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Jigoro Kano was born on October 28, 1860, in Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. 
His father, Jirosaku Kireshiba, was the 4th son of a Shinto priest, and his mother, Sadako, was the daughter of a well-to-do sake brewer. Jigoro was their 3rd son. In infancy he was named "Shinnosuke"", but this was subsequently changed to "Jigoro". He spent his childhood in Mikage-mura " village with his mother, two older brothers, and two sisters.

His mother died in 1869, when Jigoro was only 10. Japan was undergoing dramatic changes at the time ("Edo" had become "Tokyo"), and Jigoro was sent to be with his father in Tokyo when he was 11. From his earliest years, Jigoro's dream had been to go to Edo and make his name there, and now he found himself at the starting point.


His mother's influence: To serve others

Her husband absent, Jigoro's mother ran the household, and it was from her that Jigoro learned the importance of serving others. His mother was particularly strict in teaching him this, and in the importance of good manners. On the other hand, she also taught him the importance of gentle heartedness.

When dispensing cakes to children who came to play, she would give the best cakes to those children, and Jigoro would receive the lesser ones, and when Jigoro was ill-mannered, she would not forgive him until he had properly reflected on his behavior and repented. When anyone was in trouble, his mother would selflessly devote herself to helping them. His mother's strength of character was a major influence on Jigoro.


A progressive father

Jigoro's father enjoyed the friendship and patronage of none other than Katsu Kaishu, and he ran a freight business which kept him busy commuting between Edo and Osaka. Later, when the Meiji government came into power, he entered government service.

He was keenly aware of the importance of a good education, and had employed Confucian scholars to teach his sons Kanji (Chinese characters) and calligraphy. He was also progressive enough in his thinking to give his assent to Jigoro's request, at age 14, to pursue Western Studies at the Ikuei Gijuku.


Jigoro's student years

Jigoro entered the Ikuei Gijuku at age 14 to pursue Western Studies, and he lived in the school dormitory. The following year, he entered the Tokyo School of Foreign Languages. The English Department of this school then became an independent school (Government English School), and Jigoro attended that school. He graduated from the Government English School in 1875, and then entered the Government Kaisei School.

In 1877, the Government Kaisei School became Tokyo University, and he was taken into its first-year class (Faculty of Letters). Following graduation, he entered graduate school as a philosophy major, and graduated in 1882 at the age of 22.

While a student at Tokyo University, Jigoro engaged in several sports, including boating and gymnastics, in order to strengthen his body.




Jigoro's introduction to Judo

At the age of 14, Jigoro began his dormitory life at the Ikuei Gijuku school, and he found himself forced to endure the daily tyranny and bullying of older and stronger boys.

Although Jigoro was strong scholastically, he was physically weak, and was ridiculed by both the older boys and his own classmates, and this humiliation made him yearn for physical strength.

His physical weakness again caused him embarrassment around the time when he entered the Government English School, further fueling his yearning for physical strength. It was then that he became interested in jujutsu, a martial art he had previously heard about, and he inquired about it to an acquaintance.


Jigoro's jujutsu training period

At the age of 15 in 1875, Jigoro's first attempt to be admitted for jujutsu training was rejected. After turning 18, Jigoro heard that many former jujutsu practitioners had become osteopathists in order to earn a living in the difficult economic times. Based on that information, Jigoro began searching for osteopathists, and his search finally led him to the clinic run by Sadanosuke Yagi who had indeed been a jujutsu practitioner. Jigoro immediately and enthusiastically requested instruction, but the elderly Yagi initially refused him. Jigoro persisted, and succeeded in conveying to the old man his burning desire to strengthen his body.

Impressed by the boy's zeal, Yagi finally relented and introduced Jigoro to another jujutsu practitioner named Hachinosuke Fukuda. Fukuda accepted him into his dojo, and Jigoro's jujutsu training then began. Fukuda's dojo represented a combination of two different schools of jujutsu: the "Yoshin ryu" and the "Shin no Shinto ryu.

