In an old Japanese school building in Seattle a group of judokas sit around after a vigorous work out to chat a bit. John, a beginner, is a high school student who came to judo to get tougher after being bullied at school only to find that he gets a thrashing. Here they are intended to strengthen the body and ultimately the individual. He is intrigued by the contrasting aggressiveness on the mat to the camaraderie displayed off the mat.
Today a visiting black belt, although quite a bit older, seemed to dance through most of the participants during randori practice. Now in his civilian clothes the man looked small and almost grandpa-ish. He was talking about the “good old days” when judo visitors from Japan would come in and no one could budge them, but everyone went flying. Wow! and the throwing techniques, not that Yuko stuff they have today. They were fantastic bone crushing Ippons. “Back then, judo was different”. It was an art form; something that Japanese Americans could be proud of,” remarked Yoshida sensei, one of the senior advisors to the club. “Yes, that’s true but today it’s an Olympic sport.” One that everyone in the world can be proud of retorted Ben Murphy the head instructor. Everyone shook their heads in agreement, smiled and the conversation went on.
As the conversation went on, each sentence brought up a new question in John’s mind. Was judo really better in the past? I thought judo was for self-defense or is it a sport? Then who made it into a sport? How did it become an Olympic sport? What is the difference between jujitsu and judo? Who invented this sport anyway? Oh, now they are talking about philosophy. What does that have to do with judo? John wanted to break in and ask these questions but as a newcomer, he thought he had better wait, and besides the conversation was intriguing. He would have to find the other pieces of this judo puzzle later.
Similar to John, there are many who have questions about the historical events that led up to the development of Olympic sport judo. Following are a few key points anyone in the sport of judo should know about:
One of the earliest drawings of man’s quest to defeat another in hand to hand combat can be seen on the walls of the tomb of Beni‑Hasan in Egypt made some 4000 years ago. The drawings illustrated by stick figures, show a system of wrestling type moves. It seems every culture has some systematic means of overcoming an adversary in the field but few have recorded these events.
In Japan, the first instance of a method of combat being recorded was in 23 A.D. with the mention of “Chikara Kurabe” in one of the ancient chronicles. But this is conjecture since the keeping of records began in the mid 400 A.D. range, and the best known chronicle is the “Kojiki” (712 A.D.). ‘Chikara Kurabe’ at any rate literally means strength comparison and was most probably more akin to sumo. Twenty-Three A.D. is at about the time of Jesus Christ, the Roman legions, the bronze age and Gladiators. Japan, an island nation, in 23 A.D. was more concerned with local tests of one on one in comparison to large-scale knowledge of the arts of war practiced by Europeans who were constantly subject to outside forces.
Systematic Japanese fighting methods really had their emergence with the Kamakura Era around the 1100. This was when Japan produced great artisans skilled in the art of making armor and weapons; swords made by Okazaki and Masamune were particularly treasured. Zen was also introduced and practiced by the governing warrior class. The ideas of selflessness in battle, resolving to be calm in the face of death, and the ephemeralness of the fortunes of life; one minute rich, next poor, or visa-versa fit the needs of the day.
Around this time the invading Mongols under Kublai Kan, grandson of Genghis Kan, were repulsed by a great storm at sea giving rise to the legend of the “Kamikaze” or Divine Wind, saving the Bakufu (Provisional Government) Leader, Yoritomo Minamoto from almost certain disaster. The invasion of the Japanese islands brought in a new consciousness; Japan could be taken over by an outside force different from their factionalized civil wars. Subconsciously it may have created a need for unification of forces of people of like language and customs.
Strife in the emerging nation during the Kamakura era and subsequent Ashikaga era did much to give form to the ideals of Bushido, the way of the warrior. While some of these ideals are anachronistic, other more positive ones still prevail in many of the martial arts of today. Chivalry, skill, bravery, loyalty, honor, and dedication, are but a few of the qualities that abound in the legends left behind by the heroic deeds which contributed to the emerging national psyche.
