Judo or Jūdō (柔道, jūdō?, meaning “gentle way”) is a modern martial art and combat sport created in Japan in 1882 by Kano Jigoro. Its most prominent feature is its competitive element, where the object is to either throw or takedown one’s opponent to the ground, immobilize or otherwise subdue one’s opponent with a grappling maneuver, or force an opponent to submit by joint locking or by executing a strangle hold or choke. Strikes and thrusts by hands and feet as well as weapons defences are a part of judo, but only in pre-arranged forms (kata) and are not allowed in judo competition or free practice (randori).

The philosophy and subsequent pedagogy developed for judo became the model for other modern Japanese martial arts that developed from koryū (古流?, traditional schools). The worldwide spread of judo has led to the development of a number of offshoots such as Sambo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Practitioners of judo are called jūdōka.

The early history of judo is inseparable from its founder, Japanese polymath and educator Kanō Jigorō (嘉納 治五郎?, 1860–1938). Kanō was born into a well-to-do Japanese family. His grandfather was a self-made man, a sake brewer from Shiga prefecture in central Japan. However, Kanō’s father was not the eldest son and therefore did not inherit the business. Instead, he became a Shinto priest and government official, with enough influence for his son to enter the second incoming class of Tokyo Imperial University.

Kanō started pursuing jūjutsu (柔術?) in 1877 as a student at the Tokyo-Kaisei school, soon to become part of the newly-founded Tokyo Imperial University. With the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate in the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Jūjutsu had become unfashionable in an increasingly westernised Japan. Jūjutsu teachers had been forced to pursue alternative careers, many opening Seikotsu-in (整骨院?, traditional osteopathy practices). After inquiring at a number of these, Kano was referred to Fukuda Hachinosuke (c.1828–c.1879), a teacher of the Tenjin Shin’yō-ryū (天神真楊流?) of jūjutsu. Fukuda is said to have emphasized technique over formal exercise, sowing the seeds of Kanō’s emphasis on randori (乱取り?, free practice) in jūdō.

On Fukuda’s death in 1879, Kanō, who had become his keenest and most able student in both randori and kata (形?, pre-arranged forms), was given the densho (伝書?, scrolls) of the Fukuda dōjō. Kanō chose to continue his studies at another Tenjin Shin’yō-ryū school, that of Iso Masatomo (c.1820–c.1881). Iso placed more emphasis on the practice of kata, and entrusted randori instruction to assistants, increasingly to Kanō. Iso died in 1881 and Kanō went on to study at the dōjō of Iikubo Tsunetoshi (1835–1889) of Kitō-ryū (起倒流?). Like Fukuda, Iikubo placed much emphasis on randori, with Kitō-ryū having a greater focus on nage-waza (投げ技?, throwing techniques).

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