conflict with their religion. Jigoro Kano, a Japanese jujitsu expert, created judo (1882) by modifying or dropping many holds that were too dangerous to be used in competition. It depends for success upon the skill of using an opponent's own weight and strength against him, thus enabling a weak or light individual to overcome a physically superior opponent.

A judo match begins with a ceremonial bow, after which each player grasps the other by the collar and sleeve of the jacket, or gi. Points are scored when a fighter successfully executes a variety of throws or immobilizes the opponent for varying lengths of time. Penalties can result in the deduction of points and are called, among other reasons, for throwing an opponent by entwining legs; applying joint locks other than to the elbow; using the arm or hand on an opponent's face; or grabbing the opponent's trousers.

Judo has been an Olympic sport for men since 1964 and for women since 1984. Both fight in eight weight classes. Proficiency in judo is indicated by the color of a player's belt; white indicates a beginner, black a master. There is a wide range of color in between. In 1953 the Amateur Athletic Union recognized judo as a sport and sanctioned annual championships. Numerous schools throughout the world now teach judo. Jujitsu, the unmodified form of judo, has been taught to military and police forces.

See also martial artsmartial arts,
various forms of self-defense, usually weaponless, based on techniques developed in ancient China, India, and Tibet. In modern times they have come into wide use for self-protection, as competitive sports, and for exercise.
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See K. Kobayashi and H. E. Sharp, The Sport of Judo (rev. ed. 1992).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(from Japanese, ju, “soft,” and do, “path”), the Japanese national form of wrestling. Judo, the modernized jujitsu that has been changed into a sport, arose in Japan in 1882; Professor J. Kano (1860-1938) is considered its founder. In standing position the opponents use various means, such as trips, hacks, and throws, to try to throw each other to the mat. Once on the mat they use various holds in an attempt to press the opponent’s back to the mat for 30 seconds or, applying painful holds to the arm and suffocating grips to the head, to force him to declare himself beaten. The combatants wear a kimono with a loose belt and do not wear shoes. The matches, which take place on mats (tatami) made of compressed straw, last four to fifteen minutes without interruption, depending on the importance of the competition and the age of the opponents. In 1970 in Japan more than 4.5 million people practiced judo; it is a compulsory subject in the school curriculum.

Since the late 19th and early 20th centuries, European, Asian, and American countries have practiced judo; the USA, France, the Netherlands, West Germany, North Korea, and East Germany have developed the sport most of all. In 1956 the International Judo Federation was created, which unites five continental unions—the European, Asiatic, Pan-American, African, and Oceanic—and which includes more than 80 countries.

World judo championships are held once every two years, continental championships every year. The Olympic Games included judo in 1964. Since 1967 official international meets have been held in five weight categories (light—up to 63 kilograms; light middleweight—up to 70 kilograms; middleweight—up to 80 kilograms; light heavyweight—up to 93 kilograms; and heavyweight—more than 93 kilograms), as well as in an unlimited category without weight restrictions.

In the Soviet Union judo has become a widely practiced sport (since the 1970’s sambo, which allows almost all the methods allowed in judo, has also been popular). Soviet athletes are the strongest in the world after the Japanese judoists. In 1962 the judo section of the Sambo Federation of the USSR entered the International Judo Federation. From 1963 to 1970, Soviet athletes won 51 gold medals at the European championships and 13 bronze and silver medals at the world championships and the Olympic Games. The combined team of the USSR was champion of Europe from 1963 to 1966 and again in 1970; the names of the Honored Masters of Sport A. Bogoliubov, A. Kibrotsashvili, A. Kiknadze, V. Pokataev, O. Stepanov, and S. Suslin are well known.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a. the modern sport derived from jujitsu, in which the object is to throw, hold to the ground, or otherwise force an opponent to submit, using the minimum of physical effort
b. (as modifier): a judo throw
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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