At the end of the period known as the Sengoku-Jidai (civil war years) 1534‑1615 in which Japan’s destiny and character was being forged by three great leaders, Nobunaga Oda, Hideyoshi Toetomi, and Eiyasu Tokugawa, other forces were also at work. There was trade with foreign countries in which the merchant class, Buddhist monasteries, and local Daimyos (governors) would act in consort to accomplish extensive trade with China and Portugal. Items of trade included the import of textiles, embroideries, iron, books, pictures, guns, and drugs. Exports included sulfur, copper, lacquer ware, swords, and halberds; which brought five to ten times more income than at home. Although this trade continued even into the Tokugawa period in selected ports, the Tokugawa regime went into an isolation mode, which lasted from 1615 until 1854.
While Japan entered a time of isolation and peace, the rest of the world was busy with ideas and technological advances which dwarfed the concept of keeping to oneself. In 1619 Johannes Kepler’s Laws of Planetary motion, the founding of the Royal Society in 1662 and the Academie de Sciences in 1666, far surpassed anything found in Japan. Notables like Galileo, Sir Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle, were in an environment conducive to learning. These scientists and thinkers were in part responsible for the surprise that befell Japan some two hundred and fifty years later when Commodore Perry with his steam belching fleet of four ships cruised into Edo (Tokyo) harbor in 1853. The moral of this story is that isolationism prevents a sharing of ideas and growth. It was time for Japan to wake up!
|Commodore Perry and his black ships precipitated the modernization of Japan. Prior to his arrival the country was largely agrarian and isolated from the events of a fast moving outside world.|
Jigoro Kano was born on October 28, 1860; six years and seven months after Japan was forced to open its doors to the West by Perry’s second visit in March 1854. In 1860, the population of the United States was 32 million but was soon to diminish that number by a civil war. Japan was in a state of turmoil as it struggled to adjust to the rest of the world that had not been asleep. In 1867, Emperor Meiji was installed and was the symbol of modernization. Tokugawa Yoshinobu was the last of the Tokugawa shoguns but was forced to resign and with him the feudal system was also abolished.
The Meiji Era began with fervor as a postal system and education system take center stage. Newspapers came into existence, along with the adoption of the Gregorian calendar. Yataro Iwasaki, a commoner, founded Mitsubishi in 1873 and industrialization began. An army was established comprised of commoners trained in German army tactics. The Samurai class rebelled against the idea that a group of commoners in uniform could constitute an army. The Satsuma rebellion ended that discussion as modern equipment and methods trounced the Samurai uprising of 1877.
|Emperor Meiji’s restoration was not without strife although once in power a truly modern nation was born. During his reign Japan was to experience many firsts: a constitution, foreign diplomats and diplomacy, newspapers, education for the common masses, a university, a rail system, trade and banking improvements, textile industry, a steel industry, ship building, a modern army, and success in two foreign wars.|
1877 also marks the entry of Kano into Toyo Teikoku University, (now Tokyo University). Kano’s education to this point was extensive for the period. He was trained in Confucian classics and studied English under Mitsukuri Shuhei, a renowned thinker of the day. Much of what Kano thought can be easily read for he kept much of his notes in English. He also had a penchant for math but what he wanted to do dearly was to develop his body, or at any rate defend himself for he was slight and frail in stature. As a means of physical culture and training he enrolled in a jujitsu school, much to his father’s dismay.
Hachinosuke Fukuda, grandfather to famed 10th dan, Keiko Fukuda, was Jigoro Kano’s first jujitsu instructor. Tenshinshinyo ryu jujitsu was mostly comprised of pins, chokes and locks, and was practiced through formal movement patterns known as kata or form. Kano was so adept after just two years of training he was asked to perform for the visiting Ulysses S. Grant in 1879. Wanting to learn more he enrolled in Kito ryu jujitsu in 1881. Kito-ryu was markedly different from his earlier style called Tenshinshinyo ryu for it concentrated in throws and practice did not rely solely on kata but on free movement. Tsunetoshi Iikubo was the instructor and had a great influence on Kano for he stressed the soul as well as the body.
