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Origins

Richard Bowen

Richard "Dicky" Bowen began judo training in January 1949 at the Budokwai in London. He lived in Japan for four years to deepen his studies and eventually earned a Kodokan 4th Dan ranking. A former International European Judo Champion, Mr Bowen is now Vice President of the Budokwai. He Co-authored a book on judo in 1962, has written over eighty articles and has been labouring for many years on a comprehensive book detailing the history of judo/jujutsu as it developed in the west.

Dicky Bowen has kindly submitted these articles to the website. 'Origins' was first published in the Journal of Asian Martial Arts Volume 8 Number 3 - 1999

The years slip by and much, which should be remembered, is forgotten. This is a brief account of the creation of three judo organisations, two over fifty years ago and the third a few years short of that period.

The story starts with Gunji Koizumi. In the early nineteen thirties he suggested to a group of judo friends on the European Continent that a union should be formed to facilitate international judo matters. It is quite likely that the concept originated earlier in discussions between and Koizumi and Jigoro Kano, these taking place during the five visits, from 1920 to 1933, the Founder of Kodokan Judo made to the Budokwai in London.

Much is known about Jigoro Kano (as this account is in English I adhere to the convention of writing names as they are normally written in that language), but what about Gunji Koizumi? Koizumi arrived in London in 1906 and some nine months later went to the United States of America. By 1910 he was back in London where he set up an antique business. Wishing to contribute something to his adopted country (although he never became English) he organized at his own expense a martial arts society in London, the Budokwai, which opened its doors on January 26th 1918. This was, and is, a strictly amateur and democratic body; one which is run by and owned by the members.

In 1929 the first international judo contests took place in Germany between the Budokwai and the Frankfurt-am-Main and Wiesbaden clubs. It must be recorded that the initiative for this came from the Frankfurt Jujutsu Club. While these started as interclub matches, by 1931 they had assumed the character of full international contests. Within a year or two Judo Instructional Summer Schools were taking place in Frankfurt and it would have been at these that plans were made for some form of European union. A skeleton organization was indeed formed, but came to naught with the rise of the Nazis and the threat of war. In later years Koizumi was prone to say, "The European Judo Union was formed but never matured." At times he would refer to this early organization as the First European Judo Union.

In passing, the instructors at the three or four pre-second world war Summer Schools were: Gunji Koizumi, Yukio Tani, and Masutaro Otani, all from the Budokwai; M. Kawaishi from Paris; Dr Rhi from Switzerland; and Dr Kitabatake from Berlin. All, with the possible exception of Dr Rhi, were members of the Kodokan.

BRITISH JUDO ASSOCIATION

After the war Koizumi discussed with the Budokwai Committee the possibility of forming a British national judo body and of reviving a possible European organization. Early in 1948 he decided to act and John Barnes, then Chairman of the Budokwai, sent out invitations to a conference of all known British clubs. A further invitation was sent to all known judo/jujutsu clubs in Europe. These two conferences were timed to coincide with a Judo Summer School run by the Budokwai in London in July 1948, a suitable time for matters international as the first post-war Olympic Games were being held in the city.

The British conference took place in Committee Room A, at London University's Imperial College Union, Prince Consort Road, on Saturday, July 24th 1948. The meeting convened at 14.30 hours. Those present were:

Miss Barbara Ball (later Dr) Liverpool University;  G. Dawson-Grove Imperial College, London; Hylton Green Imperial College, London,  John Barnes Budokwai; Michael Bell Budokwai,  Frederick Kauert Budokwai; Gunji Koizumi Budokwai,  and representing  the South Shields Judo Club,  Eric Dominy South London Judo Society,* Budokwai,; and representing Bristol Judokwai; (*later the London Judo Society); Stan Bissell Budokwai.  -  Manchester Y.M.C.A. Judo Club sent apologies.

