A contest of wit and skill, judo is hand-to-hand combat routed in tradition and respect.

It is the entanglement of two opponents focused on techniques to exploit their opponent’s attack and use their movement to an advantage with speed and power.

Black belt Lieutenant Commander Murray Simons said judo was a powerful way of teaching confidence, poise, loyalty and integrity.

“Judo’s principles are mutual respect, welfare for your opponent and maximum efficiency with minimum effort,” Lieutenant Commander Simons said. 

“How to be smarter about what you do applies to everything in life.

“Instead of going head-on and contesting in what the military calls attrition warfare, we use manoeuvres to outsmart the enemy or, in the case of a judoka, their opponent.” 

Recognised in 2016 as an ADF-approved sport, ADF branding will be worn by a judoka for the first time in a national competition at the Canberra International Open from April 17-18.

The ADF Martial Arts Association’s Judo representative, and head coach of the Integrated Combat Club – Canberra, based at ADFA, Major Derek Morris, said judo was more than just throwing people around a mat.

“A judoka will bow several times from the moment they enter the competition arena to when the referee announces the result,” Major Morris said.

“From a beginner to the highest levels of competition, you will see a great deal of respect demonstrated at all times, to referees, that mat that you are on, your opponent and any deviation from that will not be tolerated.

“Under true judo principles you would never celebrate a victory, you are humble in defeat and humble in victory. 

“There was an incident at the 2016 Olympic Games; the winner refused to shake the hand of his opponent and walked off the mat.

"That judoka was severely reprimanded and sent home, retiring from international competition shortly after.”

A fundamental part of judo is being a good citizen and looking after your opponent, according to Lieutenant Commander Simons.

“To an outsider, judo might appear a violent and painful engagement where you have a collision of two bodies slamming into the ground and then they get up and shake hands,” he said.

“It’s a positive community sport and you have the utmost respect for your opponent. If you break them you will have no one to train with.

“It is a deep personal growth model, recognising your own development and has nothing to do with the colour of the belt worn.

“It could take decades to be graded as a black belt, there is no instant gratification.”

Lieutenant Commander Murray Simons observes students sparring (randori) at a training evening at the ADFA gymnasium, Canberra. Photo: Petty Officer Lee-Anne Cooper

Within ADF sport, there is no rank on display. 

Judo is practised by more than 20 million people in more than 100 countries. 

You can go to any city and train with like-minded people, according to Major Morris. 

“For the last 30 years I have probably spent more time off the mat than on, but no matter where I moved or deployed, judo was with me,” he said. 

“I trained when I was in Hong Kong: I had a French instructor teaching a Japanese sport in a Chinese-speaking country to a fella that only spoke English. 

“Every name of every technique and throw was exactly the same.” 

To get involved in judo Major Morris recommends people find a civilian club in their area.