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Legends of our time

Legends of the Tatami: The Best Judo Players in History

Judo, the Japanese martial art and Olympic sport, has a rich history filled with remarkable individuals who have left an indelible mark on the sport. These judo legends are celebrated not only for their technical prowess on the tatami (judo mat) but also for their sportsmanship, discipline, and contribution to the global promotion of judo. In this blog, we’ll take a look at some of the best judo players in history.

Jigoro Kano Throwing opponent

Jigoro Kano (1860-1938)

Often referred to as the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano laid the foundation for the modern sport. He combined elements of various traditional Japanese jiu-jitsu styles to create a more efficient and practical system of self-defense. Kano’s philosophy of “maximum efficiency with minimum effort” and his emphasis on moral and mental development have had a profound influence on Judo’s evolution.

Yamashita cheering judo

Yasuhiro Yamashita

A true legend of the sport, Yamashita is often considered one of the greatest judo players of all time. He won numerous national and international titles and had an incredible winning streak, remaining undefeated in international competition for over eight years. His mastery of technique and his exceptional physical strength made him a force to be reckoned with on the judo mat.

Teddy Riner in action shot

Teddy Riner

A contemporary judo sensation, Teddy Riner is a French heavyweight judoka who has dominated the sport in recent years. With multiple Olympic and World Championship titles to his name, Riner is known for his extraordinary size, strength, and agility, as well as his incredible sportsmanship. He continues to be a source of inspiration for aspiring judo athletes around the world.

Tani on the tatami Judo

Ryoko Tani (Ryoko Tamura)

Often called the “Queen of Judo,” Ryoko Tani is a Japanese judoka who achieved unprecedented success in women’s judo. She is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a seven-time World Judo Champion. Her technical prowess and dedication to her craft make her an iconic figure in the sport.

Nomura acing a judo throw

Tadahiro Nomura

A household name in Japan, Tadahiro Nomura is the only judoka to have won three consecutive Olympic gold medals. He competed in the men’s lightweight division and showcased incredible skill, determination, and heart throughout his career. His achievements are a testament to the power of perseverance and passion in judo.

Anton Geesink in action tatami judo

Anton Geesink

This Dutch judo player made history by becoming the first non-Japanese judoka to win a World Judo Championship title in 1961 and an Olympic gold medal in 1964. His groundbreaking victories helped to globalize the sport of judo and paved the way for athletes from all over the world to compete at the highest level.

Fakuda with her judoka on tatami

Keiko Fukuda

Keiko Fukuda, a Japanese-American judoka, was a pioneer for women in judo. She was the highest-ranked female judo practitioner in the world, holding a 10th-degree black belt. Her dedication to promoting women’s participation in judo and her technical expertise left an enduring legacy.

These are just a few of the many legendary judo players who have made an indelible mark on the sport. Each of these athletes has contributed to the growth and recognition of judo on a global scale, and their achievements continue to inspire new generations of judo practitioners. The dedication, skill, and sportsmanship displayed by these judo legends serve as a reminder of the enduring beauty and power of the art of Judo.