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The Budokwai

Judo Photos

History Volume I - Founding of Budokwai to circa 1932

History Volume II - circa 1933 to 1965

History Volume III - memorabilia

Kodokan - London

Founding of British Judo Association 1948

Founding of European Judo Union  1948

Founding of International Judo Federation  1951

Budokwai Televised

Budokwai during the War 1939 onwards

End of War - return of Judoka

Spread of Judo

Judo Associations

Budokwai Film - Thirtieth Anniversary 1948

Death of Yuko Tani

Albert Hall Displays.

Japanese exchanges

Budokwai Moves to Gilston Road

Death of Koizumi 1965

Official Opening Gilston Road 1955

Koizumi's death 1965

50th Anniversary 1968

Budokwai 1970

History Volume III - memorabilia

Chairman's report 1956

Budokwai 50th Anniversary posters

Budokwai to be London Branch of Kodokan - Kano (who visited The Budokwai six times) arrived in 1933 accompanied by his son-in-law Takasaki Masami (a former All Japan champion), and Kotani Sumiyuki, both sixth dans. This visit nearly changed the course of British judo. On Saturday, 26th August 1933, at a meeting of The Budokwai's Committee, Dr Kano announced that he wished to merge the Society with the Kodokan, creating a London Branch of the Kodokan. A general meeting of the Society was called and it was agreed without dissent that The Budokwai should become a Provisional Branch of the Kodokan. The only point of disagreement was that while the members wished to retain the name Budokwai in some form Kano was not keen on this, he wanted any new entity to be known as the Kodokan, London Branch. Eventually a compromise was reached. Arrangements were made to leave Kotani in London as the judo master of the Kodokan Branch. Unfortunately Kotani, employed by the Manchurian Railways, was refused leave of absence. Even so he was in London for about three months. Many years later Kotani (1903-1991) became the last, and possibly the final, Kodokan tenth dan at the age of 81 on April 27th 1984.

Back in London by the summer of 1934, Kano was joined by Nagaoka Shuichi (1876-1952) then a ninth dan. Talks continued on the Kodokan Shibu (branch), and on Saturday, July 21st 1934, Kano convened a meeting to form a Kodokan Yudanshakai (a black belt association) of Great Britain. Those present were: Kano Jigoro, Nagaoka Shuichi, Koizumi Gunji, Tani Yukio, Otani Masutaro, Marcus Kaye, Harold and Norman Hyde, Harold Tricker, and Miss Woolhouse. Nagaoka was to spend three or four weeks in London; three years later, on December 22nd 1937, he was promoted to tenth dan. Leggett recalls practising with Nagaoka, "I gave him an awful hack on the shin, but he carried on as if nothing had happened." The proposal for a Kodokan Branch to take over The Budokwai ultimately collapsed, almost certainly because of the worsening international situation. But even shortly before his death in 1938 Kano was still talking about a London Branch of the Kodokan.

Budokwai Televised

A number of interesting events in the late thirties: Ernest Marples joined in 1937. He was to be absent during the war years, but later rejoined when he was Minister of Transport. In the same year Tani suffered a stroke, but fortunately he recovered sufficiently to be able to teach occasionally. In November of the previous year (1936) the world's first regular television service was started by the BBC from Alexandra Palace. Nine or ten months later, in August 1937 and due to the initiative of a member, Maurice Vernon, a demonstration of judo was televised for the first time - another first for The Budokwai - arranged by. This was followed by another televised display in 1938.

In 1939, Leggett, now a third dan, was invited to train at the Kodokan in Tokyo, sponsored by a Japanese International Students' group. Taken on by the British Embassy and interned along with the rest of the Embassy staff when Japan entered the war, he was to remain in Tokyo until repatriated . Once back in Britain, holding the grade of fifth dan, the highest non-Japanese judo grade in the world, and with a profound knowledge of Japanese, he ended up as a major in the Army where his Japanese was put to good use. A further Budokwai member, Dermott O'Neill, working at McArthur's headquarters in Tokyo, was promoted to fifth dan in 1947, thus being the second non-Japanese to hold that grade, world-wide.

