12 Best Judokas in History [2021 Update]

In the celebration of the Tokyo Olympics 2021, we are here with the best judokas in history. 

Like every other martial art, judo is all about defending and attacking the opponents.

This sport originated in Japan in 1882, which slowly gained popularity throughout the world. Today, judo is included in the Olympics Games.

As people may know, judo is an evolved form of jiu-jitsu, i.e., another form of martial arts.

However, the philosophy of judo led to the development of other martial arts such as Brazillian jiu-jitsu and Sambo.

12 best judoka players in history
Judo( Source: KCP International.com)

The main goal is to make the opponent surrender by applying pressure in their arm joints, neck or forcing them to yield.

While the practitioner of judo is known as Judoka, and the judo uniform is known as Judoka.

So now, let’s begin the countdown for one of the best judokas in history.

Best Judoka in History

12. Satoshi Ishii

Satoshi Ishii was in the fifth grade of elementary school when he first started Judo. Ishii’s talent and his father’s guidance led him to become one of the best judokas in this sport.

Moreover, the talented player has won achievements and recognition in judo and mixed martial artist.

The player has a contract with the Professional Fighters League. Moreover, he was a genius and talented player from his early days.

As a result, he won his first gold medal at the Junior World Championships in 2004 in Budapest, Hungary. While again in 2006, he won a silver medal in the 100 kg division at Asian Games.

Ishii represented Japan at the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, winning a gold medal in Olympic Judo, a silver medal at the 2006 Asian Games, and two All-Japan Judo Championships.

11. Kyuzo Mifune

Although Mifune hasn’t won much recognition and achievement, his impact on the sport is enormous.

Kyuzo Mifune is even regarded as the god of Judo. And yet again known to be one of the greatest tacticians after the founder of judo, Jigoro Kano, in history.

Mifune won the level of shodan (“beginning dan,” signifying 1st dan ranking) in Kodokan judo after 15 months of training and again further won the Nidan (second dan) after just four months. 

Watch Mifune’s moment with his students >>

As Mifune never lost in the annual Red and White Kodokan event.  Around 1910, Mifune was already a  Godan (5th dan) and an instructor. 

As a result, Mifune became known as the God of Judo and how we know him today. As time passed, his Godan increased up to nine dan while his popularity and reputation grew immensely.

Throughout his career, he was known as one of the influential instructors in judo. His achievements also include an award for Order of the Rising Sun in 1964. (3rd Class).

10.  Hitoshi Saito

The player is one of the best judokas in history. Hitoshi Saito is a Japanese champion who won recognition and achievements in the Olympics and other championships.

Hitoshi is a two-time Olympics champ, first in the open weight division World Judo Championships in 1983.

Similarly, the title winner could no longer hold on to the other championship and, as a result, brought a gold medal in the Summer Olympics in 1984 in the heavyweight (+95 kg) division.

Again, in 1988 he claimed the title and won the gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics game.

After such a successful career, Hitoshi decided to make his contribution in judo by becoming an instructor. 

After his retirement, he joined as an educator of the All-Japan Judo Federation and Kokushikan University.

He was the Japanese Judo squad coach that competed in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. Japanese Emperor awarded the man as Order of the rising sun before he died in 2015.

9. Wim Ruska

The legendary judo player has won two judo gold medals in a single Olympics game which consists of heavyweight and absolute classes, in 1972.

Wim Ruska is one of the greatest judokas from the Netherlands. He has won many fights and is often known as one of the dominant judokas in history.

He began his judo training in the Dutch Navy and then went to Japan for further training and assistance. 

Watch Wim Ruska in 1972 Olympics >>

Therefore under Ruska’s training with coach John Bluming. He won lots of titles and accomplishments.

Such as he won a total of seven European titles in 1960 and 1970. While five of them were in the +93 kg class, and two were in open class.

Similarly, He also won two World Championships and two Olympic medals in  1967 and 1971. However, the Munich massacre, which came just days before the 1972 Summer Olympics, overshadowed his triumph.

In 2013, the Judoka was listed in the Hall of Fame of the International Federation of Judo Federation.

8. David Douillet

He is one of the players who has won several awards and recognition in the field of judo. In addition, David Douillet, a politician in France, played a big role in influencing people towards judo.

David was drawn to Judo at the age of 11 because of his passion for martial arts. Constant efforts and dedication led him to win his first Senior French Championship in 1991.

Douillet achievements and recognition are uncountable. In 1996, David won his first gold medals in heavyweight divisions. He also won four world championships and a European title.

The player is one of the most decorated judokas in the history of Judo. Following his retirement, he was named Secretary of State for French Nationals Abroad. And later on, became Minister of Sports.

David is involved in various sporting goods, working goods, camp-site, or excursion equipment.

And most recently, he has given his name in a judo simulation video game. The game is known as David Douillet judo.

7. Teddy Riner

The French judoka Teddy Riner is one of the world champions and the best judokas in history.

Teddy is also the first male judoka to win ten gold medals at the World Championships.

Similarly, he’s also a five-time European Championships gold medalist with two Olympics gold medals.

Teddy began his judo career as a member of the Levallois Sporting Club in Levallois-Perret, France. In 2006, he won the first title of his life, such as World and European junior titles.

Watch Teddy Riner’s Best Moments here >>

Hence, after which, he was unstoppable. He received numerous awards and medals while receiving his first senior title in European Judo Championship in Belgrade, 2007.

Additionally, Riner became the world’s youngest world champion after winning the 2007 World Judo Championship held in Rio de Janeiro. 

In 2013, he was awarded the Chevalier de la Legion d’honneur for his contribution to Judo.  Recently, in 2021, he received the gold medal in Judo World Master, held in Doha, Qatar. 

