Most likely Kano Shihan would approach judo very cautiously. One has to remember that Jigoro Kano was a product of the late19th and early 20th century. This was the Meiji era, and Japan was trying to catch up with the rest of the modern world after 250 Rip Van Winkle years asleep. In Japan, “The times, they were a changing!” Remember the movie, The Last Samurai. That was the era in which Kano’s judo was born and grew up in. From most accounts he was a bellicose young man searching for answers, finding them in jujitsu and books. His serious side seemed to have taken over as he reached adulthood; well educated and interested in elevating the human condition he founded judo at the young age of 22.

What was the allure for him to study the martial arts and to come to found one of the world’s great sports, judo? How was it different for others and other foreign cultures, and how is it different for us today in the United States of America? Wouldn’t it be a trip, to get a glimpse into his mind and see what he had truly intended for his beloved judo?  Would he like what judo has become? Would he be surprised as to what judo has turned into? An Olympic Sport practiced in over 120 countries throughout the world, with estimated 20 million practitioners according to the International Judo Federation?

Of the 20 million practitioner’s of judo, a paltry 30,000 of those reside in the United States, a rather large country if not in size, in importance in the world which has a population of about 330 million people, most of which have heard of judo but know little of what it really is. It is basically known as a sporting activity here but it’s true original intent, at least by its founder Jigoro Kano was far different it seems, by the evidence left behind in his writings. As to his writings: the Chinese proverb goes something like this; “Words spoken float away into the air and are soon forgotten. Ahh, but ideas written, can last a thousand years.”

Lieutenant colonel Lance Gatling, The president of the Kano Society in Tokyo Japan who has studied Kano for years, when recently asked if Jigoro Kano had intended to include judo into the Olympics sent this excerpt.

He writes, –  –  –  –  – “this is the correct citation for Kanô’s thoughts on judo in the Olympics. It was a direct conversation, according to Gunji Koizumi, a pioneer of British judo, so most likely in Japanese.”

In 1947 Gunji Koizumi wrote of a conversation he had with Kanô circa
1936 in to give idea of Kanô’s mindset regarding judo in the Olympics.

“I have been asked by people of various sections as to the wisdom and
the possibility of judo being introduced with other games and sports
at the Olympic Games. If it be the desire of other member countries, I
have no objection. But I do not feel inclined to take any initiative.
For one thing, judo in reality is not a mere sport or game. I regard
it as a principle of life, art, and science. Only one of the forms of
judo training, so-called randori or free practice can be classed as a
form of sport. Certainly, to some extent the same can be said of
boxing and fencing, but today they are practiced and conducted as
sports. The Olympic Games are so strongly flavoured with Nationalism
that it is possible to be influenced by it and to develop ‘ Contest
Judo’, a retrograde form as Ju Jutsu was before the Kodokwan Judo was
founded. Judo should be as free, as art and science from any external
influences, political, national, racial, financial, or any other
organized interest. And all things connected with it should be
directed to its ultimate object, the ‘Benefit of Humanity‘. Human
sacrifice is a matter of ancient history. Another point is the meaning
of professionalism. With Judo, we have no professionals in the same
sense as other sports. No one is allowed to take part in public
entertainment for personal gain. Teachers certainly receive
remuneration for their services but that is in no way degrading. The
professional is held in high regard like the officers of a religious
organization or a professor in the educational world. Judo, itself, is
held, by us all, in a position at the high altar. To reconcile this
point of view with the Western idea is difficult. Success or a
satisfactory result of joining the Olympic Games would much depend on
the degree of understanding of Judo by other participating countries.”

Judo Quarterly Bulletin, April 1947, pg 7
London: Budokwai, 1947


The following may be pure conjecture but Kano was a man in the Meiji era. This was a time of ridding Japan of its old warrior ways. This included the “chon-mage hair style denoting the warrior class, the carrying of two swords, even activities such as Kenjitsu, Jujitsu, and essentially the martial arts that were linked to the training of subjects of territorial warlords. Without having to throw the baby out with the bathwater, Kano the educator/statesman not only saved many of the martial arts from extinction but created a reason for their continued practice by looking at the ethos and positive qualities they could produce in the bettering of humans through its practice, particularly in his beloved judo.

So what did professor Kano see that was of value to the Meiji leaders in the practice of martial arts that enabled him to save it? Essentially, it’s the same ideas that intrigue us to continue the practice of martial arts today. The difference is that he was able to express it in words that everyone knew in the back of their minds, but didn’t know how to put it into words that made sense. So let’s take a paragraph or two to look at the some of the benefits: Self perfection for one, exercise and fitness, enjoyment of games, and sports. These are the more obvious benefits? What of underlying, “in the back of you mind” reason’s for practicing the martial arts?

