View Full Version : Judo and the sword

23rd August 2000, 01:48
Welcome, Mr. Obata,

I have a fairly simple question, but what is your opinion, or what can you tell us of The sword and the connection to Mr. J. Kano, and what do you think he did by establishing the Kodokan? I realize the opinion many have of judo, and most is not flattering. I would ask, in the context of what Mr. Kano has conceived and brought forward into the meiji period through today, has much been lost because of judo's competitive nature, or just what is it about judo itself which has so many dismissing it as a Japanese art? Personally, I think it still is provided one wants to learn. What did Mr. Kano achieve by rendering all sword work and other weapons arts to kata only. Is randori a good thing? What is your opinion?

Thank you for your time in answering.


Mark F. Feigenbaum
Kodokan Judo

Obata T
23rd August 2000, 23:30
Interesting question!

120 years ago in Japan, the Haitorei law (a law stating that people couldn't carry swords around) was passed twice. From that period, there were very few people that seriously wanted to learn martial arts. People back then had the idea that old fashion martial arts were bad and new fashion martial arts were good. This change in attitude is why Jujutsu became Judo and Kenjutsu became Kendo etc.

When Japan lost in WWII, Judo and Kendo were prohibited. Several years later, these martial arts were introduced as sports [combative aspects were not generally emphasized so as not to raise discomfort with the American occupation forces monitoring activities] and gradually competitions
became the main goals of training.

The reason there were Olympics in Japan is because the IOC [I think this is the "International Olympic Committee"] contacted Mr. Kano instead of the Japanese government. In modern times, competition tends to be the main goal in arts like Judo, Kendo and Karate.

From one perspective, Judo has become a "worldwide art" as opposed to a "Japanese art" [the art is practiced so widely outside Japan that much of the Japanese culture and vitality is now overlooked]...but this cannot be helped. Once a martial art becomes a Olymic Game, this is what happens.

Mr. Kano had learned wrestling and Jujutsu before he created Judo. All the good points of other Jujutsu styles (including the actual techniques) were melted in to the original Kodokan Judo. Being a professional educator, he had this experience also to aid him in forming the important principles and developing new methods of teaching students. He is now thought of as a kind of genius, but at the time spome people were not too happy with his new ideas.

This is also how I think of Shinkendo; all the good points of different swordsmanship styles have melted into Shinkendo.

Judo practictioners long ago learned many different techniques and methods, including some weapons and defenses. But recently many Judo practictioners [specialize in] only a couple of techniques in order win in competitions.

I don't think it can be argued that Judo has changed alot since the beginning. There are still books commonly available that show samples of weapons, kumiuchi and other older older techniques from the original Kodokan style.

International Shinkendo Federation,

Nathan Scott
23rd August 2000, 23:42

If I may add a little bit...

My experience with Judo when I was a kid was that kata was rarely practiced, except in the yudansha ranks mainly for the purpose of ranking (kind of like the Kendo kata). We were taught techniques and then practiced randori to figure out how to get them to work.

Today, I literally cannot find anyone locally (so far) who really knows the various Kodokan kata well.

From conversations with Obata Soke, I would say that he is a strong supporter of the practice of Randori/Jiyuwaza (partnered free practice) and Oyowaza (applied techniques). That might be considered one of Judo's strong parts.

But I believe Obata Sensei would agree that it would be helpful to see kata in general practiced on a more regular basis in Judo. However, free sparring with weapons is always a complicated issue, and typically either ends up with methods that are too safe (not real enough to gain necessary insight) or too dangerous (helpful, but to much of a liability to permit openly in a organization or federation).

In our Aiki Buken, we always are aware of the possibility of our opponent seizing our tanto/wakizashi etc., and many of our blocks and approaches to Judo-like throws reflect this.

We also try to avoid rolling around on the ground as much as possible when performing techniques for the same reason! :)

These are a couple of examples of the kind of mindset and manner that seems to be largely missing in Judo these days.

Hope this helps fill in a couple of gaps.


[Edited by Nathan Scott on 08-23-2000 at 05:48 PM]

24th August 2000, 08:10
Thank you, Mr. Obata and Mr. Scott,
I would not argue Olympic judo is two or three waza, and no centering. That is a shame.

There are people who still teach judo kata, and there are still kata tournaments, but they are rare.

Thank you for your time, and interesting answer to the question of the law which govered it's use back then. Especially interesting as that has never been brought up as a reason for these weapons kata being relegated to demonstration only.

Mark F. Feigenbaum
Kodokan Judo

25th August 2000, 09:06
Hello again, Mr. Obata,

Please excuse this short follow up question to Prof. Jigoro Kano and the use/defense against the sword.

I do know a little of the haitorei of the time, but Kano did use the sword as a tool to teach kata with it offensively, and mostly defensively.

There are many, many photographs of Mr. Kano teaching defense from certain types of attacks with the sword, and in my thirty-seven years of judo, I have seen kata which demonstrated these waza, in particular, women judoka almost exclusively. Although Kodokan Judo today only shows one type of drawing of the sword and a downward cut (kirioroshi), would you consider teaching these kata, or similar technique, to judoka who, since some are aging rapidly :wave: , and cannot compete in shiai anymore, with the effects of injuries which do not permit it, who wish to learn the very earliest, and the many kata which Mr. Kano had always included, at least, early on?

Thank you very much.

Mark F. Feigenbaum
Kodokan judo

[Edited by MarkF on 08-25-2000 at 03:14 AM]

Obata T
27th August 2000, 23:09
In our Taisabaki, we have a basic body movement exercise that includes attacks with a sword. When I go to seminars, I always teach Taisabaki to my students and other martial artists. The attacks can be from other weapons also.

If you learn real swordsmanship, you will understand why it is useless to go against a sword barehanded. Since students always learn one side of a martial art, they often don't understand the fake or simpleness in their techniques.

International Shinkendo Federation,