Judo Home Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7Part 8Part 9Part 10KanoMifune













Jigoro Kano's Gi,
on display at 
the Kodokan 


Part 8: Kodokan becomes an organization

In 1893, Kano was finally able to realize the building of a Kodokan expressly for the purpose of Judo training at Fujimi-cho district of Tokyo. This brought on new responsibilities, so in 1894, the Kodokan Council was set up to administer Kodokan Judo. His educational committments were taking their toll on his ability to devote time to both administrative and technical matters in Judo. Kano's keen interest in technical matters continued. Kodokan developed its grappling arts, with the defender in a face up position, rather than face down in most ju jitsu. This gave the defender multiple opportunities for defense, and reflected Kano's study of Western grappling styles. He lengthened the sleeves and pantlegs of Judo practice uniforms in 1907 to improve control and safety.

The Kyu-Dan system was also developed for Kodokan Judo. Ju jitsu styles either had no rank at all, or rank systems identified by varying grades of teacher certification, roughly corresponding to "beginning teacher," "advanced teacher," and so forth. Kano, the modern educator, saw little organization or incentive for students to learn an organized curriculum of techniques, and little recognition of advanced students as teachers, or teachers as advanced students. Non-black belt grades, then, reflected a hierarchy of technical skills to the point where one might be considered to have mastered a sufficient foundation of Judo to be considered, finally, a true student of Judo: this was a first Dan, or black belt, rank. At first consisting of three white belt, three brown belt, and three black belt grades, the system gradually expanded to encompass genuine colored belts, such as yellow and green, and ten Dan ranks. 

Kano never claimed a rank in Judo, and was recognized by his students as an authentic founder. After his death, Kodokan recognized him with an honorary and unique grade of 12th Dan. As a founder, he could not be traditionally ranked with the system of his founding. Kano usually wore a wide white belt, although he wears an old black belt in some photographs. In these photographs, it is not clear if he was intending to wear a Judo black belt, or a black belt of one of the ju jitsu styles of which he was master.

During these early years, Kano's chief assistant was Yoshiaki Yamashita. Yamashita was five years younger than Kano, and had begun practicing Kodokan Judo in 1884. He was a formidable fighter. He had mastered Yoshin Ryu ju jitsu as well as Tenshin shinyo Ryu ju jitsu, and brought these strengths to the Kodokan. 

Kano himself had always preferred the standing throwing techniques. He knew the importance of grappling, but his personal preference was in the more elegant and philosophical standing techniques he had learned and developed from the Kito Ryu. This was shown when Kano systematized the important techniques of Judo in 1895 into the Gokyo no Waza, which contained only throwing techniques.

 In 1900, the Kodokan suffered a school defeat in a contest with Fusen Ryu ju jitsu. Fusen Ryu specialized in ne waza or grappling techniques, and this specialty carried the day. Typically, Kano persuaded Fusen Ryu's headmaster, Mataemon Tanabe, to reveal the core syllabus to Kano, and Kano sought out a similar style Jikishin Ryu ju jitsu to incorporate its techniques into the Kodokan syllabus. From this point on, Kodokan Judo began a trend toward ne waza.   

In 1906, the Kodokan again moved to new facilities as a result of a rapidly expanding student enrollment. The Shimotomisaka Kodokan nearly doubled the workout area to 207 tatami, about 335 square meters.

The Kodokan was made an official foundation in 1909, and in 1911, the Judo Teacher's Training Department was organized. In 1908, Kano became the first Oriental member of the International Olympic Committee, and in 1911, Kano founded the Japan Amateur Athletic Association. In that same year, both Judo and Kendo were put into the Japanese school system.(1) In this decade, as ju jitsu gradually faded from Japanese culture, Kano felt a desire to try and preserve as much of the old styles as he could. Kano, like Isaac Newton, appreciated that for all of his own contributions, he had indeed stood on the shoulders of giants, themselves preservers and transmitters of ancient concepts. Without them, there was no Judo.

So Kano became a historian in addition to his other accomplishments. As historian Donn Draeger put it, Kano built a monument to the old styles of Japan, and to his old instructors to whom he owed so much, "in the form of Kodokan Judo Kata." Judo kata is distinguished from the kata forms of other martial styles in its purpose of recording historical and philosophical aspects of its Budo heritage.1

The Kodokan became a repository of historical and technical information. Kano himself had studied Seigo Ryu, and Yagyu Ryu,  as well as his Kito Ryu and Tenshin shinyo Ryu. Tenshin shinyo Ryu was, itself, a fushion of Yoshin Ryu and Shin No Shindo Ryu ju jitsu. In addition, Yoshin Ryu was Yasmashita's specialty. Tenshinshinyo Ryu incorporated striking, throwing, holding, and choking techniques as well as joint locks and aiki-type movements. Training also included study of eighteen battlefield weapons.

Later, Takeuchi Ryu masters participated in the construction of the Kodokan syllabus. Takeuchi Ryu itself was a derivative of Daito Ryu. As Daito Ryu itself evolved into subsequent arts, Kano sent students such as Mochizuki to Sokaku Takeda and Kenji Tomiki to Morihei Ueshiba to bring back developments.

In 1912, Kano called together the remaining leader masters of Ju Jitsu to finalize a Kodokan syllabus of training and kata. Aoyagi of Sosusihis Ryu, Takano, Yano, Kotaro Imei and Hikasuburo Ohshima participated from Takeuisi Ryu. Jushin Sekiguchi and Mogichi Tsumizu participated from  Sekiguchi Ryu, Eguchi from Kyushin Ryu, and Hoshino from Shiten Ryu, Inazu from Miura Ryu. Takamatsu, a Kukkishin Ryu expert, had worked with Kano on weapons, at which Kano was a recognized expert, and contributed his favorite personal technique of hiza guruma, which remains a popular Judo competition technique.(2)

In 1914, the All Japan Special High School  championships were started at Kyoto Imperial University. These championships emphasized the trend toward newaza or grappling techniques, and the schools that participated became so proficient at this approach that they earned for it the name "Kosen Judo" or grappling Judo. This form of Judo was becoming so predominant that by 1925 Kano began to see throwing techniques as disappearing from the syllabus of effective Judo skills. Judo rules were changed to specifically require that all techniques had to begin from a tachi waza or standing throwing technique, and that further, if a competitor pulled his opponent down without such an effort, the opponent would be declared the automatic winner. However, Kano understood the proficiency of Kosen Judo, and saw a need for specialists to be encouraged in its development, and so the Seven Universities Tournament, which continues in  Japan to this day, has been exempt from this 1925 Kodokan rule change. The Kosen Judo students represented an elite, and it was considered shameful to tap or declare maitta, surrender. A choke or an armbar would have to continue to its inevitable conclusion. (3) Those modern derivatives of Judo, Gracie Ju Jitsu and Sambo, show the effect of both this technical approach and attitude, which is not remarkable since the founding instructors of both styles learned Judo during this pre-1925 period.

In 1922 the Kodokan Dan Grade Holder's Association was formed, followed in 1932, the Judo Medical Research Society.


A lecture by Jigoro Kano
 at the Shimotomisaka Kodokan

Kano meets with leading
 JuJitsu masters to 
formalize Kodokan Kata