Budokwai during the War 1939 onwards

But to return to 1939. The Budokwai had over the years gradually increased in strength, even the finances were threatening to stabilise. And scattered around the country there was a probable thirty to forty other clubs, so it seemed that judo had become firmly established. However a certain naughtiness on the European continent nearly wrecked all this; war was declared in September 1939. The effects were immediate. The Budokwai, and other clubs, lost members to the armed forces. Marcus Kaye was taken back into the RAF, rising to the rank of Wing Commander. John Barnes also rose to the rank of Wing Commander. Kauert and Chew were posted to the RAF station at Blackpool where in their spare time they organized a very successful judo club - over five thousand servicemen learned the rudiments of judo. Dominy, a keen runner who enlisted in the army, failed to beat the Germans in the race to Dunkirk and was captured. Percy Sekine was lucky to have survived, bailing out just in time when his plane was shot down over Germany. Dominy and Sekine, both persistent escapers, ended up in adjacent cells on one occasion. This led to "intercell" (dare one say "internet"?) discussions where Sekine, then a first dan, introduced Dominy to judo. Once released from the cells they set up a POW judo club, and it was here that Dominy started his judo career.

Desperate though the pre-war financial straits of The Budokwai were from time to time, they could not compare with what happened when the war started. With many members in the Forces and thus with many unpaid subscriptions, it was only the iron will of Koizumi which prevented the Society from collapsing. What was left of the Committee met and decided to suspend the operations of the Society for the duration of the war. While Koizumi understood the difficulties he would not accept this without a fight for the survival of judo and the Society he had started over twenty years earlier. He gathered a group of members and created the Judokwai to carry on until The Budokwai could be reinstated.

Money was the immediate problem. Because key members had been conscripted into the armed forces the Society's records were not up to date. It was unknown which members were up to date with their subscriptions and which were not. Nevertheless, Koizumi sat down and wrote to all members, reminding them that their subscriptions had expired! And adding that money was urgently needed to keep the dojo going. The responses were mixed but always sympathetic. One member wrote saying that he had resigned and owed nothing, but as he had a great regard for the Society he enclosed a cheque for ten pounds. Some sent in the full subscription, and yet others said that they were up-to-date but were happy to pay a year in advance. Some were unable to pay the full amount but sent what they could. There were sad letters, too. One man wrote from hospital to say he had lost a leg while serving in the army. The father of another wrote to say his son had been injured by a bomb and died shortly after. Often it took months for replies to reach Koizumi from the widely war-scattered members. And the result? Not only did Koizumi manage, by dint of fighting off the creditors and paying a bit here and there, but within eighteen months he actually built up a small financial reserve.

There were now two dojos at the Society's old premises, one at ground level and one in a part basement. Because of bombing raids the upper one was too dangerous to use as it had a large glass roof, so training was confined to the lower of the two. And training there was - throughout the war - by a small core of members who were unfit to serve in the Forces or were in reserved occupations. These would have been augmented by those lucky enough to be on leave. Chew, on leave from the RAF in Blackpool, recalls training in the lower dojo during an air raid. What he did not know until after the war, was that there was a well, about twelve feet deep and water-filled, under the floorboards in the middle of the dojo.

A few years later the well was the cause of a bizarre incident. In common with most dojos of the time, a canvas was stretched tightly over the entire area, covering whatever substitute was used for the then unavailable and proper tatami mats. Charles Palmer, having completed a rather nice throw in the middle of the mat, sensed that the entire floor seemed to be raising. It took a moment or two for him to realize the timber cover over the well had rotted and that in fact he and his partner were sinking, held up from vanishing down the well by the tightly secured canvas cover. "I never before or after quit a judo mat so fast!"

In 1943 at the third Annual Meeting of the Judokwai it was proposed that The Budokwai be reinstated and the Judokwai merged into it. While this was agreed it was another year before the Judokwai vanished, having become part of The Budokwai. Over most of the war years the constitutional situation was novel with three committees operating: first the board of the Nihon Bujutsu Limited, then the committee of The Budokwai, and lastly the committee of the Judokwai. While the first two were for the most part inactive they still existed. Decisions had to be passed up and down the chain, this often taking months because of the war time conditions (there were three sets of accounts).

Big changes are brought about by a major war. As a boy I must have passed the Society many times as I was born a short distance away and attended a school even closer, hardly within six minutes walk. With the onset of the war my school was evacuated to Kent. I still remember boarding the train carrying my gasmask and bits and bobs including a huge bar of chocolate. I and a few others ended up in Edenbridge, then a magical place. By the end of the war I was a fully fledged infantryman.

