How Was Judo Started?

Martin Clarke – 20/1/1950

I have been involved in Judo and other forms of Combat since the age of about 7 so a total of 58 years But why am I still involved I have a knee and hip replacement all because of Judo, plus I have problems with my hands because of arthritic damage to the elbows due to Judo? Many ask I bet you hate that Judo, Sombo etc? Well no I have gained a lot competed at a reasonable level, coached to a reasonable level, met many people from all over the World, Managed several organisations, made a few shillings but is that the reason why I am still involved Maybe? yet I believe the answer lies at the end of this article in a statement made by Jigaro Kano.

How Was Judo Started

Several Decades 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 started this new concept of Judo. According to this article on The Life of Jigaro 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 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 take some believing. So am I calling the follows of Kano Judo liars NO I just question was it a completely new concept.

Once again the above web site above 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” quoted  “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 around Western ideals and philosophy and according to Gleeson, Kano would have 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 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 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 the philosophy of English philosophers, which were 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 are accepted in modern Japan I have doubts whether that type of sport would be accepted by a still feudal Japanese population plus did they understand the English idea of “Playing the Game” or “Taking Part being important” I doubt it.

This where I suggest that the basic idea of Judo could have come from CORNISH WRESTLING. It is mentioned earlier Japan was in a state of flux at this period when Kano was born the influence of the Europeans was predominant and the there was massive trade with the European Countries. So could a young Jigaro Kano not 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 2 Cornish Sailors having a bout of Cornish Wrestling, two men with cloth jackets grappling with each trying to defeat the other, yet when the fight finished they shook hand 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 4thCentury what is certain that Cornish Wrestlers were depicted on banners at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 AD. Go to this will give you 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 through out the World there are many countries who have similar styles for example in Mongolia Bokh, Georgian Chidoba, Uzbekistani Kurash, Celtic Wrestling, Canaries Lucha plus many others. Nearly all only allow holding above the waste 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 Jiu Jitsu School and they were all beaten by ground fighting he then decided to include groundwork  (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 it 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 to what Kano expected of his Judo

Yet Judo is more superior to all the other Grappling, Martial Arts in that it has Kata. This is a predetermined set of movements which is performed by two people with ultimate goal of gaining perfection, harmony of working with another person and respecting another person 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?  That 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 (Budo) in reality is not a mere sport or game. I regard it as a principle of life, art, science. In fact, it is a means for personal cultural attainment

Not a bad way to live your life.

Martin Clarke – 2015
8th Dan Judo 6th Dan Jiu Jitsu FIAS Sambo Grand Master Founder CombatSombo