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History - Kodokan vs other Jujutsu Schools - Myths and Legends

"Historical material is scarce and unknowns are many. So dreams and legends have spread." - Murata Naoki, Kodokan's chief archivist.

Quick facts:

1.) Jujutsu at the time was considered brutal and barbaric and had a bad reputation. School vs school contests were common and these were known to be brutal.

2.) Kano, the founder of Judo, was an educator and wanted Judo to be an educational development of Jujutsu. (He emphasized Judo as a self defense system creating a pathway towards peace and universal harmony. Kano always considered Judo a form of, and a development of, Jujutsu.)

3.) Kano's school was not the only one to emphasize 'Randori' live training. Infact he got Randori from the Jujutsu schools he trained in.

4.) One of the most successful and feared school at the time was the 'Totsuka-Ha Yoshin Ryu' which was recorded to have bested Kano's school. Two of the other famed champions at the time were Samura Masahara of the 'Takenouchi-ryu' and Nakamura Hansuke of the 'Ryoi Shinto-ryu'.

5.) The most notable 'ne-waza' (ground techniques) expert at the time was Mataemon Tanabe. He was the fourth Headmaster of 'Fusen Ryu Jujutsu', although Fusen Ryu does not include Ne-Waza. He is famed to have defeated the Kodokan practitioners by going directly to the ground since the Kodokan system at the time was almost entirely stand-up based. Kano was not in favour of ne-waza. (The most famed Dojo that was considered expert on Ne-waza was the Handa Dojo in Osaka, headed by Yataro Handa and it is said that there was a connection between Mataemon Tanabe and the Handa Dojo.)

6.) Other Jujutsu schools also created their own techniques for their Randori training and contests.

7.) The influence of 'modern' styles of Jujutsu (Jiu-Jitsu / Ju-Jitsu) of today mostly comes from the era before the official formation of Kodokan Judo. Kano absorbed much of this into his Kodokan system. He had a great political influence at the time.

8.) Some of Kano's best recruits were already highly trained Jujutsu-ka.  

9.) The term 'Judo' was already in use by other Jujutsu schools before Kano's school.


More Information and Sources:

The new edition of Ellis Amdur's book, "Old School" deals with this issue. There is a diary of a German doctor and professor that survives and has been translated and published that covers the time period and tells of all of Kano's students and Kano himself being bested by the students of Totsuka from Chiba. "Awakening Japan" by Erwin Baelz, who also studied Jikishinkage ryu with Sakakibara around 1880.

Doug Walker - E-Budo


It is possible that subsequent to the initial matches that Baelz writes about, that Kano read and never objected to, by the way, that there were subsequent matches. The best research in this area is by Jonathan Zwicker, who has scoured newspapers and other 19th century documents, trying to find some reference to these famous matches. He writes:  "Murata Naoki, the Kodokan's chief archivist, was interviewed about this earlier this year in a newspaper and said: "historical material is scarce and unknowns are many. So dreams and legends have spread." "In terms of the police match, the earliest mention I can find is 1916. At this point, very little detail is given. Yamashita is said to have fought Teurshima and not to have been defeated by him and Saigō is said to have fought Kōchi and though he was thrown repeatedly by this much larger opponent eventually stopped him with his yama-arashi."He has an interesting theory about this, regarding judo's repeated losses to catch-wrestler, Ad Santel: "But then in the teens problems start to emerge

I don’t think its any accident that in exactly the same issue of Jūdō in which the first mention of the Totsuka match is made there is a long article ‘explaining’ Itō Tokugorō’s loss to Ad Santel. As Joe hinted at, the Itō-Santel match plays an important role in jūdō’s self identity. So a crisis in jūdō’s efficacy is met with a story about how jūdō… works! . . . I’ve come to view the Santel matches (in Tokyo) as an attempt to literally enact jūdō’s triumph over other ‘ryū’ (and these matches were also called ‘tarū shiai’) for the Japanese public except the whole thing fell apart. . . . But then we get to 1927 and Kanō’s ‘jūdō memoirs’ or at least the interviews on which they are based. And for the first time (that I can find) we get a much more detailed account of the Totsuka matches. Detailed in some respects, hazy in others. No longer are we certain of the year but all kinds of other details are filled in. And then from there it picks up steam.

