Jigoro Kano and Kodokan Judo
By Andy Adams, 1970
Indeed, he was many things to many people. Like Sir Thomas Moore, a
man for all seasons. His many worlds encompassed much of value to Japan.
From scattered quotes taken from various sources close to him, we can
only glimpse Jigoro Kano, the man:
"He used to take an umbrella with him every day because
he didn't like to worry about whether or not it would rain."
"When he returned home, he would go straight into the living room, which
meant on most days I would not see my father at all."
"Just after I graduated from Waseda University, he sent me a cable: 'Your
father has been looking for a wife for you. What sort of woman do you have
in mind for a wife?' Less than three years later, I married his daughter."
"He was very strict with us at school. I had to get up at 5 o'clock every
morning and help clean the rooms and the garden."
"He was so proud of his legs he used to pull up his hakama just to show
off his big calves."
"He wept when he heard of my sister's (his daughter's) death."
He was a perfectionist, a disciplinarian and a traditionalist. But,
at the same time, an innovator, an internationalist and a man of great
generosity. More important, he was a famous educator and the father of
modern sports in Japan. But above all, Jigoro Kano was the founder of
When he first saw the light of day on Oct. 28, 1860, Japan's feudal
period was rapidly drawing to a close. Across the seas in America, the
United States was embarked on a tragic civil war. Just as today, it was
a time of turmoil and change around the world.
He was fortunate enough to be born into a family that was reasonably
well off, at least well enough placed to get Jigoro into the elite Tokyo
Imperial University. His grandfather had launched the family into the
business of making sake in Nada, Shiga Prefecture, near the Biwa Lake
in central Japan. In fact, it was this same sake-brewing clan that organized
the other sake makers in the area to help finance the Fujimi-cho Dojo
which served as the Kodokan in the latter half of the 1880s.
Since Jigoro's father was not the eldest son, the sake business was
not passed down into his hands. Even at that, his father did all right
for himself at Kobe-Jigoro's birthplace-as both a Shinto priest and a
high-ranking government official in charge of purchasing agents for shipping
lines. It was this side of the Kano family that prompted the building
of Japan's first steel ships, coastal vessels designed to carry sake.
The third son in a family of three boys and two girls, young Jigoro
was physically weak in his early years. In fact, he was beaten up so
often by local bullies he resolved to strengthen himself the best way
he could. It was this unrelenting drive to learn how to defend himself
that eventually led to his formulation of Judo. One wonders what would
have happened had Jigoro Kano been a big brute of a man instead of the
5-foot, 2-inch, 90-pound weakling he was in his teens.
Jujitsu was flourishing during Jigoro's boyhood. One might even term
the mid-19th century the golden age of jujitsu. So it was with rather
anxious expectation Jigoro looked forward to moving to Tokyo, where most
of the jujitsu activity was going on. When he was 17, his father ordered
him to go to the capital on board one of the sake-carrying steel ships,
but he insisted on traveling by land. His father relented -- and a good
thing, too, because the vessel he was to sail on broke up in stormy seas
en route to Tokyo and sank.
Obsessed With Learning
Jigoro enrolled the following year at Tokyo Imperial University at the
age of 18. When he wasn't in class or studying, he would go off in search
of an osteopath because they had all received jujitsu training. Apparently,
he was still obsessed with the desire to learn the art of manly self-defense
and concluded jujitsu offered him the best hope. His search finally led
him to the door of a bone doctor in Nihonbashi named Teinosuke Yagi who
promised to introduce him to a jujitsu teacher living in the neighborhood.
Jigoro Kano had actually started his training in jujitsu at the age
of 17, but his instructor, Ryuji Katagiri, felt he was too young for
serious training. As a result, Katagiri gave him only a few formal exercises
for study and let it go at that. The determined young man was not about
to be put off so easily, however, and finally wound up at the dojo of
Hachinosuke Fukuda, a master in the Tenjin-Shinyo School of Jujitsu who
had been recommended by Dr. Yagi.
