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New Year Message

President of The Kodokan

Kodokan President Haruki UEMURA

I would like to express my heart-felt new year’s wishes to you all in the beginning of year 2021. From the begging of spring last year, the COVID-19 spread and caused severe damage all over the world. Our everyday lives were drastically changed and, not to speak of devastating impacts on the economy and the society, we encountered unprecedented hardship in the educational circles and the sports and Judo communities. We also lost our long years’ leaders and masters of Judo movement one after another: Mr. Yukimitsu Kano, Honorary President of Kodokan Judo Institute passed away in March and Mr. Saburo Matsushita, Member of the Board of Directors of Kodokan, 9th Dan and Mr. Naoki Murata, Director of the Kodokan Judo Museum and Library, 8th Dan in April. It was a most heartbreaking grief to lose those who had passionately loved Judo, devoted themselves to properly promoting Judo at home and abroad and assumed heavy responsibilities to succeed Judo respectably to the future generations.

In the midst of continuing coronavirus infections all across the globe, we completely lost opportunities to practice Judo wearing Judo-gi’s under the constraints to avoid the Three C’s (crowded places, close-contact settings and confined & enclosed spaces) and secure social distances. It became tremendously difficult, not only in Japan but also abroad, to continue Judo-related activities whose characteristics is to fight in close contact with each other and we were obliged either to cancel or postpone various Judo tournaments and events for boys and girls as well as for the senior generations. In particular, “Tokyo 2020 Olympics & Paralympics,” which were supposed to be the paramount sports events for the year, were rescheduled to be held in summer this year. For the purpose of human development, international exchanges & friendships and peace in the world, it is our sublime duty to lead “Tokyo 2020 Olympics & Paralympics” to a resounding success while securing safety of athletes, officials, spectators and the Japanese citizens.

In the wake of the COVID-19 catastrophe, Kodokan Judo Institute suspended its training activities in the Dojo’s from the end of February through May last year. After the State of Emergency was lifted on May 25th, we started to resume our Judo exercises mainly with individual self-practices and training while putting through preventive measures against infection in place. The overall situation did not turn out to be better even in July and August, but we decided to hold the Kodokan Summer Course and Shochu-geiko (Mid-summer Training Session) based on our belief that we still can continue such training even in such a situation and that we all the more have to carry out such training because of such a circumstance. During the Kodokan Summer Course, we reduced training in close contact and put a focus on learning bowing-procedures, confirmation of basic motions, self-practices to learn techniques and “Riai” and training to enhance physical strengths. We also conducted the Shochu-geiko (Mid-summer Training Session) in a similar fashion and we could successfully conclude it even though the number of participants was around 30% of that of the ordinary year. In September, we started to extend the time for training in close contact step-by-step and conducted “Uchikomi” and “Yakusoku-renshu.” And in October, we finally resumed the training including “Randori” and the scene in which a number of trainees working hard with masks on their faces was just unforgettable.

On October 28th, we celebrated KANO Jigoro Shihan’s birthday. Year 2020 was the memorable 160th anniversary of KANO Shihan’s birth and we organized four-day events including “Painting Art Exhibition,” “Special Exhibit at the Museum,” “Showing Old Precious Footage,” “Drawing Shihan’s Words with Brush,” and “Parent & Child Judo Lesson.” The International Judo Federation (IJF) also held a variety of events of “World Judo Day” in every corner of the globe to commemorate KANO Shihan’s track records. Kodokan will continue to plan and organize such events in coordination with each country in the world around this time of the year so as to contribute to cultural exchanges among youths.

All Japan Judo Contest for Higher Dan Holders was deferred and nearly cancelled, but while having been encouraged and supported by those who had continued their Judo activities for the day of the contest, we managed to hold the event on November 29th. Those Judo-ka’s holding high dan-grades, who are usually teaching Judo for their students, got together and demonstrated the achievements of their day-to-day Judo practices. By witnessing that they fought with all their might while pursuing Judo as life-long disciplines, we truly felt it vitally important to continue our engagement with Judo.

We also started our Dojo visits in each region as we had planned ever since. We watched how they had been practicing Judo on routine bases and we could spend a very significant time while watching and hearing children playing Judo so cheerfully and interacting with their instructors and parents. We will take the leverage of our past experiences, trying to adjust ourselves to the constantly changing environment, provide as many children as possible with opportunities to experience Judo and expand the community of supporters for Judo promotion.

JAPAN-ASEAN JITA-KYOEI PROJECT has entered its 5th year and it was high time for us to wrap up our activities, but the COVID-19 spread all across Asia disabling our free exchange among the region. We called off programs to invite representatives and instructors from each country to Japan, but we decided to organize and offer on-line courses for Judo coaches who had ever attended international seminars. As well as providing one-way lectures and distributing videos, we conducted live sessions to exchange views and opinions interactively and we could share various information. Through those virtual courses, we could explore some new methods to gain common recognition based on shared knowledge and technologies. We are firmly convinced that this project will pave the way toward the new phase of Judo promotion and development in ASEASN countries.

As for 100 Judo techniques, we have collaborated with IJF to produce videos and disseminate information to the rest of the world. While confirming what had been known and published so far, we clarified the definitions and revised the descriptions of those techniques in English so as to make them understood correctly in more appropriate terms. We will constantly go back to the basics and continue to explain and illustrate on “Kuzushi,” “Tsukuri” and “Kake” for “Nage-waza,” correct holding techniques for “Katame-waza,” locking techniques of “Shime-waza” and “Kansetsu-waza” and how to counteract them. Rather than acquiring mere knowledge about basic forms and patterns, respective “Riai” should be understood either to “throw” or “hold.”

KANO Shihan demonstrated the training methodology consisting of “Kata,” “Randori,” “Kogi (Lectures)” and “Mondo (Questions & Answers/Dialogues). “Kata” means to learn “Riai,” “Randori” to devise its application, “Kogi” to acquire knowledge and “Mondo” to cultivate abilities to think. It is imperative to deal with all of those elements throughly so as to embody KANO Shihan’s lesson to aim at “personal perfection” and to “benefit the world.”

After facing unparalleled disaster, we reacknowledge that what we have taken for “granted” has turned out to be “very difficult to gain.” Even though we face quite a serious challenge which has been jeopardizing the world, it is still one of the most important missions of Kodokan to drive promotion and development of Judo. Cancellation of a number of tournaments and events has resulted in motivating us to re-consider how we should be involved in Judo. Now, we should seriously consider what we can do individually, explore furthermore new ideas and put them into practice. Now is the time to pull ourselves together, collect our wisdom and contemplate how we can get over the current tribulation.

In the beginning of new year, I am firmly determined that I will go back to the basics of Kodokan Judo founded by KANO Jigoro Shihan, modestly and tenaciously pursue “Judo as Education” and “Judo for Human Development” as well as promoting “Judo as a Sport,” succeed the tradition of Kodokan Judo built by our great predecessors, try to realize “Seiryoku-Zenyo” (Maximum Efficiency) and “Jita-Kyoei” (Mutual Welfare and Benefit) so as to create a new history and deliver the spirits and essence of Kodokan Judo toward the rest of the world.

I sincerely wish for furthermore support and cooperation from the members of Kodokan for the entire year. Last but not least, I wish a happy new year to you all.