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Bulletin 17 Part 2

Bulletin no 17   -  January 2007                              

In this edition - We continue the  series on the history of judo with a part two of a contribution from Syd Hoare.

News -   This new year will hopefully bring some advances in the Kano Society and we look forward to attracting more members.  We have quite a collection of video material now and would be happy to arrange showings for clubs. Also please remember you can buy copies through the website—see back page.

The Bulletins are now available as pdf files to download from the web site which will give a more realistic view to those not having hard copies.

Look forward to hearing from you during 2007.

Regards Diana Birch


The Historical Development of Kodokan Judo

Syd Hoare

Part Two of a lecture presented by Syd Hoare 8th Dan to the European Judo Union Foundation Degree Course at Bath University July  2006)

As mentioned earlier Ju-jitsu embraced a number of techniques such as atemi, strangles, joint-locks, restraints, binding, throws and use of small weapons and were emphasized or combined in what the individual masters thought were the most effective way for combat. It is interesting to note that Kano wrote that there were not many throws in ju-jitsu which reinforces his view that Ju-jitsu was mainly about atemi and groundwork (in some respects like modern cage fighting). It would seem likely that throws on armoured opponents and in battlefield conditions may not have been that easy to do by the armoured thrower and the armour served as protection from the throw as well as from the blow. 

Kano wrote that jujitsu training was mainly Kata, or Kata and Randori and that the Randori was of four kinds (1) throwing according to the technical principles of the style (like aikido (2) Mostly throws but relying more on power than technique (brawling?) (3) Mainly strangles and arm wrenches and (4) Mainly  restraint techniques. Two criticisms that Kano made of the ju-jitsu Kata was that they were not much good for physical education and secondly they were often out of date ie. done in old fashioned long-sleeved kimonos and/or carrying two swords.
However jujitsu was reality checked in fights between schools, known as taryujiai and in a form of duelling known as tsuji-nage - crossroads throwing (or in the case of Kenjitsu tsuji-kiri – crossroads cutting).  Here the samurai met at certain crossroads at night and took on anybody who fancied their chances.  Also there were practices known as dojo-arashi(dojo storming), dojo-yaburi(dojo-smashing) and dojo-mawari (touring the dojos) where single masters would visit dojos, challenge them and take on anybody.  It is said that if a visitor beat all the best men in a dojo they became his students but how that worked out in practice I do not know. The masters of the schools had to be very good which in itself attracted students.  So it seems that there must have been quite a lot of realistic practice of jujitsu which naturally was not fought under any rules.  You either won or you lost painfully and bloodily.

Very gradually in about the last half century of the Edo period the Tokugawa system crumbled then broke down.  The merchants got richer and even began to train at samurai skills such as jujitsu and sword-fighting, the samurai got poorer and the Americans came knocking on the door in 1853 demanding to trade.  The military government was disbanded-imperial rule was restored in 1868, the  four class system was abolished, samurai could no longer carry swords or wear their distinctive top knot hair style and the country set out to open up to the rest of the world and  modernize along the lines of the USA and Western Europe. By 1894 Japan defeated the Chinese and by 1904 Japan was strong enough to beat the Russians in a naval war. In a very short space of time and with relatively little internal conflict Japan modernized itself this due in no small part to the educated samurai class and Bunburyodo. This was an amazing achievement. The national slogan of the time was Fukoku Kyohei meaning a wealthy country and a strong army. Note how slogans are used in Japan, from judo right up to national policy.

During these heady times a young man called Jigoro Kano was born in 1860 of a rich merchant family which specialized in the brewing of Sake (the modern Kiku Masamune brand) and its transportation.  The brewing of good Sake was important in itself but also very useful for the government in a time of war was the marine transportation system (cargo ships) for their product that the family firm created. Jigoro Kano was very bright and in 1877 aged 18 went off to study at the newly created Imperial Tokyo University which was the top academic institute in the country.  At Tokyo university he studied politics and finance/economics and the further subjects of ethics and aesthetics. He graduated well in 1881 and went on to lecture at the Gakushuin or Peers (Nobles) School in 1882 where he taught the children of the aristocrats of the land (and perhaps some of the Imperial family).   In modern language he had positioned himself at the heart of things and created contacts and a massive prestige that served him and judo  for the rest of his life.

At the same time there was another side to him. At the age of 18 in the year he entered university he began studying jujitsu and in the year he became a lecturer at the Peers School he set up his own school of jujitsu which he called Kodokan Judo. These two threads continued throughout his life namely education and judo.  The other two main threads in his life were his study of English and the Chinese classics.

Kano started ju-jitsu in 1877 because he wanted to learn to defend himself but he had some difficulty finding someone to teach him since few advertised their ju-jitsu as such but scraped by as ‘cultivators’ doing bone-setting, moxibustion & acupuncture.  With the abolition of the samurai class, many samurai were thrown out of work and had to get by as best they could.  Such was the modernization fervour of the time that few had time for the old ways - even sumo suffered until its Imperial patronage was reaffirmed in 1872 and 1881.

