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International Budo Symposium

International Budo Symposium

In 2008 Dr Callan was a speaker at the International Budo Symposium, held at the National Institute of Fitness and Sport, Kanoya University, Japan.


Callan. M., (2008) The internationalisation of judo and the attention for etiquette; focussing on the UK.

Judo has been present in the UK since the 1800’s through the efforts of famous historical figures such as Edward Barton-Wright. Barton-Wright brought Tani Yukio to England along with other Japanese primarily to work in the music halls and to promote “The Japanese System”.

In 1906 a ju-jitsu club was formed at Trinity College, Cambridge University by E.C.D. Rawlings, with a membership of 25.

Also in 1906 Koizumi Gunji came to England, and in January 1918 he formed a society in London to teach budo, The Budokwai. The society consisted mainly of Japanese living in London, and the early minutes of the meetings are written in Japanese. The fi rst mention of the word judo appears in the minutes in May 1918.

Thus began the internationalization of judo in the UK.

Judo is a budo, and the attention to manners and etiquette in budo is one element of an unwritten code of ethical behaviour, bushido, which was adhered to by those of the samurai class in japan.

The samurai class in japan was one of the higher classes, and from the 1900s through to about the 1960s judo in the UK was also practiced often by those from the upper classes of English society.

Koizumi Gunji saw judo as one of the budo arts, and continued to encourage the study of other budo within his society such as ikebana, naginata, aikido and kendo. He identifi ed himself as an artist and specialized in urushi. Some of his work is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Koizumi appears to have tried to conduct his affairs according to the spirit of the bushido code as far as was possible whilst living in the west. Manners and etiquette were clearly important within his society and this attitude appears to have been taken up by his pupils such as Trevor Leggett. Many of his pupils were from the leisured classes in English society, and as such they had been brought up as English Gentlemen, with a a strong sense of manners and the appropriate ways for English Gentlemen to behave.

Historically the English Gentleman was the representative of the king in a particular region. In return for loyalty they were rewarded with land and titles and lived in large houses in the countryside. They carried swords and had a sense of honour. Often a dispute would have to be settled by a duel. Originally this was by fencing with swords and later with the introduction of the gun, the duel was conducted by pistols at dawn.

Later with the industrial revolution in England and the move to the cities, the upper classes still had the largest houses, and still retained an important sense of manners and decorum. This was certainly apparent during the reign of Queen Victoria in the late 1800s. This class also had more money and hence more leisure time than the lower classes, and so they could spend time in the music halls watching the exponents of “The Japanese System”, and they also had time to join esoteric societies such as The Budokwai.

And so with the teachings of Koizumi to the English Gentlemen that joined the society, the sense of manners was expected and seen as normal.

In the time of the samurai in Japan, they were a fi ghting class, able to slice a man down with a single cut of the sword. Because of these finely tuned combat skills they were treated with the utmost respect, both by the other classes and amongst themselves. The samurai knew that if they offended another samurai that they would probably lose their life, and that if they lost face they may be expected to commit seppuku. Thus because of this sense of respect, a strong code of manners emerged to govern behaviour and ensure survival.

Today in the modern world of international sport judo, the best players know that their opponents have the ability to throw them if they are not in top fighting condition. Therefore there is a huge sense of respect amongst competitors at a high level. This is also compounded by the respect for the achievements of the other players. This sense of respect again leads to an expected code of manners both on and off the mat.

My own experience of knowing many very high level judo men over many years is that they greet each other with the utmost respect and display of good manners. However as we observe lower levels of judo, the players have not been subject to the same grueling training and hardship, and so their sense of respect for other judo players is not so acute. Hence they do not usually display the same level of manners in the conduct of their daily life.

Koizumi took his own life in 1965, feeling he had no more to offer to the development of judo in England, and around that time Trevor Leggett started to step back from the delivery of the daily training. There was an influx of members into the club from lower social classes who did not conform to the social etiquette of the English Gentlemen. But these new members no longer had the guidance of a Japanese artist who had a lifelong mission to disseminate the principles of budo.

Two other events happened at that time. Firstly, judo was accepted into the Tokyo Olympic Games, and took its place alongside the other international sports. Also the victory of Geesink over Kaminaga, made Europeans think that not everything that is Japanese about judo needs to be held in such high regard. Secondly, the British Government introduced a Sports Council to distribute funding for sport and they appointed a national coach for judo, Mr Geoff Gleeson. Mr Gleeson was one who despite having studied at the Kodokan was of the opinion that judo needed to be westernised for a new audience. This philosophy can best be found in his infl uential work, “Judo for the West”.

In this way some of the principles of budo, including manners and etiquette were seen by some as the Japanese part of judo, a part that was perhaps not required in the modern London in the swinging sixties. There was a shift towards viewing judo as a sport rather than a budo, and this was promoted by the Sports Council in England, and to some extent by the International Judo Federation as they sought to reinstate judo in the Olympic Games in Munich 1972 under the leadership of another Englishman, Charles Palmer.

The attention to judo etiquette became ritualized around that which was required for the sport element. In the 1950s, a group had broken away from the Budokwai dominated British Judo Association (BJA) to form a rival organization, the British Judo Council (BJC), under the leadership of Otani Matsutaro. The differences between the organisations started to polarize, with the British Judo Association being seen as interested in sport judo, with their access to funding from the Sports Council and their affi liation to the International Judo Federation. Whilst the British Judo Council, focused on the more traditional budo related elements of judo, emphasizing the manners and etiquette as well as the more Japanese fighting style as opposed to the Russian influences on judo which emerged in the 1960s.

The BJC has recently affiliated with the BJA, but the two organizations still retain their own distinctive ethos. The strongest players gravitate to the BJA to avail themselves of international competitive opportunities and the BJC focus on etiquette and development of kata.

As stated earlier, budo manners and etiquette are founded on a respect for your fellow samurai for his fighting ability and the hardship he has endured. With the best fi ghting judoka in England based in the BJA, and the best teachers of etiquette based in the BJC, there is a sense of emptiness about the delivery of the teaching of manners in England.

One can find hard training environments in the UK where there is tremendous respect amongst the players but the teaching of manners is poor, and you can also fi nd individual teachers whose understanding of budo etiquette is very deep, but the players they work with have not undergone the hard training at a high technical level to fully appreciate the respect that underpins those manners.

The way forward for the UK is for the best sports training environments to take the lead in the teaching of etiquette. To show the way in their conduct and behaviour and to help the best players understand the value of decorum in the conduct of the fi ghting social classes.

It is important that those strong training environments embrace the judo renaissance movement, and take full responsibility to hand on judo in the best possible condition to future generations.

All involved were very impressed.....we highly recommend this course.
Peter Herrmann, Performance Director of the Australian Judo Federation

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