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New Year Message

President of The Kodokan

Kodokan President Haruki UEMURA

Happy New Year!

It is my great pleasure to send my greetings and best wishes for 2020.

This year marks the 160th anniversary of Jigoro Kano’s birth. I am very happy that in this commemorative year Tokyo will host the Olympics and Paralympics, to which he dedicated his life.

Kano Shihan became the first member of International Olympic Committee (IOC) from an oriental country in 1909 at the request of Baron de Coubertin. The modern Olympic spirit that he pursued had many things in common with Kano’s ideas. Especially seiryoku zenyo (the most efficient use of energy) and jita kyoei (mutual welfare and benefit), advocated by Kano, may have resonated with Baron de Coubertin, who aimed to nurture young people through sports and promote world peace through international exchange. To realize Japan’s participation in the Olympics, Kano established the Japan Amateur Sports Association and became its first chairman in 1911. In the following year, he led the Japanese team of two athletes - KANAKURI Shiso and MISHIMA Yahiko - to Stockholm and took part in the first Olympics for Japan.

Afterwards, he made tremendous efforts for Tokyo’s successful bid to hold the Olympics, which would be the first in Asia. His effort bore fruit at the IOC general meeting in 1936 when Japan beat Helsinki by the vote of 36 to 27 to decide on Tokyo as the venue for the 1940 Summer Olympics. Unfortunately, however, after his death, Japan had no choice but forego hosting the Games due to the worsening international situation. In the proposed but unrealized Tokyo Olympics, unofficial demonstrations of the national sports of Japan - Judo and Kendo - as well as baseball had been planned. It was not until the Tokyo 1964 Games that Judo was introduced as an official event. But if the 1940 Olympics had taken place, Judo would have made its Olympic debut as far back as a quarter of a century earlier.

I pray with all my heart for the success of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, the Games to be held in Tokyo for the first time in 56 years.

As was the case in previous years, various tournaments and seminars were held in 2019 at home and abroad for all age groups from children to seniors and for all skill levels from beginners to high-dan holders. Many participants enhanced their skills with each other and boosted exchange through Judo.

Of note is the World Judo Championships held in Nippon Budokan in August as a pre-event of the 2020 Games. Participated in by 828 athletes from 143 countries and regions, the competition attracted media attention and a large audience. In the competition, athletes representing their countries gripped each other and carried out aggressive, courageous matches. They demonstrated techniques they had polished through their daily practices, their well-built bodies and spiritual strength. Their matches rose to the point that their offensive and defensive techniques thrilled the audience.

Along with the athletes’ enthusiasm, the level of referee skills improved considerably. However, I was concerned about the fact that referees depended too much on videos to judge nage-waza (throwing techniques), which caused frequent delays in the matches. When nage-waza was performed, referees paid so much attention to whether the back touched the mat that they gave less importance to the ikioi (momentum with both force and speed) and hazumi (skillfulness with impetus, sharpness or rhythm). Nage-waza, indeed, should be executed so that the opponent may touch his back on the tatami mat. But the value of nage-waza lies in the ikioi and hazumi. I am also concerned about their unclear judging of the standing position and ground position. Osaekomi-waza should be performed facing the opponent, and holding him down with his back on the mat so as to render him unable to move. But referees declared osaekomi even though the opponent’s back did not touch the mat or when both players laid down side-by-side, or even in the case that the aggressor’s body was underneath the opponent’s. Referees may have declared osakekomi because the opponent was unable to move, but it was off the point of osaekomi-waza.

There have been many discussions on the refereeing rules so far and I think they will be reviewed again and again in the Olympiad cycle. Showing clearly the principles and technical systems, which are the original point of Kodokan Judo, we have to strictly discern between what needs to be changed in accordance with the times and what is not to be changed. It is necessary through repeated discussions to set forth the principles and theory rooted in Judo.

We would like to define nage-waza, osaekomi-waza, standing position, and ground position so that we will be able to explain them properly in clear language.

The World Judo Kata Championships took place in Chungiu, Korea in September. It was the 11th meet and participated in by 80 pairs from 29 countries and regions from five continents. Japanese athletes participated in the categories of Katame-no-kata, Kime-no-kata, and Kodokan Goshinjutsu, and were awarded the first prize in all of them. Brazil captured the title in Nage-no-kata and Germany in Ju-no-kata. Eleven countries won medals. This number shows that kata has been spread to many countries. To promote further development, we will discuss how to teach kata in ways that are more simple and easy to understand, while dispatching instructors and enhancing seminars for trainees who are eager to learn the essence.

Last year, Kodokan created Kodomo-no-kata (kata for children) in cooperation with the International Judo Federation (IJF) and French Judo Federation, intended to systematize what children should learn first when they take up Judo. We made it in response to requests not from Japan but from overseas where there are few instructors. We hope it will be used as the introduction to Nage-no-kata to effectively teach kata to children.

Kano Shihan invented Judo after developing the concept of “effective instruction,” which had been little noticed by Ju-jutsu. We have to be mindful of various things in creative ways in order to research teaching methods.

We have to pursue further in-depth study, which is the responsibility of all who are involved in instruction. As long as we consider Judo as education, we have to ask ourselves questions about teaching methods. Kano Shihan said that training styles include kata, randori, kogi (lecture), and mondo (dialogue). This means learning the theory by kata, applying it in randori, acquiring knowledge from kogi, and nurturing thinking skills through mondo. Mondo has been reassessed recently. Encouraging students to find an answer is another important educational tool beyond just telling an answer.

We will renew awareness of the achievements that our predecessors made instead of searching for something new, so that we may communicate Judo in an understandable manner. Instructors of IJF Academy visited us recently to film a video for one week. What the world expects from Kodokan is to show what Judo should be, provide clear answers, and communicate to the world.

At the outset of the New Year, we would like to get back to the original point of Kodokan Judo founded by Kano Shihan and make persistent efforts to promote not only “Judo for competition” but also “Judo as education” or “Judo to nurture people.” We also would like to put seiryoku zenyo and jita kyoei into practice and convey the spirit and essence of Kodokan Judo both domestically and globally. In this way we wish to carry on the tradition of Kodokan Judo formed by our predecessors and add a new page to our history.

I ask you for your continued guidance, support, and cooperation.

In conclusion, I wish you all the best throughout the year of 2020.