The Extraordinary Professor Kano - His Books, Influence, and Political Legacy

By Suino, Nicklaus
This article first appeared in the "SMAA Journal" Volume 28, Issue 4.
The Extraordinary Professor Kano - His Books, Influence, and Political Legacy

Are you interested in the history of Japanese martial arts?

What do you know about the history of Judo?

Kano Jigoro Sensei was the founder of Kodokan judo. While he’s mainly known for his contributions to the world of martial arts and physical education, his abilities and his influence extended far beyond sports and the dojo. He was not just a visionary in the martial arts world, he was also instrumental in the careers of many other famous martial artists, as well as a significant figure in the political landscape of Japan during a crucial period of its history. When we’re celebrating this remarkable man, we should not miss the opportunity to showcase his works, his connections, and involvement in education, international diplomacy, and physical fitness as a means of fostering national pride and unity.


Outside the direct propagation and development of judo, one of Kano Sensei's earliest political activities was his involvement in the Japanese physical education system. He believed that physical fitness was an essential element of a nation's strength and unity. This focus led to his role in the Ministry of Education, where he worked on reforming the physical education curriculum in Japanese schools. He advocated the inclusion of martial arts, particularly judo, as a means of instilling discipline, respect, and fitness in Japan’s young people.
It’s important to remember that judo as an educational tool was not just a physical endeavor; it was also a political one. Kano Sensei promoted judo to contribute to the formation of a disciplined, physically capable, and loyal citizenry, which he believed was vital for Japan to become a global power.


Kano Jigoro was also involved in international diplomacy. He used his influence to foster goodwill and cooperation between nations. He traveled extensively and had a significant role in promoting Japanese culture and diplomacy worldwide. His efforts to spread judo and his work with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) reflected his belief in the power of sports as a means of international cooperation and understanding.
Kano Sensei's involvement in the IOC was a notable example of his political engagement. He served as a founding member of the committee and played a crucial role in bringing the 1964 Summer Olympics to Tokyo, a significant event in Japan's post-war history that showcased the country's resurgence as a global power.


In addition to his political involvement in education and diplomacy, Kano Sensei's establishment of the Kodokan Institute in 1882 is another demonstration of his political acumen. This institution not only served as the headquarters for the development and dissemination of judo but also as a place for fostering a sense of Japanese identity and unity. Kano Sensei emphasized moral and ethical values, which he believed were integral to the martial arts.

Through the Kodokan, he aimed to cultivate a sense of pride in Japanese culture and heritage. The institution still exists today, primarily as a place where judo is researched, taught, and preserved. It’s a destination for every serious lifetime judo enthusiast who visits Tokyo.


Kano Sensei, was a visionary and martial arts pioneer who left behind a legacy that transcends generations, a legacy etched in the annals of time with the indomitable spirit of his art. With a heart ablaze with determination, he forged judo, a martial discipline that fused physical prowess with the unyielding principles of respect and harmony. Through the crucible of relentless discipline, he refined his creation, shaping it into a crucible of transformation, molding not just bodies, but souls. His legacy is one of unwavering dedication to the art of self-improvement, where strength and gentleness intertwine like the delicate threads of a spider's web. In the echoing halls of time, the name of Kano Jigoro resonates as a beacon, illuminating the path of enlightenment and self-discovery for all who tread in his footsteps.

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