Fukuda stressed technique over formal exercises, or kata. His method
was to give an explanation of the exercises, but to concentrate on free-style
fighting in practice sessions. Jigoro Kano's emphasis on "randori" in
Judo undoubtedly found its beginnings here under Fukuda's influence.
The Kodokan's procedure of teaching beginners the basis of Judo, then
having them engage in randori and only after they had attained a certain
level of proficiency, teaching them the formal kata, came from Fukuda
and a later sensei named Iikubo.
In 1879, a year after Jigoro started working out at Fukuda's dojo, the
jujitsu master suddenly became gravely ill and died at the age of only
52. The 19-year-old youth soon joined another branch of the Tenjin-shinyo-ryu
run by a 62-year-old jujitsu instructor named Masatomo Iso. Located in
the Kanda section of Tokyo near the center of the city, Iso's dojo was
known for its excellence in kata. Iso, himself, was only 5 feet tall,
but had a powerful body and an energetic personality.
Over the next two years, Jigoro Kano ate, drank and slept jujitsu, practicing
night and day at the point of exhaustion. Things got so bad he was even
having nightmares about the martial art, shouting jujitsu terms in his
sleep and kicking out at his quilt.
The sensei saw his dedication and promise and soon made him an assistant.
Jigoro instructed 20 or 30 students, starting with kata and then moving
on to free fighting. By the time he was 21 years old in 1881, Kano had
become a master in Tenjin-shinyo-ryu jujitsu. But Iso, like Fukuda before
him, became ill and Kano decided to move on, feeling he still had much
to learn and wanting to study rather than teach.
The next step seemed almost inevitable. Jigoro Kano met Tsunetoshi Iikubo,
master of the Kito School of Jujitsu, and began training at his dojo.
Even when no one else showed up, Kano would work out alone. Like Fukuda,
Iikubo put the stress on free fighting and he was especially skillful
at teaching nage-waza.
It was during these early jujitsu training days Jigoro Kano worked out
some new throws and turned his attention more and more to ways of reforming
jujitsu into some kind of new system. While practicing at the Tenjin-shinyo
Training Hall, he ran up against a big, 200-pound bruiser named Kenkichi
Fukushima. Outweighed by 100 pounds, the lightweight youth invariably
lost to the bigger man. He wanted to beat Fukushima so badly he could
taste it, studying everything he could get his hands on -- books on sumo
techniques, training books from abroad, etc.
Finally, Jigoro worked out a new technique. The next time he met his
burly rival he charged in low, lifted Fukushima onto his shoulders, whirled
him around and easily tossed him on the mat. He promptly dubbed his new
throw "kata-guruma," or shoulder whirl. Other throws he worked out include "uki-goshi" (rising
hip throw) and "tsuri-komi-goshi" (lift-pull hip throw).
The original idea was merely to reform jujitsu rather than found a new
system. Kano was well aware of the shortcomings, but felt these could
be weeded out with the result that jujitsu could be beneficial to young
men -- not only as a martial art, but also as a form of physical education
as well as training and discipline of the spirit; in short, a valuable
preparation for one's daily life.
He dedicated himself to formulating a system of reformed jujitsu founded
on scientific principles, integrating combat training with mental and
physical education. He borrowed the "katamewaza" (mat techniques) and "atemi-waza" (throwing
techniques) of Kito-ryu, holding onto those techniques that conformed
to scientific principles and rejecting all others. All harmful and dangerous
techniques were eliminated.
Eishoji Temple: the birthplace
When 22-year-old Jigoro Kano took nine of his private students from
the Kito-ryu Training Hall in February 1882 and set up his own dojo in
Eishoji Temple, Judo didn't automatically spring into being. In fact,
Kito-ryu master Iikubo came to the temple two or three times a week to
help instruct Kano's students. So what they were getting was more jujitsu
than Judo training. Two years were to elapse before the by-laws of the
first Kodokan were drawn up.
