What is judo?

Judo (柔道) is a modern martial art created from various unarmed combat traditions by its founder, Jigoro Kano, at around the turn of the 19th century. Kano envisaged judo as a vehicle to preserve jujutsu traditions that were disappearing in modernizing Japan by presenting judo as a system for moral and physical development of its practitioners. Accordingly, judo as a practice, like running or yoga, often leads to improvements in fitness and mental wellness. The actual practice of judo centres around the philosophical maxims of “maximum efficiency, minimum effort” and “mutual welfare and benefit”, and is composed mainly of throws, arm-locks, pins, and chokes or strangulation techniques taught and practised in a safe and permissive environment.

Today, judo is a popular co-ed martial art and grappling sport for all ages and types, and is a global and Olympic sport since 1964. In addition to the sportive techniques practised in competition (shiai) and free sparring (randori), judo also preserves pre-arranged forms of techniques (kata) that enshrine judo principles as well as traditional jujutsu techniques that cannot be safely practised in a live and non-compliant fashion. Historically, judo has also been strongly influential on other martial arts by pioneering the belt system and keikogi, by emphasizing full contact yet safe sparring and competition, and by inspiring the creation of new martial arts. For more information, please read the Wikipedia article on judo and this document by Don Smith and Ben Ganss (pdf). Top

What is the U of T Judo Club about?

See our dedicated page Top

Can I do judo?

Understandably, many people interested in practising judo have some reservations about their suitability. Below are some common issues. If you have a concern otherwise not addressed below (e.g. private health issue), please talk to one of our instructors.

For those who wear corrective lenses, while one cannot wear glasses during actual drilling or sparring, it is helpful to bring the glasses to be able to watch demonstration of techniques. It may also be helpful to bring a protective case to store away glasses. Some judo practitioners also use contact lenses, typically disposable contacts. However, one does not need perfect vision to do judo. Indeed, paralympic judo is practised by athletes who are legally blind!

If your concern is that you are not athletic enough for judo (or any other sport), this is not an actual problem. Class instruction, especially for beginners, is progressive in terms of conditioning intensity. Similarly if you want to improve your fitness before starting judo, one of the best ways of getting fit for judo is actually practising judo. Pretty much all body types and fitness levels are represented in the practising judo population.

Finally, if you think that you’ll look awkward and uncoordinated doing judo, all enterprising athletes regardless of sport or activity start off looking awkward and uncoordinated. Even world champions had to start as “white belts”! Moreover, progress in judo skill and fitness is personal and does not warrant exaggerated comparisons to an external ideal. Top

What should I expect in a judo class?

In keeping with judo as physical culture, all classes begin with a warm-up composed of stretching, break falls, calisthenics, and other body weight exercises and movements. Generally, the warm-ups will be progressive to accommodate various fitness levels, although the expectation is that all members regularly attend to increase or maintain their fitness. While judo is sometimes translated as the “gentle way”, improvements in cardio, strength, and proprioception are part and parcel in learning and implementing effective judo techniques.

Following a warm-up, a combination of teaching, drilling (uchikomi or nagekomi), and sparring (randori) occurs. Judo is, among other things, a contact sport, so one should expect a fair degree of physical contact– please read this document (pdf) by Don Smith and Ben Ganss for a more detailed discussion. For more general information about our classes, please consult the Classes page.

Given that many people interested in martial arts bring preconceived ideas of what martial arts or judo should entail, regardless of reality, one should also expect to keep an open mind while learning judo. Top

How do I register with the club?

All prospective members should be members of Hart House. U of T students have access to Hart House through bundled incidental fees in their tuition; otherwise, Hart House fitness centre membership can be obtained here. Please note that it may be expensive to join Hart House if you are not part of the U of T community; however, the combined fitness centre membership and class fees are comparable to other clubs in Toronto. That said, feel free to explore other options for judo in Toronto and the GTA!

Hart House class fees and scheduling for judo can be found by consulting the Registered Classes guide. We also usually have judo demonstrations at the beginning of the Fall and Winter terms, so follow our Facebook page for details. If registering for classes represents a financial hurdle, please email judo at utoronto.ca. Top

I have previous experience, what class should I join?

If you have previous experience in judo, you can join either the Beginner or Intermediate class (yellow belt and above), depending on your comfort level. Typically, one may have obtained low-level belt and taken an extended break from judo, or have practised youth judo, and may not be comfortable with immediate practice with a more advanced class. The Beginner class offers a quick recap of break falls and basic judo techniques.

Conversely, if you have a high-level coloured belt or a black belt, you should join the Intermediate class; you might also consider the Advanced class as a supplementary training session and focused class. If you have previous experience in other grappling sports such as wrestling or Brazilian jiujitsu, you might be able to practise with the Intermediate class. However, the best course of action will always be to talk to an instructor in person to assess your experience. Top

Where can I get a judo uniform (judogi)?

Judogi are not necessary for the first two weeks of the Beginners class, although they are obligatory afterwards. We currently sell single-weave uniforms at a subsidized price, and double-weave uniforms. You are also welcome to bring your own judogi or buy it elsewhere (e.g. Toraki, Hatashita, Fushida, Jukado). Please talk to our chief instructor Jorge Comrie about sizing and buying a judogi. Top

How do I wear and wash the judogi?

