Ok, so among the useless-but-possibly-interesting-facts that are lodged in my brain, there are a lot of martial arts facts. Since this is a newsletter for a martial arts academy, this month I thought I would start sharing some of those too.
Did You Know: Judo
If I’m going to mention interesting things about the martial art of Judo, I must start with it’s founder Jigoro Kano. Born in 1860 (in Japan), Jigoro Kano was born to a fairly affluent family and studied English from a young age. At the age of 14 he attended a boarding school where bullying was a serious problem (Bullying! In 1874!). As a result, Kano sought to find an instructor in the fighting art of Jiu-Jitsu. There had once been many different schools or styles of Jiu Jitsu, but it was fast disappearing as it was out of fashion and seen as impractical to learn warlike fighting in a newly westernized Japan. In fact, several Jiu Jitsu instructors flat out refused to teach the young man.
Jigoro Kano eventually did find an instructor to train under, and over a period of years went on to learn the systems of several jiu jitsu masters.
Kano eventually decided to synthesize what he thought were the most significant principles of these systems into one single system he called “Judo. ” Principles such as “maximum efficiency, minimum effort” and “mutual welfare and benefit.” Jigoro Kano felt the name change from jiu jitsu to judo was also needed, not just because jiu jitsu had a poor public perception at the time, but also because he felt judo was meant to be all encompassing. More than just a way of training, it was a way of living.
Kano was also an educator at heart and played a large part in shaping the education system in Japan. Kano also developed the first belt ranking system as a way of tracking progress. In fact it has been said that he gave out the first black belt!
Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to train martial arts in the Whitehouse (Judo), and was the first American to receive a Brown Belt in Judo. In fact, once he made a boring state luncheon much more interesting by throwing the Swiss minister to the floor and demonstrating a Judo hold.
Keiko Fukuda, the last living student of Jigoro Kano was one of the few female students who started training back in 1935. During WWII she ran classes at the Kodokan, the headquarters for Judo, and ultimately became the first female to obtain the rank of 10th Dan. Keiko had been personally invited by Kano to train with him in Judo, which was a tremendous honor at the time. This was a mark of respect for Fukuda’s grandfather who had been one of Jigoro Kano’s original jiu jitsu masters! Fukuda was also a Sensei, mentor, and friend to Sensei Frances Glaze, herself now a 6th Dan. When Mr. Penny is lucky, he gets to train with Sensei Glaze.
Judo had a tremendous influence on the world stage, everything from the Olympics to Sherlock Holmes, I’ll write about some of it in the coming months.