Much has been written about those early days at Eishoji, and it is this
temple that is generally regarded by most people as the birthplace of
Judo. The transition from jujitsu to Judo was made slowly but surely,
although it is difficult to pinpoint the day when what that handful of
students were learning was no longer jujitsu, but Judo.
It might have been the day when Kano first defeated Iikubo. Until then
he had never managed to get the better of the Kito-ryu stylist. But that
day in randori practice, Kano blocked every move Iikubo made, then called
on his "uki-waza" and "sumi-otoshi" to throw the jujitsu master no less
than three times.
Kano explained: "Force your opponent to make his body rigid and lose
his balance, and then when he is helpless, you attack." Iikubo replied: "From
now on, you teach me."
Iikubo soon retired as an instructor and Kano finally received his accreditation
as a Kito-ryu master. Apparently, Iikubo was a vigorous fighter because
every time he came to teach at the 12-mat dojo at Eishoji, training got
a bit more violent than usual. And the tablets would come tumbling down!
A Chiding Buddhist Priest
It seems the converted dojo adjoined the main hall of the temple in
which the image of Buddha was located together with hundreds of mortuary
tablets presented by various worshippers. And every time Jigoro Kano
and his students practiced, these clay tablets bounced up and down and
banged against each other, several falling to the floor. This went on
until one day head priest Choshumpo rushed into the dojo and declared: "He
may be young, but Mr. Kano is really an outstanding man. What a fine
person he would be if he would only leave this Judo alone."
Despite the priest's occasional protestations, the practice sessions
continued at Eisho Temple. Sometimes the training would be so rough the
dojo floor sagged and even broke in some places. Nighttime would find
the indefatigable Kano crawling under the floor with a lantern repairing
the broken boards.
The year before, in 1881, Kano had graduated from Tokyo Imperial University
and soon secured a position as a literature instructor at Gakushuin (Peer's
School), an exclusive school for the children of high-born Japanese.
His instruction at the dojo had to be sandwiched between his work at
the school and the preparation for the next day's classes. It wasn't
unusual for him to keep going into the wee hours of the morning.
He was tough on both his academic and his Judo students, a disciplinarian
of sorts. But he was also a very generous man, offering his Judo students
barley tea and rice mixed with lotus roots at the temple. He provided
his poorer students with practice clothes, which he even laundered for
Priest Choshumpo finally came to the end of his tether and presented
Kano with an ultimatum: "Either leave the temple or give up practice
there." Being an enterprising young man, Kano made a deal for using an
empty lot next to Eishoji and built a tiny training hall there measuring
only 12 by 18 feet. But this was only a temporary move and Kano set up
his next dojo in his own home in 1883. With 20 mats, it was the largest
training hall up to this time.
But 1884 was the key year when the Kodokan by-laws were drawn up. Kano
declared, "Taking together all the merits I have acquired from the various
schools of jujitsu, and adding my own devices and inventions, I have
founded a new system for physical culture, mental training and winning
contests. This I call Kodokan Judo."
Randori and kata became firmly established and even made the subjects
of lectures and debates as well as a part of education. But the big difference
from jujitsu was the "do" in Judo -- finding the way. Kano saw Judo,
then, as a way of life. He saw it in terms of a sport, whereas jujitsu
was merely another of the martial arts, a method of defense. The dangerous
techniques of jujitsu were eliminated from the Judo contests, but retained
as part of Judo's defense system. This especially applied to "atemi."
Another essential difference from jujitsu was Judo's application of "kuzushi," a
theory devised by Jigoro Kano during his jujitsu training and used so
successfully against Kito-ryu master Tsunetoshi Iikubo. "Using a minimum
amount of strength, it is possible to throw your opponent if you force
him off-balance by breaking his posture." According to Kazuzo Kudo, kudan
director of the Kodokan and author of Dynamic Judo, "Jigoro
Kano's fame and greatness are based on this principle just as much as
they are on him as the founder of Judo."
