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Jigoro Kano

Founder of Judo.

Jigoro Kano (1860-1938)

Jigoro Kano (1860-1938)

Jigoro Kano (1860-1938) was born on 28 October 1860 in Mikage, Hyogo district and was the third son of Jirosaku Mareshiba Kano (Naval Chief of the Tokugawa Shogunate).

Although he did not possess a strong physical appearance (he was 152 cm tall and weighed 41 kg), in his youth he practised physical activities such as gymnastics, baseball, and then Jiu-Jitsu.

Because of his physical limitations, Kano searched for a new way of unarmed combat, with the aim to use the opponent´s force to beat him with minimal effort and maximum efficiency, using chokes and locks, with throwing and projection techniques.

He called this new combat as Judo (gentle way), which can be seen as the first martial art to seek to improve the character of the human being through Budo principles. Judo was inspired from Jiu-Jitsu; Kano selected the most effective techniques, removed the most dangerous, and created or perfected new ones. He also designed a new training uniform called Judogi and a new kind of ranking, dividing his students into 'Mudansha' (beginners, with a white belt) and 'Yodansha' (graduated, with a black belt). The colored belt system for the different levels of mudanshas was created later in Europe.

Legend has it that Kano discovered the principles of Judo (smoothness and no-resistance) by watching how the tree branches responded to the weight of snow in harsh winters. While the thicker broke, the finest bent, getting rid of the snow and returning to their original position.

In 1882, he founded the Kodokan school in temple Eishoji in Tokyo. In 1886 Judo was officially accepted by the Japanese government.

Between 1898 and 1901, Jigoro Kano was also named as President of the Center for the Study of Japanese Military Arts in War Department, following the attachment of martial arts (including Judo) to this Department, and as president of Tokyo Higher Normal School from 1901 until 1920.

He played a key role in making Judo part of the Japanese public school programs of the 1910s.

From 1889 until his death in 1938 (on a ship returning from Cairo), Kano traveled around the world to disclose Judo through presentations and lectures.