Judo is derived from Jujutsu. It was created by Professor Jigoro Kano who was born in Japan on October 28, 1860 and who died May 4, 1938 after a lifetime of promoting Judo. Mastering several styles of jujutsu including Kito-Ryu and Tenjin-Shinyo Ryu in his youth he began to develop his own system based on modern sports principles. In 1882 he founded the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo where he began teaching and which still is the international authority for Judo.
The name Judo was chosen because it means the “gentle or yielding way”. Kano emphasized the larger educational value of training in attack and defense so that it could be a path or way of life that all people could participate in and benefit from. He eliminated some of the traditional jujutsu techniques and changed training methods so that most of the moves could be done with full force to create a decisive victory without injury. The popularity of Judo increased dramatically after a famous contest hosted by the Tokyo police in 1886 where the Judo team defeated the most well-known jujutsu school of the time. It then became a part of the Japanese physical education system and began its spread around the world. Dr. Kano, President of the University of Education, Tokyo, dedicated his life, studied these ancient martial art of Jujutsu and integrated what he considered to be the best of their techniques into what is now the modern sport of Judo.
Judo is many things to different people. It is a fun sport, an art, a discipline, a recreational or social activity, a fitness program, a means of self-defense or combat, and a way of life. It is all of these and more.
Judo was introduced into the Olympic Games in 1964 and is practiced by millions of people throughout the world today. People practice Judo to excel in competition, to stay in shape, to develop self-confidence, and for many other reasons. But most of all, people do Judo just for the fun of it.
The traditional explanation for the meaning of JUDO is: “The word judo consists of two Japanese characters, ju, which means “gentle”, and do, which means “the way”. Judo, therefore, literally means the way of gentleness.
However, the two words JU and DO have much deeper and wider meanings. JU can also mean Giving and Flexible. Like the willow branch that is flexible and does not contend with the wind so too does a student of Judo not meet force with force unless it is to their advantage or for a further purpose.
The meaning of DO is the way, the path or system or philosophy. By renaming Jujitsu to Judo, Dr. Kano gave Judo a higher meaning and distinguished it from ancient Jujitsu.
The symbol of the Kodokan (literally translated to “the place for teaching the way” [Dr. Kano's dojo]) is the cherry blossom with a red circle in the middle. The symbol itself has been described in many ways. For students just beginning Judo, the best symbolism is in the fact that the outside edge is in the shape of cherry blossom petals, while the inside is a hard red circle. So there is hardness being covered by softness. A student’s Judo should be the same: Soft and flexible with a hard core at its center. This means that a player’s movement and their arms should be soft and flowing so as to find opportunities to break an opponent’s balance, yet at their center should be a super solid core of techniques and inner and outer strength that he/she can call upon when the time is right.