The judogi is composed of draw-string pants, a jacket, and a belt. To tighten the pants, pull the draw-strings out and thread them through the frontal loops, and tie with a secure knot (video). The jacket is worn with the left lapel over the right lapel. Traditionally, women also wear a white shirt under the jacket whereas men do not, but all club members are welcome to wear their preferred sports apparel (e.g. T-shirt, tank tops, compression shirt, etc.) under the jacket.

The belt can be tied in ways represented in this video. The judogi should always be washed after every practice to prevent bad odours. Note that hot washes and dryers can potentially shrink judogi; instead, consider cold or warm washes and air drying. Note that white judogi should not be washed with colours to avoid staining. Avoid bleach as it will degrade the fabric and durability of the judogi, especially entry level single-weave judogi; a milder alternative to bleach is OxiClean. Top

How do I follow judo etiquette?

There are certain traditions and etiquette that are enmeshed with judo practice. As previously mentioned, keeping a clean judogi is common courtesy to fellow members and training partners. Judogi should always be changed into from street clothes and not be worn outside of practice. Nails should be trimmed, and piercings and other hard or sharp objects should be removed to prevent injury to oneself and others. Strong personal scents should be avoided. When walking from the change rooms to the mat, you should always use clean footwear and not walk barefoot. Bowing properly is also important in respecting judo traditions and other training partners, and is taught. Finally, respect for others’ health and safety while practising judo is paramount.

Briefly with respect to bowing, the exact details may differ from one club to another depending on how traditional it is. While it may seem strange, bowing etiquette “lubricates” judo interaction especially when visiting another club or participating in a competition. In this sense, bowing is very much analogous to other sporting traditions and practices like shaking hands, fencing salutes, or the ram muay.

Firstly, one bows slightly when stepping onto and off the mat. When the class is about to start, a senior coloured belt (mudansha, lit. without dan rank) will call attention with “kiotsuke” and all mudansha will line up in order of rank, facing the line of instructors (yudansha, lit. with dan rank). The senior mudansha will then call “seiza” or a formal kneeling position taken by dropping the left knee followed by the right knee. “Mokuso” or meditation is called, and a couple seconds are taken for participants to prepare their minds for judo practice. Meditation ends with “mokuso yame” and then participants bow to a portrait of Jigoro Kano at the front of the dojo (shomen) with “shomen ni rei“. Then, students and instructors bow to each other with “sensei ni rei“. When the class ends, the bowing process is somewhat reversed, but includes “otagai ni rei” where participants bow to each other. Furthermore, when interacting with another club member for the purposes of drilling or sparring, one bows before and after the interaction. Top

As a visitor, can I drop-in for a practice?

Unfortunately, Hart House dissuades casual drop-ins. If you are a yudansha (black belt), we may have a limited ability to admit you as a guest. Top

How can I insure against or treat injuries?

While we don’t expect serious injury, Judo Ontario membership includes accident insurance. Furthermore, through incidental tuition fees, students should have supplemental health insurance that cover sports injuries, on top of provincial or universal health insurance plans. In any event of injury, one should immediately book a visit to the sport medicine clinic or health services clinic on campus– doctor visits are free and there is no good reason to “tough” it out.

It also bears repeating that the best ward against injuries is prevention. Common sense, courtesy to others’ health and safety, listening to instructors, and internalising safety lessons will prevent most injuries from occurring. Judo is safe and fun recreational activity for everyone when awareness is employed. Top

Do you do competitions?

Yes, occasionally members will coordinate competition expeditions. Our competition coordinator is Bernard Letendre. Note that only yellow belts or higher that are full members of Judo Ontario or another judo federation recognized by Judo Canada can compete. Top

I have long hair. What do I do?

Here are some suggestions for dealing with long hair.

I consider myself athletic, but I get exhausted in class. What’s going on?

Judo practice can be very different from other athletics in that it involves variable intensity over an extended period, in contrast to activities like jogging. Moreover, judo practice often uses unfamiliar movements or muscles, and the “adversarial” nature of live sparring often encourages over-exertion without conscious awareness. Thus, neophytes may more inefficiently use energy than an experienced practitioner. While it may be demoralizing to be tired (or dizzy or faint) relative to others mid-way through a class, this judo-related fatigue has been encountered by all judoka and is part of the process of gaining sport-specific fitness. The obvious solution is to regularly attend practices, but stamina can be aided by consuming sufficient food and water, and taking breathers when hitting a personal limit. Top

I am really tired and sore after judo practices. What’s going on?

You are experiencing delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which is characterised by sore muscles from 24-72 hours after practice. The cure is sufficient food, rest, and sleep. Over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen can relieve some symptoms. The severity of DOMS will lessen with increased sport-specific fitness. Top

What are some external resources for judo?

While consultation of external resources can be valuable in judo development, please bear in mind that all techniques should be done solely under instructor supervision with all due care and consideration of the safety and health of one’s training partners. That said, the U of T library system as well as the Toronto Public Library have various useful judo books. There are also various online resources such as judo forums and Youtube. For more links, please consult the Links page. Top

How do I follow news about the U of T Judo Club?

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All important news is sent through the U of T Judo listserv. To subscribe, click here. To unsubscribe, click here. You can also follow us on Facebook. Top

I have a question not in the FAQ!

Our instructors are more than happy to address any questions or confidential issues, either in person or by email. Top