End of War - return of Judoka

With the end of hostilities in 1945 members started to return, Sekine and Dominy from POW camps, Leggett and Chew from India, Marcus Kaye from Europe, and others from all over the place. Sekine was to become Koizumi's son-in-law, marrying Hana Koizumi. This year saw the publication of The Budokwai Bulletin, a quarterly magazine edited for ten years by a lady of brilliant intellect, Dame Enid Russell-Smith, third dan. It was in this magazine that the first cartoons of Raymond Jackson, first dan, appeared - he was to become the famous Evening Standard cartoonist JAK. While the finances were becoming easier, still there was the occasional crisis and it was one of these that caused the Bulletin to cease publication in 1967.

Spread of Judo

Small displays had taken place throughout the war; for instance during the year ending 1945 a display took place every ten or eleven days. This, along with other factors, must have contributed to the tremendous interest in judo in the late 1940s and most of the following two decades. Dozens of judo clubs were formed and The Budokwai was swamped with requests for instructors. Even in the mid fifties it was not uncommon for members of the majority of clubs outside London to have never seen a dan grade. The Society, being the main centre for judo at the time, continued display work and also mounted many instructional courses. The only other source of competent instruction was Otani Masutaro who had formed his own small organization in London. But slowly over the years dan grades appeared in other clubs throughout the country and were able to take over.

In 1946 Chew and Dominy got together and with the assistance of The Budokwai founded The South London Judo Society. At first it had no premises of its own, functioning at a Police Section House. Finally premises were found at S. Oswald's Place near The Oval Cricket Ground. Within a few years the name was changed to The London Judo Society and, with its own following of clubs, became a serious rival to The Budokwai. It was the LJS which was responsible for bringing over Abe Kenshiro. Abe had been a brilliant judoman, both in contest and kata, but with age he had become increasingly erratic, indeed at times wildly eccentric. Eventually he was to leave the LJS, and join forces with Otani Masutaro, later still becoming a major figure in British Judo Council. The LJS also brought over the gentlemanly Yamada Senta, expert both in judo and aikido. Yamada, who was the leading pupil of Tomiki the great aikido (and judo) teacher, went on to set up his own club. Many years later the LJS were to move to its current premises in Lansdowne Way, and following the retirement of Chew and Dominy, be run by Syd Hoare.

Judo Associations

To return to the mid nineteen-forties and The Budokwai. In 1947 Koizumi established some contacts with judo organizations on the Continent and the idea of a European judo organization was revived. In July of the following year, during a two week instructional course run by The Budokwai at the Imperial College Union in South Kensington, two important events took place at the same location . Koizumi convened a meeting of all the known judo/jujutsu clubs in Britain, and it was at this meeting that the British Judo Association was formed. While a Honorary Treasurer was appointed there was no "treasure" to treasure - Koizumi provided five pounds to aid the first few steps of the baby association - the first national amateur judo organization in the world.

A few days later the second important event took place, again at the same location in South Kensington. Representatives from a number of European countries had been invited to London for a conference to attempt to establish a European judo body. The conference was successful, and the European Judo Union came into being in the afternoon of Wednesday, July 28th 1948. Four voting countries were present: Britain, Austria, Holland, and Italy. France was present as a non-voting observer. The delegates were: Messrs. J. Barnes, F. Kauert, G. Koizumi, T.P. Leggett (Budokwai); H. Green (Imperial College), A.T. Scala, G. Chew (London Judo Society), P. Buchelli, F. Nimfuhr (Austria), Lt M. Thieme (Holland), A. Castelli (Italy), Dr Feldenkrais (in an unknown capacity), M. de Jarmy (observer for France), and two interpreters: Messrs. Stott and Vincent.

As soon as news got around, countries outside Europe, for instance in South America, wished to join the Union and consequently the rules were stretched and stretched to accommodate such newcomers. But the situation became increasingly difficult to manage and a drastic solution was needed. On Thursday, July 12th 1951, the European Judo Union met in a private room at Choy's Chinese Restaurant, Frith Street, Soho, London. There the Union formally dissolved and replaced itself by the International Judo Federation. The officials of the defunct Union simply took up the same posts in the new Federation. This was all very well but the European nations were left without a Union. At the next General Meeting of the International Judo Federation, in Zurich on August 30th 1952, the European Judo Union was resurrected.

It is interesting to note what Koizumi, the instigator of all these organizational moves, said to the meeting in Zurich in 1952:

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 bais 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 enjoy it. That means you must partake of Judo training. Like food, unless you eat 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 the 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 that 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.

Koizumi was not against contests as such. Like Kano Jigoro he was against championships as they tend to deceive people into believing that these 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.

