Early Japanese History
THE FOUNDING OF KODOKAN JUDO
Jim Webb contributed a major portion of this chapter.
Japanese history is conveniently divided up into periods. These time periods correspond directly to where the focal point of the political and military power of the country was at the time. They are:
Nara 646 - 793
Heian 794 - 1184
Kamakura 1185 - 1367
Muromachi 1368 - 1575
Azuchi-Momoyama 1576 - 1614
Edo (Tokugawa) 1615 - 1867
The period on which we will initially focus is the end of the Heian. This time in Japanese history is very important for a variety of reasons. The two most influential clans vying for control of Japan during this time were the Taira and the Minamoto.
Takami, the grandson of the Emperor Kammu, first adopted the name Taira. Emperor Kammu founded Kyoto and reigned from 781 to 806. Takami was blocked from climbing higher in the Court and chose to move east to settle in the Kanto plain. He eventually became the provincial governor.
The first Minamoto was Tsunemoto who was the grandson of the Emperor Seiwa. Tsunemoto saw that a large number of princes were putting a strain on the Court's budget and also decided to move east.
The Kanto plain became the birthplace of the samurai. Over three hundred miles from Kyoto, and the influence of the Court, the ruggedness of the land was being conquered by the fighting prowess of the Kanto-bushi. These samurai clans grew stronger and stronger until they eventually became a potent political force in and of themselves. It is interesting to note that the word "samurai" is derived from the verb "samurau", meaning "to serve." Originally the term samurai had no military connotation but evolved during this period of history.
"Genji" is the Chinese pronunciation of the written character which the Japanese read as "Minamoto." In the same way, the Taira are often referred to as the Reike or Reiji. This has always resulted in some confusion to idle observers of Japanese history. For while the Taira went on to control Japan, the novel written by the famous author Eiji Yoshikawa describing the clans story was called The Tale of the Heike.
As the two clans rose in military strength, and political influence, it became inevitable that they would clash. The first major battle between the two rivals came in 1156, the start of what became known as the Rogen War. Emperor Toba had died igniting a fight for the throne between rivals Emperor Go-Shirakawa and Emperor Sutoku. While the battle lines were not drawn strictly along clan lines, Taira Kiyomori gave his full support to Emperor Go-Shirakawa. After a fierce battle, Emperor Go-Shirakawa was triumphant. Taira Kiyomori then rose quickly in Court rank and proved to be a very adept politician as he set to strengthen the position of the Taira clan through arranged marriages and birthrights.
At this time there were still a few Minamoto clan members on the Court -those clan members who went against the majority and had chosen to be loyal to Emperor Go-Shirakawa in 1156. Most notable among those remaining was Minamoto Yoshitomo.
Soon after the war, Emperor Go-Shirakawa abdicated his role in favor of his fifteen-year-old son, Emperor Nijo. Japan now had a Cloistered Emperor.
The rivalry between the two clans continued to heat up. Minamoto Yoshitomo decided to strike a direct blow against the Taira in 1160 by kidnapping both the Emperor and ex-Emperor and forcing them to declare Taira Kiyomori a rebel. This became known as the Reiji War. With Kiyomori bound for a private pilgrimage to Kumano (eighty miles away), Yoshitomo attacked the palace with five hundred samurai. Sanjo Palace was burned and many members of the Court decapitated. Word quickly spread to Kiyomori of the rebellion and he returned to Kyoto with a handful of men to snatch the Emperor from under the very noses of the Minamoto by disguising him as a girl. The next day a thousand Taira samurai attacked the Minamoto headquarters and killed Yoshitomo. Many examples were made of the Minamoto, to include the public display of the heads of the leaders of the rebellious clan. All that was left of the Minamoto clan were two factions. Minamoto Yorimasa had refused to join the rebellion and was left alive. There were also four young Minamoto Yoshitomo sons. Yoritomo had fought by his father's side and was banished to Izu to be brought up in a Taira household. The mother, Tokiwa, attempted a gallant escape with the three remaining. Captured, she agreed to become Kiyomori's concubine if he would spare her three sons. Touched by her radiant beauty, he agreed.
By 1180, Taira Kiyomori was the ruler of Japan as he had the Emperor virtually under his thumb. He rose rapidly in Court rank to become the first samurai to be made a senior noble (kugyo). With the accession of Emperor Antoku, Kiyomori became the Imperial Grandfather, thereby beating the entrenched Fujiwara nobles at their own political game. Even with such a complete defeat of the Minamoto in the Heiji Conflict, peace was not to last long.
