The life of Jigoro Kano

2. Jigoro, practitioner of Judo

Jigoro's introduction to Judo

Jigoro's introduction to Judo

At the age of 14, Jigoro began his dormitory life at the Ikuei Gijuku school, and he found himself forced to endure the daily tyranny and bullying of older and stronger boys.

Although Jigoro was strong scholastically, he was physically weak, and was ridiculed by both the older boys and his own classmates, and this humiliation made him yearn for physical strength.

His physical weakness again caused him embarrassment around the time when he entered the Government English School, further fueling his yearning for physical strength. It was then that he became interested in jujutsu, a martial art he had previously heard about, and he inquired about it to an acquaintance.

Jigoro's jujutsu training period

Jigoro's jujutsu training period

At the age of 15 in 1875, Jigoro's first attempt to be admitted for jujutsu training was rejected. After turning 18, Jigoro heard that many former jujutsu practitioners had become osteopathists in order to earn a living in the difficult economic times. Based on that information, Jigoro began searching for osteopathists, and his search finally led him to the clinic run by Sadanosuke Yagi who had indeed been a jujutsu practitioner. Jigoro immediately and enthusiastically requested instruction, but the elderly Yagi initially refused him. Jigoro persisted, and succeeded in conveying to the old man his burning desire to strengthen his body.

Impressed by the boy's zeal, Yagi finally relented and introduced Jigoro to another jujutsu practitioner named Hachinosuke Fukuda. Fukuda accepted him into his dojo, and Jigoro's jujutsu training then began. Fukuda's dojo represented a combination of two different schools of jujutsu: the "Yoshin ryu" and the "Shin no Shinto ryu.

When Jigoro was 19, the eighteenth president of the United States, General Ulysses Grant, visited Japan. A demonstration of Japan's martial arts was arranged to entertain the General, and the Fukuda dojo was selected as the site for the demonstration. With General Grant in the audience, Jigoro demonstrated "randori" (free sparring), and the General was much impressed by the demonstration.

Fukuda then died shortly after that event. Fukuda's family had been impressed by Jigoro's dedicated training at the dojo, and they asked him to be Fukuda's successor. Jigoro then became master of the Fukuda dojo.

To further advance his study, Jigoro then entered the "Tenjin Shinyo ryu" school under Masatomo Iso. Showing his usual dedication, he quickly earned the title of master instructor and became the assistant instructor.

Jigoro's period of Judo research

When Jigoro was 21, a group of jujutsu practitioners from the Ichimon Totsuka dojo of the Yoshin ryu school held a jujutsu demonstration at in a hall at Tokyo University. A student there at the time, Jigoro eagerly participated, and he realized for the first time that each school of jujutsu had unique strengths. This realization was the foundation of what would become "Kodokan Judo".

Masatomo Iso died the following year, and, in order to further develop jujutsu, Jigoro began to seriously study other jujutsu schools to build on the strengths he had learned from the two schools in which he'd already studied. With two of his former masters dead, Jigoro became acquainted with Masao Yamamoto, master of the Kito ryu school, and asked to become a student. Yamamoto responded by introducing Jigoro to Tsunetoshi Iikubo, and Jigoro began studying under him.

At the age of 22, in 1882, Jigoro became an instructor at Gakushuin in order to support himself, and he also opened a dojo of his own in a rented room at the Eishoji Temple. Using the money he had earned, he prepared a 12-mat dojo which he called the "Kodokan". He also changed his school from "jujutsu" to "Judo" at this time, thus beginning "Kodokan Judo". While gathering students and teaching Judo, he also began to incorporate the principles of body, mind, and character development into his Judo philosophy.

The following year, Jigoro moved his Kodokan dojo first to a Kobunkan storehouse in the Kanda district of Tokyo (Kanda-minimai Jinbou-cho), and then to another site in the Kojimachi district (Kojimachi Kaminiban-cho). All the while, he continued to draw upon knowledge gleaned from various jujutsu schools in order to perfect his own Judo methods for destabilizing and throwing an opponent. Around this time, Tsunetoshi Iikubo bestowed a Kito school license upon Jigoro, and provided him with a wealth of reference material.

Jigoro's period of Judo research

At 27, Jigoro received the patronage of a certain viscount who had a strong interest in Jigoro's Judo philosophy, and Jigoro was able to move his Kodokan dojo to a spacious site in the Fujimi district (Kudansakaue Fujimi-cho) of Tokyo. This was also the period of his most intensive study and research. Interest in the Kodokan way of destabilizing and throwing an opponent had begun to grow, and the number of people petitioning for admittance to the Kodokan dojo increased with each passing year. Students from the Kodokan dojo began participating in competitions such as the martial arts rallies held by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Dept., etc., and Kodokan Judo soon became a widely recognized name.

In 1889, while en route to Europe on an educational study tour, the 29-year-old Jigoro gave a Judo demonstration aboard ship to the mostly non-Japanese passengers while steaming across the Indian Ocean. The passengers were amazed and delighted by the ease with which a smaller man could throw a larger one, and the power of Kodokan Judo thus became known beyond Japan's shores.

In 1893, a new 100-mat Kodokan dojo was built in the Koishikawa district (Koishikawa Shimotomisaka-cho) of Tokyo. The first foreigners were admitted to this dojo, and the number of foreigners seeking formal admittance increased steadily thereafter.