Historia de judo

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Jigoro Kano was born on October 28th, 1860 in the village of Mikage located close to Kobe. He was the third son of Jerosaku Kano, a merchant in shipping equipment. At the age of 11 Jigoro moved with his family to Japan’s capitol Tokyo. Here, at the age of 17, he enrolled in the Imperial University where he got a degree in economical and political sciences.

Since he knew that a job in the political area would be unsatisfactory, he transferred to the pedagogic faculty. After obtaining his degree he taught philosophy a year later.

He worked himself up from teacher to professor and finally vice-president of the school for the nobility.

Jigoro Kano was a small and frail man, even for a Japanese. Several of his less civilized fellow students made themselves heard by being rough and using brute force. The small and silent Jigoro Kano was one of their favorite victims. The frail student was however to self-conscious to let himself be walked over without any kind of resistance. An iron will resided in him with the characteristics of a steel spring, resisting more when put under greater stress, but never breaking.

Jigoro had to find some way that would enable him to fight his assailants on equal terms, and win. He found what he was looking for.

First acquaintance with Judo

Purely by coincidence he learned of JuJitsu, introduced to him to be a means for a small man as himself to fight of a giant of an opponent. At that time Jigoro Kano took the decision to learn JuJitsu to perfection. Because of the decline in JuJitsu education most schools were however empty and abandoned leaving many JuJitsu teachers no other choice than to find a job elsewhere. It was therefore not easy to find a good teacher but, at the age of 18, he found Teinosuke Yagi who taught him the first principles. Through mediation of Teinsuke Yagi, Jigoro Kano came into contact with Hachinosuke Fukuda, principal of the Tensjo-Shinyo school. Hachinosuke Fukuda was a very noble person from whom Jigoro Kano learned a lot. On his turn Hachinosuke Fukuda had a great sympathy for his pupil, manifesting itself in leaving all school scriptures to Jigoro, after Hachinosuke Fukuda’s death in 1879.

Hachinosuke Fukuda’s successor was Iso, at that time already 64 years of age, but still incredibly strong and flexible. Jigoro Kano had the utmost respect for Iso and later testified: “Never did I see a more beautiful posture than that of my teacher Iso”. Like Fukuda before him, Iso left the school scriptures to Jigoro Kano upon his death in 1881.

In that same year Jigoro Kano became a student of Jikubo, head of the Kito School. The technique of this school was more complicated and often difficult to understand. However, after 1 year Jikubo had to confess to Jigoro Kano that he could teach him nothing more.

Beginning of Kodokan

In 1882, at the age of 22, Jigoro Kano opened his own school in Tokio named KODOKAN.

“Kodo” means “proclaiming the truth” and “Kan” means “gathering”. Teaching came naturally to Jigoro and in the name of his school he mentioned his goal.

He taught Jujitsu according to his own beliefs, which was based on the wisdom of his teachers but yet again very different. Full of energy and with a strong will he pursued his eagerness to learn new things.

Sometimes traveling for days visiting other teachers he learned the secrets from other Jujitsu schools and improve his own techniques. In the end Jigoro Kano reached a height unheard of in Judo in those days.

The Kodokan was originally located in four rooms of the Eishoji temple. The largest of the rooms, 4 by 6 meters was used as Dojo (i.e. practice room).


In the first year Jigoro Kano only had 9 pupils. Today the Kodokan has a Dojo, which is almost 45 times larger (± 1100 square meters). Millions of pupils, both male and female from a wide variety of nationalities, have visited the Kodokan-dojo to date.

In his first school Jigoro Kano lived together with his pupils. He was unmarried at that time and had a servant taking care of the household. After one year already the school was too small and had to move to a larger venue. The mat was laid down in one of the halls of the Institute for English literature studies, political sciences and economy of which Jigoro Kano in the mean while had become the principal.