The meeting examined a proposed constitution put forward by Koizumi which, after some amendments and additions, was unanimously adopted. This is not the place to set out the agreed constitution, but it could hardly be called lengthy, running to twenty-nine lines. How nice! With the British Judo Association now formed, the meeting went on to elect the following officials: Committee members: Koizumi, Barnes, Green, Dominy, and Bissell; Barnes was elected Chairman, Green as Honorary Secretary, and Bissell as Honorary Treasurer. But the Treasurer had nothing to treasure, so Koizumi lent a few pounds to allow the baby Association to stagger forward.

European Judo Union.

The Association then got down to discussing ideas for the forthcoming international conference on the proposed European Judo Union. A draft constitution was formulated to be tabled at the international conference. And that was that, with the meeting closing at 17.30 hours - three hours to form the first amateur national judo association in the world.

The number of clubs attending gives an indication of the size of judo in Britain at that time. There was a probable eighteen clubs affiliated to the Budokwai. Doubling that number gives the likely number of clubs in the country in 1948. A few years later there was a hundred and ten clubs affiliated to the Budokwai and about forty in the B.J.A. But then the number of clubs in Association gradually overtook the Budokwai affiliates.

On Monday, July 26th 1948, the International Conference was convened in the same Committee Room A at the Imperial College Union, commencing at 14.45 hours. Those present were:

Mr John Barnes Budokwai,; Mr F. Kauert Budokwai, Mr G. Koizumi Budokwai, Mr T.P. Leggett Budokwai, Mr H. Green Imperial College, Mr A.T. Scala South London Judo Society (LJS), Mr F.A. Vincent Interpreter Mr P. Buchelli Austria, Mr F. Nimfuhr Austria, Lt.M. Thieme Holland, Mr Castella Italy,* Mr Stott Interpreter for Signor Castella, Dr Feldenkrais The Minutes do not give in what capacity he attended. Mr de Jarmy Observer from France. (* in other documents the name is given as Castelli). 

Only four votes were allowed, equalling the number of countries present (Britain, Austria, Holland, and Italy, France being an observer).  Leggett was elected Chairman for the Conference, and Hylton Green appointed scribe. The Budokwai's draft constitution, which was actually based on a proposed constitution from the thirties, was tabled. Leggett then explained that the object of the proposed Union was the standardisation of judo rules and procedures and the establishment of an international body for arbitration.

As it was generally agreed that the meeting did want to form a Judo Union, they went on to examine the draft constitution. A detailed examination followed, with each section being scrutinized, hacked about, taken out, put back in, altered, and put to the vote; all no doubt with varied expletives in various languages. At one point France tried to vote until she was reminded that she was there as an observer and not as a member of the conference. By 17.25 hours everyone had enough so the meeting was adjourned until the following Wednesday, giving the delegates time to recover and to examine further details at leisure.

The adjourned meeting took place on Wednesday, July 28th, at 14.30 hours in the same Committee Room. G. Chew of the South London Judo Society joined the conference as a new delegate, otherwise the others remained unaltered apart from Signor Castella who was unable to attend. Leggett continued to chair the conference. France, who was allowed to express opinions but not to vote, continued to raise objections about certain points although the delegates had approved of these. Finally, Britain put forward the motion: "That the European Judo Union be now formed on the basis of the Constitution as approved, and that all other European countries be circulated with a copy of it and be invited to join." This was seconded by Holland and approved unanimously.

The First General Meeting of the European Judo Union.

The meeting then resolved itself into the First General Meeting of the European Judo Union, and proceeded to the election of officers. This resulted in Leggett being appointed Chairman and Lt. Thieme of Holland as Vice-Chairman. The next move was to form a Judo Council (a technical body as opposed to the General Committee). Those elected were:

Mr G. Koizumi, Dr M. Feldenkrais, Mr P. Bonet-Maury, Mr E. Mossom, Mr T.P. Leggett.

