Judo (derived from a Chinese word for the "gentle way") is a martial art that developed in Japan. Unlike boxing and wrestling which reward aggressiveness and brute strength, judo emphasizes confidence and calm readiness. The idea is to defeat an opponent "gently" by "turning an opponent's force to one's own advantage rather than to oppose it directly." People who practice judo are called judoka.

Judo grew out of juitisu, which generally avoided using weapons. The Tenshin Shinyo and Kito schools became the foundation for modern Kodokan Judo, as organized by Kano Jigoro (1860-1938), who renamed the sport after his first training gymnasium (“dojo)”. Kano formulated a training system based on modern athletic principles and modified the rules to permit both throwing and grappling on the mat. The “judo-gi “worn by practitioners resembles the apparel worn in “karate”, save for the upper part which is made of a more heavyweight material. Although some “karate “techniques also involve grappling and holding, it should not be confused with “judo”, which does not permit striking or kicking one’s opponent. [Source: Web-Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan]

Jigoro Kano (1860-1938) was an educator and something of a Renaissance man. Not only was an athlete he was a professor of economic and political science, a linguist, politician, calligrapher and musician. Kano became the first Asian to serve on the International Olympic Committee and helped Tokyo win the rights to host the Olympics of 1940, which were never held. In addition he found time to father eight children.

Kano took up the martial arts as boy to fend off attacks from bullies. He studied jujitsu against the wishes of his family at a time when jujitsu was out of fashion. Even so he stuck with it and trained under a number of jujitsu masters.

Judo is very much of an international sport. The World Judo Federation was established in 1952, and Tokyo hosted the first World Judo Championship Tournament in May 1956. Following its introduction as a men’s event in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, it has since been added for women as well. At present, “judo “is practiced by 5 million people in the world. There are nearly 200 national judo federations. Nearly 800 judoka from dozens of countries competed at 27th World Judo Championships in September 2010.

Good Websites: International Judo Federation www.ijf.org ; Judo Information site judoinfo.com ; Kodokan Judo Institute website: All Japan Judo Federation ; Wikipedia article on Judo Wikipedia ; USA Judo /www.usjudo.org ; NBC 2009 Beijing Olympics on Judo nbcolympics.com/judo ; Olympic Judo Results judoinfo.com ; Wikipedia article on Ryoko Tani Wikipedia ; Ryoko Tani in Sports Reference sports-reference.com ; Wikipedia article on Japanese Martial Arts Wikipedia ; Japanese Martial Arts allmartialarts.com ; Classical Martial Arts Resource koryu.com

Links in this Website: SPORTS IN JAPAN (Click Sports, Recreation, Pets ) Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SUMO RULES AND BASICS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SUMO Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; KARATE, AIKIDO AND JAPANESE MARTIAL ARTS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JUDO, JAPAN AND THE OLYMPICS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; KENDO, ARCHERY AND JAPANESE MARTIAL ARTS WITH WEAPONS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; BOXING AND PRO WRESTLING IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; SPORTS IN JAPAN (Click Sports, Recreation, Pets ) Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; OLYMPICS AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; JAPANESE OLYMPIC ATHLETES Factsanddetails.com/Japan

Development of Judo in Japan

Kano synthesized what he learned from different jujitsu masters and created judo. He established the Kodokan Judo School in 1882 and decided to distance it from jujitsu, which at that time had reputation of being the martial art of punks and thugs.

Jujitsu was founded in the mid 1500s. Most the of the major schools were established between the 17th and early 19th century. There were many schools, each with their own features.

Judo established itself as a major of martial arts on June 11, 1886 when a police force staged a tournament pitting judoka against jujitsu combatants to determine the most effective training method. The judoka won 13 of their 15 matches. Now judo is one of the popular marital arts and jujitsu has been largely forgotten.

Kano was not content with judo being a major martial art in Japan. He wanted it to become an international sport. In the late 19th century and early 20th century some of his disciples introduced the sport to Britain, the United States and France. Judo became an Olympic sport in 1964 at the Olympics in Tokyo. Although Japan usually dominates international judo competitions, there are are competitors from all over the world. China, South Korea, Iran, Egypt, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, France, Brazil, Cuba, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland and Russia have all produced medal-winning judoka.

In March 2009, Yukimistuma Kano, grandson of judo founder Jigoro Kano, stepped down as chairman of the All Japan Judo Federation ending Kano family control of Japan judo.

Women’s Judo and the Jewish Grandmother

Rena “Rusty” Glickman a Jewish woman from New York City, is largely credited with making judo a woman’s sport. Billie Jean King, the tennis great and founder of the Women’s Sport Foundation, said, “Rusty was one of the greatest influences in the world of women’s sports and a person who never really received the acclaim and recognition she so richly deserved.”

