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  • Judo was developed from other martial arts in Japan by Dr Jigoro Kano when he founded the Kodokan school in 1882. It was not until 1918 that the first judo club opened in Europe, the Budokwai in London. The sportís development was slow.

  • The International Judo Federation was not set up until 195, and judo did not become an Olympic sport until 1964, when the Olympics were held in the sportís birthplace, Japan.


  • Judo takes place on a mat approximately 14 metres square.

  • The dimensions of the pitch are always the same: the playing area is 300 feet long and 160 feet wide. It is divided by lines at 5-yard intervals across the pitch. The goals at each end stand on the pole to reduce the risk of injury. The crossbar is 10 feet above the ground and the two posts which tower above it are 30 feet high. The area behind the goal is called the end zone is 30 feet long.


  • The costume worn must be white, and consists of a jacket covering the hips which is held together by a hand- tied coloured belt, and a pair of trousers which should be loose, and should cover more than half of the lower leg.

  • Feet must be bare.


  • Judo reflects its Japanese background in the courtesy and respect shown by the players to each other during combat. Having stepped onto the mat both competitors must bow to each other and to the referee.

  • Contests last for a minimum of three minutes and a maximum of 20 minutes. Contestants are matched by their weight and their experience grading. Prowess is judged by the colour of the belt awarded to each athlete during his or her career, the best being the black belt.

  • Players use a variety of holds leading a throw, and then pin their opponent to the floor. The aim is to hold an opponentís shoulders flat on the mat for 30 seconds to force a submission by means of other holds.


  • Although Japan has dominated the sport since it was founded, European countries have latterly provided more Olympic medallists.

  • The most successful British woman is Karen Briggs. In the under-48-kilo category she won four World Championship titles between 1982 and 1989.


  • Though he made fun of the sport in the Pink Panther films, the British actor Peter Sellers became a fine Judo amateur and in 1962 was appointed President of the London Judo Society. Combat sport seemed to run in his family Ė he was a descendant of the great British boxing champion Mendoza.

  • On 22 December 1993 the first neighbourhood police station staffed solely by six women (all masters of judo, aikido or other martial arts!) opened in the Ginza district of Tokyo.

  • On a January night in 1965 an intruder at the Dean of Bockingís residence came in for an unexpected surprise. The Dean advanced on the young man in his garden. After a challenge, there was a muffled cry and a tinkle of glass as a body smashed into a cold frame. The Dean, an expert in judo, had thrown his assailant over his shoulder.

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