The Gempei War lasted five years, starting in 1180. Combining the Chinese pronunciation of the names Genji and Heike into a compound forms the name Gempei. The fight is celebrated because it represents the samurai ideal -a fight to the death between two clans.
An Imperial Prince named Mochihito initiated the war. The Prince was disgruntled as he was passed over in favor of Emperor Antoku. The Prince issued a decree to the Minamoto to destroy Kiyomori and the rebels. The oldest of the clan, Minamoto Yorimasa who had previously refused to join the rebellion, immediately took up the cause. He led the Minamoto toward Nara to battle the Taira. His assault was not successful, forcing Yorimasa to commit one of the first examples of ritual suicide (hara-kiri). However, the remaining Minamoto sons who had time to grow since their banishment twenty years ago soon took up the rallying cry. Minamoto Yoritomo was the eldest, and became their inspired leader.
Taira Kiyomori died in 1181 (calling for the head of Yoritomo from his deathbed) leaving the young Munemori to continue the war. The year 1181 also brought famine and pestilence to Japan, which slowed the fighting considerably. Munemori decided to build a very large force to attack the Minamoto. Unfortunately, in order to build such a large force (reportedly 100,000 men), he was reduced to pressing large numbers of men into service and to pillaging an already famine-ridden countryside. Moral was low and the general population was not enamored with the Taira at this point.
Two battles proved to be turning points. At the Battle of the Fuji River, the two armies took up positions and prepared to attack. As the Taira attempted a flanking movement, they disturbed some water birds and the Taira withdrew back to Kyoto convinced by the noise that they were about to be surrounded by a large enemy force. The Battle of Kurikara proved to be the second turning point as the Taira were forced retreat into an ambush, losing seventy thousand horsemen. News of the Taira loss spread quickly, and the Emperor soon re-entered Kyoto escorted by the Minamoto.
The situation of the Taira clan grew progressively worse until the final battle of Dan-no-ura, which marked the utter destruction of the Taira as they were driven into the sea. The most tragic event was enacted by Nii-no-Ama, the Grandmother of the infant Emperor Antoku who, when confronted with the alternative of surrendering to the warriors of the Minamoto clan, clasped the child tightly in her arms and plunged into waves of the straits, followed by the other court ladies. So complete was the defeat that the name Taira temporarily disappeared from Japanese history, leaving the site to be more renown for ghost stories of fallen samurai bent on revenge.
The best-known legend from the battle concerns the Heike crabs, which are said to contain within their shells the spirits of the dead samurai. Their shells do indeed bear the shape of a human face, when viewed with an active imagination.
With the end of the Gempei War, Minamoto Yoritomo moved the government to Kamakura and became the first Shogun of Japan. The establishment of the Shogunate government shifted the political power in Japan to the samurai where it remained until 1868.
Heike-Ryu Jiu Jitsu: Not all of the members of the Taira clan perished in the final series of battles. Those descendents of Taira Kiyomori that managed to survive the final wrath of the Minamoto fled to the hills to avoid persecution and a potential death. They would remain there perfecting their samurai skills for a day of revenge that would never surface. One of the skills that has been handed down through the family for generations has been the family Jiu Jitsu style: Heike-Ryu Jiu Jitsu. The symbol of Heike-Ryu Jiu Jitsu shows the Heike crab returning from the sea. Two brothers well known in both judo and Jiu Jitsu circles have held the modern torch: Mas and Vince Tamura. See the biographical section.
At the turn of the seventeenth century, Japan was in disorder and disunion. Three able generals successfully subdued the other warlords. The Tokugawa clan obtained supremacy and assumed the Shogunate. A strict hierarchical social order was imposed in which the descending scale ran from the warriors down through the peasants, artisans to the merchants at the bottom. The Shogunate put tax collecting and its finances in order, administered careful control of the population, and generally executed a viable dictatorship. This may well have been the world's most ambitious effort to make time stand still. The Tokugawa rulers brought a reasonable degree of order and unity to Japan for almost three hundred years.
During the time of the Tokugawa regime, the role of the emperor was emphasized as the focal point of Japanese life, even though he was living in genteel poverty in his secluded Kyoto court. Shogun and commoner alike ignored him.