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6. Ilias Iliadis

Although he has retired, he is one of the Judoka who is never forgotten. Ilias Iliadis is a living legend, and we never get enough of seeing him play.

Ilias is a Greek Judoka, the first athlete to March into the Bird’s Nest Stadium at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics’ opening ceremony.

The 34-year-old began his Judo career when he was a youngster, fighting for Greece in international competitions.

Then he won his first goal in Judo. Here, the 17-year-old Ilias reclaim the gold medal in the half middleweight class, i.e., 81 kg, in the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics.

Six years later, at the 2010 World Judo Championships in Tokyo, Iliadis earned a gold medal in the 90 kg division. Then, in 2011, he won the European Judo Championship in his own weight division.

Later on, in 2014, Ilias Iliadis was awarded as Greek Male Athlete of the Year to contribute to Judo.

5. Masato Uchishiba 

Here are our picks for the top five best judoka players in history. Masato Uchishiba is a Japanese judoka who has won two gold medals in the Olympics.

The passion and desire to win while giving his hundred percent made him the judoka we know today.

In two gold medals, the first gold medal he won was at Summer Olympics under men’s under 66 kg class, defeating Slovakia’s Jozef Krnac.

Watch Masato Uchishiba’s best moments >>

The first game was held in Athens(Greece) in 2004. While the second gold medal he won was the Summer Olympics in Beijing, which China hosted in 2008, defeating France’s Benjamin Darbelet.

Later on, he began coaching the women’s judo team at Kyushu University of Nursing and Social Welfare in Kumamoto Prefecture in April 2010.

Later in 2011, he received a suspension for his judo activities due to a sexual harassment allegation.

4. Anton Geesink

Anton Geesink of the Netherlands, a ten dan judoka, is one of the first non-Japanese to win a gold medal.

He is considered to be one of the best and most famous judokas in history. His talent and effort to be the best won him several titles and championships in judo.

He won the Olympic gold medal in 1964 and earned 21 European Championship titles in his career span.

Anton was a few judokas with 10th Dan grade, recognized by the International Judo Federation (IJF). And the only non- Japanese player to be granted 10th Dan grade.

Anton began his career by participating in European Championship in 1951, which led him to win his first-ever title.

He eventually won twenty more European titles, which led him to be one of the best judokas in the world.

3. Tadahiro Nomura

The Japanese player is one of the most famous judoka of all time. And eventually, our picks for the top three best judoka players in history.

He is also one of the record-breakers as the only judoka to win three Olympics gold medals subsequently. And even accomplished the record in lightweight activity(60 kg division).

Nomura started his training in judo at the age of six at his grandfather’s dojo. During his high school and junior high school years, he won numerous local and national contests.

Watch Tadahiro Nomura aka The Warrior >>

Later, he won All-Japan Selected Judo Championship for his weight category in 1996. 

Then, he created history and won his first Olympic gold while defeating Girolamo Giovinazzo at the Atlanta Summer Olympics in the same year.

In 1997, the talented judoka won the All-Japan Selected judo championships and won a gold medal at the World Judo Championships in Paris in his weight class(60 kg)

And yet again, in 2000, he returned to the All-Japan Selected Judo Championships, winning for the third time and earning a second trip to the Olympics. in the 60 kg weight class.

Due to his achievements in judo, people considered him the best judoka in his weight class(60kg).

2. Yasuhiro Yamashita

Here is our pick for the second-best judoka players in history. While Yasuhiro Yamashita might be retired and works as an instructor, he had a remarkable career in judo. 

He works as an instructor in the International Judo Federation and All-Japan Judo Federation. Yasuhiro is recognized as one of the most victorious judo competitors in history.

He began judo in primary school after being inspired by judo founder Kan Jigor, and by junior high school, he had already earned a black belt.

Eventually, the judoka holds the total record of 203 contentious victories from October 1977 till his final match in 1985. 

And, once again, becoming one of the youngest judokas(19 years old) to accomplish such a feat at the time.

In 1984, he was awarded the Japanese National Prize of Honor after winning the World Judo Championship.

1. Kano Jigoro

Ladies and Gentlemen. And finally, our picks for the first best judoka players in history. Kano is credited with developing Judo to an international level.

People love and admire him giving the name “Founder of Judo.”

Kano invented the usage of black and white belts and the invention of dan ranking to demonstrate relative standing among members of a martial art discipline.

Jigoro Kano back in 1860 >>

His contribution and effort in Judo are immense and unmeasurable. Due to which he will always be the best Judoka in history.

He played a major role in incorporating judo and kendo into Japanese public school systems in the 1910s.

The legend is the first Asian member of the International Olympic Committee representing Japan in most Olympic Games held between 1912-36.

He is named The First Order of Merit, Grand Order of the Rising Sun, and the Third Imperial Degree. 

In  1999, Kano became the inaugural member of the International Judo Federation (IJF) Hall of Fame. 

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Conclusion

Here is the list of the 12 Best Judokas in the World.

Who are your favorite judokas in the world? Please, do feel free to comment and share your thoughts in the comment box below. 

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Comments

  1. Hallo,
    At first sorry for my Englisch.
    I think, that one od the best Judoka of all time is Lukas Krpalek. He won all tiitles that is possible.
    Junior european Champion
    Junior world Champion
    Junior universiade Champion
    European champion in two difrent weight class
    World champion in two difrent weight class
    Olympic gold medailist in two diferent weight class.
    I dont know, who is bether then him. After my opinion it is a shame, that i couldnt find his name on this page.
    Thanks for reading this message
    Frank

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