France intervened with the suggestion that each of the important judo countries should be represented on the Council. As Chairman, Leggett pointed out that the purpose of the Council was not to represent national interests but to be composed of real judo experts. Just before the meeting closed, Holland issued a formal invitation to the E.J.U. for the next General Meeting to be held in Holland. The meeting concluded at 16.30 hours with a vote of thanks to Britain for taking the initiative in organizing the Union. Shortly after the close of the meeting, Leggett relinquished the position of Chairman of the General Committee (but retained his position on the technical body) as mat judo was more important to him than political waza. As the position of Chairman was now vacant, it was suggested that Barnes should act as pro tempore Chairman until the Holland gathering. This was agreed. The first Constitution of the E.J.U. was naturally more comprehensive that the twenty-nine lines of the B.J.A.'s Constitution as, including titles and sub-titles, it ran to sixty-eight lines. A triumph of judo over bureaucracy.

No doubt the creators of the first continental judo union then retired to the Union bar to celebrate, in the time honoured manner of judo folk everywhere, with tankards of weak lemonade.

The Second General Meeting of the European Judo Union.

This was held in Bloemendaal, Holland, on October 29th 1949. Those present were:

Mr J. Barnes Britain,  Lt. H. Thieme Holland, Mr Aldo Torti Italy, Mr Jorn Aabrink Denmark. Messrs. Marcelin and Lagaine were present as observers for France. 

Denmark, who earlier had applied for membership to the Union, was unanimously elected. Most of the discussions centred around the contest rules; it was decided that in international contests between Union members the Kodokan contest rules should be used. Italy was elected Chairman for the coming year with Denmark as the Vice-Chairman. Mr. Kawaishi of France and Dr Rhi of Switzerland were elected to the Judo Council, the other members being Messrs. Koizumi, Leggett, Bonet-Mauray, Mossom, and Dr Feldenkrais.

In 1989 an account appeared in an official Union publication stating, not only that this was the First Annual General Meeting, but that it was at this meeting where the Union was formed. The English version (which was accompanied by French and German versions) reads:

On 29.10.1949 in Bloemendaal (HOL) the EJU was founded and the following countries were present: Denmark, France, Great Britain, Holland and Italy. Mr Torti (ITA) was elected President.

That the E.J.U. was founded on that date and place is false. And an earlier paragraph says that a meeting was held in London on July 26th 1948, to prepare the basis for the foundation of the E.J.U. It is correct to write that a meeting took place, the rest of the report is also false - I have the Minutes of the 1948 meeting. There was also a report in the October 1948 issue of the Budokwai Bulletin on the founding of the Union, and there is other documentary evidence. The matter was eventually taken up with the Union by John Barnes, a Vice-President, and it is hoped that these errors, which surely are the result of inadequate research, have now been remedied in the official records.

The Third General Meeting of the European Judo Union.

This was held in Venice on Sunday, October 29th 1950, with delegates from Italy, Britain, Holland, Belgium, Austria, and Switzerland, under the Chairmanship of Dr Torti. It was thought that the term of chairmanship was too short so it was extended to four years. The General Committee was enlarged to include three Vice-Presidents and two Advisors. Britain and Austria were elected Vice-Presidents with Holland and Switzerland as Advisors. The third Vice-Presidency was left vacant pending the Chairman's invitation to France to join the Union.

I do not possess the Minutes of this meeting, and while I do have a long report in three languages by Dr Torti this does not give the names of the delegates. It is certain that John Barnes represented Britain and Dr Torti Italy. The identity of the others is yet to be resolved. France sent an observer in the person of M. Marcelin. Switzerland, Belgium, and Germany, were elected to membership of the Union, and a fourth language, German, was added to the official languages (French, Italian, and English) of the Union.

