Our sport has demonstrated, since its creation, that it is suitable for both men and women. Thus Kano Jigoro Shihan himself explained to his first students that the more subtle form of this martial art, practised by women at the time, would be the true heritage of judo and not its more powerful version as practised by men. He opened the practice to women in 1893 and, in 1926, a women's division was officially created in his Kodokan institute, a revolution at the time. (Read more: https://www.ijf.org/history/womens-judo and https://www.ijf.org/history/womens-judo/2292).
Kano was then talking about women and not young girls or children but, over the years, the practice for the youngest has become well established and the benefits of judo are highlighted every day and so it appeared normal and natural for the sport to open to all without distinction of gender.
Today, when it comes to competition, men and women have the same number of athletes qualified for the Olympic Games and during major sporting events, the number of categories is the same, the prize money for winners is identical and the value of the medals is the same. Team competitions are mixed both at the level of the world championships and the Olympic Games.
Coming back to our children, we can therefore say that your daughter will be able to have exactly the same dreams as your son when she takes up judo and if she does not want to become a champion, she can just as easily become a teacher, referee or sport leader and above all she will be able to flourish in the sport on an equal basis with men.
Many parents and teachers will tell you: girls mature earlier than boys and judo can play an important role in the emancipation of each person. Girls can gain confidence and boys learn humility, to name just some benefits that will later contribute to a more balanced society.
Speaking of equality, it goes without saying that the practice of judo provides all practitioners without exception with skills for life and values that transcend the question of gender and that is the essential thing.
Six-time world champion and double Olympic champion, Clarisse Agbegnenou, is a role model for many young judoka, especially for girls. She explains, "Judo is a sport particularly suitable for girls because it allows them to have feelings and self-confidence; it brings them a moment of awakening and balance and above all it gives them values and a culture, which are made for everyone.
In these values and this culture, there are many simple things like taking off the shoes when entering the tatami, remembering to take a bottle of water, wearing the judogi, tying the belt, remembering to bow on the tatami and to the professor; all this is culture and embodies values which are essential in life.
Precisely for little girls, this notion of knowing yourself more is crucial. Personally, I got to know myself a lot better thanks to judo. When I look at myself in the mirror, I know if I am in shape, if I feel good, if I have gained muscle, if I have any particular pain. Judo teaches you to know yourself, helping you surpass your limits because little girls must learn to surpass their limits. Actually, you can surpass them if you know them. When enough is enough, you have to know how to say stop.
What's even more important is that I think we have this inner strength that drives us to want to be the best. So we learn faster and we are more diligent in terms of learning. Through judo we can develop this character of strength and self-confidence which makes us go higher and stronger and I think that this is why our women's team in France is very, very strong."
Let your girls open the doors of a dojo; let them put on a judogi and measure themselves against others, not with an immediate objective of performance but with that of much better self-knowledge. Let your girls do judo without restraint because they will find pleasure and joy in it and also a fantastic tool for emancipation and self-esteem. If everything is not yet ideal, in a constantly evolving world, it is up to us all to create the conditions for a fairer society and this has and will continue to happen through women’s practice of judo.