Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The origins of Judo

About 25 years ago I wrote an article about how Judo was started I have been asked to reproduce the article, sorry to say I have lost the original so I will start again.

My main concern was the age of  Jigaro Kano when he started this new concept of Judo. According to The Life of Jigoro Kano Kano never started any form of Martial Art till he was 18 years of age; at the age of 22 years he started his new School and style called Judo. Now this is where I have a problem. I have taught young people for over 40 years some of them extremely intelligent but for them to come up with a completely unique idea takes some believing. So am I calling the followers of Kano Judo liars? NO I just question was it a completely new concept?

Once again the above web site states that at the age of 14 years he started to pursue Western Studies. Geoff Gleeson in his pamphlet
“The Life, Times & Ideology of Jigaro Kano, Founder of Judo 1860-1938”
Asked, what is a code of behaviour?

Kano, in his capacity as a professional educationalist was much involved with these questions. He invented Judo in an attempt to answer them.

During the Meiji period which Kano was born into, the whole structure of Government and civil society was based around Western ideals and philosophy; according to Gleeson, Kano would have been very influenced by English Philosophers like John Stuart Mill and Samuel Smiles.

Could a young Kano who was into Morality and codes of behaviour not try to develop a practical system of instilling this into the Japanese people or maybe it was a university project, which directed him this way? Once again by going back to the web site you will see how Kano benefited by studying Martial Arts and other sports also his full time job was in physical education. So he already knew the benefits of sport and as Gleeson suggested he invented Judo because of this.

Up until now I do not have a problem with history or rather the legend of Jigaro Kano; what I do question is how he supposedly invented Judo?
The established belief is that he studied Jiu Jitsu and took all the really dangerous techniques out of the art to invent his Judo. This I cannot accept for we already have seen he was into English philosophy, which was diametrically opposed to that of the more traditional Japanese martial arts like Jiu Jitsu, which was seen more as a self defence or attacking war like system.

I would suggest he wanted to develop a new moral and ethical system on the lines of the philosophers and Western ideas he studied; he must have realised that to get this to be accepted by the Japanese people he had to produce a system which the Japanese could understand, hence a combat form as opposed to a Western form like baseball, football, rugby etc. which, though accepted in modern Japan, may not have been acceptable to a feudal Japanese population; plus did they understand the English idea of “Playing the Game” or “Taking Part being important”, I doubt it.

This is where I suggest that the basic idea of Judo could have come from CORNISH WRESTLING. Japan was in a state of flux during the period when Kano was born, the influence of the Europeans was predominant and there was massive trade with the European Countries. So could a young Jigaro Kano have been watching the foreign ships come into port?
Could he not have seen a British ship coming in from Plymouth and then watched the sailors fighting on the beach? Fighting, yet not fighting? Maybe he was watching two Cornish sailors having a bout of Cornish wrestling, two men with cloth jackets grappling, each trying to defeat the other, yet when the fight finished they shook hands, maybe put their arms around each other and laughed; two combatants who were not injured and remained friends.

Maybe he thought this is something I can work on for my new concepts I want to put to the Japanese people.

So what of Cornish wrestling? It is claimed they have evidence that it was played in the 4th Century, what is certain is that Cornish wrestlers were depicted on banners at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 AD. Watch this video  to get some idea what Cornish Wrestling is, some say it is the oldest form of wrestling in the World.

This type of wrestling is not unusual, throughout the world; there are many countries that have similar styles, for example, Mongolian Bokh,
Georgian Chidoba, Uzbekistani Kurash, Celtic Wrestling, Canaries Lucha plus many others. Nearly all only allow holding above the waist and no ground work when competing; notice the use of the word competing.

When Judo first started ground fighting was not used and legend has it that Kano took his Judo Players to a Jiu Jitsu School where they were all beaten by ground fighting; he then decided to include ground work (Ne Waza) in his Judo; a nice story. Yet it was more probable that it was a natural progression of the way Judo developed; Kano obviously an intelligent man could see that on many occasions when doing a throw they would fall to the floor so why stop the match? Plus remember he still had to convince people that this was a fighting art.

I really love Sambo, a Russian Jacket Sport, very similar to Judo. In fact its founder, Oshchepkov, studied Judo under Kano. The reason I love competition Sambo is that it allows many more techniques then Judo Competition; in fact I would suggest it is more like what Kano expected of his Judo.

Yet Judo is superior to all the other grappling martial arts in that it has kata. This is a predetermined set of movements which are performed by two people with the ultimate goal of gaining perfection of technique, harmonising with another person and respecting them, with the ultimate aim of becoming a form of moving meditation. Some will argue that it has no relationship to competitive Judo; that may be true but does that matter?  What makes Judo so different? It is not just a jacket grappling sport, it is the SUPPLE WAY developed by a great thinker: Jigaro Kano.

It is reported that Kano quoted the following: “Judo in reality is not a mere sport or game. I regard it as a principle of life, art and science. In fact, it is a means for personal cultural attainment”

Not a bad way to live your life

Martin Clarke 8th Dan Judo 6th Dan Jiu
Jitsu FIAS Sambo Grand Master

For more information on Sambo visit: http://www.britishsombo.co.uk/ Contact Martin Clarke at sombogb@blueyonder.co.uk

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