Judo is an Olympic and Commonwealth Games sport which originated in Japan that develops self-defence skills in addition to sporting skills. It is a combat sport where opponents compete against each other by attempting to throw from a standing position to the ground or when on the ground by pinning their opponents and, at advanced levels, applying armlocks and strangles.
People from all age groups, male and female participate in judo, from 4 years old and younger in some cases, right through to 70 years old and higher. Some "judoka" or practitioners of judo participate at competitive and even internationally competitive levels, while some only for recreational purposes at club level without entering competitions. Competitions are run by categories based on age, gender and weight.
The sport is practised on "tatami", Japanese style mats and judoka practice wearing "judogi" or judo uniform. The uniform is specially constructed to withstand the pulling and tugging that occurs while fighting.
What does it compare to? Well, the closest comparison we can suggest if you have never seen judo is to imagine amateur wrestling but with clothes. There is no punching or kicking and having clothing to hold on to adds a whole new dimension to the sport, making the techniques that are used very different from wrestling.
Progression in the sport is measured in 2 ways. For those that are competitively minded there are many opportunities to pit oneself against other judoka in tournaments that are run at local, regional, national and international levels. Limits are set by ones own inclination and ability.
The other way progress is measured is by a grading system. Undoubtedly you will have heard of the "black belt". To attain a black belt one must progress through 6 different coloured belts, each measuring achievement in the learning of techniques and their application. Even when the black belt is attained, this is only the first level of black belt or "1st DAN". DANs are awarded up to 10th DAN although, in the world today there only 2 or 3 living and typically they are not young.
The highest grade awarded in New Zealand to date has been an 8th DAN. Currently there are 2 living 8th DANs in New Zealand.