In 1954 Glickman married a Japanese judoka and became interested in the sport. So she could practice judo in New York in the 1950s she used ace bandages to flatten her breasts to impersonate a man,

In 1957, Glickman wore a tight T-shirt to flatten her breasts and had her cut short hair to compete as a man in the New York State YMCA Judo Championship. She won but her gold medal was taken away when it discovered that she was a woman. Her team was also forced to give up their medals. After that she said to herself that no woman she’d have to suffer that humiliation again. After that she regularly appeared at national and international judo meetings demanding that woman’s judo be a recognized sport.

Using her own money Glickman organized the first woman’s judo championship at Madison Square Garden’s Felt Forum in 1980 and threatened to sue the International Olympics Committee and ABC television for sex discrimination if she wasn’t able to get women’s judo added to the Olympics in 1988, which it was. In 2008, Glickman’s hard work and determination were recognized with the Emperor’s Order of the Rising Sun, one of Japan’s highest honors.

Rena Kanokogi, “the Mother of Judo,” died at the age of 74 in November 2009. She coached the U.S. woman’s judo team at the Olympics is Seoul in 1988, the year the sport was added to the games, and worked as a judo commentator for NBC during the 2004 Olympics in Athens. In 2008 she was presented the “Emperor’s Award of the Rising Sun,” given to foreigners who have had a positive influence on Japanese society. In 2009 the Brooklyn YMCA gave her the gold medal that was taken away from her in 1959.

Goal and Stages of Judo

Kano often remarked, "Judo training improves one physically and strengthens the foundations of moral conduct...It's a form of exercise, moral training and self-defense." He summed up judo's philosophy in the slogans "maximum efficiency with minimum effort” and "mutual welfare and benefit."

Kano said that what set judo apart from jujitsu was "the elevation of an art to be a principal." He claimed that judo maximized the use of the mind and body while jujitsu was just a collection of methods of attack and defense. Kano also introduced the revolutionary idea of getting an opponent off balance to throw him.

There are five stages of judo instruction, each containing eight throws. For every throw and move there is a counter throw and countermove. One of the main ideas of judo is to get your opponent to make the first move and use his energy and movement to throw or defeat him.

Most major throws are derived from “kata” (a series of regularized movements). The basic groups are: hand throws, leg throws, shoulder throws and sacrifice throws. Many throws seek to utilize movements initiated by his orher opponent.

In judo techniques are initiated by grabbing an opponent’s “gi”, or uniform. Practitioners of judo take certain positions and anticipate and respond to what their opponent do. Good judoka move gently and react to their opponents instinctively. Rough judoka are regarded as improperly trained.

Judo rankings embrace five “kyu” ("pupil") grades and 12 “dan” ("degree") grades. A beginner starts out with a white belt. The lowest level is the 5th kyu. A juduko advances from 1st kyu to the 1st dan. Judoka from the 1st to the 5th dan wear a black belt. The highest levels, 9th to 12th dan, wear red belts.

Sixty-Six Percent of Middle Schools to Start Judo Classes

In February 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “About 66 percent of public middle schools nationwide are likely to choose judo as a mandatory martial arts class from the start of the new school year in accordance with a new government initiative, a Yomiuri Shimbun survey has revealed. The survey also shows that preparedness for the new program, which involves first- and second-year students of both genders, differs depending on local boards of education. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, February 21, 2012]

One recent study found that 114 middle and high school students were fatally injured during judo classes over the last 28 years. As a result, some parents have voiced concern over whether schools are properly prepared to teach judo in the new program. According to the Yomiuri survey, schools in Tokyo and 23 other prefectures, as well as 11 ordinance-designated cities, have already prepared a judo instruction program amid these concerns. Meanwhile, the survey also found that boards of education in 12 prefectures and one ordinance-designated city have yet to determine which teachers are inexperienced in teaching judo, or have not made it mandatory for teachers to attend judo instruction training.

When the Fundamental Law of Education was revised in 2006 to promote curriculums "valuing tradition and culture," schools were obliged to offer both martial arts and dance classes. Currently, schools can choose to offer either martial arts or dance. Under the program set to begin in April, public middle schools will teach traditional martial arts, such as judo, kendo and sumo, during health and physical education classes. Which martial art is taught will be decided by schools or local boards of education.

The survey polled boards of education in Tokyo and 46 prefectures, as well as 19 ordinance-designated cities. In response to a question regarding the number of schools preparing to offer judo classes, 47 prefectures and cities provided the number of schools planning to teach judo. Meanwhile, Tokyo and 18 other prefectures and cities gave the latest number of schools that have already begun judo classes. In total, about 6,500 of about 9,800 public middle schools nationwide will likely begin offering judo classes at the start of the new school year. Many schools in Okinawa Prefecture will likely give karate classes, while some in other prefectures will likely teach kendo and other martial arts.

Judo Competition

Judo matches take place on a square mat that has a length of between 14 and 16 meters. The main contest area is 10 meters square. Outside this is 3-meter wide safety zone. Strips of tape, four meters apart at the center of the mat, mark the starting positions for each judoka. The judoka wear a “judogi” ("judo suit"), which is loose and easy to grab, and is fastened by a belt. A moving referee and two judges score and officiate the match.