Fierce Rivalry Springs Up
As might be expected, a fierce rivalry sprang up between Judo and jujitsu.
The martial art had been steadily declining toward the end of the 19th
Century and its masters were getting desperate to hold onto their students
who were beginning to trickle away to Judo. Kudo says reports of street
fighting by Judo and jujitsu students jealous of their own prowess were
exaggerated. Critics claim jujitsu had a bad reputation for terror tactics
by goon squads and it made rowdies out of youths.
Among the now-famous pupils of Kano in those early days were Yoshiaki
Yamashita, who later taught Judo to President Theodore Roosevelt; Tsunejiro
Tomita, father of the noted author of the Judo novel "Sugata Sanshiro";
Seiko Higuchi; Shiro Saigo, who became a student in 1884 at the age of
16 and developed into a kind of Judo genius, especially noted for his "yama-arashi" and "harai-goshi";
and Sakujiro Yokoyama who was such a fighting demon he was known as "Devil
These students were Kano's Judo stalwarts in the early contests with
the police and other jujitsu dojo. The first "shiai" probably started
informally in the Kodokan, but by 1884 the first Red and White Contest
was inaugurated, continuing biannually until the present day. The following
year the Kodokan won its first shiai -- against the police, who had adopted
jujitsu. "Kagami-Biraki," or Rice-Cake Cutting Ceremony, was instituted
in 1884 and has been observed ever since on the second Sunday in January.
By 1886, Kano changed the Kodokan once again from his home in Koji-machi
to the Fujimi-cho residence of the Meiji Era magnate, Baron Yajiro Shinagawa.
And it was here during the next three or four years that Kodokan Judo
achieved supremacy over the rival jujitsu schools.
Although he was a man of many interests, Jigoro Kano always thought
in terms of Judo. To him, a kyudoka was a Judoman using a bow and arrow
and a kendoka was a Judoka with a sword.
Once the Kodokan was firmly established, Kano's thoughts turned toward
the spread of Judo on a nationwide basis and eventually throughout the
world. In fact, Kano went on his first overseas visit in 1889 to spread
the good word about this new Japanese sport.
In the latter 1880s Yajiro Shinagawa, a magnate of the Meiji Period,
was appointed ambassador to England and asked Kano to take care of his
house at Koji-machi while he was gone. The young Judo master agreed,
but was soon tempted into turning the house into a Judo dojo. Thus, Ambassador
Shinagawa's home became the next Kodokan, with 40 mats available for
practice. Fortunately, Shinagawa was a generous and broadminded man.
By 1892, there were still less than 100 Judo students practicing at
the Kodokan. Kano preferred tachi-waza (standing techniques), to ne-waza
(mat work), at which he was less skillful and, thus, avoided whenever
possible. Indeed, he had a tough time of it when he was forced onto the
mat. To compensate for this, his assistants and students trained especially
hard in ne-waza in order to beat jujitsu rivals.
Ninety-one-year-old Saburo Nango, a nephew of Jigoro Kano and 18 years
his junior, remembers doing randori with his uncle in those early years. "He
was small, but a very good technician," Nango recalls. "He was also fast
and very strong."
Nango also occasionally thinks back to the first Judo kangeiko when
students ran from the dojo at Kami-ni-bancho to Toranomon and back again
in the dead of winter -- a distance of six or seven miles. The first
kangeiko was launched in 1894, while the first shochugeiko (midsummer
training) began two years later in 1896.
Management of the Kodokan was handled by Kano himself until 1894 when
a consultative body, the Kodokan Council, was set up. To say that Kano
was busy would be putting it mildly. He usually rode to work in a ricksha
as headmaster of Gakushuin, or Peer's School, but only after spending
two hours instructing at his own Kobun Gakuen (a school organized by
Kano for Chinese students). After work, he would go to the Kodokan and
supervise the training. Then late at night, he would prepare his lectures
for the following day.
