Judo Classification

Judo classification, as well as technical classification in all martial arts, fails in one of two categories:

1.      Nominative

2.      Descriptive

Those two types of classification live besides each other often in a permanent unresolved conflict while individual elements of each switching side at times as style moving from one linguistic and cultural environment into another (and overlapping at the same time – what is descriptive in one language is nominative in any other). 

Nominative classification just assigns name, at times just arbitrary name, to a technical element to make possible to name it in conversation between “initiated”. Good example of nominative classification is Aikido: “technique number one” and “technique number four” are very different, but you can’t see it by name only without been versed in Aikido.

Descriptive classification on the other side based on abbreviated decryption of a technical element. Examples are “throw over shoulder”, “hip throw”, or “foot swipe”. Those descriptions often point to the key visible element that distinguishes this particular technique from others.

Both types of classification have full citizenship rights in World of Martial Arts: descriptive classification is very helpful in process of training (especially for beginners, but not only) when nominative classification is invaluable tool in cross-language communications (witch is key in international federations and during events with multi-lingual participants).

Formal modern Judo classification is in Japanese and in it it’s descriptive, but it’s nominative for all non-Japanese speakers.

When Vasili Oschepkov introduced Judo in Russia, one of the first things he did was translation of Japanese terms into language of his new students. As eventually his version of Judo become SAMBO the new Russian terms established themselves as new formal classification. And when SAMBO became international, the whole story repeated itself: descriptive Russian terms became non-descriptive nominative classification for non-Russian speaking SAMBO students.

Development of solid classification is one of key processes in transition from fighting arts into martial arts (terms “fighting”, “martial” aren’t that descriptive, but common – martial arts developed in time of “peace” from fighting arts as there refinement and adaptation for non-war environment).

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Judo Classification & Judo Canon