A judo match begins with a bow between the opponents. The fight begins with a signal from the referee. The judoka spend much of their time shuffling around and tugging on the sleeves of lapel of the judogi of his/her opponent and take advantage of weaknesses or loss of balance and then utilize leverage to throw their opponent. The referee calls out scores and penalties.

In 1965, the word championships was expanded from all weights open format to one with weight division.

Scoring a Judo Competition

There are three scores: “ippon, waza-ari” and “yuko”. A judoka wins a match by scoring an ippon or winning on points.

An “ippon” ("total victory") is the competition judo equivalent of a knockout in boxing. It occurs when an opponent is thrown cleanly on his/her back with considerable speed and force or when an opponent is held down for 30 seconds. If an ippon occurs the match ends and the thrower wins.

When a throw is less definite and one element is missing “the opponent does land completely on his/her back, or the throw lacks sufficient speed or force or is held for 25 seconds — a “waza-ari” is awarded. Two waza-ari are equal to one ippon. If a throw is carried out with two element missing, a yuko is awarded.

Technically an ippon is worth 10 points; a waza-ari, 7 points; a yuko, 5 points, The points are not cumulative (except for a waza-ari) and penalties often hurt a judoka more than points help. There used to be something known as a “koka” that occurred when “the contestant with control throws the other contestant onto one shoulder, or the high, or buttocks with speed and force,” It was worth 3 points.

Many top-level matches, in which a clean decisive ippon does no occur, are often difficult to judge and decisions by the judges are often controversial. If no scores or penalties have been awarded the judoka who has racked up the most knockdowns, chocked up a “wazari-ni-chiakl waza” (decisive knockdown), or who is judged as the aggressor wins.

Rule Changes in Judo

In January 2007 a video replay was officially used in judo to assist judges and avoid Controversial calls.

In 2008, the International Judo Federation (IJF) cut the tackle-like koka — the lowest of the fours levels of scoring — from scoring. The decision went into effect after the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and was made in response to objections by European judoka and judges who felt the former “judging concept were abstract.”

Starting shortly before the Beijing Olympics in 2008 the IJF ruled that “shido” penalties for minor infringements such as poor posture, a pretend offense called a “kakeige” and another pretend offenses involving clutching an opponent’s trousers would be issued more strictly. Before referees were inconsistent applying the rules, Shido penalties are given to passive wrestlers to get them to fight more aggressively. In 2009, extra time was reduced from five minutes to three.

The rule changes angered judo purists and are believed to have contributed to Japan’s relatively poor showings in recent competitions.The shido penalty rules affected Ryoko Tani’s performance. She relies on counterattacks and was given a shido caution 30 second before the end of he match and lost. A number of matches in Beijing were decided by shido penalties.

Concerned about wrestling-style moves infiltrating their sport, world judo officials outlawed wrestling-like tackles in 2009. Judoko that do any moves that involve grabbing the legs will immediately be disqualified.

Some foreign judoka have introduced nontraditional judo moves to the sport and often resort to unorthodox style of judo. Japanese judoka and purists sometimes complain that this degrades the sport and puts the Japanese at a disadvantage. Naoki Murata, the author of many books about judo and the curator at the Kodokan Judo Museum in Tokyo, told the New York Times that “some athletes come from countries that have thousands of years of history of wrestling, so they are used to attacking the legs,” which they got away with until earlier this year, when the International Judo Federation banned unorthodox leg-grabbing throws.

It is not only Japanese that this kind of rule change, which is aimed at restoring judo to its more traditional form. The Djibouti team coach, Faissal Abdourahman A. Raguib, told the New York Times, “Japanese judo is the classic style, but in some other countries it’s mixed with other kinds of fighting, like wrestling or sambo. In Japan you see good technique, which is what Japanese judo is about, and that’s why we can’t stop them.”

Like many enthusiasts, Mark Law, the British author of “ The Pyjama Game: a Journey into Judo “ , told the New York Times he too respects the Japanese form. “They are much subtler players and use more technique than strength,” he said. “It’s not enough to just smash your way through it. Of course, you need just enough strength to stop your European brute, but using technique against him is the true spirit of the game.”


Judo as an Olympic Sport

Judo was a demonstration sport at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo and made an official Olympic medal sport in 1972. At the 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo Japan took most of the medals but Dutchman Antonius Geesink shocked Japanese fans by winning a gold medal in a judo event. The first world championships for judo was held in 1956.

Since judo became an official Olympic sport in 1964, Japan has won 35 gold medals, taking four of the 14 golds up for grabs in Beijing in 2008 but only one in London in 2012. Two of the three Olympic gold medals won by Japan at Barcelona 1992, all of the gold medals won by Japan at Atlanta in 1996 and four of the five gold medals won at Sydney in 2000 were in judo. Japanese athletes won eight out of 14 gold medals in judo at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. They also won two silvers in judo. Japan won seven judo medals, including four gold, at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. It was Japan’s smallest haul in judo since women’s judo was officially included in the Olympics in 1992.