The French observer explained the failure of France to join the Union. France had four separate judo organizations: two amateur and two professional. As a consequence there were difficulties in forming a single national body to represent France. And of course the Union would only accept a single national body. Similar trouble arose with Holland where two organizations were competing for national supremacy. The Union solved this by rejecting the claims of one body for non-payment of the Union fees, and accepting the other body as the new representative for Holland. This General Committee meeting was relatively short, not so the meeting of the Judo Council which ended five hours after the other group's discussion had finished. The Council went through the contest rules with the diligence of an elephant searching for fleas. It ended with the adoption of the Budokwai's contest rules, which were based on those of the Kodokan, with some minor alterations of wording to avoid ambiguity.

Things change little. After offering some praise for the British attitude to judo, the report of the Chairman, Dr Torti, continued with, "...though I deplore their lack of a federal outlook." As one of the bloody-minded islanders, who am I to contradict his judgement?

A few weeks after the Venice conference France managed to reconcile its internal differences and applied to join the Union. And at about the same time Argentine also applied, with others outside Europe having similar thoughts. The Statutes of the Union had already been widened to allow for this. Europe was very stretchable in those days.

The Fourth General Meeting of the European Judo Union

and

The First General Meeting of the International Judo Federation.

This important meeting was held in a private room at Choy's Chinese Restaurant, Frith Street, Soho, London, on Thursday, July 12th 1951, no doubt to the comforting rattle of chopsticks. Eight countries were present: Italy, Britain, Belgium, France, Holland, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Here too I lack the names of all the delegates. But again John Barnes was the British representative, Dr Torti (the Chairman) represented Italy, Herr Scharfer Germany, W. Graf Switzerland, and J.J. Moes Holland.

The desire of Argentine to join, and with others outside the European ambit just as keen, required serious thought. A proposal, which had been circulated earlier with a suggested constitution, was tabled. After discussion and agreement on the proposed constitution for a new organization, the European Judo Union was formally dissolved and replaced by an International Judo Federation. Instead of holding individual elections for officials to serve on the new Federation, it was agreed that the officials of the now extinct E.J.U. take up similar positions on the new body. How sane, how peaceful, how logical!

The other main subject was the position of the judo colossus in the Far East - Japan. Koizumi, who had been corresponding with Risei Kano (the President of the Kodokan and son of the Founder ) read a letter from him in which he explained that he regretted being unable to attend the meeting or send a delegate. The letter contained the suggestion that the headquarters of a world federation should be in Tokyo. The meeting declined this on the grounds that Japan was too distant. Furthermore, Japan was not a member of the Federation.

The Second General Meeting of the International Judo Federation

and the

Resurrection of the European Judo Union.

This meeting, a real humdinger, was held in Zurich on Saturday, August 30th 1952. It started at 10.00 hours and continued, apart from breaks for food, to midnight. "...discussion raged!" The outstanding problem was how to find a way for Japan to enter the Federation; the problem was the same as France had earlier faced - there was not a single national body. It was finally decided to offer Risei Kano the Presidency of the International Judo Federation. A diplomat acting on behalf of the Japanese Ambassador, who had been asked by Mr Kano to represent him at the conference, thanked the meeting.

With the Presidency of the Federation now in the hands of Japan, the conference dealing with the Federation came to an end and discussions switched to Europe. But without a Union nothing could be done, so the European Judo Union was re-established. Bonet-Maury expressed the wish that France should become the President of the European Judo Union as France's importance in Europe was on a parallel with that of Japan in the East, and that it was essential for the progress of the movement in Europe that France assumes this important role, and failing this France may not take a very active part in the Union. This subtle diplomatic and canny statement resulted in Italy being elected to the Presidency. France and Britain were elected Vice-Presidents with Belgium as Treasurer.

Among other problems was the application of East Germany to join the E.J.U. This was temporarily solved by admitting East Germany as an Observer for one year, without voting rights but the right to participate in competitions. Further discussions ranged about the question of weight categories, which Britain, France, Belgium, and Holland opposed. A French proposal was eventually adopted, this being that those nations who wished to have weight category competitions do so in their own countries, and in the European Championships special weight category events should be held for them which do not interfere with the customary non-weight category competitions of Britain, France, Belgium, and Holland.

