Theory of the Essence of Judo

The following article is presented with the kind permission of Minoru Mochizuki Sensei, an early disciple of O-Sensei dispatched from the Kodokan in the early 1930’s by Jigoro Kano Sensei. It describes the process leading to the conversion of Judo into a sport and is quite relevant today as similar tendencies presently exist in the Aikido world.

The Bushido Code

Bujutsu implies techniques used for attack, defense, killing and causing injury. As indicated by the character “bu”, bujutsu has a moral meaning of “stopping the weapon”, that is, “stopping fighting”. Therefore, when one used martial power it was necessary to provide justification for the act. When a man unsheathed his sword for the purpose of killing someone, there was a code which absolutely required him to clarify his reasons. The basis for the reason was “bushido” (the feudal military Japanese code of behavior) in Japan, while in Western Europe knighthood, which was similar to bushido, existed. Their codes were, in short, a set of moral principles equally imposed on those who were permitted to carry weapons in public. These morals were considerably more strict than those applying to the general public. However, as a result of the abolition of the warrior class, the decree banning the wearing of swords during the Meiji Period as well as the Japan’s inability to assimilate the thought of advanced western countries and the prevailing financial chaos, it lost its bases in all fields as also occured during the confusion following World War II.

“Great Kanoism”

At that time (beginning of the Meiji Period), a young and energetic educator named Jigoro Kano Sensei began to study jujutsu for his health and out of a necessity to learn self-defense. As he progessed in his training, he realized that the techniques were highly rational (dynamically and in terms of physical relationships) and concluded that this rationality would be truly appropriate and beneficial for educating the youth of Japan which was at that time developing a culture as well as a society. Moreover, he realized that this rationality was related to Confucian ethical principles and Kano Sensei organized the three aspects of education—physical, intellectual and moral—into a completely new method of education. He decided to rename the traditional martial arts of “jujutsu” to “judo”. This was an innovation of great importance in the history of Japanese education and became the philosophy of education known as the “Great Kanoism”. Herein lies the essence of Judo. In order to adopt this philosophy more widely in academic education, Kano Sensei appealed to Sasaburo Takano Sensei, the greatest figure in the Kendo world and others, and, as in the case of Judo, succeeded in changing the name of the traditional “kenjutsu” (sword arts) to “Kendo” (sword way) as a training means for physical education and mental and moral development. He further succeeded in introducing Judo into the regular curriculum of secondary schools. This led to the unparalleled development of kenjutsu and jujutsu, under the names of Kendo and Judo which had, since the Meiji Restoration, become stagnant and in danger of disappearing. Since that time, these two “bujutsu” have come to be called “budo”. (This may be confirmed through a careful reading of the biography of Jigoro Kano and his writings published by the Kodokan.)

Emphasis on Judo as Budo

In the middle of the Taisho period (1912-1925), however, as sports began to flourish in Japan, those advocating that Judo become a sport began to increase. The main reason for this lies in the fact that it was Jigoro Kano Sensei himself who was most responsible for promoting sports in general and for guiding their development in his capacity as Olympic representative for Japan. Also he himself was a most active participant. It was, therefore, quite natural for people to think that Judo should become a sport. Furthermore, a sad event occurred where his closest disciple, Mr. Heita Okabe, who had been dispatched to Europe and America for the purpose of making an on-site inspection of the status of sports, returned to Japan an ardent believer in making Judo into a sport. The two had a serious argument which lasted all night and Okabe parted from Kano for good. This caused turmoil even in the Tokyo Koto Shihan Daigaku (present Education University) which constituted the center of support for Kano Sensei. To counter this tendency toward the transformation of Judo into a sport, Jigoro Kano Sensei persistently emphasized “Budo Judo” as a means of ducation. It was in March of 1928 when he, in further support of his views, established and supervised a research department in the Kodokan (World Judo Headquarters in Tokyo) dealing with the old martial arts forms (kobudo). Using the Otsuka Kaiunzaka Dojo (located next to Kano Sensei’s house) as the training center and, on the advice of Master Sasaro Takano, he initiated efforts to study and preserve kenjutsu and bojutsu (staff arts) as well as other generic old-style martial arts. Here, again, we can see the views of Kano Sensei on the essence of Judo at play. The only two remaining members of that study group are Mr. Yoshio Sugino, 10th dan in kobudo (old-style martial arts) of Kawasaki City and this writer, (Minoru) Mochizuki. Takasue Ito Sensei, who was at that time the chief secretary of the Kodokan, was well-versed in the situation at that time. He worked as the chief secretary for more than 30 years and was said to be Kano Sensei’s right hand. He unfortunately passed away in the fall of 1957 at the age of 94. He was a dyed-in-the-wool believer in the “Great Kanoism” and took a stand against the conversion of Judo into a sport until the end of his life. Up through 1956, he would gather together several hundred like-minded persons from an All-Japan association whose members were high-ranking judoka and lecture at length on “Judo as Budo”. (For the subsequent four years, I gave the lectures).