In 1573 Oda Nobunaga became Shogun and for nine years gained control of almost all of Japan. Nobunaga was assassinated in 1582 and the commoner Toyotomi Hideyoshi took over the government and continued to unify the country. He ruthlessly put down any traces of insurrection and revived the old gulf between the warriors - the samurai – and the commoners by introducing restrictions on wearing the long sword. The long sword was restricted to the samurai class.
In 1603 Tokugawa Ieyasu became Shogun and was determined to ensure his family’s control of the government. The Tokugawa period brought great change to the social history of Japan. The bureaucracy of the Tokugawas was all-pervasive. Not only were education, law, government and class controlled, but also even the dress and behavior of each class was dictated. The traditional class-consciousness of Japan hardened into a rigid class structure. There are clear vestiges of this even today in Japan!
With the death of the shogun Tokagawa Iemochi, the 14th Shogun 1846-66, in August 1866, new struggles began to determine his replacement. Emperor Komei died in February 1867, and Mutsuhito succeeded him. In November, the new Shogun, Yoshinobu was forced to resign, and in January 1868, the young Emperor proclaimed the Shogunate abolished. Imperial rule was restored in Japan. The abolition of the Shogunate ended 265 years of Tokugawa family rule in Japan.
At little past two in the afternoon on the thirteenth day of the tenth month of the first year of Meiji, which was November 26, 1868 in the Gregorian calendar, the Emperor took up residence in Tokyo and thus symbolized the opening of Japan's modern era. Tokyo was established as the new imperial capital and the arrival of the Emperor there gave it legitimacy.
That the Meiji Restoration was called a restoration was not mere chance. It was not a revolution, despite the changes it brought. The men of Meiji restored the Emperor to his ancient place at the center of Japanese life and restored to Japan the sense of national unity he represented. They renewed the vitality of existing Japanese institutions and added new ones. The Restoration was engineered by the upper class and it continued to be controlled from above with changes filtering down from the top.
The Imperial ordinance, prohibiting the samurai class from wearing swords in 1871, dealt a terrible blow to martial arts. The art of Jiu Jitsu was no exception. The MILITARY CONSCRIPTION ORDINANCE OF 1872 established an army and a navy requiring all males who reached the age of twenty, irrespective of class, to register for military service and be ready for all emergencies. In the conscript army, the ordinary citizen was raised to the level of the samurai and was imbued with the Japanese warrior's code.
The Imperial Rescript for Soldiers and Sailors, a clearly Confucian document drafted in 1882, admonished them to consider loyalty their essential duty, to have sound discrimination of right and righteousness, and to make simplicity their aim. It was during this era that the founder of Kodokan Judo, Jigoro Kano (1860-1938), appeared. He was born in Makagemachi of Hyogo Prefecture, which is the current Kobe and came up to Tokyo in 1871 at the age of ten. Master Kano showed great promise in his academic pursuits. From the time of his arrival in Tokyo he attended private school where he pursued classical studies as well as yogaku, or western learning.
He was physically frail in his early youth and the thought of making himself stronger never left his mind. Kano learned that through the art of Jiu Jitsu a person of slight build could throw or subdue a larger and more powerful opponent.
Master Kano decided to train in the art of Jujitsu and possibly make himself physically fit. During 1877, while attending the Imperial University in Tokyo, Kano found Hachinosuke Fukuda, the Master of the Tenjin Shinyo-Ryu Jiu Jitsu, which was a combination of the Yoshin and Shinno Shindo styles of Jiu Jitsu. Kano promptly enrolled with Fukuda as a pupil. Fukuda only had seven students at the time. Two of these were advanced students. Beginners were expected to immediately start practicing the same techniques that the advanced students were performing. The teaching method of the times was to teach by experience rather than by explaining what was expected. Students were repeatedly thrown until they understood how a technique worked.
After attending classes during the day at the university, Kano could be found at the dojo practicing kata and randori. Due to his enthusiasm and effort he surpassed the senior pupils and became a ranking member of the dojo, with the title of Shihan-Dai, meaning, "representing the Master". The techniques of this Ryu of Jujitsu, such as atemi-waza, shime-waza, and hodaku, were superior in many technical aspects to other Ryu. They contributed much to broaden Kano's scope of the art. In 1879, with the untimely death of Master Fukuda at the age of 52 in 1879, Kano entered the school of Masamoto Iso, which was the main branch of the same Tenjin Shinyo-Ryu.