"On more than one occasion, differences of opinion in four or five quarters occasioned a full scale battle of words, the contestants excitedly flinging their arms in the air. Suddenly, a split-second silence. Somebody smiled and the whole room dissolved into laughter!"

Those present were:

Messrs. Hartmann Switzerland, Plee France, Lasshan Eastern Germany, Johannson Denmark, Koizumi Britain, Barnes Britain, Bonet-Maury France  Marcelin France, Verlinde Belgium, Callier Belgium, Oletti Italy, Genolini Italy, Nauwelauerts Holland, Nimfuhr Austria, one unknown Austria, Schafer Germany, Mrs Schafer Germany, Dr Torti President. Italy, Dr Castella General Secretary

Strictly speaking some were not delegates but present as advisers or in some other capacity. Koizumi was one example of this - being present as a Technical Adviser - Barnes being the official B.J.A. delegate.

The young lions of the time took little interest in the first tottering steps of the three new organization; apart from lacking the experience and seniority necessary, they were far more interested in forwarding their personal prowess on the mat. This was certainly the case in Britain and it is unlikely that their counterparts on the European continent differed. It was during the decade, starting in 1950, that Leggett encouraged and helped many on the trek to Japan, some sixteen from the Budokwai including myself. The next largest number of "Exiles" was provided by France, with other countries supplying smaller numbers. But to return to the Zurich meeting of 1952. Koizumi, who had been at a separate technical meeting, was invited by the Chairman, Dr Torti, to address the delegates. This is what he said:

"When I was coming along this morning I was sorry, not only for myself but for all of you, that I was the instrument of your not being able to enjoy this lovely country and lovely weather today (A reference to his founding of the E.J.U. in 1948). From the way you have been struggling to solve the pressing problems at this Conference, it seems that you are suffering from a sort of toothache which you do not know how to cure! That means that all these problems arose from the basis of competition - championships and international contests. For a cure, I should like to advise you to extract this tooth - that is, to do away altogether with championships and international competition.

To appreciate Judo, its benefits and value, you must actually taste and digest it. That means you must partake of Judo training. Like food, unless you eat and digest and enjoy the flavour and the quality of the food, you cannot appreciate its goodness. So it was on Friday, after two or three hours' hard struggle discussing technical problems of this Conference, we were invited to go to Mr Graf's dojo, and there on the mat we all mixed - seven nations - practising Judo and partaking of training together. You ought to have seen the effect of that completely changed atmosphere, and the feeling of the people! There was no question of weight categories or other problems.

We enjoyed the beer afterwards and the taste of the food, which completely changed after those two hours' training on the mat. That is Judo. Without that there is no Judo. You cannot express the realities of life. However wise or clever, they are always insufficient in terms of human language. Any move you may bring forward, if it is not to produce the result Judo aims at, you are defeating its own end. Therefore, you must be very careful what you do today.

Good positive work has been accomplished here, that is absolutely certain. Please do not make rules that are too hard and too fast. That is all I have to say. Thank you."

A few words of explanation are required here. Koizumi was not against contests per se. Like Jigoro Kano he was against championships as they tend to deceive people into believing that contests of this nature are the ends rather than the means of training. Contests are a form of training and nothing more. A failure to see this is really a failure to fully understand judo. For those who never had the privilege of knowing Koizumi; he was teaching until the day before he died in April 1965, altogether he spent over sixty-four years in judo and, apart from nine months in 1906 and 1907, he was a strict amateur for the rest of his life. At his death he held the Kodokan grade of 8th dan.

Much more could be written about the early years, but this short article will suffice to acquaint readers of the origins of the three organizations. Before closing, here is an opinion from Mr Somsak of Bangkok, a Kodokan 2nd dan, contained in a letter to E.J. Harrison in 1948:

"Emphatically Judo should not be a mass movement. Its confinement to a select membership will curtail abuse which will result if it is an open affair to all and sundry. To cover up their inferiority complex or to feed their egoistical sense of importance those with a rudimentary grasp of it are liable to make a detrimental use of this art, thus violating the Kano principles. It should not be taken up lightly and treated as any other game or sport. Just look what has been done to wrestling."

