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Judo: The Art of Self-Defense


Martial arts has been gaining popularity all over the world for the past century, especially in New York City. Judo, one of the martial arts developed in Japan, was established by Jigoro Kano at the turn of the 20th century. He took a self-defense based jujutsu and removed its frontal blows (ex: punches) to structure a martial art form based primarily on throws and grapples meant to suppress the opponent. This also made judo one of the safer martial arts, as it includes tactics for redirection and counter attacks. Kokushi Budo Institute, located on the Upper West Side, is one of the first judo institutes to arrive here over 50 years ago. To learn what makes judo stand apart from other mainstream martial arts (ex: karate) I decided to experience a judo class at the institute.

Before the class began, I was provided a gi (a martial arts uniform) to dawn and joined the class in their warm up exercises. Our sensei (instructor), Shintaro Higashi, began the class with the practical lesson of how to fall, and roll without a harsh impact. Those new to the class were coached through the motions when their turn came up, while the experienced students used their turns as practice. Learning to fall without injuring oneself is a vital part of judo, as well as a good trick to know for everyday life.

Once those two basics were established, the class changed direction, focusing on how to unbalance and throw a person to the floor. Pairs of experienced and new students practiced moves on one another under the supervision of sensei. We then moved on to learning a chokehold and an arm bar hold. The upperclassmen were very understanding and polite about helping beginners. The environment felt similar to that of a family, with everyone watching out for each other.  I could see how this specific form of martial arts would build character, teach discipline, and tone the body.

Having opened in 1963 as the Kokushi Budo Institute of Martial Arts, Professor Nobuyoshi Higashi travelled to New York from Japan’s Kokushi-kan school at a time when judo was just beginning to make its way around the world. Today, classes are taught by both Professor Higashi and his son, Shintaro Higashi, with classes available for ages 4 and up. The Kokushi Budo Institute’s classes make and excellent after school activity for kids, and a great character building experience for adults. From my observations and experience, I can say that judo is a fun way to challenge oneself and children look adorable doing it.

—– Reported by Melissa Perrier

Kokushi Budo Institute
331 Riverside Dr., New York, NY 10025
TEL: 646-828-7954 |


Falls and stumbles are a part of life. Being able to do so while protecting yourself from serious injury is a lesson in judo.


Demonstrations, drills, and partner matches are all used to instruct students and build muscle memory at the Kokushi Budo Institute.


Higashi-sensei takes time to instruct both the class as a whole and individuals, creating a very comfortable learning environment.


Moves like this chokehold are meant for incapacitating the opponent quickly and smoothly.


I was surprised to find that I could topple a man over 200lbs with one Judo move – known as Osotogari.