1882 was a momentous year. In the United States Jesse James is killed, William Bonney, AKA “Billy the Kid,” met the same fate the year before. In the East, Japan built its first railroad, and Jigoro Kano at the young age of twenty two founded the Kodokan. It was a humble beginning with only nine students in a ten tatami” room at Eishoji Temple. One tatami is equal to 1meter by 2 meters. Conditions at the temple were rough as complaints of loud noises and things being broken become more commonplace.
Most would be depressed under these conditions. But Kano was persistent, intelligent, and dedicated. Trying to decide on a system of training for their officers, in 1886 the Tokyo police force sponsored a tournament in which some of the leading schools of the day were invited to participate. The Kodokan, with the exception of a draw or two, wins all other matches and sparks an interest in the public eye. Membership over the years increases as follows: 1882 = 9, 1886 = 179, 1906 = 8,375, 1916 = 15,926, 1926 = 36,601, 1936 = 78,874, 1946 = 225,497, 1956 = 355,138, 1960 = 490,157. Currently, individual countries rather than the Kodokan keep membership estimates.
|Jigoro Kano, educator, statesman, and founder of modern judo, did much in the development of Japan’s fledgling, Meiji era education system.|
When viewing the progress of judo it is simply amazing that within Kano’s own lifetime, membership increases from 9 members in 1882 to approximately 80,000 members by 1939. Kano was a leader amongst men and possessed the right qualities at the right time. Trained in the classics, yet studied and was adept at English, loved mathematics, but more than these individual skills was his ability to fuse ideas together that created a better sport. Always the valiant eclectic, he was not afraid to try something new; at 22 years of age, he was appointed as a professor at Gakushuin University. In addition to this position he founded not only the Kodokan but Kanojuku, a preparatory school, and also the Koubunkan an English language school all within the same year, 1882. In 1899 he founded the Koubungakuin a school for foreign students from China. Noticing a lack of an official sports organization in Japan in 1911, he creates the Japan Athletic Association.
Between 1882-1911, Kano begins to excel as an educator and in four years becomes the head instructor at Gakushuin University. 1889 marked Kano’s first of many trips abroad where he studied European educational systems as an Attaché of the Imperial Household. Upon his return he reportedly married and eventually had eight children. As if he didn’t have enough to do in the world, Kano becomes the principal of a high school in Kumamoto in 1891. Then in 1893, returns to Tokyo and assumes the presidency of a teachers college (now Tsukuba University). Through the years he distinguishes himself as an educator, physical educator, statesman, writer, philosopher and linguist. In 1902 and 1905, he represents the Ministry of Education and visits China. His college studies in Political Science and literature aid him greatly in establishing him as a statesman and a man of letters. All these abilities came to fruition in 1909 when an invitation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to Japan to participate in the Olympic movement resulted in the only possible choice for a representative, Jigoro Kano. Thus, he became the first Asian member of the IOC. Later in his career he is accorded entry into The House of Peers and given the rank of Count.
The Development of Judo
What was born out of the fires of the Sengoku Era was about to die in the ashes of the last of the Tokugawa period. Japan was quickly making strides to catch up with the rest of the world after having been asleep for some two hundred and sixty five years. The basic mood of the nation at that time was “Out with old in with the new.” Thus, jujitsu was considered out of step with the times.
It took a man of letters and of action to breathe life back into an art form that was about to be discarded. There were very few who could explain by words, what many a master of the arts intuitively understood when executing phenomenal maneuvers. Nor were there individuals who could translate into words the common denominators that made these arts important not in terms of self-defense but of living life. Kano fortunately could and did.
To more accurately assess the thinking of Jigoro Kano and the evolution of how he came to explain judo as he did, one would have to study his writings, the dates they were written, and study them within the context of the social events that may have influenced his thinking. The Meiji restoration era, nationalism, empire building, his education, and his travels abroad shaped the words that explained judo and its broader purpose.