Kano studied jujitsu under a number of masters but in a short space of time set up his own school in 1882 at the age of 22.  He mainly drew on two jujitsu schools the Kito School which specialized in throws (Ki=rising, To=falling) and the Tenjinshinyo school which specialized in atemi and groundwork.  The Kito school as we have already seen went right back to Chin-gen Pin and his Chuan-Fa/Kempo of the 16th century but the Tenjinshinyo school was newer.

It is said that Kano quickly realized the potential that jujitsu had as a form of physical education although he may not have been the first to do so.   After the breakdown of the Tokugawa military government and the return to imperial rule Japan very quickly  adopted a new system of education which contained many features of the European and American education systems including their knee-bends and jerks type physical education.  However this was soon felt to be boring and that native sword-fighting and Ju-jitsu etc had something better to offer.  It is recorded that between about 1880-3 the Japanese Ministry of Education was quite active in this field and recommended sword-fighting and ju-jitsu as being good for physical education following a lengthy investigation into them. (Two of the investigating team were foreign medics of the Tokyo University medical department – Drs Baeltz and Schrieber). This period needs to be fully researched.   Dr. Baelz (1849-1931) was active in promoting both kenjitsu (Sakakibara style) and jujitsu (Totsuka style). Baelz records that whilst he was lecturing in medicine at Tokyo Imperial University there was also a young student called Kano who was also actively promoting ju-jitsu as a sport/physical education

Also there was the parallel development of the modern Olympics  Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics, was born three years after Kano and died a year before him in 1937. The first modern Olympics was in Athens in 1896 but Coubertin had already expounded the importance of sport at the Paris Exposition of 1889. Kano travelled abroad to France and Paris in 1889 and became Japan’s first IOC representative in 1911 As you can see the dates were very close and contact was made I believe between the two men. 

In the first modern Olympics – Greco-Roman wrestling was  included. It was  believed to be close to the wrestling of ancient Greece.  In fact it wasn’t – it was what the French thought was Greco-roman wrestling. It seems that  the real early Greek wrestling was best of three throws and it had a  groundwork form which included submission techniques but one wonders if Kano did not have more than a passing interest in the rules of the “French wrestling”.  Kano was also well schooled in English and no doubt was aware of the development of sport in the USA and Europe at that time.  Whatever the influences on Kano he saw the potential for his judo as a form of physical education (and a sport) and so he framed it.  So how was the jump from Jujitsu to judo made?

In many respects Judo could be described as yet another form of jujitsu.  The name  Judo was not original as it had already been used by both the Kito and the Jikishin  jujitsu schools.  Even the name of his school – the Kodokan – can be found in the clan schools of the Takamatsu Han and those of the Mito and Saga feudal domains albeit with slightly different characters in the case of the last two.

 It is when you look at the guiding objectives of Kodokan Judo that the differences between judo and jujitsu start to emerge.  Kano said that his judo had three objectives namely combat (shobuho), character building (shushinho) and physical education (taiikuho). Although jujitsu could be a pretty bloody affair most ju-jitsu schools certainly regarded their arts as combat and character building methods with many of them based on Confucian principles that aimed at Kunizukuri (country building) and Hitozukuri (people building).   Shinto, Buddhist, Taoist & Zen influences may also be seen in their codified technical and mental principles. However Kano wanted his judo to be good for the physique and health of the practitioner which naturally led him to exclude many of the more dangerous techniques of ju-jitsu in his randori & contest rules. Having done that he discovered it could be done relatively safely and provide an incredible workout. Tai-ikuho (physical education) was the guiding principle that changed the Kano “jujitsu”.


It was also said that the use of the suffix do (way/path) as in ju-do (the Way of Yielding) made it morally superior to ju-jitsu (the Techniques of Yielding) but as already noted the word judo was already in use in a few other ‘jujitsu’ schools. Adding the word do to physical, artistic and other activities is commonly seen in Japan where we have Sho-do (calligraphy),Sumo-do, Ken-do and so on. Its use perhaps elevates the activity but overuse has perhaps devalued it too.


Do is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character Tao/dao (path/Way) as in Tao-ism which is the indigenous religion of China. It is interesting to consider the use of this word with the English expression Way of Life defined in my dictionary as -  the principles or habits governing all one’s actions.  Judo is clearly seen by many Japanese and others as a way of informing and governing ones life.  Kano specifically states under the shushin-ho (moral education) heading that the application of contest principles to everyday life is important for the judoka.


However Kano made physical education as one of his objectives and this more than anything directed him towards devising a safe form of free-fighting rules which would ‘cultivate’ the body making it strong and healthy and injury free. Although one thinks of physical education as a Western concept there were similar ideas within the Chinese and Japanese traditions. The ‘cultivation’ side of judo (Yosei-jitsu), stems from ancient traditions. In the ancient Chinese martial arts Lian Gong (Jap. Renko) there were training methods for making the body fit, healthy and  strong. They were divided into Inner (Chi-gung - breathing ) and Outer (muscles) methods. Collectively these methods were known in Japanese as Yosei-jitsu (cultivation techniques). Think of the English expression – a cultivated person.

To be continued ...

Bulletin 17 Part Two