Judo has grown to become the second most popular practiced sport around the globe behind soccer. A staggering 40 million people around the world practice Judo according to the International Judo Federation (IJF). The sport is no longer just a physical activity but has grown into an international language that surpasses national borders, cultural difficulties, and language barriers.
Jigoro Kano, the founder of the sport, went a long way to ensure that he spread the game around the world in an approach that would provide the fundamental principles and teaching of the sport would resonate. Jigoro Kano once said "For one thing, Judo in reality is not a mere sport or game. I regard it as a principle of life, art, and science. In fact, it is a means for personal, cultural attainment." In this regard, he visited Europe and the USA multiple times drawing international attention to the sport. Many politicians became Judo amateurs. Former USA President Theodore Roosevelt regularly practiced Judo when he occupied the white house. The current German chancellor Angela Merkel is also a Judo enthusiast, and current President Vladimir Putin holds an honorary diploma as a Doctor of Judo from Yongin University (South Korea). In 1906 the sport became so important that the Japanese government made it mandatory for all students in school to learn either Kendo or Judo. The legislation was important for the sport because it became recognized as a way of education. This ensured that the children in Japan would grow up around the teachings and principles of Judo, spreading the language through their lives. After Kano became a member of the International Olympics Committee (IOC), he was an outstanding voice and tool in the mission to help Japan host the Olympics. Eventually, the Tokyo Olympiad was held in 1964, and Judo officially became an Olympics event. Over the years, Judokas from 50 plus nations have won medals in the Olympics, as the popularity of the sport continues to grow.
Figure 1: Current President of Russia Vladimir Putin warming up.
Judo Organizations Bridging Gaps
The creation of National Governing bodies has helped Judo become universal. The International Judo Federation launched the Judo For The World (JFTW) project to show just how widespread Judo had become and to illustrate how the sport was continuing to change lives. There are numerous practical examples of the impact of JFTW. In March 2011, the city of Japan was hit by a massive earthquake as a result of a Tsunami, JFTW intervened in a local village that was wiped off the map and through Judo, rebuilt the community and gave some talented the children a purpose and a road to success. About 7800 miles away JFTW is creating schools and elite Judokas with Olympic hopes in Cuba. Another 7500 miles from Cuba Judo has grown to be the most popular sport in the country of Zambia in addition to being a catalyst that helps to overcome some local societies there that have been plagued by drugs, prostitution, unemployment and climate change.
Judo has been integrated as a principle of life for many around the world. Judo links up peoples, communities, and countries; and continues to perform important roles around the world.
Figure 2: Two Young Judoka participate in JFTW.