The roots of judo can be traced to Japan's Samurai warriors. Nearly 1,300 years ago they developed the most ancient of martial arts, jiu-jitsu, as a way of fighting. In the 19 century, due to changes in Japanese society, judo emerged as an alternative to the older jiu-jitsu styles. It is the legacy of Jigoro Kano (1860-1938) who combined different styles of jiu-jitsu in a new approach to martial arts that would allow to practice it in educational and not only military institutions. Judo disallows techniques that aim on killing or injuring the opponent.
The system developed by Kano is based on two key principles: maximum efficiency and mutual welfare and was meant to serve as a physical education system for newly formed public education system.
The original school where Kano taught his first students called Kodokan still exists. Now a vibrant seven-story building in Tokyo, Kodokan is regarded as the world Mecca for judo. Every day it attracts thousands of practitioners.
Judo gained popularity quickly after its birth. Many liked its emphasis on subduing rather than overpowering an opponent or causing injury. A myth grew that small men armed with the knowledge of judo could easily defeat much larger men. That changed somewhat when big men began to practice the sport. It was then that Kano implemented ranking system to ensure the skills of opponents were fairly matched.
After World War II the judo spread rapidly all over the World. It is practiced today in 200 countries members of the International Judo Federation, making it one of the world's most popular sports. Since 1964 Judo has been included in the Olympic Games program. In many countries of the world, Judo champions are as popular as hockey stars in Canada. Women's judo is growing ever since the 1st Women's World Judo Championships were held in New York in 1980. Since 1988 women's judo has been an Olympic Sport.
The first dojo in Canada was opened in Vancouver in 1924, but it was not until the 1930's that more numerous judo schools began to appear. During World War II, the Japanese and Canadians of Japanese origin were relocated to the east of the Rocky Mountains. As a result of this relocation judo spread across the country.
The Canadian Kodokan Black Belt Association, known as Judo Canada, was incorporated on October 25th, 1956. Judo Canada is recognized by the International Judo Federation, the Pan American Judo Union, the Canadian Olympic Association and Sport Canada as the official governing body for the sport of Judo in Canada. Today more than 40,000 Canadians participate in judo including 23,000 registered as provincial association members. Approximately 400 clubs are spread through all provinces and territories. We are part of a world-wide judo community of eight million people.
In the Tokyo Olympic Games, Canadian Doug Rogers won a silver medal in the over 80 kilograms category. While his performance was a great surprise to many, Rogers, in fact, had been training for four years in Japan preparing for this challenge. Canada's next medal in Olympic competition came at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. Mark Berger won a bronze in the over 95 kilogram (heavyweight) category.
In 1992, 20 year old Nicolas Gill from Montreal, while still a junior, stunned the judo world with a bronze medal in the under 86 kilo class. Nicolas did not stop there, in 1993 he won silver medal in the World Championships and captured the bronze in the 1995 and again in 1999 Worlds and then silver at the 200 Sydney Games. Only 3 other Canadians stood on the World Championships podium - In 1965 Doug Rogers and in 1981 Kevin Doherty and Phil Takahashi. Since 2009 World Championships in Judo take place every year (prior to that every second year). Today’s top competitors are predominantly coming from Japan, Korea, France and other European Nations.