For the individual most certainly it is a challenge. It answers the question, “          can I do it?” Once in the activity it’s, “to what upper level can I succeed?” and once that level may have been achieved, there is a degree of self-satisfaction and possibly for some, social acclaim. To renowned social psychologist, Abraham Maslow, this is the highest level of need for anyone, to know oneself, albeit, in one physical activity. For Kano’s judo, it was the template for success. In Kano sensei’s judo the concepts learned in judo was to be applied to how one was to succeed in life itself. So, what are the lesson’s learned? That it isn’t easy to succeed in judo or in life; that you had to expend effort and energy. That there was a better way to expend your energy, a technique for a better more economical outcome.  All this should sound familiar to you since we looked at this before. It is what Jigoro Kano extracted and put into maxims, Seiryoku Zenryo, and Jiko no Kansei.

Before we go on to Jita, Kyoei lets just ramble off some obvious benefits that can be learned from the practice of the martial arts. Respect, which is ever present in the act of bowing, discipline, bravery, perseverance, decisiveness, adaptability, resiliency, thoughtfulness, benevolence, all of which I am sure by just simple judo rememberance’s you can expand and expound on this list. These are all character qualities that benefit a society. Kano sensei understood this and so did the Meiji restoration government which allowed the practice of these martial arts; most of which dropped the suffix jiujitsu and added instead do, as in kendo, karatedo, and aikido. This was to denote the difference of technique base (jitsu) activity from a way of thinking with a philosophical basis (do). This thought basically was the idea of Big Judo vs. Small Judo. Small Judo was concerned mainly with techniques whereas Big Judo was concerned with the use of the principles learned in the practice of judo for the elevation of the better nature of man.

Mutual Welfare and Benefit (Jita Kyoei) is obviously had, as when a sensei (teacher) instructs a seito(Student). Here the student gains knowledge from the instructor. The instructor benefits monetarily or from the altruistic satisfaction of having benefited in the growth of the appreciative student. This is somewhat like the American idea of “giving back” to judo. There is even the idea of a mock conflict having elements of mutual welfare, as in a debate, and argument, or even in a contest as in a judo shiai. For that matter even in randori where there are two forces opposed fighting each other. In these instances of mock battle the object is to improve rather than permanent elimination. The contest is Darwinian in that we can see what is needed to scale up our next game. There is always a next time. The next time I will learn from this time and do better, next time.

Unfortunate as it may be, not all games have a next time. Some games call for the kill as in war, or as in a business rivalry. The player who thinks it’s just a game as usual, best check to see if there is a next time or find himself or herself on the short end of the stick. I only mention this because in our last meeting the idea of mutual welfare and benefit was being extended to the other organization. There was a motion that could have set the record straight but instead of coming to the aid of our own organization, the USJF BOD by its silence demonstrated that it did not mind that Brand X organization was infiltrating the Grassroots area causing USJF to lose over $100,000. Roughly 1,440 members times $70.00 dues. What is sad is that USJF doesn’t understand that we are in a crisis mode, not just COVID 19, but also USAJ, yet we are doing all the wrong things supporting the wrong area for the kind of organization we have become.

The USJF is a Grassroots Organization. The USAJ is an organization that is supposed to produce our international teams. There were several inflection points in judo’s history in the United States that have contributed to its demise on the National and International scene. The very first national judo organization in the United States was the JBBF the Judo Black Belt Federation which later was renamed United States Judo Federation (USJF). It was a loose collection of Yudanshakai’s scattered throughout the United States but largely in areas where there were large populations of Japanese, and Japanese Americans, or a strong personality presence in the area like Seattle, Tacoma, San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, Hawaii, Denver Fresno, Sacramento. While there were inter area rivalries in the early years of judo in the US in the 1930s. The intervening years prior and after WW II the critical mass to have a National organization didn’t occur till 1952 when the USJF was born.

Another big step for our then nascent USJF organization was the joining of the Amateur Athletic Union. It was then the intermediary organization to the USOC the inclusion into this prestigious body was orchestrated by Henry Stone of the University of California, Berkeley who knew Avery Brundage the then President of the IOC and former president of the AAU and also Yosh Uchida. This was a giant step towards becoming an Olympic demonstration sport in 1964.

In 1964 judo became an Olympic Sport and herein began the big change in judo that Kano sensei held suspect in his mind. If you look at the Koizumi notes above it is axiomatic that the founder was anxious over the loss of the true meaning of judo as a vehicle to elevate the human condition, of participating in the building of champions of character; those positive qualities that are part and parcel of the USJF Grassroots programs.

In 1965 the USJA came into existence as the second National judo organization in the United States. It was an offshoot of the Armed Forces Judo Association, an organization that took care of US Military personnel interested in judo. Many of whom were returning stateside and desired to continue their practice of judo, some active some having finished their tour of duty, but all wanting to continue their practice of judo in a more American flavored way. They were headed by Major Phil Porter and were recognized by the Amateur Athletic Union the organization under which most amateur sports in the USA were governed by.

