2014 Volume 59 Issue 2 Pages 721-744
This study investigates the emergence of the concept of “sportification of judo” in Japan, focusing on the process of “student judo” in relation to the competition between the First Higher School (“Ichikoh”) and the Second Higher School (“Nikoh”) in 1918, up until formation of the Association of Judo by the Four Imperial Universities in 1928. Jigorō Kanō, the father of judo, was dissatisfied that Nikoh had overused ground techniques against Ichikoh in 1918, and in June 1924, Kodokan published a revised set of umpiring rules to control the use of ground techniques in student judo.
However, Tsunetane Oda, the manager of Nikoh judo club, criticized Kanō, and advocated that ground techniques were a valid combat method. Oda finally compromised, because Takeshi Sakuraba, one of Kanō's best pupils, refuted Oda's proposal. However, it was the first time that Kodokan had been publicly criticized by someone concerned with student judo, and this seems to have been a trigger for student judo to become independent from Kodokan.
In parallel with the emergence of the democracy movement after World War I, Judo came to be regarded as extremely outmoded, and judo practitioners began to place more emphasis on theory rather than actual competition. Kanō interceded with the Tokyo Gakusei Judo Rengōkai (Tokyo Student Judo Association, “TGJR”), and in 1924 persuaded the TGJR to let their umpire rules reflect the revised umpire rules. However, the Imperial University of Tokyo (IUT) rebelled against this movement, and left the TGJR. The IUT then appealed to each of the Imperial Universities, and held the Teidai Taikai (the Four Imperial Universities Competition, “FIUC”) to encourage nationwide spread of the Kosen Judo Taikai (National High School and Vocational School Judo Competition, which was hosted by Kyoto Imperial University, “KJT”). The Imperial University Judo Association, which hosted the FIUC, then abandoned the combat characteristics that were advocated by Kodokan, with the aim of representing judo as a “sport”.
One of the reasons why Kibisaburō Sasaki criticized Kodokan was that he had been treated coldly by Kanō and Kyūzō Mifune at the Shūki Kōhaku Shiai (a contest between two Kodokan groups) in November 1922, because he had used ground techniques frequently. Moreover, Sasaki as a member of the IUT judo club had experienced the withdrawal of the IUT from the TGJR, and the holding of the FIUC. Therefore, Sasaki criticized Kodokan while student judo was being organized. Sasaki claimed that “sportification” did not confer any new value on the principles of Kodokan judo. Kanō criticized the over-use of ground techniques by KJT and the FIUC, which lacked a combat system. However, Sasaki considered that Kanō's opinion was a long-established custom, and insisted that the FIUC was a sports competition. Thus, the claim made by Sasaki meant that the FIUC had become independent from Kodokan judo.