Yamashita himself publishes a story about the matches in a boy’s magazine –- illustrated by the guy who did the illustrations for Yoshikawa Eiji’s Miyamoto Musashi. Then Tomita Tsuneo begins writing the first of a number of versions of this legend that would culminate in the Sugata Sanshirō novels and the Kurosawa films."Zwicker's work is much more extensive - most of it was lost in the defunct version of E-judo - he's got some very interesting things to say about the rise of the myth of Saigo Shiro having learn Daito-ryu, which seems to have been created in the late 1920's as a response to Ueshiba Morihei suddenly appearing in Tokyo like the ghost of budo-past, presenting all the esoteric things Kano claimed to have abandoned.

Ellis Amdur - E-Budo


There are two major sources that be considered as responsible for the popularity of this myth. The first one is the book "Sugata Sanshiro" written by TOMITA Tsuneo (followed by the movies from Kurosawa), the son of Tomita Tsunejiro, Kano´s first student and the bilingual (english-french) Judo magazine published by the Kodokan Magazine in the early sixties of the last century.The editorial says:"That some Judokas, amongst those really interested in it, know nothing or very little of the origins and the history of their art is almost unbelievable. However, that is the truth. They are not in fault for uptill now absolutely nothing existed on the beginnings of Judo and its story up to our days. Our review "JUDO KODOKAN" has now and then given facts, dates, and some anecdotes but spread over several numbers in a rather brief form. We have united in this special number a whole series of articles that have appeared over severel years in the Japanese review. Thus our readers will have the pleasure of reading the history of Judo in one go and be able to keepit on their bookshelves."

The above assertion seems very odd since there had already been a large number of works dealing with Judo´s early history and creation at the beginning of the twentieth century, two written by Kano´s early student Arima Sumihoto (Judo -Tai-i in december 1904 translated in english in 1908 under the title "Judo - Japanese physical culture" and the legendary Yokoyama Sakujiro (Judo probably written around 1909 and translated into english in 1914 by one HORIGUCHI Yamakichi) . Another great book broaching the subject is the master piece written by a British gentleman E.J Harrison "The fighting spirit of Japan".

The Judo magazine relies heavilly on Tomita´s novel Sugata Sanshiro and deals mostly with the alledged "Dojo Yaburi" times prior the Police tournament. Of course the Judokas always won the encounters thus increasing their fame. About the tournament in itself, the Judo magazine states:"Tokusaburo KANO, one of the directors of the kodokan relates:"owing to the growing reputation of the Kodokan, Police Headquarters had decided to invite the Kodokan to oppose the ju-jutsukas. The joy of the principal pupils of the Kodokan was great when they heard the news, especially that of the pupils who had enrolled during the heroic period of the KANO institute. Yamashita, Saigo, Yokoyama, Iwasaki, Tomita, Munekata, Matsujiro, Honda, Oda etc... were to be counted among the proud young men who went to the police Headquarters. The most interesting encounter was Yoshita Yamashita´s, the strongest menber of the Kodokan with Master Nakamura, the most well-known member of the Police Headquarters ; Saigo showed the excellence of the Yama-arashi (Mountain storm), his favourite throw; Yokoyama also fought bravely with his Harai-goshi".

Now, Jigoro KANO wrote in his memoires:"

At the Great Demonstration of the Police Heaquarters, Saigo fought Kochi, a real giant who practiced Ju-jutsu under Tozuka. Kochi tried to get the better of Saigo through his extraordinary strenght. Saigo, who was small, was so nimble and lithe that he managed not to yield; he succeeded in throwing his opponent by Tachiwaza. Kochi´s reputation and the difference in weight of the two fighters rendered his victory all the more brilliant."Here again, we face a problem since the different sources seems to contradict themselves. The book "Judo memoirs of Jigoro Kano" translated by Brian N Watson does not confirm Kano Tokusaburo´s version of the facts."Partly because of the increasing fame of judo, the National Police agency authorities decided not call up many of the nation´s leading martial arts experts. These included noted kenjutsu and jujutsu men fron the southern island of Kyushu. The Kodokan was also notified and requested to send representatives. Neither Saigo nor Tomita were able to attend, but Yamashita, Yokoyama, Sato, Toharitaki and others agreed to participate [...]

