Judo was created in Japan in the last 19th century, by combining a variety of different forms of fighting. In current times, it’s thought that over 40 million people across the planet participate in this sport, but which countries have the best records in this martial art?
As the home of the sport, it’s no surprise to find that Japan is also the leading nation at it. There is no other nation that is as much of a favorite on the sports betting websites throughout the Olympics or any Judo main events as Japan.
It was first added to the Olympic Games for the 1964 event in Tokyo, with medals first awarded to female competitors at the 1992 Games.
In this time, Japan has racked up 48 gold medals, 21 silver medals, and 27 bronze medals. This puts them far ahead of the rest of the countries that have won medals in this sport. The 2020 Olympics saw the games go back to Tokyo, and the home nation again dominated, winning nine of the 15 gold medals available.
Japan also sits at the top of the World Nations Ranking List, so there’s little doubt that they deserve to retain their title as the best country at judo. However, we can also see that many other nations are catching up with them, as judo spreads around the globe.
It’s a double-edged sword, as the Japanese can be proud that one of their own sports has become a worldwide sensation. But there’s also the risk that they’re no longer the top judo nations before too long. We also need to remember that judo isn’t just about winning, as it’s also about training the body and mind, instilling discipline and efficiency of effort.
The inclusion of France in second place might be more of a surprise. The European nation is said to have about 800,000 people who actively participate in this sport, which is four times the number who take part in it in Japan.
This huge level of popularity has led to them coming second in the all-time Olympics medal table. With 16 golds, 13 silvers, and 28 bronze medals, they’re a long way behind Japan but comfortably clear of South Korea, who lie in third place.
The 2020 Games also saw France finish in second place, with two gold medals, three silvers and three bronze medals to their name. It’s been popular here since the 1950s, with the initial introduction of judo to the country coming when master Mikinosuke Kawaishi brought it to Europe.
This Asian nation is still in third place on the Olympics medals list, despite failing to win a single gold in the 2020 event. Their overall record of 11 golds, 17 silvers, and 18 bronze medals should mean that they stay in third place for the foreseeable future.
The 2020 Olympics saw South Korea share sixth place on the medals list with Germany and Mongolia, as they each picked up one silver and two bronze medals. Going back to the 2012 Olympics, the country won a couple of gold medals in London, but failed to win gold at the 2016 event in Rio.
South Korea has a strong history in the sport and the style developed there remains influential. The medals history for the World Judo Championships tell a similar story to the Olympics, with South Korea in third place behind Japan and France.
The 2021 Championships took place in Budapest and 27 countries won medals, but South Korea wasn’t among them. While the sport remains highly popular here, it seems that the country’s place on top of the top judo nations is under increasing threat.
There are quite a few countries that could make a claim to fill the final spot on our list. Yet, the one we’ve chosen wasn’t a name normally associated with the martial arts. This changed in the 2020 Olympics, when Kosovo won two gold medals.
This small Balkan nation was only accepted in the Olympic organization in 2014, having achieved independence a few years earlier. At the time of writing, they’ve won three gold medals in total, and all of them coming in judo.
The impressive run began in 2016, when Majlinda Kelmendi took home the country’s first-ever gold medal from Brazil in the women’s 52 kg category. Four years later, they claimed their second and third golds, all of them coming in women’s events.
Interestingly, the nation’s top competitors all come from the town of Peja, which is the home of all five of their entrants in the 2020 games. The 2021 World Judo Championships were more disappointing, with Kosovo only managing a single bronze medal.
With a population of less than two million and no long-standing history of judo, their recent performances have been remarkable. Of course, it remains to be seen whether Kosovo can build on this strong start and establish itself as one of the leading judo countries of the future.