When Jigoro was 19, the eighteenth president of the United States, General Ulysses Grant, visited Japan. A demonstration of Japan's martial arts was arranged to entertain the General, and the Fukuda dojo was selected as the site for the demonstration. With General Grant in the audience, Jigoro demonstrated "randori" (free sparring), and the General was much impressed by the demonstration.

Fukuda then died shortly after that event. Fukuda's family had been impressed by Jigoro's dedicated training at the dojo, and they asked him to be Fukuda's successor. Jigoro then became master of the Fukuda dojo.

To further advance his study, Jigoro then entered the "Tenjin Shinyo ryu" school under Masatomo Iso. Showing his usual dedication, he quickly earned the title of master instructor and became the assistant instructor.


When Jigoro was 21, a group of jujutsu practitioners from the Ichimon Totsuka dojo of the Yoshin ryu school held a jujutsu demonstration at in a hall at Tokyo University. A student there at the time, Jigoro eagerly participated, and he realized for the first time that each school of jujutsu had unique strengths. This realization was the foundation of what would become "Kodokan Judo".

Masatomo Iso died the following year, and, in order to further develop jujutsu, Jigoro began to seriously study other jujutsu schools to build on the strengths he had learned from the two schools in which he'd already studied. With two of his former masters dead, Jigoro became acquainted with Masao Yamamoto, master of the Kito ryu school, and asked to become a student. Yamamoto responded by introducing Jigoro to Tsunetoshi Iikubo, and Jigoro began studying under him.

At the age of 22, in 1882, Jigoro became an instructor at Gakushuin in order to support himself, and he also opened a dojo of his own in a rented room at the Eishoji Temple. Using the money he had earned, he prepared a 12-mat dojo which he called the "Kodokan". He also changed his school from "jujutsu" to "Judo" at this time, thus beginning "Kodokan Judo". While gathering students and teaching Judo, he also began to incorporate the principles of body, mind, and character development into his Judo philosophy.

The following year, Jigoro moved his Kodokan dojo first to a Kobunkan storehouse in the Kanda district of Tokyo (Kanda-minimai Jinbou-cho), and then to another site in the Kojimachi district (Kojimachi Kaminiban-cho). All the while, he continued to draw upon knowledge gleaned from various jujutsu schools in order to perfect his own Judo methods for destabilizing and throwing an opponent. Around this time, Tsunetoshi Iikubo bestowed a Kito school license upon Jigoro, and provided him with a wealth of reference material.

Jigoro's period of Judo research

At 27, Jigoro received the patronage of a certain viscount who had a strong interest in Jigoro's Judo philosophy, and Jigoro was able to move his Kodokan dojo to a spacious site in the Fujimi district (Kudansakaue Fujimi-cho) of Tokyo. This was also the period of his most intensive study and research. Interest in the Kodokan way of destabilizing and throwing an opponent had begun to grow, and the number of people petitioning for admittance to the Kodokan dojo increased with each passing year. Students from the Kodokan dojo began participating in competitions such as the martial arts rallies held by the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Dept., etc., and Kodokan Judo soon became a widely recognized name.

In 1889, while en route to Europe on an educational study tour, the 29-year-old Jigoro gave a Judo demonstration aboard ship to the mostly non-Japanese passengers while steaming across the Indian Ocean. The passengers were amazed and delighted by the ease with which a smaller man could throw a larger one, and the power of Kodokan Judo thus became known beyond Japan's shores.

In 1893, a new 100-mat Kodokan dojo was built in the Koishikawa district (Koishikawa Shimotomisaka-cho) of Tokyo. The first foreigners were admitted to this dojo, and the number of foreigners seeking formal admittance increased steadily thereafter.

Who was Kanō Jigorō? - Japanese Educator, Athlete, and the Founder of Judo Dr. Kanō Jigorō History.



Jigoro's teaching period at Gakushuin

In addition to founding Kodokan Judo, Jigoro also left an impressive legacy as both the "father of physical education" and the "father of education".

