It is most prominently known as a martial art with an objective to throw or takedown an opponent to the mat, immobilise or otherwise subdue an opponent by way of pinning or to utilise the use of joint locks and chokes to score points in competition.
The formation and early history is very much interlinked with the experiences that its founder Jigoro Kano had whilst growing up and the view of various martial arts at the time. Apart from being the founder of Judo, Kano was also a high ranking official in the Japanese government as well as a prominent figure in the Japanese Olympic movement.
When Kano began his study of Ju Jutsu he found that although there were masters willing to teach it, there were very few that still could due to the lack of money they were able to earn and the inability to make a living from it. This was thanks to a lack of interest among the general populace as well as the demise of the Samurai meaning that less instruction was required.
After swapping between multiple jujutsu schools, Kano finally found his place at the prestigious Komu Sho School under the tutelage of masters Fukudo and Ryo. It was here where he not only learnt and then mastered Ju Jutsu but also that he wished to pursue and develop his own martial art that not only incorporated the aspects of Ju Jutsu that he had learnt but also philosophical aspects to ensure the art and its practitioners kept to a professional and respectable code of conduct.
In 1882 Kano set up his own school within a Buddhist temple called Eisho-ji, from this school he developed and taught his variant of ju jutsu. As the temple was renamed to the Kodokan, Kano finished with the development of his style, eventually giving it the name Judo (meaning ‘gentle way’) to inspire intrigue and gather students interest so that they would study under his instruction and learn his martial art.
Towards the start of the 20th century, judo practitioners were invited over to England to promote the instruction of Ju Jitsu in an effort to establish a school there, however this failed and so the Judo practitioners instead chose to become show performers and train people in the art of Judo. Although the original practitioners decided to return to Japan, one chose to stay and become the chief instructor of a centre set up to study the fighting arts of the Samurai, named The Budokwai, it is now the most famous Judo school outside of Japan.
Today Judo is mostly considered to be an Olympic sport and is often recognised to be the most practiced combat sport in the world.