Kano became headmaster of Gakushuin at the age of only 25. It customarily
admitted only the children of the Imperial family and titled, upper-class
families, but after Kano took over, enrollment was enlarged to include
pupils from other social strata, including commoners. According to Kazuzo
Kudo, Kano ranks along with Shain Yoshida as one of Japan's modern educators.
As headmaster of both Gakushuin and the Tokyo Teachers Training School
(the present-day Tokyo University of Education) off and on for more than
a quarter of a century, Jigoro Kano laid the basis of modern education
He turned Gakushuin into a boarding school, allowing his students to
go home only on weekends. He refused to go along with the commonly accepted
notion that the highborn were inherently superior in mental potential
and opened the doors to commoners -- a revolutionary move at the time.
He also had his students perform menial tasks in order to discipline
them and teach them humility. Thus, the entire environment changed under
Kano's administration, and not too surprisingly the parents of the students
were full of admiration for the wonders being worked at Gakushuin.
Unusually Strict with Students
Nango remembers Kano as unusually strict. "When I was a student under
him," Nango explained, "I had to get up at 5 o'clock every morning and
help clean the rooms and the garden."
Dr. T. Morohashi, today one of the leading professors of Chinese culture
at Tokyo University, called Kano sensei a "confident and broad-minded
president." When he entered Tokyo Teachers Training School in 1904, Kano
was 44 years old. He called in a few of the students and asked them to
speak their minds frankly. Noting the meager resources of the library,
Morohashi insisted improvement of the library should take precedence
over building a big dojo. Kano replied one could read anywhere, but one
certainly couldn't practice Judo any old place. Even at that, the next
time he met with the vice minister of education, Kano pushed hard for
a boost in the school library budget.
Prof. Kano addressing a group
of Judo students at Kodokan promotion ceremony about 1907.
Jigoro's feelings about education are summed up in a statement he made
at the Kodokan's 50th anniversary in 1934. "Nothing under the sun is
greater than education. By educating one person and sending him into
the society of his generation, we make a contribution extending a hundred
generations to come."
Kano often was at odds with superior authorities in the field of education,
but never once submitted a letter of resignation over the matter. That's
because he never thought he was wrong! Dr. Morohashi also accused Kano
of delivering boring lectures, recalling once when only three students
showed up for one of his lectures. Kano was so angry he cried: "Everyone
in this course is dropped!"
It was in August of 1891 Jigoro Kano married Sumako, the eldest daughter
of Seisei Takezoe -- onetime ambassador to Korea. They had nine children
-- six daughters and three sons, including Risei, who became head of
the Kodokan and the All-Japan Judo Federation.
A typical "kokushi" father, Kano ruled his family with an iron hand;
his word was law and disobedience unthinkable. The eldest daughter, Noriko,
wrote of her reminiscences of her famous father. Tall and pretty with
a well-shaped nose, she was the favorite of her parents and perhaps closer
than the others to her father. Even at that, she writes: "When he returned
home, he would go straight into the living room, which meant on most
days I would not see my father at all."
Risei Kano remembers his father as broad-minded and a man with an international
outlook. He learned Judo techniques from his father at the home dojo,
but simply wasn't the athletic type. Although Jigoro Kano was a strict
disciplinarian, he also had an emotional, warm-hearted side. "He wept," Risei
recalls, "when he heard of Noriko's death."
Although Kano provided his children with fine training and a good education,
he was so busy most of the time his family must have been lonely without
him. "He left the children almost entirely to the mother," Noriko writes
in her "Recollections of My Father". Sometimes, all they would see of
their father was when they lined up at the entrance of their home to
welcome him back -- "O-kaeri-nasai mase" -- before he disappeared for
the day into the living room.