Japan had just emerged out of the isolationism imposed by the Tokugawa regime. It found itself at the back of the line in technological advances and understood it was in a very weak position. It wanted to understand the West, and needed to find a way to quickly catch up with the rest of the world least they be victimized by their neighbors. To aid in this endeavor the newly installed emperor Meiji dedicated his efforts to modernization. Large scale government reforms were made in which education, media (then newspapers), transportation, communication, the making of a national army were instituted in an effort to create a strong national consciousness that could stand proudly amongst neighboring nations.
Things were moving fast in Japan and much was being accomplished in a very short time. Within 27 years after the installation of Emperor Meiji, Japan had become an industrialized power. So much so that in Asia it was the dominant power and proved itself in battles with China in 1894 and Russia in1904, coming out the winner in both instances. In this climate of success and of building national pride it was important to maintain strong bodies and good discipline. It fell to Jigoro Kano the educator to add to the strength of his nation by incessantly writing and publishing articles emphasizing the benefits of judo and the martial arts, not only as a means of strengthening the body, but through its practice learning many valuable lessons that could be applied to daily life. In a sense the spirit of the samurai was kept alive through the reintroduction of the martial arts through education. His writings and philosophy of judo as a sport of far reaching qualities differentiated it from jujitsu.
Inherent in the activity was the idea that if one used his body efficiently, although he may be smaller, he could overcome a larger adversary who did not. This concept not only applied to the diminutive Jigoro Kano but appealed to the small island nation of Japan as its foes seem always larger. Brousse and Matsumoto in Judo a Sport and Way of Life wrote, “He sensed and developed the guiding principle behind jujitsu where others had seen a collection of techniques.” The ultimate goal was to make the most efficient use of mental and physical energy. It is little wonder that he was to come up with the maxim, Seiryoku Zenyo, “the best use of one’s energy, vigor, vitality”, an ideal which is essential to any vigilant culture or nation much less a sport.
The Success of Judo Rather Than Jujitsu
Many will say that the biggest difference that led to the success of judo rather than jujitsu in Japan was the 1886 contest held by the police in which Kodokan judo prevailed over all the other systems of the day. This may be true in part but there have been many victories by one organization over another that have not lasted the test of time. One of the overriding reasons for the success of judo was Kano’s position as a major player in the development of education during the Meiji era. He was well educated, experienced, and traveled abroad specifically to learn about western educational systems. He was the expert and he was in charge of developing the country’s teachers; teachers who would of course learn judo at school, then turn around and teach it at a middle school, high school, or college. To this day judo is taught in schools throughout Japan as part of the physical education program.
Another reason for judo’s success was Jigoro Kano himself. He was a tireless recruiter of judo practitioners and supporters. Everywhere he went he spoke of the many attributes of judo: fitness, character building, economy of motion, self-actualization, self-defense, and a model for a way of life. He himself was the embodiment of the attributes of which he spoke. Kano also had a keen awareness of timing and knowledge of who were the change agents who he could entrust to influence the masses. He utilized the opportunity to speak with leaders such as Pierre de Coubertin, Originator of the Modern Olympic Games, John Dewey, one of the architects of modern education in the United States and many others. These people outside of his country were introduced to judo, not just for it’s physical characteristics, but more so for its positive effects on the improvement of the quality of life for society through its practice.
Jigoro Kano’s command of the English language should not be forgotten here, for it opened the door to introducing the then little known sport of judo to the west. According to Naoki Murata, head librarian at the Kodokan. “Many of Kano’s notes of judo were written not in Japanese but in English.”
|Pierre de Coubertin|
Although it is not often mentioned as a reason for judo’s rise as an exportable item we must not discount the effect of the two wars that suddenly placed Japan in the forefront of public curiosity. First China, then Russia, two large countries succumbing to the smaller Japan. Moreover, Russia, although having its own internal problems, was once considered a white European power. Could it be that some secrets out of the East could be used to win the war over its larger opponents? Could these same secrets also be found in this mysterious activity called judo? Here too, the larger individual could be overcome by the smaller. At any rate people flocked to see this wondrous activity that the devotees were eager to teach. Especially keen on its investigation were the armed services, police, and the elite.