By 1980 many sports that were under the umbrella of the Amateur Athletic Union were disgruntled with the manner in which finances were being distributed to the various sports under its power. Thus the Senator Ted Stevens Amateur Sprts Act came into play stating basically that each Olympic Sport was no longer to be under the umbrella of the AAU but would instead govern its own destiny, This is how the USJI, United States Judo Incorporated, AKA USAJ became the third national organization. It was to deal directly with the USOC and no longer be a part of the intermediary AAU. USJI in essence in its original form became the organization that took the place of the AAU as an arbitrating force between the needs of the USJA and the USJF. Under it’s first President Frank Fullerton who shepherded the USJI it was successfully directing and supporting all three organizations needs and developing great champions to represent us in international competition. Back then it was OUR team and we knew who was on the team then.

The second big change began in 1996 when Frank Fullerton was replaced as President of USAJ. The one dramatic thing that Frank Fullerton did was to make sure that there was inclusiveness and buy in on important developmental issues. All factions of the American Judo Community had a voice and a vote. Information was a two way street, from the Judo community to USA Judo and USA Judo to the Community. The community owned USA Judo and USA Judo owned the Community. The Community if it had a concern took it to USA Judo and if the majority felt the need to make an adjustment it was made. This slowly was lost after his departure and replaced with broken promises. and inept leaders.

In 2006 USA Judo stabbed itself in the heart. It literally cut out more than 90% of its body by the downsizing of our board, orchestrated by the then USOC president who promised more money if we did and less if we didn’t. The results have been catastrophic. We have now have no representative members to USA Judo, taking our concerns to be voted on. Where once USAJ was an arbitration force, now they are our competitor. Their previous CEO took first class trips around the world while our athletes many times traveled on their own funds even abroad. The previous CEO also whittled down a million dollar endowment to a pittance of the original amount given to USA Judo from the 84 Olympics. The Foundation money at the time also belonged to us then. Now its gone and we have nothing to say about that. We don’t have a voice or a vote in the matter. USAJ probably has a close to 6 figure CEO, yet, they have no training schedules to speak of, and no standardized coaching programs to follow for their elite athletes. The one they, and may be about to adopt isn’t even suited for elite players. It’s more for Grassroots development programs, making money for USAJ and killing off the competition, us. Now they are asking us to donate $10,000 dollars to this project to say it was our idea as well. Shouldn’t they have asked for this amount up front before starting work on the program? If we adopt this program we will be paying USA Judo for a program that our members made. Remember Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn! USA Judo only runs 6 tournaments a year which they overcharge for. It is amazing to me that there are some within our USJF corridors who think that they should still share with such mendacious individuals who don’t even understand judo and what it takes in terms of sacrifices our students give, (yes our students who are dual members because they stay with USJF, at least for now) to become a champion. They don’t even support their elite athletes. I am even further appalled that our own membership would rather help this outside loser organization than to help its own members, or even the USJF itself. They want to help the organization that bifurcated judo in the United States by saying, “You take care of the Grassroots, we’ll take care of international judo.”  Have they done there part??  NO!

IJF President Vizer when speaking of the Americas stated, That “Canad is doing good, but doesn’t know what is happening in the United States.” USA Judo is structured incorrectly and is backsliding and holding on to our coat tails dragging us down with them. Some of our members are star struck with the idea of being a part of the Olympic movement. Those people have to wake up!!

The USJF is about Grassroots Judo now, thanks to history and bad decisions. Grassroots is really about “BIG JUDO and all the good that Jigoro Kano in his talk with Koizumi sensei spoke of. The Olympic dream is about elite judo. it’s small judo and concerned with a small portion of judo, maybe less than 5%. It’s about techniques rather than character. Why are our members voting for USAJ over the needs of our own USJF members needs? Are you in the wrong organization?

Perhaps this comes from the idea of mutual welfare and benefit. To that end let me say this. Even during Kano sensei’s time people were confused. One person asked sensei, “How do you justify the idea of Jita Kyoei and Jiko no Kansei? How can you think of self perfection and think of mutual welfare and benefit at the same time?”  Kano sensei reportedly answered, and I paraphrase, ‘Let’s look at this not from the standpoint of an individual facing another individual, but what if it is on a larger scale, another country and your own country, surely you would side with your own country’s needs first.’ I guess Kano didn’t know about some members of the USJF? Even if you are a Westerner you should know better. Love thy neighbor as thyself. You have to take care of number 1 first before you can take care of others. What’s so hard about understanding “Put your mask on first, before you help the child.” Take care of your organization first before you help the other organization.


Particularly in judo these efforts towards the elevation of life were embodied in Maxims or pithy sayings along with lengthy explanations.

Two of the three more commonly known to judo but hardly ever expounded on today are Seiryoku Zenryo, Maximum Efficiency with Minimum Effort, and JIta Kyoei, Mutual Welfare and Benefit. There was actually a third maxim of judo that was eliminated from the lexicon sometime during the mid 40’s due to it’s political explanation which was not conducive to the timing of trying to reintroduce judo into Japanese culture during the Mac Arthur occupation years in Japan just after WW II. The third missing maxim was Jiko no Kansei, Self Perfection.

Thus the other two are the most well known to judoka but probably more well known to practitioners in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and early 70s. From the mid 70s and onwards, the flavor of American judo was changing from what Kano had envisioned for judo to one of emphasis on contest judo due in large part to the inclusion of judo into the World of the Modern Olympic Games.