Commands Instant Obedience
Jigoro Kano teaching uki goshi
Those were the days of Meiji (1868-1912) when the father was a benevolent
despot, when children were seldom seen and rarely heard, when they were
not allowed to venture into the living room if he were there, when they
were not allowed to take their meals with him, when they feared and respected
rather than loved him and when his commands elicited instant obedience
Both Kudo and Nango remember visiting Kano at his home, usually in the
morning. Kano was not always burdened with weighty matters, for Kudo
recalls they often talked of trifling things. "Kano sensei never smoked,
but he liked his sake and his face got red quickly when he was drinking." He
refused to indulge in the Japanese tradition of exchanging sake cups
with fellow drinkers and drinking from theirs. Since this custom was
greatly admired in the rural areas, farmers invariably wanted to swap
sake cups with Kano, but he considered it to be an unhealthy practice
and grew angry when they asked him.
Jigoro Kano only stood five feet, two inches but he weighed over 165
pounds. He had broad shoulders and chest and big calves. Kudo says "Shihan
was so proud of his calves he was always pulling up his hakama to show
them off." Kudo was also amazed at Kano's speed. "I was surprised at
how quickly he threw me."
According to Kudo, Jigoro Kano was always smiling, even when he was
angry. "He laughed deeply when he was pleased." Takasaki, his son-in-law,
confirmed this by saying Kano had a keen sense of humor, and although
easily angered, he was also quick to laugh.
Takasaki also remembers Kano liked sake, but knew his limit and usually
stopped before he had too much. "If he over-imbibed, he invariably got
In his active days no one practiced harder than Jigoro Kano. He kept
at it until he was a mass of wounds, barely able to stagger home. His
Judogi is on display at the Kodokan and is made of brown linen on the
outside and cotton inside. He repaired it himself with kite twine. With
the bottom in tatters, the Judogi is discolored with oil and sweat --
mute testimony to Jigoro Kano's strength and fierce fighting spirit.
In 1907 Kano had the sleeves and pants of the Judogi fully lengthened
to cover the arms and legs and protect the elbows and knees. The jacket
was also shortened. Thus, the Judogi assumed the final form in which
it is still used today. This was in sharp contrast to the early days
when Judoka wore shorts and a jacket that left half the arms as well
as the knees and legs exposed. By the time Kano was 60 he gave up wearing
a Judogi, simply putting on a haori (formal shirt) and performing his
kata in that way.
The Kodokan officially became a foundation in May 1909, and two years
later in April 1911 the Judo Teachers' Training Department was set up.
Then in 1922, the Kodokan Dan Grade Holders Association was organized,
followed by the Judo Medical Research Society in 1932.
When Kano called Judo "a way of human development understandable by
people all over the world," he was attempting to formulate an idea he
had of organizing an international Judo federation to spread interest
in Judo. By 1912, the Shihan had made no less than nine trips abroad
to create interest in the new Japanese sport.
By this time, many foreigners -- mostly sailors and merchant seamen
-- were training at the Kodokan. Books on Judo in foreign languages were
being written. Thus, before the outbreak of World War I, dojo had been
set up in the United States, Britain, France, Canada and India as well
as in Russia, China and Korea.
A Russian by the name of A. Oshichenikov visited Japan in 1911 and spent
six years training at the Kodokan. Before he returned home in 1917, he
had been promoted to nidan. He not only proceeded to teach Judo techniques
to the Red Army and the secret police, but was also instrumental in organizing
Russia's Judo-like sport of sambo in the 1930s.