Budokwai Film - Thirtieth Anniversary 1948

Returning to the year 1948. The Budokwai produced an instructional film which, many years later, was transferred to a video format. About now, as mentioned earlier, Otani Masutaro set up his own club, the Jubilee, which later with the addition of some other clubs, became the Masutaro Otani Judo Society, or MOJS. The 30th anniversary of The Budokwai was celebrated by holding a dance at Chelsea Town Hall - where, as no throws were allowed, couples gyrated to the music of the Charles Palmer Band. Palmer, after a period in Japan, became a professional judo teacher, and went on to become an important figure in British sport. He had started his judo career at the Ealing Judo Club, in common with Geoffrey Gleeson and Ian Morris. I started as a beginner at The Budokwai in the first week of January 1949, having escaped from the army in the previous year. I was later to be elected twice to the committee, serving one term as chairman of that body, and later still becoming a Vice-President.

Death of Yuko Tani

Judo suffered a sad loss with the death of Tani Yukio in January 1950, followed by that other pioneer, Barton Wright, a year later. 

Albert Hall Displays.

albhallchild.jpg (87601 bytes)

Until now the post-war displays had been held at Seymour Hall, but 1951 saw the start of the meticulously mounted shows at the Royal Albert Hall. In the early fifties there were two shows a year, one being the Annual Display of The Budokwai and the other a British Judo Association show (the purpose was to attract members to the Association). In fact, most of the organizers and performers were the same in each case, all from The Budokwai. The strain of mounting a major display every six months at the Albert Hall was to become too great for the Society, and it was agreed that the BJA should put on its own smaller shows throughout the country. The number of affiliated clubs to The Budokwai was still greater than the member clubs of the Association. But this was gradually changing, aided by the policy of the Society to encourage clubs to join the Association.

Japanese exchanges

It was in December 1951 that Kano Resei, son of the Founder Kano Jigoro, and the current President of the Kodokan, the headquarters of Judo in Tokyo, arrived accompanied by Matsumoto Yoshizo, Tashiro Shigenori, and Daigo Toshiro. Matsumoto, a senior teacher and Daigo, twice All Japan Champion, took part a Albert Hall display. This was part of a tour to investigate the state of judo world-wide. Leggett would have been acquainted with these visitors as he had to travel to Japan periodically, this being part of his duties as head of the BBC's Japanese Section. With his encouragement and assistence, over the decade starting in 1951, fifteen members of The Budokwai travelled to Japan (Gregory, Wright, Palmer, Gleeson, Bloss, Grabher, Whyman, Kerr, Reed, Hamilton, Walters, Mack, Yvonne Myers, Newman, Cornish, and myself).

Others followed later. Many were enrolled in the Kodokan's Kenshusei, a special students section which received weekly lessons from all the leading teachers, including Mifune and Samura, the two tenth dans; this providing the finest judo education available for the next generation of judo teachers and champions. Some of the Japanese members were: Matsushita, Watanabe, Inokuma, Kaminaga, and Hasegawa. Both Matsushita and Watanabe were later to teach in London.

One result of the close contact with the Kodokan in Tokyo was the arrival in April 1953 of Kawamura Teizo, 6th dan, to be the chief instructor at The Budokwai. Kawamura proved to be a first class teacher, taking the senior members through the entire system of Kodokan Judo several times during his two year stay here. He also visited other clubs when time allowed. He was the right man at the right time. Once back in Tokyo he became one of the three teachers permanently attached to the Kenshusei Section (the other two were Daigo and Osawa). Other visitors arriving from Japan during the year were: Dr Suzuki, the famous scholar of Buddhism; three members of the Japanese House of Representatives (the Japanese parliament) one of whom carried a letter and a photograph addressed to the then chairman of the Society, John Barnes, from the Speaker of the House, Tsutsumi Yasujiro. The photograph showed Tsutsumi, then fifth dan, fighting in the All Japan Judo Championships of 1934. By now the British Judo Association had some two hundred member clubs while the number of those affiliated to the Society was decreasing.

Budokwai Moves to Gilston Road

In 1954 the Society left 15 Lower Grosvenor Place, Victoria, its home for thirty-five years, and moved to 4 Gilston Road, South Kensington. The new premises were officially opened in September by The Japanese Ambassador H.E. Matsumoto throwing Kawamura. 

