By Mark Lonsdale, Judo Training Development

If you are purely a grappler who dabbles in Judo you may wonder why all the Japanese terminology and techniques?
First, Judo is much more than just another fighting or grappling sport. Judo, when practiced in its entirety, is also an art, a discipline, a culture, and a lifestyle steeped in samurai traditions and philosophies.
As with most traditional martial arts, such as Aikido, Kendo or Shotokan karate, Judo maintains the language and terminology of the founding country. From the very beginning, Judo was brought to the west by venerated Japanese masters, servicemen who had been stationed in Japan, or Europeans who had trained in Japan. As such, they taught Judo as they had been trained, in Japanese.
Japanese terminology for techniques and refereeing has been preserved by the IJF as the official terminology for international and Olympic Judo, just as the IJF has protected bowing as an integral part of the sport. In addition, Japanese terminology allows all judoka to train, teach, or referee anywhere in the world with a common language. From personal experience, I have been able to walk into any reputable Judo dojo in the world and teach or train using the Japanese terminology. Even though I do not speak Japanese, the techniques and terminology used in Judo training create a common language and a mutual respect on the mat.
The Kodokan is still the center for higher learning in Judo, visited by hundreds of thousands each year for “renewal.” The Kodokan’s technical and kata development programs are attended by some of the foremost European Judo sensei in the world. So as with the terminology, Judo also maintains the Japanese judogi; bowing as a sign of respect; and we continue to follow the original principles set down by Dr. Jigoro Kano.
While high level competition Judo may have been influenced by European competitors, and international Judo training camps focus more on athlete development than the more esoteric aspects of Judo, the underpinning sport, art, discipline, and lifestyle of Judo still follow “the Way” as set down by Dr. Kano. Those who focus exclusively on fighting or competition, and do not embrace the principles of Judo, often do not come to appreciate the true meaning or value of Judo.

Mark Lonsdale with Sayaka, women's coach for Auckland University Judo

Mark Lonsdale with Sayaka, women’s coach for Auckland University Judo

About Mark V

Dedicated shooter, seeker, traveler, teacher, trainer, educator
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Pingback: JAPANESE TERMINOLOGY IN JUDO « Zenbei Martial Arts Academy- Olympic Judo Club

  2. Mark, great article and clear explanation. I totally agree with you. Training for competition and competing may make your judo sharp as an athlete, but the “Way” of Judo will make you shine as a person. Thanks for sharing.

    Rod Conduragis/Obukan Judo

  3. Roger says:

    If you do not take the Japanese terminology as a serious part of judo , then you can never be a true judoka no mater what grade you achieve , from begginer to Dan grade no terminology no grade,The meaning of Judo would not exist , judo (ju-do ) the gentle way, the goyokyo written in the 1800s by Kano was developed to act as the most important training manual a judoka coach Sensei should read ,own a copy work from and then produce great technique with the true meaning of judo ,I wish all BJA clubs would take note .

    Your article is well written

    Roger Houston

  4. Lisa Frazer 4th Dan says:

    I like the fact that no matter where I train or whom I train with , that we can communicate with traditional Japanese terminology. This has been especially useful when training with judoka who do not speak my language. One issue I have had learning BJJ is that there is not a universal name for each technique and they do not follow Japanese terminology either. Japanese is phonetic and can be literally translated . I appreciate that tradition.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s