On a more clouded note, the ability of judo and jujitsu to infiltrate the upper crust of society gave it importance in the Meiji era as a means of understanding foreign cultures and was sometimes used as an unofficial information highway through which crucial bits of information gleaned from casual conversations aided in making major policy or strategic decisions. For foreign countries, it also allowed a glimpse into Japanese culture as well. Thus, the exportability of judo and jujitsu was yet another factor to consider.
While many looked upon judo and jujitsu as a means of unarmed combat Dr. Kano came to view his judo as a ready-made educational tool; first to develop his nation and to eventually benefit the world. In its practice, he could see economy of motion, the interplay of individual forces creating something bigger than its individual parts, the development of the individual into something he would not otherwise be, but for the practice of this physical activity. Kano’s broader view of this activity, when he compared it to other sports, prompted modifications that could help it survive and be included as a sport and an educational tool. Hence, methods of falling were improved and practiced, dangerous techniques were excluded from its practice, rules of gamesmanship began to replace the air of dueling to determine superiority. These issues aided the acceptance and transformed judo from a cultural martial art to a modern sport.
We should not forget the era to which Jigoro Kano was born into was the critical mass of emerging sports. (In 1846 with Alexander Cartwright as the inventor of baseball.) The rough and ready game of football was first played between Rutgers and Princeton in 1869, Walter Camp formulated the American football’s first rules in 1876 and in 1867 The Queensbury Rules of Boxing by John Graham Chambers. In Canada ice hockey was invented by JGA Creighton, basketball in the United States by Naismith in 1891, and volleyball by William Morgan. In Japan, it was Jigoro Kano with judo, 1882. Even the Modern Olympic Games emerged front this period with the leadership of Pierre de Coubertin.Judo’s Spread Around the World
In various parts of the world as practitioners of judo fortuitously or purposely ventured out, there was always a curious audience. One of the first to take judo outside of Japan was in 1903 when Yoshiaki Yamashita was invited to the United States by Railroad magnate Graham Hill and taught at Annapolis Naval Academy. Included on his list of many important persons of the era, he was instructor to President Theodore Roosevelt who eventually earned a brown belt. A brown belt then was a very respectable rank during the time when there was not much inflation of rank. Yoshiaki Yamashita eventually received the very first 10th Dan awarded by Dr. Kano in 1935.
In 1905, judo appeared in Great Britain in the person of Yukio Tani. There is a plethora of tales about this colorful individual as he traveled about the British Isles making a living by taking on all comers. Sometimes he would have easy opponents and sometimes not. Losing some but winning most. Sometimes he was sober other times he was not. Nevertheless, it was always interesting to see a smaller man confront larger men and come out on top.
Tani was followed by Gunji Koizumi one year later. Koizumi was instrumental in the development of British judo and was the founder of the Budokwai in London in 1918. Both Tani and Koizumi were instructors there. Originally they were jujitsu enthusiasts and only after a visit by Dr. Kano in 1920 did they switch over to become members of the Kodokan. Both were also present at the incipience of the European Judo Union in 1937 when the first European Judo Championships took place in Dresden, Germany. The events were to inspire other continents to do likewise and the result was to eventually culminate in the creation of a world championship.
The founding of French judo is credited to Mikinosuke Kawaishi who arrived in 1935 and introduced judo through a system based on numbers and French words rather than on difficult to remember or pronounce Japanese terminology. This plus the ingenious colored belt system did much to popularize judo in France. France lists over 500,000 registered judokas and is the second largest judo population in the world.
