A History of Judo NEW!

by Syd Hoare, Yamagi Books 2009

As of January 2012 this is the best book that I have read on the history of Judo.  Syd Hoare is a 1964 British Olympian who trained extensively in Japan.


If Kano has not devoted so much time to judo in all likelihood he might have become minister of education in Japan or indeed prime minister at a crucial point in Japan’s history.

Jigoro Kano explained this by saying that it was better to stay on the feet during a fight in order to take on more than one opponent, that throwing was better for physical development and technically more difficult and that for overall development it was better to get good at throwing first then work on groundwork, rather than the other way round.

1877 marks the year when young Jigoro Kano began studying at Tokyo Imperial University and enrolled with Fukuda Hachinosuke, a teacher of the Tenjinshinyo style of jujitsu…Kano’s early motivation was to learn how to protect himself from bullying which he had experienced at school, but the more he taught the more he realized that a modified jujitsu would make a fine physical training method and competitive exercise.

The establishment of the Butokukai created a problem for the Kodokan, which in 1895 was only 13 years old with an estimated annual membership intake of about 400. Kano was working hard to promote his judo but the jujitsu people were resisting.  Furthermore the Kodokan’s objectives were somewhat different from that of the Butokukai.  Kano stressed judo as a form or moral and physical education and as a combat art, but with the more dangerous techniques eliminated from its free-fighting form.  The Butokukai on the other hand was more oriented towards combat and no doubt wanted the dangerous bits kept in.  It also promoted the Budo philosophy which Kano did not talk much about, although he did stress shiki or martial spirit.

One noteworthy fact about these Butokukai and Kodokan rules is the absence of any reference to Kime-waza or decisive technique.  The ippon throw is usually thought of as a real combat deciding technique, but clearly fighting for the best of three ippons sidesteps that definition.  Kano said that competition and randori rules were to test the ability of the contestants in standing and groundwork.

In 1906 the Butokukai ordered all the martial arts and their various schools to work on their traditional kata in their home towns and then present them at the Butoku festival, so as to be able to establish and transmit them for the benefit of later generations…A committee of 20 men was formed with Kano as its chairman. [Yamashita, Yokoyama, Isogai and Nagaoka were also members]

The first Butokukai festival and martial arts competition was held in 1895 and continued every year until 1944, when it was stopped by the war.  Eventually in 1947 the Butokukai was abolished by the Allied forces under the Potsdam Agreement for being a hotbed of militarism and ultra-nationalism.  At this point the Kodokan regained its total monopoly of judo in Japan that it lost in 1895.

In groundwork the Kodokan did not have absolute superiority.  From about 1895…it suffered on the ground at the hands of Tanake Mataemon (Fusen-ryu), Imai and Oshima (Takeuchi-ryu) and others, making it imperative for the Kodokan to concentrate on groundwork.  This was the starting point of the Kodokan’s more intensive study of groundwork which in turn led Nagaoka and Samura (both later 10th Dans) going to Kyoto to study the strong ground work of the Kansai area.  Despite the fact that groundwork was studied more intensely and the Kodokan became much stronger at it, Kano’s attitude was that judo was mainly a standing art and that those who wanted to drop straight into groundwork from the start should be curbed by the rules.  On the battlefield it is necessary to stay on the feet when against multiple assailants, he said.

During the Pacific War the Butokukai made some attempt to add battlefield realism to the rules by mixing atemi with throws, but the ending of the war preventing its introduction.

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