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There are three different organizations that govern Judo in the United States of America. There is the United States Judo Association (USJA) that was founded in 1968 by a group of men. The USJA is mostly concentrated in California and Florida but also popular in the Midwest and southeast. The second organization is the United States Judo Federation (USJF) and started in 1952. The concentration of the USJF is on the east and west coast but also in Chicago and Hawaii. USA Judo, or United States Judo, Inc. (USJI), is the third organization with its headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The USJI is the largest organization.
The sport was first introduced to the states in about 1902 when a former US President, Theodore Roosevelt, practiced in the White House. Judo really began to develop in the 1950s when it became required for the US Air Force to learn. After these advances it was officially recognized as an AAU sport and there have been national competitions and tournaments ever since. The United States formed an Olympic team and competed in the 1964 summer Olympics and still continue to do so to this day. Now, Judo is practiced by more than 400,000 Americans, including men, women, and children.
The first major contact between Judo and America came with President Ulysses S. Grant in 1879. He was in Japan for a state visit and observed a Judo demonstration. Later, in 1889, Kan? Jigor? gave a lecture on the philosophy of Judo to several Americans; however, the lecture had little effect on mainstream Judo growth. The first American to actually study Judo came with Prof. Ladd from Yale University in late in 1889. He trained at the Kodokan in Japan for about ten years; by 1908 about 13 Americans were training there. A couple of years later, 1919, Prof. John Dewey of Columbia University came to visit Prof. Ladd and Master Kano, many years later he would take his knowledge back to Columbia and began the first U.S. college Judo program. While some students were training in Japan there was some action in the U.S. Perhaps one of the most important figures in the U.S. development of Judo is Yoshiaki Yamashita. Yoshiaki came to the U.S. in 1902 in order to teach Judo to the Japanese community. Yoshiaki ended up teaching to Senator James Wolcott Wadsworth Jr.'s wife, who happened to attend the same country club as Theodore Roosevelt. Mrs. Wadsworth told Theodore about Judo and Roosevelt became interested in the sport. Yamashita was subsequently invited to Washington to give a demonstration at the White House. There was a contest with a wrestler by the name of John Graft, who was the coach at the U.S. Naval Academy and who was teaching President Roosevelt wrestling. Although Yamashita threw him time after time, Graft continued to get up. Finally, Yamashita decided that he would do mat work with Graft, since there seemed to be no end to the match. In the mat work, Yamashita got an arm lock on Graft, but the wrestler would not give up. Yamashita kept up the pressure until Graft groaned as his arm came close to breaking. President Roosevelt was impressed and took judo lessons. After leaving office, he kept mats in his home. Roosevelt studied judo for about a year, earning a brown belt in the process. Through the help of the president, Yamashita taught judo at the naval academy. Judo suddenly had its first strong roots in the United States. Yamashita decided to return to Japan, but other Japanese Judo participants followed his example. The Judo concentration was mainly centered in Washington before World War II, but several existed on the West coast, including Tokugoro Ito's dojo in Los Angeles, which was founded in 1910. Judo first entered the Western United States when Dr. T Ito began teaching Judo in Denver in the 1930s. During World War II Judo was banned in many areas due to the Japanese fear; however, a boom followed the war. Many service men picked up martial arts during the war and returned home to teach them all across the country. The official Judo federations formed in the 50's and 60's.