Though Kano discouraged competition, the first world championship competition was held in 1956.  In 1964 men's Judo competition became a part of the Olympics.  In 1992 Judo competition for women was added to the Olympics.

Jim Bregman was the first American to win an Olympic medal.  (1964 - Bronze).

The first American woman to win a World Championship was Ann Maria Rousey DeMars (1984 -56kg Class).  

Ronda Rousey was the first American woman to win an Olympic medal.  (2008 - Bronze.)  She is also the daughter of Ann Maria Rousey DeMars.

The first American Gold medal in Judo was won in 2012 by Kayla Harrison.

The U.S.'s Introduction to Judo

The United States' first introduction to Judo was in the late 1800's.  In 1904 Yoshaiki Yamashita, one of Kano's students, traveled to the US and taught Judo to Theodore Roosevelt and West Point cadets.  But it wasn't until after World War II that American Judo began developing.  Many American servicement studied the art while in Japan and then taught it when they arrived back in the states.  As a result, the Armed Forces Judo Association (AFJA) was then established.

Judo was founded by Dr. Jigoro Kano in 1882.  Kano was born in 1860 and at the age of 18 enrolled in the Tenjim Shinyo ryu school of Ju-Jitsu.  The Tenjim Shinyo ryu was a soft martial art that stressed harmony as opposed to combat, but also included striking and grappling techniques. Kano transferred to the Kito ryu which offered an even softer form of Ju-Jitsu.  Kano then began to study other forms of Ju-Jitsu which caused him to revisit the Ju-Jitsu techniques he had learned. Students were often getting injured while practicing many of the techniques and Kano wanted to form a martial art that was more gentle.

In developing Judo, Kano removed all of the Ju-Jitsu techniques that were dangerous when attempted.  In 1882 he founded the Kodokan Judo Institute in Tokyo and it is still the international authority for Judo.  Kano emphesized the educational value of training in attack and defense and changed training methods so that most of the moves could be done with full force to create a decisive victory without injury.

Judo's popularity increased dramatically in 1886 after a contest hosted by the Tokyo police.  The Judo team defeated the most well-known Jujutsu school of the time.  Judo went on to become a part of the Japanese physical education system and continued its growth around the world.  The ultimate goal of Judo is to perfect the individual so that he could be of value to society, "a training for life."  Kano felt Judo to be a holistic art, used not only to improve physical health but also mental, emotional and spiritual health.

In his lifetime, Kano attained a doctorate degree in Judo, which is equivalent to the twelfth dan, awarded to the originator of Judo only.  Kano is often called the "Father of Japanese Sports" due to his continuous work to ensure the development of athletics in Japan.​

The History of Judo

Judo literally translated in ju (gentle) and do (way or path) or "the gentle way."

Judo is practiced internationally by more than 400,000 men, women and children.  It is taught through forms, which are prearranged series of throws, and randori, which is the equivalent of sparring.  Because Judo is taught in a similar fashion globally, a clear sequence of instruction has been established.  Unlike other martial arts, Judo competition rules, training, and rank systems are relatively uniform throughout the world.

Judo is practiced on mats and consists primarily of throws, arm-locks, chokes and pins, there are no strikes in competitive Judo.  These techniques are performed upon opponents in Judo tournaments in order to score points.  Additional techniques, including atemi-waza (striking) and various joint locks are found in the judo katas.  Judo is generally compared to wrestling but it retains its unique combat forms.

Each Judo match begins with a ceremonial bow between the two contestants, after which each grabs the other's jacket collar and sleeve.  The objective in a Judo match is to score an ippon (full point), or waza-ari (almost ippon).  The competition is ended once such a score is obtained within time allowed.

Judo training has many forms for different interests.  Some students train for self-defense while others train for competition.  Others will study the traditional art and forms (kata).  Still others practice Judo simply for fun.  Black belts are expected to learn all of these aspects.

What is Judo?