Men’s judo medals won by Japan: 1) Tokyo in 1964 (3 gold, 1 silver, 0 bronze, 4 total); 2) Mexico City in 1968 (No judo); 3) Munich in 1972 (3 gold, 0 silver, 1 bronze, 4 total); 4) Montreal in 1976 (3 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze, 5 total); 5) Moscow in 1980 (Japan did not participate); 6) Los Angeles in 1984 (4 gold, 0 silver, 1 bronze, 5 total); 7) Seoul in 1988 (1 gold, 0 silver, 3 bronze, 4 total); 8) Barcelona in 1992 (2 gold, 1 silver, 2 bronze, 5 total); 9) Atlanta in 1996 (2 gold, 2 silver, 0 bronze, 4 total); 10) Sydney in 2000 (3 gold, 1 silver, 0 bronze, 4 total); 11) Athens in 2004 (3 gold, 1 silver, 0 bronze, 4 total); 12) Beijing in 2008 (2 gold, 0 silver, 0 bronze, 2 total); 12) London in 2012 (1 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze, 4 total).

In January 2009, judo started using a world ranking system to determines qualifying for the Olympics. based on points won from the world championship matches and a new Grand Prix series, awarding Olympics berths to the 20 judoka in each weight class with only weigh class position available to a single country. The Grand Prix is made up of major judo tournaments such as the Paris International in February and the Kano Cup in Tokyo in December.

The world judo championships began being held annually starting 2009. Japan hosted the 2010 event. Osaka hosted the event in 2003. The 2009 and 2011 events were held in Rotterdam and Paris respectively.

Decline of Japanese Judo

In 2007, Japan lost its seat on the Executive Committee of International Judo Federation for the first time. A Japanese board member was defeated by an Algerian. Observers have speculated that Japan’s influence on judo would compromised by the result.

Japanese judoka didn’t do very at the Asian Games in 2006 and were beat by judoka frm China. Kazakhstan, Mongolian and South Korea.

At the four-day. judo world championship in Rio de Janeiro in 2007, The Japanese men won no medals in the first two days of competition and only managed a bronze on the third day, with some of Japan’s strongest wrestlers crashing out in early bouts. Finally on the last day Yasayuki Muneta won a gold medal in the men’s open class. The women won medals in seven weight categories. Ryoko Tani won her seventh world title in the 48-kilogram division and Maki Tsukada won a gold in the women’s open division,

Japan’s performance at the Beijing Olympics was also disappointing. See Beijing Olympics in 2008 Below

Famous Judoka

Japanese have excelled in men’s “judo “at the Olympics since the 1972 Munich Games too, winning a gold medal in each Olympic competition until 2012. Famous Judoka include Yasuhiro Yamashita, who won the gold in the men's super heavyweight division at the Los Angeles Olympics 1984. At the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, Nomura Tadahiro, a “judo “competitor in the men’s 60-kilogram weight division, captured his third consecutive gold medal. Japanese men have also taken home the gold in the over-100-kg division (the heaviest division) at two consecutive Olympics, with Suzuki Keiji winning in Athens and Ishii Satoshi at the 2008 Beijing Games. [Source: Web-Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan]

“Japanese women have also performed well in “judo“ since the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games, where it debuted as an official women’s Olympic event. Tani Ryoko took home medals at five straight Olympics, from the Barcelona to the Beijing Games, including the second consecutive gold medal in the 48- kg division that she won in Athens. (See Below)

Only a handful of judoka to have won two Olympic gold medals. They are Wilhelm Ruska from the Netherlands (men’s over 93kg and Open in 1972), Peter Seisenbacher of Austria (men’s 86kg in 1984 and 1988), Hitoshi Sato of Japan (men’s over 95kg in 1984 and 1988) and Waldemar Legien of Poland (men’s 78kg in 1988 and 86kg in 1992).; Ryoko Tani (Ryoka Tamaru, women’s 48kg in 2000 and 2004). Masae Ueno (women’s 70 kg in 2004 and 2008), Masato Uchishiba (men’s 66 kg in 2004 and 2008); Ayumi Tanimoto (women’s 63 kg in 2004 and 2008); Maki Tsukada (women’s 78 kg in 2004 and 2008).

One of the biggest shocks at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics was when the 1.98-meter, 120-kilogram Dutch giant Anton Geesink won the gold medal in open class men’s judo event, pinning Japanese rival Akio Kaminaga in the final much to the dismay of the 15,000 watching at the Nippon Budokan. Japan had won the three other weight-class gold medals but considered the open class title the most prestigious. After he retired Geesink put in five years on the Japanese professional wrestling circuit as the popular star Giant Baba.

