Judo as a sport 柔道

Dr. Jigoro Kano was one of the early members to the International Olympic Comittee from Japan. It was always his dream to introduct judo as a sport at the Olympic Games. After decades of international expansion, finally he realized his dream and judo became an Olympic sport in 1964. Today judo is the most participated Olympic sport after soccer. While in the early days, Japan dominated just about every category of every competition, today judo has truly grown into an international sport that is no longer exclusively dominated by Japan alone. Over 120 countries participate at the World Championships in recent years, as a testimony as its wide reach.

While once upon a time, the Kodokan was the mecca of judo and held tremendous influence, over time that gave way to the All Japan Judo Federation. Since the 1990's, the International Judo Federation became increasingly more influential in the direction of Olympic judo, and it is the most dominant organization today.

While the Olympic status of judo made it an international sport, and many countries seriously invest in judo to produce medals, this Olympic status is not without its downside. Under the IJF recent direction, especially in light of what happened to wrestling being dropped from 2016 Olympic games, they made an effort to make judo more TV and spectator friendly. The cost? Currently all hand-and-arm to leg attack and counter-attack techniques are forbidden in competitions adhering to IJF rules. It was a gradual process that began in 2010 prohibiting direct leg attacks to minimize ugly attempts to do false attack, by 2013, any leg-grabbing techniques are prohibited in competition.

It is difficult to imagine that Dr. Kano would have wanted this for judo as a sport. While the current IJF rules do have some benefits of producing cleaner and more aesthetically pleasing matches; and they force players to rely more on fundamental body movement, hip usage, timing, etc. These deviation from traditional judo rules do not represent the classical judo. Judo under IJF rules is a large subset of Kodokan judo.

At the same time, it may be easy to deduce that sport judo players are not effective at self-defense situation under the new rules. It is not necessarily true. Most good sport judo players can perform some very powerful techniques against another highly trained opponent, to apply such techniques in a combat situation against an opponent not trained in judo takes much less effort.

In addition, the IJF does not dictate what is taught inside the judo club, so people can still learn the full range of techniques of judo. In addition, IJF is not the only sport body organizing judo events. Its events are usually for elite athletes and do not apply to 95% of the judo players. Other organizations hold events under traditional rule such as those run by Freestyle Judo and Classical Judo.

At Judo Link club, we teach judo. That means Kodokan judo, traditional judo, however you want to call it. Our training is a combination of traditional time-proven and modern sport science methods for the most effective learning. Our founder Lincoln Han has competed through three major rule changes and can understand the limitation and frustration each rule change brought to the competitor. However, we still encourage our competitors to play under both rules as the limitation is not always a bad thing. It can help you to develop techniques that you otherwise may not have refined or developed in order to make them effective under the rules. For more details about the evolution of Olympic judo rule changes from 2010 to 2016, refer to this article.

To learn more about the differences between traditional (freestyle) and Olympic (I. J. F.) competitions rules, refer to their respective official handbooks.

International Judo Federation (I. J. F.) competition rules

International Freestyle Judo Alliance competition rules

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