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One book every judo player must have

Updated on March 9, 2015

My origins (and: why judo?)

I first started doing judo in 1997, years after wrestling in high school. I missed wrestling, and I was starting to get pretty good at it (relative to how terrible I was when I started, anyway), but the college I had started attending didn't have a wrestling program of any sort.

Enter judo. I found that the pins and takedowns I had gotten good at in wrestling definitely carried over well to judo, especially once I learned how to fight off of my back (and how to "throw" vs take down the guy). As a result, I was hungry for any information I could find on the subject, and I devoured it from all sources.

Fortunately for me, one of the sources I found early on was "Kodokan Judo" by none other than the founder of the art himself, Jigoro Kano. In 1882, Kano started a school that would ultimately be called "the Kodokan" (which really just means "a place of learning" from what I understand). Kano's brilliance in creating judo was paradoxical: he took certain techniques out of jujutsu (or "ju jitsu", depending on how you'd like to spell it) in order to make it less dangerous. Interestingly enough, this made judo more effective than traditional jiu jitsu, as was evidenced in the famous Tokyo police contest, where all the Kodokan guys won over the ju jitsu guys. Why? Because the judo guys could practice at full speed without worrying about maiming their opponents.

"Kodokan Judo" contains not only Kano's original techniques, but also a great deal of the history behind the formation and development of judo, and the philosophy behind it. If you're serious about judo, this book is a must-have.

Judo as self defense

There's definitely something to be said for being able to throw your attacker on their heads in a self defense or "streetfight" situation. I'm a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) black belt as well as a judo black belt, and given the choice, I'd always rather throw the crap out of someone and then not follow them to the ground (even though I'm almost definitely much, much better than they are). Ending a fight with a throw is a pretty awesome possibility.

Judo also has some groundwork, though. If you're not already training BJJ, judo's groundwork is absolutely devastating. The pins in judo (hold downs, or osae kome) add yet another element to the self defense arsenal, as you can hold someone in place until they "cool down" a bit without necessarily hurting them.

Jigoro Kano in the early 20th century

Amazing judo highlight


Kano wasn't a huge guy, so it always cracks me up when I hear people saying things like, "Helio Gracie changed judo around to make it effective for smaller people by inventing Gracie Jiu Jitsu!" Oh really? Have you ever seen a picture of Jigoro Kano? Everyone dwarfs him, including many of the children he helped to teach and train.

Certainly, sport judo favors aggressive, stronger individuals, but that is a function of a rule set, not of a particular trait or shortcoming of the martial art of judo. In fact, judo's twin maxim are "maximum efficiency, minimum effort" and "mutual welfare and benefit", and "judo" literally translates as "gentle way", which implies not a soft landing (ha!) as much as not fighting strength with strength.


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