Efforts to stop Judo becoming sport fail

As soon as Mr. Risei Kano (son of Jigoro Kano), who had maintained a distance from the Kodokan for many years out of dislike for Judo, became the third president of the Headquarters, he initiated efforts aimed at the conversion of Judo into a sport and its promotion and acceptance as an Olympic sport. Thus, the seminars given by Ito Sensei constituted a very pathetic resistance in the face of such a movement. In order to collect large donations for the sums required to move the Kodokan from its location near Suidobashi and to erect the new structure in its present site, chief secretary Mr. Ito, Master Kyuzo Mifune and Juzo Kudo Sensei visited Mr. Matsutaro Shoriki (a Judo player from Sanko School and an ardent believer in Kanoism) on many occassions. Mr. Shoriki was heavily involved in newspaper activities in both the political and financial worlds and he was finally persuaded to cooperate with the plan. The condition Mr. Shoriki set down was to the effect that the monies he donated be used to stop the movement to convert Judo into a sport and to re-establish “Budo Judo”. However, upon completion of the new Kodokan, Mr. Shoriki found that the Kodokan was actually attempting to create the impression that they were in favor of Judo as a self-defense art when in fact they were continuing their efforts to promote the conversion of Judo into a sport. He became inflamed with anger. (A bust of the “angry” Mr. Shoriki can be seen in front of the Kodokan.) This series of events led to the construction of the Budokan (large sports arena located in central Tokyo used especially for martial arts events) in Kudanshita, to which he devoted himself with an almost abnormal intensity. The Budokan holds consultative meetings for the promotion of the traditional martial arts and has a budo research association.

It is probably the case that, as with the eternal development of mankind, sports will never disappear. Those of us who are practitioners of budo are without exception devotees of sport. Sports are the celebration of both technique and physical power. They are the manifestation of the fighting instinct and life energy of humankind. However, despite the fact that the order of sports is based on the morality of European knighthood, the rapid degeneracy of this ethic has recently come under criticism. At the same time, the commercialization and politicization of the Olympics have become more conspicuous and loud cries have been raised in favor of the games being returned to Greece. Furthermore, the crime rate among juvenile delinquents rises in proportion to the popularity of sports. This fact has darkened the world of sports which has adopted European knighthood as its standard.

Originality of Japanese Budo accepted among Europeans

On the contrary, it is quite ironic that the originality of Japanese budo has been increasingly accepted among Europeans, although it is my belief that they too frequently overvalue budo as an expression of the bushido spirit. In the past when we (Japan) lost the Judo championship for the first time in an international competition, excited foreigners ran up to the mat. However, the victor, Anton Geesink raised his left hand while still pinning the loser Kaminaga under his right arm and stopped them ordering them not to approach. A photo of him taken at that moment was distributed all over the world. I believe that this was a marvelous expression of the budo spirit. Another peculiar phenomenon is that when Judo practitioners who have grown up with the sport return from several years travelling for some particular reason in Europe and America, their manner and attitude changes completely as if by common consent and they behave more like budoka (martial arts practitioners). They even come back manifesting a strong interest in budo other than Judo.

This is proof that it is only Japan which promotes the conversion of Judo into a sport whereas Europe and America promote “Judo as budo”. This is probably because foreigners have been frequently exposed in their countries to situations in which traditional jujutsu is actively practiced which is something of a tragicomedy. Judo is a great innovation as a means of education for fostering both mind and body, but it is after all a “budo” and we should carefully reflect on Jigoro Kano Sensei’s strict admonition against the conversion of Judo into a sport. There are three elements involved in sports: “physical power, development of technique, and the enjoyment of winning and losing”. Budo is a means for cultivating the intellect, virtue and courage and for seeking social justice using the above three elements and these techniques having a direct bearing on life. This leads one to an enlightenment characterized by a clear understanding of one’s view of life.

(Translated by Ikuko Kimura and Stanley Pranin)

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