Japan is very strong in the women’s 48-kilogram division, Not only is there Ryoko Tani but there is also Haruna Asami the 2010 world champion, Tomoko Fukumi, the 2009 world champion and the world’s No. 3.

Tadahiro Namura is Japan’s only three time Olympic gold medalist. He won the men’s 60 kilogram class in judo in 1996, 2000 and 2004.

Women’s Judo in Japan

At the Judo championships in Tokyo in September 2010, Japanese women came away with their best tally ever: 13 medals, 6 of which were gold. The achievement reflects a wider trend in Japan of growing success in women’s elite competitive sports. The rise of Japanese women in sports over recent decades has often been in games that used to be the domain of men. The women on Team Japan, six of whom have top world rankings in their divisions, owe their success in part to those who pushed through the gender barrier. [Source: Daniel Krieger, New York Times, August 21, 2011]

“In Japan, judo was considered a sport for men only,” said Kaori Yamaguchi, the pioneer who won that lone silver medal back in 1980 and who is now a professor at the University of Tsukuba in eastern Japan. But as it gained ground in the West, the International Judo Federation caved in to pressure from countries like Britain and France, who demanded a women’s world championships. “Foreign judoka all had a strong will to fight,” said Yamaguchi, using the collective term for judo fighters.

Many Japanese were concerned that judo — a sport created in Japan — would come to be dominated in the women’s category by non-Japanese fighters. “The women’s section of the sport was being stolen by foreigners,” said Mark Law, author of “The Pyjama Game: A Journey into Judo.”The looming likelihood of a women’s Olympic event, Law said, prompted officials to give way, and before long a Japanese women’s team was being readied with access to the best coaches in the world.

Yamaguchi became the first Japanese woman to win a world championship title in 1984, and when women’s judo first appeared at the Olympics, in Seoul four years later as a demonstration sport, she took a silver medal. A role model for the next generation, she also inspired a popular manga cartoon called “Yawara! A Fashionable Judo Girl,” about a girl whose grandfather urges her to master judo and win a gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Ryoko Tamura

Ryoko Tamura, a 4' 9" judo world champion known to her fans as "Yawara-chan," is one of Japan's best known athletes. She carried the flag for Japan in the opening ceremonies the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and has appeared in numerous television commercials, often tossing men several times her size, and inspired Yawara-chan manga and cartoon character who always wears a lucky ribbon in her hair and overcomes greats odd to reach the top.

Daniel Krieger wrote in the New York Times, “Tamura won seven world titles, two Olympic gold medals, and obliterated the stereotype of the subservient Japanese wife by continuing her career after marriage and taking her last title after giving birth. Last year, she won a seat in the upper house of Parliament and began a second career in politics. “I forged the path of women’s judo,” said Kaori Yamaguchi, the first Japanese woman to win an Olympic medal “and Yawara-chan made it broader.” Tamura’s exciting style and colorful personality led to a judo boom in the 1990s, Yamaguchi said, out of which judo clubs and tournaments for girls emerged, laying the groundwork for their ascent. [Source: Daniel Krieger, New York Times, August 21, 2011]

Tamaru competes in the 48 kilograms division, the lightest of the seven women’s weight divisions. She hates winning on points. "I always want to win on ippon." she said. Before bouts she gets herself psyched up listening to J-pop groups like Chage & Asska, Misato Watanabe and Yuki Koyanagi.

Ryoko Tamura’s Life

Commenting on her mother displeasure over her taking up judo at 8, Tamura said, "She didn't like the idea of her little girl doing judo. She wanted me to play the piano, or maybe take tennis lessons. Something more girl-like. Tamaru graduated from college in 1998 during the middle of her judo career and continued with graduate work at Nippon Sports and Science University, where she studied judo. Her sponsor is Toyota.

Daniel Krieger wrote in the New York Times, “Tamura took judo against her mother’s wishes. At the age 16 years old, she upset world champion Karen Briggs at the 1992 Barcelona Games and took a silver medal. That marked the beginning of one of the most successful and inspirational sports careers in Japanese history. At 145 centimeters, or 4 feet 9 inches, tall with a signature ribbon in her hair fashioned after the heroic manga character, she was nicknamed “Yawara-chan” after the cartoon character inspired by Yamaguchi.[Source: Daniel Krieger, New York Times, August 21, 2011]

Tamura wed Orix Blue Wave baseball player Yoshitomo Tani in December 2003. The wedding ceremony and party was held in Paris. Afterwards she was named Ryoko Tani. Both Ryoko and her husband won silver medals at the 1996 Olympics and both competed at the 2004 Olympics. Yoshimoto now plays for the Yomiuri Giants.

Ryoko Tani gave birth to her first child, a baby boy named Yoshiaki, in December 2005. She said that childbirth was tougher than judo. Tani won her 7th Judo World Championship after giving birth to her son.