Yoshitsuge Yamashita's staging of a worldwide jujitsu meet at the Japan
Police Ministry in 1893 must have started Kano thinking along the same
lines for Judo. But first he had to spread it throughout Japan. Nango
recalls Kano lecturing him along the following lines: "Japan is a small,
mountainous and highly-populated country, short of resources, and so
we Japanese must perform to the utmost of our ability. We must mutually
support one another and make the best use of energy to keep Japan independent." Here
are embodied two of his key Judo principles, "the best use of energy" and "mutual
Besides his association with Gakushuin and the Tokyo Teachers Training
School (later known as Tokyo Education College), Kano was responsible
for founding Kobun Gakuen, a special school for Chinese students which
was attended by Sun Yat-sen.
Just before the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, the Chinese Premier invited
Kano to visit China at the bequest of the Empress in order to lay the
basis for educating young Chinese in Japan and thus strengthen China.
Kano made a thorough study of the situation, communicating with Chinese
officials by the written language of kanji which is used by both nations
(although the oral language is completely different).
School for Chinese in Japan
Kano recommended Kobun Gakuen be set up in Japan, but suggested Prince
Saionji be consulted first since he was the Japanese Minister of Education.
This was done, and in 1902 Saionji asked Kano to organize the school
using professors from Gakushuin and Tokyo Educational College. The Japanese
government helped support the new Kobun Gakuen which educated several
hundred Chinese during the seven years of its existence. Needless to
say, Judo was an integral part of the school's athletic activities.
Although Kano was devoted to Judo, he was interested in all of sports.
Just as he laid the basis of modern education in Japan, he also became
the father of modern sports in the country. In 1911 he founded the Japan
Athletic Association (JAA) and became its first president. About the
same time, he was named Japan's first member of the International Olympic
Committee and attended the Fifth Olympiad in Stockholm in 1912 -- the
first Olympics in which Japan took part.
In promoting sports and physical education in Japan, Kano got a wealthy
lawyer by the name of Kishi interested in sports, resulting in Kishi
donating a great deal of money to the JAA. Today, the Kishi Kaikan is
the headquarters for the JAA. Kano continued as JAA president until 1922,
when he resigned and became honorary president of that organization.
Kazuzo Kudo entered the Kodokan in 1917 and started training under Kano
the following year, continuing until the Shihan's death two decades later.
He learned kata personally from Kano and sometimes joined with him in
Takasaki, who was captain of the Waseda University Judo team, graduated
in 1925 and immediately joined the Army's Imperial Guard unit. A short
time later he received a telegram from Kano: "Your father has been looking
for a good wife for you. What sort of woman do you have in mind for a
wife?" "Less than three years later," Takasaki said, "I married his youngest
daughter Atsuko." When the first All-Japan Judo Championships were held
in 1930, 71-year-old Jigoro Kano's son-in-law, Takasaki, emerged the
Reminiscence of Nango
Prof. Kano (front row, fourth
from left) with several other jujitsu masters teaching at the
Kodokan in 1921.
Nango, 91-year-old nephew of the Shihan (Nango's mother was Kano's elder
sister), also learned Judo under Jigoro Kano. He studied Judo for eight
years and went as high as nidan. He still remembers doing randori with
the Judo master at the "Kano Juku" (dojo). In later years he
lent financial support to the Kodokan and continued his close association
with Kano right up to the time of his uncle's death.
Nango's impressions of the Shihan were of a sincere, well-mannered man
who didn't drink too much and was not especially humorous during the
times they were together. He was strict and serious when dealing with
children, Nango remembers, and attempted to be completely
fair-minded. "Keichu Tokugawa, son of a former shogun, was treated no differently
in Judo training than any of Kano's other students."
Kudo saw him as responding easily to others, not quickly angered --
an apparent contradiction to the way Takasaki recalled him. He listened
patiently to others, never interrupting them, and then won them over
to his way of thinking by logical argumentation.
