By simply searching the internet, you can find countless descriptions of judo, it’s origin, and philosophy. Wikipedia definition is a good reference for the basic concept of judo. Below are some of the key concepts from that and other sources.
Judo (柔道, jūdō, meaning “gentle way”) is primarily an empty handed Japanese martial art.
Judo is a Japanese martial art, a style of Jujutsu, originally the empty handed fighting arts of the Japanese Samurai warrior. There are hundreds of styles of Japanese Jujutsu: Takeda-ryu, Daito-ryu, Tenshin Shinyo-ryu, Takeuchi-ryu, Sosuishitsu-ryu, Kukishin-ryu, Takagi Yoshin-ryu, Kito Ryu, Danzen-ryu, Aikido, Judo, etc. There are also some non-Japanese Jujutsu styles such as Gracie Jujutsu and Brazilian Jujutsu – both of which were originally derived from Judo. Additionally Sambo, a Russian style of Jujutsu, was heavily influenced by Judo.
Judo uses throws, holds, joint locks, strangles and to a lesser extent, strikes and weapons to control or subdue an attacker.
The Judo of Dr. Jigoro Kano is properly called Kodokan Judo, a fusion of some of the best styles of Jujutsu in Japan in the late 1800s. Dr. Kano established Kodokan Judo in Tokyo in 1882. Since then Judo has become an Olympic Sport for men and women and is practiced by some 20 million people worldwide.
In the 1890s, Butokukwai, an exclusive martial arts program within the Busen, a martial arts teacher’s college in Kyoto, was established in Kyoto Japan. The judo of the Butokukwai was brought to England in the 1950s by Kenshiro Abe, a leading student at the Butokukwai. Sensei Abe called his style of judo, KyuShinDo. Later, after the KyuShinDo was absorbed by the British Judo Council, one of Abe Sensei’s students established a branch of KyuShinDo renamed Zen Judo (the two styles differ in name mainly.)
Kosen Judo is a version of Judo that specializes in grappling on the mat (very little standing techniques), was designed especially for high school competition in Japan. Mitsuyo Maeda taught this form of judo to Carlos Gracie.
Judo is often translated as “Gentle Way”, but this is an overly simplistic translation and doesn’t bring forth the richness of the Japanese Characters.
“Ju” refers to flexibility, agility or gentleness. A gentleness like water, kind to all living things but can wear away the strongest rock.* “Ju” also implies a “mind -body” connection.
“Do” is a road or a path, a way. “Do” sometimes means principle.
So a less elegant translation of the word judo would be the “principle of mental-physical coordination and a special kind of agility.”
The ultimate goal of judo, in the words of Dr. Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, is “The harmonious development and eventual perfection of human character.”
How is this accomplished?
By incorporating the principles of judo into your practice and your daily life.
The first principle Dr. Kano created was “Seiryoku Zenyo” or “the right use of power”. Kano was displeased with some of the more dangerous and incautious applications of technique utilized by some of the ju-jutsu schools of this time; so, he created the term “judo” and called the school the “Kodokan”. Kodokan Judo is now recognized world wide as the world headquarters for judo; the actual building in Tokyo, Japan is called “the Kodokan.”
The second principle of judo is “Jita Kyoei” – “You and me, shining together”, it implies a kind of super sportsmanship and super teamwork. Many of the rules and formalities of a judo school are traditionally based on this principle. Judo is a martial art which requires concern for other people’s safety and well-being. Judo is not a team sport, but it is a group sport, and at this school we are especially proud of the way in which students work together to make progress easier and insure that judo training is both safe and enjoyable.
The third motto, on which the Japanese Judo Cultural Movement was launched, was “Jiko no Kansei.” This also plays on its similarity to the phrase “Jiko no Kensei.” The first means “Perfect Yourself” whereas the latter makes clear how to do this “Complete Yourself.” This amounts to a call for each of us to seek to be fully functional, self-actualized individuals, for our own good, but also for the good of society.
* from the Tao Te Ching