12 Best Judoka Players

Best Judoka Players in the World!!!

Judo is categorized as a modern Japanese martial art—someone who practices judo is known as a judoka.

This art form requires hours of disciplined training. Similarly, it is fascinating to watch.

Practiced in over 184 countries, the sport is most prevalent in Europe. Even though the sport originated in Japan, more people in France practice judo than in Japan!

So, who are the best judo players? Keep reading to find out!

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Rank

Name 

1.

Kano Jigoro 

2.

Teddy Riner 

3.

Illias Iliadis 

4.

Tadahiro Nomura 

5.

Yasuhiro Yamashita 

6.

Anton Geesink 

7.

David Douillet 

8.

Daria Bilodid 

9.

Hitoshi Saito 

10. 

Wim Ruska 

11.

Benjamin Darbelet 

12.

Girolamo Giovinazzo 

12. Girolamo Giovinazzo

One of the best judo players on our list is Girolamo Giovinazzo. Born in Rome, Italy, in September 1968, he is an Italian judoka.

Similarly, the athlete played for the club Gruppi Sportivi Fiamme Gialle based in Ostia (Rome).

Girolamo began his judo career in the Nadir Roma Club. Eventually, he became one of the best Italian athletes and entered the Italian national team.

Girolamo
Girolamo Govinazzo (Source: Wikipedia)

Moreover, he fought in the 60 kgs category and later in the 66 kgs, where he proved himself to be one of the best.

Furthermore, he was honored with the Knight Order of Merit of the Italian Republic – Rome in October 2000.

The judoka has won several titles, including a silver medal in the 1996 Olympics and the bronze medal in the 2000 Olympics.

He retired as a player in 2001, but he continued as a Federal coach.

11. Benjamin Darbelet

Another great judoka Benjamin Darbelet was born in November 1980 in Dijon, Côte-d’Or in France.

You won’t believe that he started Judo at the age of five! Later, Darbelet became a licensee of the Dijon Club Alliance Judo 21 and joined INSEP.

In 2008, he obtained the title of Olympic Vice-Champion and held several European titles.

Darbelet became a silver medalist at the 2008 Olympics.

However, he retired from competitions as a judoka and continued his career as a Judo instructor.

10. Wim Ruska

Willem Ruska was a judoka from the Netherlands. He was born in August 1940 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Wim started learning Judo at the Dutch Navy and traveled to Japan for further training. Under the training of Jon Bluming in the 1970s, he won seven European titles.

Wim Ruska (Source: Wikimedia)

Furthermore, He is the only athlete to win two gold medals in Judo in one Olympics – in the heavyweight and absolute categories in 1972.

However, he retired after the 1972 Olympics. The judoka took part in professional wrestling after that.

Unfortunately, in 2001, Wim suffered a major stroke which left him physically disabled.

In 2013, Ruska was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the International Judo Federation. Wim passed away at the age of 74 in February 2015.

9. Hitoshi Saito

The next judoka on our list is Hitoshi Saito. He was born in January 1961 in Ammon, Japan.

Saito always had a keen interest in judo and began playing in high school in 1974.

While in high school, he won the inter-school judo group competition.

Moreover, Mitoshi won two gold medals during the 1984 and 1988 Olympics, including many other wins.

The judoka shortly retired after his second Olympics as an athlete and became an instructor for Judo Federation.

Saito served as a coach in the 2004 Summer Olympics for the Japanese judo team.

However, he was diagnosed with cholangiocarcinoma, a bile duct cancer, and died in 2020, aged 54.

8. Daria Bilodid

For number 8, we have Daria Hennadiyvina Bilodid. She is a Ukrainian judoka born in October 2000 in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Bilodid broke the record for becoming the youngest ever Judo World Champion at the age of 17.

Daria Milodid (source: Pinterest)

Furthermore, the judoka won her first bronze Olympic on the 2020 Summer Olympics. The medal was Ukraine’s first Olympic medal for woman’s judo.

Moreover, she has won 17 gold medals in Judo, including two golds in the world championships and two golds in European championships.

7. David Douillet

David Donald Hubert Roger Douillet was born in February 1969 in Rouen, Seine-Maritime, France.

Douillet is considered one of the most successful French judokas in history. 

Additionally, he is a four-time world champion and European champion.