At the age of 23, while a teacher at Gakushuin, he also opened (in addition to the Kodokan dojo) the Kano Juku tutoring school and the "Kobun Gakuin" school, for the purpose of providing a well-rounded education in which the physical, mental, and moral aspects are well balanced.

A year later, with an eye toward the coming age of globalization, he founded the "Kobunkan" school for the study of English.

The head of Gakushuin was fond of Jigoro, making him a Gakushuin administrator at the young age of 26. Jigoro thus became both a professor and deputy head. In this capacity, he began to look into the educational systems of other countries for the purpose of further developing Japan's educational system.


In 1891, the 31-year-old Jigoro was appointed Counselor to the Minister of Education, whereupon he retired from Gakushuin. Shortly thereafter, he married Sumako, the daughter of the prominent Chinese scholar, Dr. Shinichiro Takezoe. He was subsequently appointed to a position as headmaster of the Daigo Koto Chugakko Preparatory School in the city of Kumamoto (in Kyushu). To fill that post, he moved to Kumamoto alone, leaving his wife in Tokyo.

Jigoro and Lafcadio Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo)

Always the fervent advocate of physical, mental, and moral education, Jigoro converted the storeroom of his residence into a dojo where he taught the students Judo, thus sowing the seeds of Kodokan Judo in Kumamoto as well. Keen to attract superior teachers, Jigoro invited Lafcadio Hearn (Koizumi Yakumo), of British descent, to teach English at his school. Jigoro had an even larger dream of founding a university in Kyushu, but he was recalled to Tokyo before he could pursue it.

Back in Tokyo at age 34, Jigoro took a position as a department director in the Ministry of Education, and while assiduously performing his many duties there, Jigoro also accepted a post as headmaster of the Daiichi Koto Chugakko (College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Tokyo) Preparatory School. He also served as headmaster of the Advanced Teachers Training School, thus taking on the responsibilities of three posts simultaneously. Such was his dedication to enriching the field of education.



Jigoro's support of education in China

With an eye toward the maintenance of global peace and improving society in general, Jigoro was eager to promote education in other countries.

At the age of 36 (1896), Jigoro received his first Chinese students from Shinkoku (China under the Manchus), and taught them Japanese. Subsequently, for the purpose of providing a foundation for education in China, he received other Chinese students from Guandong, Nanjing, Yunnan, and Gansu, etc.

To accommodate these foreign students, Jigoro founded the Kobungakuin School where approximately 8000 foreign students were taught. These students then returned to China to build the foundation of education in that country.

Jigoro paid a visit to Shinkoku (China under the Manchus) when he was 43, and was warmly welcomed by many of those whom he had taught.


Jigoro was appointed to the post of headmaster at the Advanced Teachers Training School when he was 37 years old (1897). Given that the students at this school would be Japan's future educators, Jigoro strove to bring in the best teachers in order to provide the highest quality education. In addition, he invited top instructors of Judo and Kendo to the school as a means of improving the student's physical education. Swimming was also encouraged.

A full dormitory system was also implemented based on the philosophy of polishing oneself within a group, and Jigoro ceaselessly looked for other ways to improve the methods of education. As part of his effort to produce the highest quality teachers, Jigoro petitioned the highest authority-the Ministry of Education-to extend the education period for teacher's certification from 3 years to 4 years.

Judo training at the Fuji-cho dojo as depicted by Shuzan Hishida. Observing from the platform at left is Master Kano. (Kodokan Judo Book)





Physical education to many students by Judo

From his youth, Jigoro had engaged in a number of sports in order to strengthen his body, and he was a tireless advocate of physical education to students. Based on the philosophy that both physical and mental strength are important components in the formation of a superior individual, Jigoro found that Judo was an excellent way to teach this principle to students.

