Friday, October 2, 2009

The role of judo in health promotion.(Judo).

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Judo is the most popular martial art in the world and the second most popular sport (behind soccer) in the world. Around the world there are more people registered with nationally-affiliated judo clubs than any other martial art.

So why isn't it more popular in the U.S.? Perhaps because coaches and physical educators view judo as a uniquely un-American activity. That's probably true. But judo just may be more American than we realize.

Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, developed the first school for teaching judo (the Kodokan) in 1882. Kano's judo originated from the heavily engaged forms of ju-jitsu. He selected the safe techniques and developed a style that could be practiced in a safe manner. Its two principles--maximum efficiency and mutual benefit and welfare--are designed to develop character and upstanding citizenship, social objectives that set judo apart from many other physical activities.

Judo is a grappling sport, like wrestling, but the participants wear a jacket (called a gi). A typical judo match may last from 3-10 minutes, depending on the tournament, and may be won by throwing the opponent to his/her back with force, by pinning them on their back for 25 seconds, or by gaining a submission through a strangle or joint locking technique. The opponent submits by tapping the opponent or the mat, signaling defeat.

There is no mystery to judo and no "secret death touch" techniques, nor any "crouching tiger" stances. A student gains proficiency by diligently practicing the techniques just like any other sport or recreational activity.


Without going into the finer points of various diseases, judo offers an excellent systematic method for improving physical fitness. Studies show that child obesity is on the rise in the U.S. The overall cause is the mismatch between caloric intake and caloric expenditure.

Another related health concern is Type II diabetes, a recent epidemic effecting American children brought on by obesity and a sedentary lifestyle (Ratner-Kaufman, 2002). An overall lack of physical activity is a major culprit in this disorder once thought to effect only adults.

Polar heart rate monitors were used to record average and maximal heart rates during randomly selected judo sessions at Montana Tech.

Six children and 15 adults volunteered for the research project.

The average age of the adults was 25 years, and the average heart rate during the adult judo class sessions was 136 beats/minute. The average age for the children was 7 years, and the average heart rate during the children's judo class sessions was 145 beats/minute. The length of the adult sessions are 60 minutes, and for the children's sessions 45-60 minutes (Amtmann, Berry & Spath, 2003).

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends an intensity of 55% to 90% of maximum heart rate (or age predicted maximum heart rate) for 20-60 minutes to obtain an improvement in cardiovascular efficiency and to help prevent the development of chronic lifestyle related disorders such as heart disease and Type II Diabetes (2000). The children averaged 68%, and the adults averaged 70%, of their age predicted maximum heart rates, respectively. This indicates that these sessions were effective in elevating heart rates to desirable levels for the appropriate periods of time to obtain health and fitness benefits.

Judo develops the body in a balanced fashion, unlike various other sports. Pushing and pulling strength is developed in a harmonious fashion in judo, leading to a healthy and functional body.


Judo's an excellent physical activity for girls, and an excellent alternative to wrestling.

More girls are participating in high school wrestling than ever before, but the overall number is still low. Most girls are not interested in wrestling because they are uncomfortable wrestling mostly with boys, competing in a wrestling singlet, and/or because wrestling is too competition oriented.

Most girls, however, think the gi is "cool", and are proud to put it on, and so you're likely to find more girls in judo clubs than in wrestling clubs. This may not seem to be a big deal to most men/boys, but it is to the girls.

Judo is also an effective system of self-defense. According to the National Violence Against Women Survey (NVAWS), one out of six U.S. women have experienced an attempted or completed rape at some time in their life. Of particular importance is the fact that 54% of these women were 17 or younger when the rape or assault occurred (Tjaden & Thoennes, 1998).

Plenty of sports help to develop physical fitness, confidence, and other factors we value in our children. Judo does all of this and, because it is a close-quarters sport, it helps develop skills that may be very useful in close-quarters crimes, such as rape and sexual assault. Physically smaller and weaker individuals can successfully apply judo techniques on larger, stronger opponents or attackers.

Because most of the techniques in judo are relatively safe for judo students who have been properly taught the fundamentals, the techniques can be safely practiced at or near maximal intensity levels with a resisting opponent. This is especially true for the judo ground grappling techniques employing positions of control, strangles and joint locks.

Being able to practice judo techniques in this manner enhances proficiency and practical application of the techniques. This is important since women who fight back forcefully are more likely to avoid sexual assault attacks than those who did not fight back, regardless of the presence of a weapon (Ullman & Knight, 1993).


The implications for physical educators and coaches are clear: judo, whether as a school-supported sport, club sport, or a physical education class may be beneficial for our children.

One does not have to be an elite level judo athlete to be an effective coach. There are a number of fairly successful wrestling coaches who never wrestled as youngsters, and plenty of successful judo coaches who've never competed in a judo tournament.

However, the coach must be proficient in the fundamentals and must make safety a priority before taking on the task of coaching beginners. The Montana Tech Judo Club uses parents who have no experience in judo at all to help coach.

Of course, the best option would be to recruit an individual who is a certified judo coach. To learn more about judo, reputable clubs, certified coaches, and about how to develop a judo curriculum, you may contact the United States Judo Association (


American College of Sports Medicine. 2000. ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins. * Amtmann, J., Berry, S., Spath, W. In press. Effects of a beginning judo class on heart rate. Submitted for publication. Intermountain Journal of Sciences. * Ratner-Kaufman, F. 2002. Type II diabetes in children and young adults: a "new epidemic". (President's Pen). Fall, Vol. 20, No. 4, pp. 217-218. * Strauss, R., Pollack, H. 2001. Epidemic increase in childhood overweight, 1986-1998. Journal of the American Medical Association. Vol. 286, No. 22, pp. 2845-2848. * Troiano, P., Flegal, K. 1998. Overweight children and adolescents: description, epidemiology, and demographics. Pediatrics. March, Vol. 101, No. 3, pp. 497-505.

By John Amtmann, Ed.D. Professor, Applied Health Science Montana Tech of U. Montana, Butte, MT

John Amtmann is a professor for the Safety, Health and Industrial Hygiene Program as well as the instructor for the Judo/Jiu-jitsu Club at Montana Tech, Butte, MT. He can be reached at

Source Citation:Amtmann, John. "The role of judo in health promotion." Coach and Athletic Director 74.1 (August 2004): 76(3). General OneFile. Gale. Alachua County Library District. 2 Oct. 2009

Gale Document Number:A120526605

Disclaimer:This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.

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