In August 2011, Tani was named the greatest female judoka of all time by the International Judo Federation. Beginning with a Toyota ad in 1992, Tamaru has appeared in more than 30 spots for 13 companies as 2000. In 2000, she did ads for Toyota, Marudao Food and Paint House.

Tamura's Judo Career

Yawara-chan shows off
her gold medal
Tani has won more world titles than any other judoka — woman or man. She burst on the judo scene when she won the prestigious Fukuoka International tournament at the age of 15 and won her seventh world title in 2007 after giving both to her son. She missed the 2005 world championships because she was pregnant and lost the national final before the 2007 meet but was selected to compete by Japan’s national judo body,

Although she has been world champion five consecutive times, Tamura had to settle for silver medals in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. In Barcelona, when was only 17, she was defeated by Amarilis Avon of Cuba in the gold medal round. In Atlanta, she was defeated by Kye Sun-Hee, an unknown 16-year-old North Korean girl, in the gold medal match in the extra lightweight division. Kye has never fought abroad before and Tamura had won 80 straight matches over four years going in the gold medal bout.

Tamuaru finally, at the age of 25 won a gold medal at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. She defeated her opponents Lioubiv Briuletova in the gold metal match with an ippon only 36 second into the contest. The were hundred of Japanese in the audience and the erupted in applause when it was announced that Tamura had won. Tamara said, "At last I've got the gold and it's a very special moment. When I received the gold medal on the podium I thought I was dreaming. It was like meeting your first love after 80 years."

At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Ryoko Tani won an unprecedented forth Olympic medal and second straight gold medal. She won a gold in women’s 48 kilogram division At the Beijing Olympics in 2008 she won her fifth Olympic medal but disappointingly it was a bronze. Tani won her 7th world gold in Rio de Janeiro in 2007 after having a chi;d. One 2007 world title she said, “Winning the gold after giving birth sent a message that a woman can continue her career after giving birth.”

Tani gave birth just a few months for the Beijing qualifiers. Her $3 million Paris wedding with Yomiuri Giants star outfielder Yoshitomo broadcast was broadcast in national television.

At Beijing in 2008 Tani was a 32-year-old mother. She lost in the semifinals to eventual gold medal winner Romanian Akina Dumitru because of controversial shido caution penalty assessed against her with 30 seconds left in the match. She won the bronze medal with a decisive hip-throw ippon over Russian opponent Lyudmila Bogdanova. She had been selected for the Japanese Olympics team because of her experience despite losing in the final at the Japan championship to Emi Yamagashi.

Tani ended her Olympic career with five medals in five Olympics: silvers in 1992 and 1996, golds in 2000 and 2004 and a bronze in 2008.

In February 2009, Tani announced that she would miss the world judo championship because she was pregnant with he second child,

In July 2010, Tani, then a 34-year-old mother of two, won a seat for the DPJ in Upper House elections. In October 2010 she said she was ending her judo career so she could focus on politics. Before that she said she was going to continue with competitive judo with an eye on the 2012 Olympics in London.

Japanese Judo at the Olympics in 2000 and 2004

Kosei Inoue, Japan's most
handsome judoka
Japanese athletes won four out of 14 gold medals in judo at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. They also won two silvers and two bronzes in judo. One loser was Shinichi Shinohara"I was defeated because I was weak. [David] Douillet was stronger [than me]. That's all," Shinohara told reporters after the final match in the over-100-kilogram division at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Shinohara should have won the gold medal, but the referee awarded the win to his French opponent in a decision widely seen as a mistake. [Source: Henshu Techo, Yomiuri Shimbun, August 1, 2012]

Japanese athletes won eight out of 16 gold medals in judo at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. They also won two silvers.

At the 2004 Olympics in Athens,Tadahiro Namura became Japan’s first three time Olympic gold medalist He won the men’s 60 kilogram class in three straight Olympics, including 2004. Ryoko Tani won an unprecedented forth Olympic medal and second straight gold medal. She won a gold in women’s 48 kilogram division

Inoue's girlfriend
Masato Uchishiba won the gold medal in men’s 66 kilograms division, winning every match by ippon. Noriko Anno won a gold medal in the women’s 78 kilogram division. Anno had won four world championships in two different weight classes but lost in the first rounds in 1996 and 2000

Masae Ueno son gold in the women’s 70-kilogram division, defeating Edith Bosch of the Netherlands who would beat her in 2008. Ayumi Tanimoto won the women’s 63-kilogram division. Maki Tsukada won the women’s 78-kilogram division.

One of the biggest disappointments was Kosei Inoue loss in the quarterfinals of the 100 kilogram division. He was defending champion and three time world champion. It was his first loss in an international competition in four years.

Japanese Judo at Beijing Olympics in 2008

Japan won seven judo medals, including four gold, at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. It was the smallest haul since women’s judo was officially included in the Olympics in 1992.

