The life of Jigoro Kano

4. Jigoro, educator of the body

Heightening physical education consciousness

Physical education to many students by Judo

From his youth, Jigoro had engaged in a number of sports in order to strengthen his body, and he was a tireless advocate of physical education to students. Based on the philosophy that both physical and mental strength are important components in the formation of a superior individual, Jigoro found that Judo was an excellent way to teach this principle to students.

In preparation for Japan's first participation in the Olympics, Japan's first national athletic association (Dai Nippon Athletic Association [Japanese Society of Physical Education]) was assembled in 1911, and the 50-year-old Jigoro was appointed as its head. In this capacity, Jigoro worked to assemble the Japanese team members.

In order to raise the country's awareness of physical education and instill in the general populace an excitement about sports, athletes from all over Japan were invited to try out for the Olympic team.

Jigoro was subsequently appointed honorary chairman of the Dai Nippon Athletic Association in 1921, when he was 61.

"Kodokan" becomes the gateway to Judo success

Requests for Judo instructors from the United States

With the aim of increasing physical strength, improving character, and contributing the development of Judo, Jigoro had trained many in his Kodokan way. He'd also studied the subject ceaselessly, and had performed extraordinary keiko (training) feats such as engaging in randori (free sparring) against 30 opponents. As the students who had studied under him became active in various parts of the country, Judo came to be seen as an integral part of a person's education, and was adopted by schools.

Moreover, the foreign students who had come to Japan to study Judo carried the message back to their own countries, and requests for Judo instructors began to arrive from the United States. Jigoro responded by sending high-ranking practitioners, eager to support the spread of Judo around the world.

Jigoro is the first Olympic Committee member from Asia

Jigoro is the first Olympic Committee member from Asia

In 1909, Jigoro was invited by Japan's ambassador from France to become a member of the International Olympic Committee. Baron de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, had asked the ambassador to find a suitable person for this post, and on hearing that this was the wish of Baron de Coubertin, Jigoro accepted the honor of being the committee's first Asian member. Jigoro was 49 at the time, and he continued as an IOC member until the age of 77.

Olympic Games in which Jigoro participated as an IOC member
  • 1912, age 51 / 5th Olympiad in Stockholm, Sweden (first participation).
  • 1920, age 59 / 7th Olympiad in Antwerp, Belgium.
  • 1928, age 67 / 9th Olympiad in Amsterdam, Holland.
  • 1932, age 71 / 10th Olympiad in Los Angeles, USA.
  • 1936, age 76 / 11th Olympiad in Berlin, Germany.