Was he was right? Many years later I wrote to the General Committee of one of the three bodies about its abuse of Jigoro Kano's principles, saying , "The Committee is striving to attain mediocrity - without much success." A remark which could apply to all three.

R. Bowen.

Kodokan 4th Dan. Vice-President, The Budokwai.

© Richard Bowen 1998.

 

JUDO IN JAPAN

First broadcast by Trevor Leggett  in October 1940 - on Nippon Hoso Kyokai 

 The idea of this little talk is to give you some notion of Judo as it is practiced in Japan itself, together with one or two sidelights which it gives on things Japanese generally.  Probably most of those listening to me have heard of Judo, or Jujitsu as it is still widely known, and they will, I dare say, have the popular conception (which as it happens is a true one as far as it goes) of an extremely fast, delicate, and effective method of self defense. It is all that -- but a great deal besides.

 Maybe a good introduction would be to ask you to walk with me into the main practice hall of the Kodo-kwan, the Headquarters of Judo in Japan. As we round the corner you will probably be startled by a tremendous bang, and feel the floor shake slightly, but you needn't mind that. 

You see before you a great hall, nearly square, with a very high roof. The floor is covered with smooth tatami, or Japanese straw mats, which reflect the afternoon sun pleasantly and give an atmosphere of lightness and airiness to the whole place.  Just in front of us a man is getting to his feet -- yes, that was the bang you heard, his opponent threw him. But he isn't a bit hurt. For one thing, he is an expert at falling, and knows how to turn his body and what to do to ensure that his muscles take all the shock of the fall, and for another, the whole floor is sprung so that even a slight jump will make it give. Now suppose we take a look at him as he moves up to his opponent, who is waiting for him.

They are both wearing a white jacket and trousers of strong but soft material and a black belt. They take hold very quickly and lightly, seeming just to touch each other, and immediately begin to move rapidly about the floor. They don't tug or push each other, they don't strain violently -- that would endanger their own balance. They're just trying to find an opportunity. There it comes… an incautious step, and one of them describes a half circle through the air and comes down, seemingly hurled to the ground with tremendous force. But he's up on his feet again at once, and off they go once more.

You probably didn't see the technique -- it was rather quick, and anyway we needn't go into that now. But suppose we take the general atmosphere of the place, what impresses one most is the feeling of quiet, almost of solemnity, pervading it. Those who are not playing don't lounge about and chatter; they sit or stand upright, and there is no laughing or joking. The faces of the players themselves express complete concentration. If you play Judo yourself you will know that is the only way -- it is far too potent a thing to be taken lightly or treated as a toy.

Another thing that will strike you is the politeness and formality surrounding the practice of the art. The two players salute each other with the deep Japanese bow. Over there you can see one of the head teachers with an absolute novice, about to begin a lesson. They start off just the same with the ceremonial bow -- in that way the novice shows his respect for the teacher, and the teacher also respects him as a devotee of the art, no matter how great the disparity of skill.

Everyone in the class goes at it hard during the whole practice, and hardly a word is exchanged from beginning to end, except for a few brief sentences now and then from the teacher, always very much to the point. The teacher himself goes to have his bath a few minutes before the end of the practice. He may then chat to the Captain for a few minutes, and drop a few words of advice, and then takes his leave. The practice is over.

And immediately everyone relaxes. All their natural Japanese cheerfulness comes out. The practice is over, and you can smoke and talk freely, and joke as much as you like. In the next room is a huge bath of steaming hot water where one can soak, and afterwards return to cool off clad in nothing but a towel. Some tea and cakes are brought in, and you can spend a pleasant half hour with some of the jolliest, kindest, and most unaffected friends you could meet anywhere in the world.