Here Kano continued his efforts to master the art of Jiu Jitsu. During 1881, Master Iso passed away and Kano turned to an entirely new Jiu Jitsu Ryu, the Kito-Ryu, where he was able to continue his training under the guidance of Konen likubo. When 22-year-old Kano took nine of his private students from the dojo of his master likubo in February 1882, and set up his own dojo, Judo didn't automatically spring into being. In fact master likubo came two or three times a week to help Kano's students. They were still learning Jiu Jitsu rather than Kodokan Judo. Possibly Kodokan Judo came into being the day that Kano first defeated likubo. Until then Kano never had been able to throw him. That day in randori (free practice), Kano blocked every move likubo made, then applied two of his techniques - ukiwaza and sumiotoshi - to throw the Jujitsu master at least three times.
This is the only known photo with Jigoro Kano’s signature in English.
Kano explained: "Force your opponent to make his body rigid and lose his balance, and when he is helpless, you attack". Upon hearing this, likubo replied: "Your skill in randori surpasses me, so we will discontinue the practice sessions, but you alone should continue to study and perfect the randori techniques. However, your kata form needs further improving so in this area I will give you instruction.
The Tenjin Shinyo-Ryu, which Kano first studied, was especially known for atemi-waza and katame-waza, while the Kito-Ryu excelled in nage-waza techniques. Therefore, Master Kano was able to grasp the wide spectrum of Jiu Jitsu, including its philosophy. The three Jiu Jitsu Masters from whom Kano received tutelage were all foremost leaders in their respective Ryu and were also considered distinguished Grand Masters of the whole art of Jiu Jitsu. Kano received further instruction from many other masters representing other Ryu. Jiu Jitsu originally was not an application of consistent principles of science but simply a group of methods of attack and defense devised by different masters, one Ryu representing a group of methods devised by one master, and other Ryu representing the devices of others. This being the case there was no fundamental principle by which the validity of the various methods could be tested.
Techniques from a Tenjin Shinyo Ryu training manual.
At this time, there seems to have been a significant growth in Kano's systematic development. This is the point where his personal philosophy coalesced into a coherent ideal. Kano, having seriously studied Jiu Jitsu, came to conceive of one all pervading principle by which the various techniques could be evaluated, which was: “Whatever be the object, it can best be achieved by the highest or the maximum efficient use of mental and physical energy directed to that purpose or aim". Going back into Japanese history, Kano studied all of the methods of attack and defense taught by different masters. He found that there were many methods, which could stand his test, while others could not.
Preserving those, which he deemed valid, and adding many other techniques of his own device, which he felt confident, could stand the test, he organized his own system of attack and defense in 1882. "JUDO" was the name of the principle together with its application, whereas Jiu Jitsu was the name for a group of different devices not founded on such a principle. Kano named the institution where this principle was studied and its application taught, the KODOKAN, which literally means "an institution for studying the way". Inasmuch as the name Judo was used 250 years before Kano was born by the Jikishin-Ryu, it is necessary to qualify Kano's as Kodokan Judo.
When Kano was graduated from the Imperial University in 1881, he also had accomplished his primary aim, which was to make himself physically fit. Realizing that Jujitsu training could make an important contribution to everyday life, he decided that such profound benefits should not stop with him but should be promoted widely among young people and carried on to future generations.
Kano taught in the government school, which educated the children of the House of Peers. The Emperor’s son also attended this school. Kano later filled the post of Director of the Bureau of Primary and Secondary Education in Japan, and for twenty-four years served as the Principal of the Higher Normal College in Tokyo. Through teaching Kodokan Judo to the future teachers of Japan, Judo was introduced into the curriculum of the school children of Japan. Kano was thus able to propagate his art. Judo was almost immediately recognized, as a national exercise and Kano's method of teaching became a widely accepted instructional technique.
The true genius of Kano's Kodokan Judo is found in the leg movements, which had no counterpart in previous Japanese Jiu Jitsu systems. While Kano was studying at the Tenjin Shinyo-Ryu he also studied European wrestling and Japanese sumo systems and combined elements of each to allow his 105 pound body to throw a burly 170 pounder by the name of Kanekichi Fukushima, who took great delight in smashing him about the mat. Kano went to the local library and borrowed all of the books on Western style wrestling. He hoped to discover some useful technique to enable him to defeat Fukushima. The Technique Kano used is now known as Kataguruma, or shoulder wheel. After Kano threw Fukushima, the amazed Fukushima asked “What was that?” Kano replied “That is a secret.”
