2014 Volume 59 Issue 2 Pages 529-547
This paper focuses on the position of “Ju-ken” matches and their promoter, Kenji Kano, in Japanese boxing history. A “Ju-ken” match was a match between a judoist and a boxer, and such bouts were held from the middle of the Taisho era to the early Showa era in Kobe, Tokyo and Osaka. The main organizer of these matches was the “International Ju-ken club”, whose owner Kenji Kano was the nephew of Jigoro Kano. This study divides the history of Ju-ken into three periods, each with respective features.
The first period was from October 1919 to April 1921. Ju-ken at this time was intended to reform judo into a competitive sport through fighting with boxing. Although judo had been well established at that time, it was facing a challenge due to loss of its spirit and form as a martial art during the process of sportification. Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo, was unhappy with this change. By studying boxing, karate, aikido, stick fighting and other martial arts, he aimed at creating a ‘Martial Art Judo’. His nephew Kenji Kano pursued martial art-oriented judo as well, but his approach to reconstructing judo as a martial art was through mixed martial arts games, the “Ju-ken match”.
The middle period was from May 1921 to March 1925, when Ju-ken evolved into a spectator sport that encapsulated the struggle for superiority in terms of nationality and ethnicity. Because Kodokan prohibited their members from participating in any mixed-martial arts match from April 1921, Ju-ken became a spectator sport. In addition, after charity matches following the Great Kanto Earthquake, in order to bring more excitement to the game, Ju-ken heightened the opposition and rivalry based on the nationalities and ethnicities of the athletes.
The final period was from April 1925 to August 1931, when Ju-ken changed into a show that was intended to provoke nationalistic emotions among the audience. After the development of “normal” boxing, Ju-ken held normal boxing matches in their games and adopted new boxing-like rules. These new rules and the point systems put foreign boxers at a disadvantage when fighting against Japanese judoists, ensuring that Japanese would always defeat foreigners.
Finally, through assimilation of knowledge and focusing on boxing, this study argues that Ju-ken matches created a background for localization of modern boxing in Japan.