It was about this time that Sekine, who had taught at The Budokwai for many years, decided to open his own club, the Judokan at Latymer Court, Hammersmith, this becoming a friendly rival. Kawamura's efforts in training people were reinforced by the arrival of Nakanishi Chikashi, 4th dan, and Ono Taiyo, 3rd dan. Nakanishi was here to study and Ono to work at the BBC. Both were very popular. Nakanishi, who was to visit Britain several time, visited over a hundred clubs during his first tour here. By now some of the early travellers to Japan were returning; most notable of these "Exiles" were Palmer and Gleeson. There were two distinguished visitors during the year: the famous groundwork expert, Oda Join, 9th dan, and Nakayama Shozen, 6th dan, head of the religious Tenri Sect (who over the years made several visits).

Shortly after the Official Opening, Koizumi left for Japan - his first visit to his homeland in fifty years. He was met at the airport in Japan by two groups, his sister and relatives, and the judo group being Kano Resei, head of the Kodokan, accompanied by other Kodokan officials. The last time he saw his sister she was sixteen. In a number of articles in the Bulletin he describes visiting the grave of Kano Jigoro and also those of his own ancestors. At his birthplace he found the sweetshop where he often bought sweets had gone, and so had the fruit tree which he used to climb. But the muddy spot on the way to school was still as muddy as it used to be. And:

The bridge and stream where I taught myself to swim looked the same as they were. Once I was caught by my father while I was splashing in the stream. As I was told not to go there without him, I hid myself under the bridge when I saw him approaching from a distance, and when I came out of the water I found my clothes, which I had left on the railing of the bridge were gone with my father. No one envied the home-going of the naked boy!

While he was entertained royally by the Kodokan and escorted around the country by Daigo, he experienced some minor difficulties; he found the low ceilings in the traditional houses oppressive, and sleeping on a single futon was troublesome after being used to a bed. And his reaction on returning to London, "It's nice to be home and have a nice cup of tea."

International matches had re-started shortly after the war, being in the first instance between France and Britain. But soon with the growth of the European Judo Union these were replaced by the European Judo Championships, and by 1956 the first World Judo Championships were held in Tokyo. While these still take place the "fixture list" now included many others, including the Olympic Games.

In the mid to late 1950s other strong clubs were gradually established . Most notably the London Renshuden, started by Leggett. This was to provide healthy opposition to The Budokwai. Other organizations also came into being, one was the Amateur Judo Association started by an orange belt and a one-time member of the BJA, and consequently its technical provenance was poor. But with time its judo improved. The other organization was the British Judo Council. Its provenance was excellent, being partly due to Otani Masutaro, who was trained by Tani Yukio, and partly due to Abe Kenshiro, both of whom have been mentioned earlier. Over the years other organizations appeared and disappeared, for instance in the mid-sixties there were about twenty. It has to be said that most of these minor groups, some with two or three or even one club, are not to be recommended. But having said that, there are a few honourable and competent groups scattered throughout Britain; one for instance is the Busen Society in Twickenham.

Other teachers arrived, shared between The Budokwai and Renshuden, firstly Matsushita Saburo, nicknamed the "Machine" because of the monotonous regularity with which he used and scored with the throw Haraigoshi, followed by Watanabe Kisaburo, possibly the most brilliant judoman of his generation. Both were former members of the Kenshusei, and both were to stay for a number of years. A major club in the Midlands, the Kita Nishi Kan, sponsored the arrival of a further expert, Hosaka Akinori.

Death of Koizumi 1965

We have reached the mid sixties in this very sparse account of the early years. Because of the dearth of space many dozens of interesting stories have been missed out. But 1965 is an appropriate year in which to stop for in April of that year, Koizumi, who was loved by many, having deciding that he had no longer had the strength to do more for British judo and not wishing to be a burden, took his own life. He had been on The Budokwai's mat teaching the previous day. When asked that evening, while being driven home, what he would most like to happen, he replied, "To see people think for themselves and not be led like sheep."

On Chelsea Embankment, at the junction with Cheyne Walk, there is a statue of Sir Thomas More on a small patch of green. A few yards away there is a another patch, "Roper's Garden", named after More's son-in-law. There Koizumi's Japanese Cherry Tree grows, a stone plaque at the foot gives his name.

Judo is the hardest of the Martial Ways. But it, like many of the others, has been distorted into a form of sport. None of the Martial Ways or Arts should be treated solely as a sport - they are serious disciplines which can teach much about life.

© R. Bowen   Kodokan 4th Dan  Vice-President. The Budokwai.1999

Early Martial Arts

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