Masato Uchishiba won a gold medal in the men’s 66-kilogram division, defending the Olympic title he won in 2004 on Athens and bringing Japan its first gold medal at the Beijing games. In the final he defeated by Benjamin Darbely of France, a friend whose he had visited din France, by ippon only a minute and 8 second into the match. Uchishiba won every match by ippon in 2004 but was not as convincing in 2008. He used a cagier style that depended more lateral movements, catching opponents off guard. He said he had problems getting motivated in the years before the Olympics and was inspired by his son Hinaru who turned four in 2008.

In world team judo championships in October 2008, after the Beijing Olympics Japanese women placed first while the men were fifth.

Women’s Judo at Beijing Olympics in 2008

Masae Ueno defended her title in the 70-kilogram division, defeating Anaysi Hernandez of Cuba in the final with an ippon after just 46 second. Ueno was the 3rd Japanese woman to defend her Olympic title. In the blink of an eye, Ueno caught Hernandez with a trip to the ankle, grabbed her knee and deposited the Cuban on her back. “In every match I was able to keep my concentration,” Ueno said after the final

Ueno was world champion in 2001 and 2003 and lost in the third round at the 2005 worlds. She didn’t even make the Japanese team at the 2007 world’s in Rio de Janeiro. She lost in the All-Japan tournament on April 2008 but was selected for the Olympic team because of her experience. On the way to the final in Beijing she won three matches by ippon and won a tough semifinal against Edith Bosch of the Netherlands, who Ueno defeated for the gold in Athens in 2004.

Ayumi Tanimoto won a gold medal in the women’s 63-kilogram division, defending the Olympic title she won in Athens. She was perhaps the most convincing winner in judo. She won all of her match by ippon, defeating Lucie Decosse of France with a spectacular head-over-heals throw in the gold medal match only 1 minute and 24 seconds into the match. Ironically, Tanimoto has never been able to win a world championship.

Defending Olympics champion Maki Tsukada won a silver medal in the women’s 78-kilogram division after losing in the finals seconds of the final to Chinese rival Tong wen. Misato Nakamura won a bronze medal in the women’s 52-kilogram division

There were also many disappointments. Two-time world silver medalist Sae Nakazawa, in the women’s 70-kilogram division, and heavyweight champion Keiji Suzki, the defending Olympics gold medalist. lost in the first round. Ryoko Tani, attempting to win her third straight gold, lost in the semifinals to eventual gold medal winner Romanian Akina Dumitru and had to settle for a bronze.

Judo After Beijing Olympics in 2008

Ryoko Tani’s successor Tomoko Fukumi won the world championship in August 2009 in her debut on the world stage in the 48 kilogram division.

Japanese men won no gold medals at the 2009 world championships but took a silver and a bronze. In Beijing in 2008 they won only two medals albeit both gold.

Japanese women won three gold medals and two bronze medals at the 2009 world championships.

At the 2010 world championships in Tokyo, Japan dominated, with 23 medals, including seven golds . France was second, with six medals.” Japanese judoka also did well at the Asian games.

At the 2011 World Judo Championships in Paris Japan had to settle for silver (the women’s team) and bronze (the men’s team) in the team events. France won first place in both the men’s and women’s divisions. The men finished the the seven individual weight events with just two golds, two silvers and one bronze.

In August 2011, two time French Olympic champion David Douillet was named the greatest male judoka of all time by the International Judo Federation.

Men’s Judo After the 2008 Olympics

The Japanese men performed poorly at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. They won only two gold medals, their weakest showing ever. At the 2009 world championships in Rotterdam they did even worse. For the first time, they came home without a gold medal. The world championships in Rio de Janeiro in 2007 and the 2006 Asian Games turned out to be letdowns as well.

Heading into the 2010 world championships in Tokyo, the pressure was on the team to pull itself out of its funk or face humiliating defeat in front of the home town fans. Tokyo had not hosted the world championships since 1958. Daniel Krieger wrote in New York Times, “With so much riding on this tournament, Japan’s coach, the former world champion Shinichi Shinohara, decided to exert greater control over his players — training to ensure a comeback that would show the world that Japan was still a force to be reckoned with in the sport it created...Rather than let players take care of their own preparation, as is customary, Shinohara forged a boot camp with a daily regimen that included getting up at dawn and running 10 kilometers, or 6 miles. [Source: Daniel Krieger, New York Times, September 15, 2010]

“The training must have paid off...On the first day of competition, the men got off to a solid start, winning one gold...At the end of the five-day tournament, the Japanese fans at Yoyogi National Gymnasium, where judo was inaugurated as an Olympic sport in 1964, were jubilant. The team had made its comeback, and then some. The men’s team earned four gold, one silver, and three bronze medals. In 2009, they won just one silver and one bronze.

What caused the decline of the Japanese men’s team. Milos Mijalkovic, a 32-year-old Serbian judoka who has studied in Japan for many years, told the New York Times he chalked it up to fiercer competition. “Nowadays lots of other countries are improving their judo,” he said. “If you look around, you can see there’s not just judo strength in big countries like France, Japan, and Korea, but many others, too.”

