It is certainly not as popular as soccer or boxing but since the sport was introduced to Ghana in the early 1960s, JUDO has grown progressively thanks to the Japanese Government.
The maturity of JUDO as a Ghanaian sport was exhibited at the Accra Sports Stadium on February 25, when judo players from Tema, Prampram and Mankessim exhibited their skills during the Ambassador's Cup Judo Competition, dubbed 'King of Martial Arts'.
For a competition, which started only two years ago, spectators marvelled at the rare display of agile motion and astute mental judgement exhibited by the Judo players at this year's competition.
The Ambassador Cup is one of several measures instituted by the Japan Embassy and the Ghana Judo Association to promote the sport in Ghana.
Other measures instituted include the dispatch of Ghanaians to attend Judo courses in Japan and other countries. Through its technical co-operation agreement with Ghana, the Japanese Government has also dispatched ten Japanese Volunteers to help train Ghanaians in the practice of 'the way of gentleness' which is what Judo means.
Efforts made at growing the sport soon bore fruits. >From Accra and its environs, Judo spread to Kumasi, Sekondi, Takoradi, Mankessim, Biriwa and Tamale.
At international competitions, two Ghanaians have won bronze in Judo - the first at the ECOWAS Games in Nigeria and the second at the Seventh Commonwealth Games at Edinburgh Scotland in 1998. Ghanaian Judo players were not left out at TIVA 99, TIVA 2000 and the All-African Games in Johannesburg (1999). The Ghana flag also flew high and hearty at sub-regional competitions including Togo (1978-1980), Nigeria (1990) and Cote D'Ivoire (1998).
The only dark spot in the development of judo in Ghana is the low enthusiasm shown by females in the sport. As the Japanese Ambassador to Ghana,
His Excellency Hiromu Nitta said at this year's competition, "the Ghana Judo Association and its individual members should embark on a programme to attract and sustain the interest of females in doing Judo... for their own self-defence."
At present, there are only two female beginners. But the level of commitment they have shown in the sport might help in roping in other ladies.
With the initiation of moves to recruit four local coaches who will promote Judo in all parts of Ghana, it is certain that the quality of Judo will improve even as the number of Judo players, both female and male, begins to swell.
The revelation by the Chief Executive of the National Sports Council, Colonel George Brocke, that the Japanese Community in Ghana is building a Sports Hall for Judo is welcome news indeed. Equally encouraging is the support extended to the sport by Toyota Ghana Limited through various sponsorship packages. The Managing Director of Toyota Ghana, Mr. Hisao Ikegai expressed his company's continued assistance to subsequent Judo competitions.
And so the competitors at the "King of Martial Arts" went away with beautiful trophies to show and also confident that they have three solid pillars of support: the Japan Embassy, the Ghana Judo Association and Toyota Ghana Limited.