While keeping balance on a focal hip point, he soon developed a strong goshi, or hip technique. A brilliant invention of Kano's was the development of one-legged techniques. In the past, Jiu Jitsu techniques had been designed for action against men in armor and were greatly restricted. With the exception of the some of the ”secret techniques” of the Tenjin Shinyo Ryu, the older Jiu Jitsu techniques were not designed to be used against a person in street clothes. The purpose of Kito Ryu training was to tap the vital energy of the universe, fusing the universe and the student into one, thus allowing students to lead their lives with sincerity. Twenty-one techniques of the kata of the Kito Ryu are meant for hand-to-hand fighting, with both combatants being completely clad in armor. Built in these techniques is the principle of Kuzushi or off balancing, which is the key to the throwing techniques of modern Judo. The concept of off balancing one's opponent and using one's body in an efficient manner was also a new concept to martial arts.
Kano started Kodokan Judo in 1882, at the Eishoji Temple. In his attempt to develop a workable sport out of the great number of Jiu Jitsu techniques, Kano ran into trouble, because many people felt that those remnants of an obsolete political-social system would be best forgotten. Even though Kano was a modernist, he felt that the old knowledge, where applicable, should be refined and not destroyed.
Kodokan Judo became the focus of criticism from Jiu Jitsu experts, especially from Hikosuke Totsuka, who was the most influential Jiu Jitsu expert with a great number of followers. The other Jujitsu systems were suspicious of the practical merits of Judo in combat. Between the Kodokan Judo and other Jiu Jitsu Ryu there developed a keen rivalry, especially between the Totsuka-Ryu and the Kodokan.
During the fall of 1884 there was a ceremony held to celebrate the opening the new Ten Shin Shinyo Ryu dojo in Tokyo. Among the guests were several members of the Kodokan including Tsunejiro Tomita (who was the first student to sign the role book of the Kodokan.) The largest man in the Dojo for the celebration was a burley six-footer by the name of Hansuke Nakamura. Nakamura was an accomplished practitioner of a Jujitsu Ryu called Riyo Shinto. Nakamura was a Jujitsu instructor training the Tokyo police force.
Nakamura challenged Tsunejiro Tomita to a match even though Nakamura was only a guest at the ceremony. Tomita, under the circumstances, had to accept the challenge as a point of honor. Tomita twice threw his much larger opponent with a classic tomone-age and a hiza-guruma. He then choked his opponent out to end the match. This match helped to set up the two future matches between Kodokan Judo and the leading Jiu Jitsu systems. The Tokyo police department sponsored these matches or bujutsu taikai. The police department wanted to determine which Jiu Jitsu system was superior.
In 1886 and again later in 1888, under the auspices of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Board, tournaments between the two opposing groups were held to decide the supremacy of the two forms of Japanese self-defense. In the first tournament, ten highly selected Kodokan experts competed, including The "Great Four" of the Kodokan: Tsunejiro Tomita, Sakujiro Yokoyama, Yoshiaki Yamashita (who later went to the United States and taught Judo to President Theodore Roosevelt), and Shiro Saigo.
Through the early years when Judo was developing at the expense of Jujitsu, Kano rose in the education field. He lectured at various schools and colleges and was appointed Principal of the Tokyo Higher Normal College. In 1889, he traveled to Europe for the first time as attaché to the Ministry of the Imperial Household, and represented the Ministry of National Education in China in 1902 and again in 1905. With such a fast rise in the demanding field of government service, it is amazing that he was able to spend any time on Judo. During his lifetime Kano developed a reputation as a scholar and spoke excellent English. At one time he gave a lecture at the University of Southern California in his major field, which was Japanese literature. Along with everything else, Kano had a great organizational talent. He built a nucleus of first-rate judoka around himself, and exhorted the other Jiu Jitsu masters to adopt his methods. By a firm but gracious example he saw the Kodokan Judo movement flourish. His idea of education involved not only teaching but setting a good example as well. His first students, mainly Yamashita, lsogai, Yokoyama, Saigo, Suzuki, Nagaoka, Mifune, and Tomita emulated him and carried his teaching and example throughout Japan.
In 1931, Kano observed a demonstration of Ueshiba Morihei’s new art, which was called Aikido. Ueshiba derived his art from the Daito-Ryu taught to him by Takeda Sokaku, a student of Saigo Tanomo. Perhaps Aikido reminded Kano of the masterful techniques of Saigo Shiro, Tanomo’s adopted son. Kano noted that, “This (Aikido) is my concept of what Judo should be.”
Jigoro Kano - Judo Demonstration