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The “Gentle Way” of Judo – History

Judo is a martial art that was born in Japan, and it is now known around the world as an Olympic sport. Judo was established in 1882 by combining jujitsu, a form of wrestling, with mental discipline. The roots of jujitsu lie in sumo, which has a long, long history; sumo is mentioned in the Nihon Shoki (Chronicle of Japan), a document from 720 that describes the history of Japan from the mythical age of the gods until the time of Empress Jito, who reigned from 686 to 697.

Early Origin of Judo

From the twelfth to the nineteenth century Japan was ruled by the samurai, a class of professional soldiers. This provided fertile ground for various martial arts to develop. In addition to fighting with swords and bows and arrows, the samurai developed jujitsu to fight enemies at close quarters on the battlefield. Several different styles of jujitsu/jujutsu, a Japanese martial art and a method of close combat for defeating an armed and armored opponent in which one uses no weapon or only a short weapon, evolved. Hand-to-hand combat spread as an important form of military training.

The Father of Judo, Jigoro Kano

The early history of judo is inseparable from its founder, Japanese polymath and educator Dr. Jigoro Kano (嘉納 治五郎, 1860–1938), born Shinnosuke Kano (嘉納 新之助), also known as the Father of Judo. Kano was born into a relatively affluent family. His father, Jirosaku, was the second son of the head priest of the Shinto Hiyoshi shrine in Shiga Prefecture. He married Sadako Kano, daughter of the owner of Kiku-Masamune sake brewing company and was adopted by the family, changing his name to Kano, and ultimately became an official in the Bakufu government (shogunate).

Kano_Jigoro

Kano Jigoro, The Father of Judo. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Kano excelled in schoolwork but had an inferiority complex about his small physique. So he became an apprentice of Yanosuke Fukuda, a master of the Tenjin Shin’yo School of Jujitsu, when he was 17 and worked to become stronger. In May 1882, when he was just 21 years old, he took the best things about each jujitsu style and created a single new school. This was the birth of modern judo.

In February 1882, Kano founded a school and dojo at the Eisho-ji (永昌寺?), a Buddhist temple in what was then the Shitaya ward of Tokyo (now the Higashi Ueno district of Taitō ward).[13] Iikubo, Kano’s Kitō-ryū instructor, attended the dojo three days a week to help teach and, although two years would pass before the temple would be called by the name Kodokan (講道館 Kōdōkan, “place for expounding the way”), and Kano had not yet received his Menkyo (免許, certificate of mastery) in Kitō-ryū, this is now regarded as the Kodokan founding.

Spread of Judo Outside Japan

Kano went to Europe in 1889 to introduce judo outside of Japan. A famous episode occurred aboard a ship during his voyage: When a foreigner made fun of Kano, he threw the man down but put his hand under the man’s head to prevent him from getting hurt. This illustrated how judo combined practical fighting techniques with thoughtfulness for one’s enemy. Kano always maintained a global point of view, serving as a member of the International Olympic Committee, and worked tirelessly to spread judo around the world.

References:

1. Judo. Wikipedia.

2. The History of Judo. Web-Japan.

3. Featured Image from AC-Illust

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