Kano always fearlessly carried out what he thought was right, according
to Kudo. He was extremely generous, Kudo recalls, and opposed to killing
anything -- even insects. Dr. Morohashi viewed Kano as a person with
a many-sided personality. "He was a man of few words; once visited
a hospitalized friend and spent the entire day with him without speaking
Other things Dr. Morohashi remembers: "He used to take an umbrella
with him every day because he didn't like to worry about whether or not
it would rain. He also had the same lunch-soba (noodles) every day simply
because he hated to bother his head about such trifling matters as what
he could eat. And there were times when he was so poor that when he had
to entertain important guests at his home he first had to go to the pawnshop
and get his formal kimono out of hock."
Although Kano was a confirmed patriot he was never a nationalist of
the same ilk as Mitsuru Toyama or Morihei Uchiba. In contrast, he took
the international view and was a liberal, cut from the same cloth as
In the last few years of his life Jigoro Kano concentrated on the educational
and spiritual aspects of Judo until the systems reached a level of intellectual
and moral education as well as an athletic activity and method of combat.
Actually, he referred to Judo as a sport with the three aims of physical
education, contest proficiency and mental training. Its ultimate object
was "to perfect oneself and thus be of some use to the world around
Prof. Kano teaches a woman's
self-defense class at the Kodokan.
Kano taught kata until a very old age, sometimes demonstrating its techniques
with his assistants. His method of teaching Judo varied according to
the age and experience of the student. Although he stopped doing randori
at a much earlier age, he continued to stress it over kata. His idea
was to have the students engage in free practice and assimilate kata
Kudo once asked Kano his reaction to proposals for dividing Judoka by
weight classifications for tournament competition. Kano replied, "now
a small man can easily throw a big man, but if small men want to be classed
by weight, I'm willing to give the proposition favorable consideration."
Kano was opposed to the idea of government subsidies, but felt if the
Kodokan rejected it, other foundations would not be in a position to
receive grants. To keep from hurting the chances of other groups, he
agreed to receive a subsidy although it was quite small. The Shihan was
actually short of money and sought financial aid from the Kano clan in
The Kodokan, then located at Suidobashi, celebrated its 50th anniversary
in 1934 at an impressive ceremony held in the presence of an imperial
prince and with high-ranking members attending from all over Japan. It
was at this time Jigoro Kano presented cash gifts to the memorial plaques
of each of his departed teachers and voiced gratitude for all they had
done for him. The money eventually went to the families of those instructors.
Jigoro Kano at historic moment
of 1936 Olympics in Berlin when American Jesse Owens was awarded
a gold medal in the decathlon after defeating Germany.
As a member of the International Olympic Committee, Kano attended every
Olympic Games from the Fifth Olympiad in 1912 in Stockholm to the 1936
Olympics in Berlin, including the 10th Olympiad in Los Angeles in 1932.
Kudo asked Kano if Judo should be included in the Olympics and the Shihan
replied: "If the IOC asks Japan to include it, then Japan will consider
it." In 1913 Jigoro Kano, accompanied by Takasaki and S. Kotani, now
international secretary of the Kodokan, went to Geneva to offer Tokyo
as the site for the 12th Olympiad in 1940.
In 1935 Kano received the Asahi Prize for outstanding contributions
in the fields of art, science and sports. Three years later he went to
an IOC meeting in Cairo and succeeded in getting Tokyo nominated for
the site of the 1940 Olympics at which Judo was to be included as one
of the events for the first time.
It turned out to be the Shihan's crowning achievement although a cataclysmic
world war was to force its postponement for another quarter of a century.
On his way home from that momentous conference on board the SS Hikawa
Maru on May 4, 1938, Jigoro Kano died from pneumonia.
He was 78 years old.
Another dream, an International Judo Federation, plans for which Kano
revealed in 1933, came true in 1952. Today, more than six million persons
practice Judo in over 30 countries around the world. In October of 1969
thousands of Judo fans watched the sixth World Judo Championships in
Mexico City-vivid proof of Jigoro Kano's prophetic statement, "When I
die, Kodokan Judo will not die with me because all things can be studied
if these principles (best use of energy and mutual prosperity) are studied."