David began Judo at 11 years of age. Since he had an exceptional physical structure for someone his age at the time, he was taught the fundamentals of the sport.

He immediately became attracted to Japanese martial art.

Moreover, the judoka has won over seven golds, including two Olympics in 1996 and 2000. He retired from the sport in the 1980s. Later, he joined politics in 2009 with the political party UMP center-right.

6. Anton Geesink

For number six, we have Antonius Johannes Geesink. He was born in April 1934 in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Anton started playing judo, aged 14. By the age of 17, he had already started competing internationally. In 1951, he won his first European title. By 1967, he had already won twenty more European titles!

Best Judoka Players
Anton Geesink (source: Wikimedia)

Furthermore, Anton won the open weight division in the 1964 Summer Olympics; the same year, judo became an official sport in the Olympics.

He was also the first non- Japanese judoka to win gold at the World Judo Championship.

Moreover, the judoka has won 24 gold medals, including one in the Olympics and 21 European Championships, along with many other wins.

However, Geesink died in August 2010 in his birthplace Utrecht, the Netherlands, at the age of 76.

5. Yasuhiro Yamashita

On number 5, we have Yasuhiro Yamashita. He was born in June 1957 in Yabe, Kumamoto, Japan.

Similarly, he began playing Judo in primary school after getting inspiration from judo founder Kano Jigaro. It might come as a surprise that by the time he reached junior high school, he had already attained a black belt!

The judoka continued playing under Olympic medalists Isao Inokuma and Nobuyuki Sato after graduating from high school.

Furthermore, Yamashita won five gold medals in international competitions, including one in the 1984 Olympics.

However, he retired in 1985 June and started working as an instructor.

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4. Tadahiro Nomura

One of the most famous judoka from Japan, Tadahiro Nomura, was born in December 1974 in Kōryo Nara, Japan.

In terms of learning judo, Nomura was quite fortunate. He was born into a family of judoka. His father was a judo coach who had won a gold at the 1984 Olympics, and his grandfather was a local judo instructor.

Not to anyone’s surprise, he began learning judo with his grandfather at the age of six.

Best Judoka Players
Tadahiro Nomura (Source: Flickr)

The judoka was successful in numerous local and national level competitions during junior and high school.

In 1996, he joined the Japanese Olympic team winning his first gold medal. Besides that, he has won four golds and one bronze in international competitions.

He became the only judoka in the world to win three Olympic gold medals in a row.

3. Ilias Iliadis

For number three, we have a Georgian-Greek judoka Jaji Zviadauri, who goes by Illias Iliadis, who was born in November 1986 in Akhmeta, Kakheti Georgia.

However, he competed for Greece since the start of his international career. The judoka was named the 2014 Greek Male Athlete of the Year in the PSAT Sports Awards.

At 17, Iliadis won a gold medal in the half-middleweight (81kg) division at the 2004 Summer Olympics. He also won a bronze later in 2012 in the 90kg category.

The judoka got the opportunity to be Greece’s flagbearer and the first athlete to march into the Bird’s Nest Stadium in the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Furthermore, he has won 15 international titles, including two golds in the European championships.

2. Teddy Riner

On number two, we have Teddy Pierre- Marie Riner. He was born in April 1989 in Les Abymes, Guadeloupe, France.

The judoka was enrolled at a local sports club by his parents, where he played football, tennis, and basketball.

However, his interest mostly peeked in judo. He said, “because it is an individual sport and it’s me, only me.”

Best Judoka Players
Teddy Riner (source: Wikimedia)

Furthermore, Teddy has won ten World Championships gold medals and is the first and only judoka to do so.

Riner competed in the category of 100kg + and is ranked 6th dan in Judo.

Moreover, he has won 38 gold medals in major international championships!

1. Kano Jigoro

On number one, we have the master himself. Kanō Jigoro was a Japanese athlete and the founder of judo. Born in October 1860, in Mikage, Settsu Province, Japan, he was frequently bullied at school due to his small size.

He always wished he were stronger. One day, Nakai Baisei (a family friend) suggested that jujutsu was a form of physical training by which a more petite man might overcome a larger opponent.

Best Judoka Players
Kano Jigoro (source: Wikipedia)

So, he slowly learned to combine jujutsu techniques with his own twist and started calling it judo. 

In May 1999, Kano was inducted as the first member of the International Judo Federation (IJF) Hall of Fame.

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