jigoropicModern judo has its origins in jujitsu, a fighting art that can be traced back over a thousand years into Japanese history. Judo itself, however, is a relatively recent synthesis and owes it existence to the genius of one man: Dr. Jigoro Kano.

Jigoro Kano was born in the seaside town of Mikage in 1860. He and his family moved to Tokyo in 1871. Mr. Kano studied politics and literature at Tokyo Imperial University. He became an instructor of the Gakushuin in 1882 and eleven years later, he was appointed the Headmaster of the Koto Shihan, a teachers’ training school.

Professor Kano is internationally known for the development of judo. In 1909, Professor Kano became the first Japanese member of the International Olympic Committee and two years later, he founded the Japanese Athletic Association and became its first president. Mainly because of his many contributions in the field of athletics, Professor Kano is called the “Father of Physical Education and Sport” in Japan.

Until he was 18 years of age, Jigoro Kano was physically weak. He resolved to improve himself by studying at two jujitsu schools. He soon realized that each school had its strengths and weaknesses. Because there was unnecessary roughness and crudeness in the jujitsu techniques, and because it was difficult to practice without injury he began to reconstruct jujitsu. As he states in his own words: “…so by taking together all the good points I had learned from the various schools and adding thereto my own devices and inventions, I founded a new system for physical culture and mental training.” Kano called his new system Kodokan Judo to differentiate it from the jujitsu forms. “Judo” means “the gentle way” and “kodokan” generally means “a school for studying the way”, “the way” being the concept of life itself.