Judo: The Refining of One’s Heart Through Martial Art

Author: Ellie C.



Subdues to submissions, throws and takedowns – these are the common images we see when we think of judo.


Judo (柔道) means “gentle way” in Japanese, and was created by Jigoro Kano as a physical, mental and moral practice. This martial utilises two principles - seiryoku-zenyo (maximum efficiency) and jita-kyoei (mutual welfare and benefit). As more people around the world learned of the pedagogy, judo was then categorized as a modern martial art, which entered the scenes of Olympics as a martial sport thereafter. 

Undoubtedly, judo is one of the most popular sports in the world. The rise of popularity began during its inclusion in the Olympics in 1938 along with kendo and kyudo (Japanese sword arts and archery, respectively). Afterwards, Japan introduced it as an exhibition event in 1964. Eventually, more and more rules were added to the sport in order to push judokas (judo practitioners) towards using more standing techniques such as seionage (shoulder throw) and harai goshi (hip sweep), thereby differentiating judo from wrestling on television1. Now, judo in the Olympics is mainly judged on how fast, how impactful, and how correctly the techniques are executed. 

We can take a look at the country of origin for judo – Japan. Over there, the judokas have more focus on developing a healthy mind in addition to a healthy body. Their practice schedules can be as frequent as daily (excluding Sundays, public holidays and special events). It can be seen as a way of life for some, and there are even schools dedicated to the study of judo and obtaining a degree for it. 

In Singapore, the central focus for practicing judo is mainly for the development of flexibility and balance, and as a means to maintain a heathy body amid the fast-paced lifestyle, often with packed schedules. It is one of the options for supplementary activities one can choose in Singapore, and classes are usually once or twice per week since institutions in Singapore focus more on academics. 

Regardless of background, when one takes up judo, one can practice the art of respect, discipline as well as humility. By frequently observing the etiquettes in the practice of judo, it fosters a courteous attitude among all judokas. After all, martial arts are not only about training one’s physical aptitude, but also about strengthening one’s mental fortitude. As such, even if judo classes in Singapore are not as frequent as those in Japan, many lessons can still be learnt by practicing judo, thereby fulfilling Jigoro Kano’s original intentions of transforming judokas into better citizens and better people

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