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New Year Message

Preface to the January Issue
New Year’s Address for 2023
President, the Kodokan

Kodokan President Haruki UEMURA

Let me express my heart-felt new year’s wishes to you all in the beginning of year 2023.

Last year was a memorial year to mark the 140th anniversary since the foundation of the Kodokan. Various events had been scheduled throughout the year, but due to the prolonged pandemic of COVID-19, their content and participation had been heavily restricted. Despite some changes in the schedules of the events, every individual concerned tried every possible way to carry out the events, took the best possible measures to prevent infection and did their best to complete all the planned events.

Mr. ABE Ichiro, 10th Dan, passed away at the age of 99 on February 27th and Mr. OSAWA Yoshimi, 10th Dan, at the age of 96 on October 21st last year. After acquiring experiences as a Judo coach mainly in Europe, Mr. ABE committed himself to promoting judo widely overseas and contributed to the internationalization of Judo with his rich experiences and broad perspectives. Although he was of small build, Mr. OSAWA made the best use of his speed, versatile skills and techniques to fight equally even against opponents of larger build. He was praised as “Ima-Ushiwakamaru,” while embodying the essence of Judo, “Sho-yoku-dai-wo-seisuru” (a practitioner of small build defeating an opponent of large build). Even after turning over 90 years of age, those two Judo masters, together with Mr. DAIGO Toshiro, 10th Dan, who passed away in 2021, had continued to actively participate in mid-winter and mid-summer training sessions and the Kodokan courses and devoted themselves to their self-disciplines and coaching the younger generation of practitioners. They were truly in a state to externalize mutual reconciliation and co-prosperity and role models for the next generation and I feel more than sorry for their not being with us anymore.

In the 7th Issue, Vol. 1 of “Judo,” KANO Shihan wrote a preface titled "Call to Judo Practitioners." KANO Shihan described in that preface, "Since the foundation of the Kodokan, I have constantly told the practitioners that the Kodokan Judo is to teach both academics and sports. You should star Judo first by acquiring techniques and then, proceed to learn its way. Many practitioners become familiar with techniques rather quickly, but it takes much more training and learning to truly understand its way." It seems, therefore, that our predecessors tried to provide guidance to focus on spiritual enhancement as well as training the body at the stage for practitioners to acquire skills and techniques. We also must go back to our basics and deepen our understanding so that we can explain what judo is all about concisely in plain words to much larger audiences. To brush up our techniques to demonstrate through daily trainings and learn to acquire our own words to communicate should be the first step toward furthermore promotion of Judo.

In "Nage-no-Kata” or “Katame-no-Kata," which are supposed to be the basics for “Randori,” we learn the “Riai” of representative techniques in 15 variations and it contains some clues for acquiring the other variations of “Nage-waza” or “Katame-waza.”

To master techniques of “waza,” we first start by understanding the composition of each technique and repeating it slowly and precisely. “Uchikomi” is a practicing method to precisely repeat the sequence of movements including “Kuzushi” of an opponent and “Tsukuri” to apply each technique and, as we repeat this practice to a certain extent, we will be able to learn “Riai” and apply each technique more smoothly, powerfully and swiftly. By doing so, we can convert mere knowledge of the composition of each technique to acquisition of skills to perform that technique. Then, we will be able to devise positions and ways of gripping and positions and timing to apply each technique, depending on physical strengths, body-build and experiences of each practitioner, and practice to apply each technique while moving forward, backward, rightward and leftward for better execution of “Randori” or fighting matches.

Practicing Judo includes “Kata,” “Randori,” “Kogi” and “Mondo” and each of them do not exist and function independently, but they are inter-related with each other.

The International Judo Federation (IJF) organized the IJF Academy at the Kodokan for the first time in Japan, November last year. The IJF Academy, which was started in 2013, is an initiative to train and improve coaching skills of Judo instructors around the world and it is obliged for international referees and coaches from each country to attend and complete the course. The structure of its content is very stringent and only those who have finished web courses to learn the history and introductory techniques of Judo and passed the examination on Judo knowledge can participate in the practical course. During the one-week of practical course, participants learn to demonstrate all the "100 Waza," which have been established by the Kodokan through the cooperation of IJF, and “Nage-no-Kata” by exercising both “Tori” and “Uke” and learning “Riai” of “Nage-waza,” “Katame-waza” as well as “Uke” skill. To date, 99 rounds of the IJF Academy have been held around the world and 2,351 participants from 137 countries have completed the courses.

The videos of the "100 Waza" established by the Kodokan are being viewed all over the world and we are also in preparation of another video to describe “Riai” and differences in each technique in a user-friendly manner.

In addition, as a "Series of the Kodokan Judo Waza" to be passed on to the future generations, we have edited videos of the signature techniques of Judo athletes, mainly the Olympic and World Championship medalists and distributed them via YouTube since last year. We have also distributed the videos on coaching methods for basic movement such “Ukemi” or “Tai-sabaki.” We would like to continue to convey the essence of Judo including what standing position, ground position, “Nage-waza” and “Kaeshi-waza” stand for, What the definition for “Osaekomi-waza”, “Shime-waza” and “Kansetsu-waza” are.

For Dan Grading System, we will work together with 110 consigned organizations for dan promotion recommendations and cooperate with 16 Kodokan Committees for the purpose of furthermore proper promotion of Judo. We will firmly establish a culture in which Dan promotion is integrated with the outcomes of Judo practicing rather than merely regarding Dan promotion as a final objective and let Dan Grading not have wings on its own. The Kodokan has opened its door at home and abroad. While being the birthplace of Judo, the Kodokan should be a point of origin for every one of Judo-ka.

We also would like to continue to hold “the Kodokan Seminar” for “Kata” and basic techniques and referee training and “the Kodokan Seminar for Youth Development” with co-sponsorship of Token Corporation to promote Judo properly and vitalize regional Judo activities.

We wish to see the COVID-19 pandemics converging and our lives going back to normal this year so that we can actively organize our regular events and exchange programs through Judo activities to succeed the history and traditions of Judo and make a first step toward the 150th anniversary of the Kodokan.

For the beginning of year, we are determined that we will go back to the starting point of the Kodokan Judo founded by KANO Jigoro Shihan once again, modestly and tenaciously promote “Judo for education” and “Judo for human development” as well as developing “Judo for a competitive sport,” succeed the traditions of the Kodokan Judo cultivated by our predecessors, strive to realize “Seiryoku-zenyo” and “Jita-kyoei” to build up the Judo history furthermore and present and deliver the spirits and essence of the Kodokan Judo at home and abroad.

Let me call for your continuing guidance, support and cooperation from all the members of the Kodokan for the entire year. Last but not least, I wish for your happy new year.