In preparation for Japan's first participation in the Olympics, Japan's first national athletic association (Dai Nippon Athletic Association [Japanese Society of Physical Education]) was assembled in 1911, and the 50-year-old Jigoro was appointed as its head. In this capacity, Jigoro worked to assemble the Japanese team members.

In order to raise the country's awareness of physical education and instill in the general populace an excitement about sports, athletes from all over Japan were invited to try out for the Olympic team.

Jigoro was subsequently appointed honorary chairman of the Dai Nippon Athletic Association in 1921, when he was 61.


Requests for Judo instructors from the United States

With the aim of increasing physical strength, improving character, and contributing the development of Judo, Jigoro had trained many in his Kodokan way. He'd also studied the subject ceaselessly, and had performed extraordinary keiko (training) feats such as engaging in randori (free sparring) against 30 opponents. As the students who had studied under him became active in various parts of the country, Judo came to be seen as an integral part of a person's education, and was adopted by schools.

Moreover, the foreign students who had come to Japan to study Judo carried the message back to their own countries, and requests for Judo instructors began to arrive from the United States. Jigoro responded by sending high-ranking practitioners, eager to support the spread of Judo around the world.


Jigoro is the first Olympic Committee member from Asia

In 1909, Jigoro was invited by Japan's ambassador from France to become a member of the International Olympic Committee. Baron de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, had asked the ambassador to find a suitable person for this post, and on hearing that this was the wish of Baron de Coubertin, Jigoro accepted the honor of being the committee's first Asian member. Jigoro was 49 at the time, and he continued as an IOC member until the age of 77.

Olympic Games in which Jigoro participated as an IOC member
  • 1912, age 51 / 5th Olympiad in Stockholm, Sweden (first participation).
  • 1920, age 59 / 7th Olympiad in Antwerp, Belgium.
  • 1928, age 67 / 9th Olympiad in Amsterdam, Holland.
  • 1932, age 71 / 10th Olympiad in Los Angeles, USA.
  • 1936, age 76 / 11th Olympiad in Berlin, Germany.

10th Olympiad in Los Angeles: 1932 Olympics, Judo was introduced to the World as a demonstration sport. From left to right, 8th judoka in is Jigoro Kano.

STUDENT OF PROFESSOR JIGORO KANO: From right to left, 2nd Judoka in, the Founder of "San Fernando Valley Judo Club" Sensei Segoro Murakami. In the '20s and '30s he set up dojos in (San Fernando)(Ventura) and (North Hollywood)




Seryoku zenyo and Jita kyoei

Based on the lessons learned from his mother in early childhood, and on his father's philosophy of action, Jigoro had formed a spiritual outlook that called for maximum use of the mind and body, coupled with a desire to improve society (maximum efficiency). And through the practice of Judo, he had learned that in showing an opponent respect and gratitude, one fosters mutual trust and mutual assistance, and that one should not strive for one's own gain, but for mutual gain (mutual benefit).

These were the two guiding principles had stayed with Jigoro throughout his life. Jigoro had dedicated himself to the study of Judo, and even when honor and position came to him, arrogance did not. Whether in Judo or scholastics, he never lost his burning desire to learn and improve. He was a man who constantly set new goals for himself, and who always strove to play a useful role in the world. His famous creed of "mutual benefit (Jita kyoei)" and "maximum efficiency (Seiryoku zenyo)" might even be said to show the way toward world peace.

Jigoro, who influenced so many youths, taught them that the power acquired from Judo training was not for the purpose of pinning down or overpowering an opponent, but rather to move the world in a positive direction. Moreover, Jigoro realized that in order for Kodokan Judo to spread throughout the world, he must not focus solely on polishing his own Waza, but must also provide fair instruction that was free of all racial and nationality prejudice in order to ensure excellence in his successors.

Jigoro Kano founded Kodokan Judo, and his was a life of contribution to the development of Judo, sports, and education in general. He also played a large role in Japan's first participation in the Olympic Games. This section contains a brief history of how sports flowered in Japan.



SOURCE:  Judo-ch.jp



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