The competion proved to be quite rough. The most closely watched contests that day were those involving Kodokan representatives and those from the famous Totsuka Yoshin School of jujutsu. Most of our men performed throwing techniques well, but in mat encounters, some of them were often in difficulty. This occurence was a loud wake-up call for us and we later carried out an urgent review and further study of ground work techniques". (page 48-49)By carefully reading between the pages, one might believe that the Kodokan players lost some matches on that occasion even though Kano does not mention it.

Later on page 49-50, we also learn that."In 1888, a contest showdown was called for between 15 representatives from the Kodokan and 15 from the Totsuka Jujutsu School. [...] Among those who represented the Totsuka School were two of their most able men, Taro Terushima an excellent tactician, and Teisuke Nishimura. Terushima fought Yoshitsugu Yamashita, Nishimura faced Sato and Kawai contested against Katayama, apart from two or three draws, surprisingly all the remaining matcdhes were won by the Kodokan´s representatives".Here again, we find no mention of Saigo fighting and it is not clear if he did actually participate in any of the alledged Judo vs Ju-Jutsu encounters. On page 50, Kano gives the following information."Following these contests, the governor of Chiba prefecture, Mamoru Funakoshi, accompanied by some of Totsuka´s leading jujutsu men, visited the Kodokan to attend the lecture on judo training methods. This was followed by Shiro Saigo giving a demonstration of randori. Hideyoshi Totsuka was apparently impressed by Saigo´s performance and passed favorable comment. When I heard tell of this, I was well satisfied".At the time of the encounters, the head of the Totsuka-ha Yoshin Ryu was Totsuka Eibi son of Totsuka Hikosuke who had passed away two years ago, not Hideyoshi. Furthermore, it seems rather odd that a defeated school should pass favorable comment, the results alone should speak for themselves.At any rate, Saigo´s legend is suffering a major blow here since it is obvious that he was not the phenomenal superchampion who allowed the Kodokan to survive in its early years against the hords of agressive jujutsukas.

Thinking of it, it seems highly improbable that jujutsukas would challenge the young Kodokan. It does not make any sense to challenge somebody with no reputation, no history (the Kodokan was founded in 1882 and had very few students) and no prestige. The Dojo Yaburi era is also probably part of the myth created by Kano. Saigo was an heavy drinker and had a short temper, a rather explosive combination that did not match well with Kano´s policy.

I have mentionned three books written in the beginning of the Twentieth century, two of the authors, Yokoyama and Arima were already members of the Kodokan when the tournaments took place. Nowhere in the books, I was able to find a mention of these encounters which seems very strange given the importance they have today. It is unthinkable that such a performance could have been forgotten so quickly by their very actors. E.J Harrison was a personal friend of Yokayama, he decided to invite him to diner in hishouse in Kojimachi wíth other friends both gentlemen had in common. Asked about his fiercest opponents, Yokoyama cites two jujutsukas of the time: Samura Masahara of the Takenouchi-ryu, whom he "was lucky enough to defeat" and Nakamura Hansuke of the Ryoi Shinto-ryu and with whom he fought for 55 minutes, the fight ending eventually in a draw. Here again, no mention of the alleged crucial encounters Judo vs Ju-Jutsu. Is there a lot more to say? I think not.Actually, the only mention to encounters is to be found in Arima´s book. Arima tells about the competitions rules in the Dojo and states that even if members of others schools are to participate to the contests, the matches can only be won by nage waza or katame waza which is to say by Judo´s standards and rules.

I can´t help thinking that Kano had a personal grudge against the Totsuka-ha Yoshin ryu and this would explain why he would have created this myth in the first place. Erwin von Baelz, the famous german physician and so called "father of the japanese modern medicine" was in admiring supporter of the Tosuka-ha Yoshin ryu to the extent that he even tried to enroll in this school. In 1880, he witnessed a contest between the Totsuka men from Chiba and some young practionners from Tokyo at the Tokyo University. He recorded the following in his diary "Denn von allen den jungen Männern in Tokio war keiner, auch Kano nicht, ein "match" für irgendeinen der Polizeioffiziere". (None of the young men from Tokyo, Kano included, was a match for anyone of the police officiers).

 Raff Deutsch - E-Budo

柔眞館 マルタ  柔眞流 柔術  無双直伝英信流 居合術  武道