In the United States during the turn of the century large pockets of Japanese settlements could be found. They were in Hawaii (then not yet a state), Seattle, and Los Angeles. Many of the immigrants left Japan in search of job opportunities and adventure. They brought with them their customs, language, and work ethics. They were successful particularly in two fields, farming, and fishing. Amongst the cultural activities of dance and flower arrangement was judo. 1907 saw the establishment of the first permanent dojo with Takugoro Ito as the instructor in Seattle, Washington. Ito was later to go to Los Angeles and is credited with the establishing of the first dojo in Los Angeles. It was named Rafu Dojo and while it is no longer there as of 2002, the restructured 1920 wooden Seattle dojo is still standing. Between 1903 and the present, judo has spread eastward across the United States to include all races and creeds. In 1964 the First U.S. Olympic Judo Team was represented by a Japanese American lightweight, a Jewish American middleweight, an American Indian light heavyweight, and Black American heavyweight.
Judo Organizations in the United States
Associations of black belt holders (Yudanshakai) developed first, followed by the formation of the firstnational organization. This was accomplished in 1952. Originally the organization was known as the JBBF or Judo Black Belt Federation but was subsequently changed to The United States Judo Federation (USJF). The USJF’s strength lies in the clustering of different dojos to provide a quality program which is grass roots oriented. In 1965, a second national organization was formed from what was originally the Armed Forces Judo Association, now known as the United States Judo Association (USJA). It was also grass roots oriented, well organized paper wise, and gave the individual clubs and their instructors more autonomy because they were usually in isolated areas of the United States where services were hard to come by. In 1980 through an act of Congress The National Sports Act of 1979 United States Judo Incorporated (USJI) was formed. It then became the direct link to the United States Olympic Committee and replaced the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). Ultimately the two National Organizations, USJF and USJA became “A” class members and each individual State organizations as “B” members of USJI. USJI has since changed its name to USA Judo.
The United States has had three world champions as a result of our efforts in the field of competition. Our very first World Champion in 1984 was AnnMaria Burns, now known as Dr. AnnMaria Rousey. Our second World Champion was Michael Swain in 1987, Jimmy Pedro Jr. in 1999 and out most recent Olympic Champion is Kayla Harrison, 2012 and 2016. Each are still active in the sport and continue to contribute to the development of judo in the United States.
Development of International Championships and Olympic Judo
1st Pan American Judo Championships
The popularity of judo continued to grow but organizationally Europe seemed far and away the leader in promoting judo as a worldwide sport. In 1951 they formed the International Judo Federation consisting of mostly European Nations with Argentina requesting entry into the organization. Following the lead of the Europe, other continental unions were hurriedly devised. The first Pan American Judo Championships were held in 1952 in Havana, Cuba where judo had been introduced only two years earlier.
1st World Judo Championships
1956 was a momentous date for it marked the date of the First World Championships, held in Tokyo Japan. During this championship, there was only one category, the Open weight in which weight was not a consideration. Shokichi Natusi of Japan was the first World Champion. In July of 1960 at the 58th International Olympic Committee meeting it was voted and passed 32 to 2 to have judo as a demonstration sport in the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. While there were some apprehensions as to Japan taking all the gold medals in their native-born sport, the 1964 Games had one great surprise for the world. In spite of the objections made against the idea of weight categories by Japan, its inclusion was a precondition to entry to the Games. Thus included were four weight divisions. It was a foregone conclusion that Japan would win all four gold medals except the apple cart was overturned by a Dutchman named Anton Geesink who pinned the All Japan Champion and became the first non-Asian to win an Olympic Gold medal in judo. This did much to show the rest of the world that judo was truly an international sport. In 1988, Seoul Korea Olympics, women were finally allowed to compete largely due to the efforts of the American, Rusty Kanokogi, and then International Judo Federation president Shigeyoshi Matsumae.
Geesink Subdues Sone to Win World Judo Title.
Paris, Dec 3 (UPI)— Anton Geesink of Holland beat Koji Sone of Japan Saturday in the final of the World Judo Championships to become the first non-Japanese ever to hold the title.