Judo and Professional Fighting

Satoshi Ishii won a gold medal in the men’s 100-kilogram division. In his first major international tournament he defeated Abdullop Tangrieb of Uzbekistan by caution points in the final. After the Olympics he said he as going to quit judo and devote himself to being a professional martial artist.

In November 2008, Japanese judoka Satoshi Ishii, the winner of gold medal in the over 100-kilogram class in Beijing, announced he was quitting judo to become a professional martial artist. Ishii continued to compete in judo and do well in it after taking up his new career as a K-1 fighter.Two other Olympic gold medal-winning judoka have done the same thing: Hidehiko Yoshio, winner of 78-kilogram class in Barcelona in 1992, and Makoto Takimoto, winner of 78-kilogram class in Sydney in 2000.

Fight Over Pokemon Card Turns British Youth into World-Class Judoka

In July 2012, Reuters reported: “Ashley McKenzie grins broadly as he tells how a fight over a Pokemon card turned him from a problematic youngster in trouble with the law to one of Britain's best hopes for a judo medal at the London Olympics. Thrown out of school, his life was changed when he was 11 by a tussle on a street near his home in west London which broke out when another boy tried to make off with his prized Pokemon charizard card. [Source: Reuters, July 24, 2012]

"This charizard was the best card. It was my life back then," he recalled at the British judo team's training base in Dartford to the east of London. "I've gone to grab his shirt and next thing I knew I was over his shoulder. I was a scrapper back in the day so I knew this wasn't right. "I went for him again and as I've gone for him he's thrown me again. I was thinking 'No way, what's going on? How's he throwing me? He's hurting me'." Baffled, he went home and looked on the internet where he discovered he had been overcome by a judo move. Keen to learn more, he went along to a local club and found his erstwhile attacker there, along with his Pokemon card. "We spoke, we're friends, I started judo. Obviously I got my Pokemon card back," he added with a laugh.

McKenzie, now a charming 23-year-old, is very open about his past troubles, and proud of how he turned his life around. He was regularly excluded from school and spent time in a young offenders institution. But, having got into judo, his talent was spotted and success in junior competitions followed. "I started winning more and more, and I thought my mum's happy and my brother and my dad's happy for me winning these and when I'm in school I'm always in trouble," he said. "It was like a balance where I was doing something positive. So I kind of focused all my energy on judo. From there my life kind of shot up." It was not all plain sailing as his penchant for trouble has seen him earn a number of bans from the sport. But the medals kept coming and he knuckled down when he realised he could get to the Olympics. "It sunk in my head, I could actually do this. This actually could be my dream, my dream could come true to be someone in the world," he said.

Mckenzie qualified for the 2012 Olympics in the under-60 kilogram category but failed to get a medal. Before London he said if he didn’t succeed he’d be even more determined to prove himself at the Olympics in Brazil in 2016. "At Rio I'll be looking for gold, and that is it. I want a medal, I want to get a gold so bad it's unbelievable."

Olympic Judo Champion Uchishiba Indicted on Rape Charge

In December 2011, Kyodo reported: “Prosecutors indicted two-time Olympic judo champion Masato Uchishiba on a charge of raping a female member of a university judo team that he coached. Uchishiba, 33, is accused of raping the woman at a hotel in Hachioji, suburban Tokyo, in the early hours of September 20 when she was falling asleep after drinking alcohol, according to the indictment. Uchishiba, who at the time was the coach of the judo team of Kyushu University of Nursing and Social Welfare in Tamana, Kumamoto Prefecture, has denied the charge, telling investigators he and the alleged victim had consensual sex. [Source: Kyodo, Mainichi Japan December 28, 2011]

Uchishiba drank alcohol with the woman and other team members at a restaurant in Tokyo during a road trip, investigators said. The Penal Code sets punishment at a minimum of three years in prison for those who raped by taking advantage of the victim's loss of consciousness or inability to resist, or by causing a loss of consciousness or inability to resist.

After winning gold medals in the men's 66-kilogram class at the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympics, Uchishiba became a coach of the female judo team at the university in his hometown in April last year, and became a guest professor this past January after retiring from competitive judo in October 2010. But he was dismissed on Nov. 29 on the grounds he had sexually harassed a female member of the team. Two days after he was arrested on suspicion of rape on Dec. 6, the Kumamoto prefectural government revoked an honorary award it had given to the judo champion.

In September 2012, Uchishiba, denied rape charges against him in his trial in Tokyo, Jiji Press, a Japanese wire service, reported. Uchishiba said at the trial he did not rape the girl. He admitted having sex with her, but claimed she was awake and that it was consensual. [Source: SportsXchange, September 13, 2012]

Image Sources: Olympic.org, Japan Zone

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Last updated January 2013

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