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Why do Israelis have such great success in judo?

Why do Israelis have such great success in judo?

Risk-taking, ambitiousness, improvisation and the ability to adapt to any given moment…אורי ששוןthese are some of the most prominent characteristics in Israeli culture, and also help explain why Israelis excel at judo.

The martial art of judo developed in Japan at the end of the 19th century. It reached Israel in the 1950s, with the waves of immigration from France, Holland, Belgium, Switzerland and South Africa. Yet Israel’s first international achievements in European and American championships came only in the mid-70s.


At the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, Yael Arad was the first Israeli to win an Olympic medal – the silver. Oren Smadja, who now coaches the Israeli team, then won a bronze medal at the same Games. Yael and Oren’s breakthrough opened the door for the nation’s other athletes who have since stood on the Olympic podium, including fellow judokas Arik Zeevi in Athens 2004, and Yarden Gerby and Ori Sasson in Rio 2016. And we Israelis are all so excited and so proud of them all.

Israel is not considered a superpower on the world judo scene, but its five Olympic medals in the sport (out of Israel’s total of nine) indicate that despite Israel’s small size, it has managed to create a series of champions in this modern martial art.


The five medals are the outcome of hard work, superb coaches, administrative support and high-profile victories. That, however, doesn’t tell the whole story. Nor do other salient points made by Allon Sinai in “Why has Israel had so much success in Olympic judo?” ( or by Daniel Ben-Tal in “Why Are Israelis So Good at Judo?”

( Besides financing, coaching and training gyms, as well as family values, what we have here is a correlation with our strong points as Israelis that makes us particularly stand out in Judo.


I conducted an interview with Rany Edgar (, a judo teacher with 45 years in the field, a professional manager in Hapoel and an internationally-accredited referee. Rany mentioned the importance of the mental aspect and the ability to burst out at the right time while using optimal movement to harness the opponent’s strength. He added that, from childhood, the State of Israel prepares us to face the world with a certain temperament, hotheadedness and aggression. Then, in the army, we also learn how to improvise and adapt ourselves to changing situations, of course while under great pressure as well.

Just like in a judo match – where you have a maximum of five minutes’ concentrated effort to take risks that will lead to either victory or defeat.


As an organizational consultant who works with many people in Israel and around the world, I know that international success is coveted by all, whether actors, singers, athletes or businesspeople. Israel is a country that is geographically surrounded by hostile enemies. Being closed off like that inside a limited region has made many of us eager to be loved and admired beyond our borders. To spread our wings and succeed abroad. Judo, as a global and Olympic sport, attracts lots of strong, ambitious youngsters who manage to channel their personal and cultural traits into victory in important, decisive battles.


Numerous children in Israel attend judo classes. All it takes is a sports room, mats, uniforms, a coach, and ambition. Those who show promise go on to receive support from professional managers and coaches who can help them break through and fulfill their dreams of international recognition.

And all of this is so suited to us Israelis:

  1. Short, intensive bouts
  2. Using your adversary’s strength to your own advantage
  3. Mental fortitude and a powerful drive to succeed
  4. Aggressiveness
  5. Improvisation, quick thinking and an element of risk

Israeli success in judo is just one respectable example out of many in which we see many of the same characteristics operating in the business realm: business initiative that demands ambition and risk-taking, great inventiveness that leads to unique on-the-spot solutions and to so many startups, and more.


Read more about the main Israeli cultural characteristics in Osnat Lautman’s bestselling book on Amazon, “Israeli Business Culture”:


You can also find information about Osnat Lautman and the services offered by OLM Consulting at


OLM Consulting Founder

Osnat Lautman is a well-known intercultural expert and the author of the Amazon bestselling book ‘Israeli Business Culture’. Osnat is passionate about cultures, connecting humans and breaking through culture barriers. She created the ISRAELI™ model of Israeli business characteristics (Informal, Straightforward, Risk-Taking, Ambitious, Entrepreneurial, Loud, Improvisational) to reveal the foundations of the Israeli innovative culture. Osnat supports many organizations and individuals to effectively connect and engage with Israelis, avoid misunderstanding and maximize the value of combining the innovative Israeli spirit into a multi culture environment.

Osnat is the founder of OLM Consulting and her customer include the Manufacturers’ Association of Israel, The Jewish Agency, Verint, NYU Tel Aviv, the British Embassy, the Swedish Embassy, the Belgium Embassy, FIDF, Israel Defense Ministry delegation in New York, JCC Association, National Bank of Australia, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 888 Holdings, Corning, SkyVision, ObserveIT, MX1, Israel Export Institute, StartApp, Tel Aviv Municipality, and many others.

Osnat lived in Hoboken, New Jersey, from 2009 to 2013. During this time, she started her extensive research on the differences between Israeli and non-Israeli business cultures, including video interviews with businesspeople from numerous origins. The recorded discussions are incorporated into her lectures and workshops for demonstration purposes.

Osnat holds:
M.A in Social Science and Communications, Bar Ilan University, Israel
Certificate in Organizational Development, New York University, New York
Coach License from Co-Active Training Institute, Israel

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