Judo, a mission

As of 1884 pupils had to take some vows before being admitted to the school. From the beginning onward Jigoro Kano has used Judo as an educational means and not just as useful passing of time. The following are the five most well known vows:

  1. Now that I have decided to devote myself to Judo I shall not stop practicing this form of art without due cause.

  2. I shall never disgrace the reputation of the Dojo by my personal behavior.

  3. I shall never reveal secrets to outsiders and I shall not subscribe to another school unless absolutely necessary.

  4. I shall not teach Judo without consulting, and receiving permission from, my teacher.

  5. For the rest of my life I shall respect the rules of the Kodokan.

The Kodokan progressed swiftly, although not without the usual difficulties and obstructions. The School was well known in the entire city, but was continuously the subject of strange stories. Rumors spread of an entirely new concept and way of teaching. Stories were told of Jigoro Kano’s strange ideals and chants. The practical results of the Kodokan were viewed with suspicion and contempt. Hikosuke Totsuka, an old Jujitsu teacher who had reopened his School, new no contempt for Jigoro and his Kodokan. That is why a lively competition existed between the two Schools and sometimes more than that.

Decisive battle

he Tokio city police had developed an interest in Judo and thus for the different Schools this art was taught. In 1886, under the supervision of the Police Dept, a tournament was organized between the various Schools, in particular between the Schools of Jigoro Kano and Hikosuke Totsuka. It would be a decisive battle. The system that best suited the wishes of the Ministry would be officially recognized by the Ministry and would be taught on all Schools. Defeat would mean the end of the Kodokan. Both Jigoro Kano and Hikosuke Totsuka send their fifteen best pupils to the tournament. The Kodokan turned out to be the undisputed victor with thirteen matches won and two undecided. The tournament once and for all made clear that Kodokan, also concerning its practical use, was number one in the world of Judo.

To date policemen in Tokio practice every day on Jigoro Kano’s mat. In 1887, at the age of 27, Jigoro Kano finalized his technical manual. It would take until he was 62 however, before he deemed the ideal of Judo to have grown far enough that he dared to put his thoughts to paper.
Spreading outside of Japan

In 1889 Jigoro Kano left Japan to tour Europe. He wanted to learn about Western educational methods and at the same time promote his Judo, which had already been introduced in Japan as an obligatory class. Around 1890, at the request of several high British naval authorities, a demonstration in Judo was given for some 60 naval attaches. The spectators were enthusiastic and became the first goodwill ambassadors in Europe.

All over Japan subdivisions of the Kodokan emerged. The Japanese military command opened Schools for the soldiers.

The spread of Jigoro Kano’s ideas steadily continued. One of his best pupils was sent to America in 1903 where he opened a School, which in no time rose to immense popularity. President Theodore Roosevelt was among those to visit the School. At the Kodokan they still keep the letters of gratitude to Jigoro Kano from the president.

Up to1909 Jigoro Kano had used all his own income from teaching, giving lectures as well as doing translation and correctional work on his pupils. Due to the high number of pupils he could no longer afford to continue to do this. He therefore charged submission fees for new pupils as well as exam fees. In 1909 Jigoro Kano also took a seat on the Olympic Committee, which he kept until his death.

Western European branches of Kodokan were established after 1938. Professor Koizumi was send to England by Jigoro Kano, where he opened a Judo School in London known by the name Budokai. Professor Hanno Rhi left for Germany and from there to Switzerland. Professor Kawaishi was assigned France to work in. Judo as taught in The Netherlands is according to the system of this Professor Kawaishi.

Jigoro Kano; the last years

In 1932, on top of all his other activities, Jigoro Kano also took on the position of Minister of Physical Education. One year later he could afford to open a new Kodokan. He kept on teaching till the end of his life and could be found on the mat of the Dojo or smaller practice halls almost daily even though his health left much to be desired.
Since the School was founded it has had over 119,000 pupils of which more than 85,000 with the black belt whom had taken the master exam.

In 1938 he attended the congress held in Cairo, to prepare for the next Olympics. It was his triumph that these Olympics were to be held in Japan. By way of America he embarked on a boat that would take him back to Japan. He would however, not set eyes on his motherland again. When he embarked he had a fever as a result of flu. His body did not have the strength anymore to fight the pneumonia he caught on top of that on May 3rd. On May 4th, 6.30 A.M Jigoro Kano passed away quietly and at ease.

Because his son was still too young, managing the Kodokan was entrusted to one of the presidents, Nango Jiro. In 1946 he stepped down to have Risei Kano, son of the founder of modern Judo Jigoro Kano, take over.