The first known meeting of Kodokan judo and any American occurred in 1879, when President U.S. Grant was in Japan on a state visit and observed a demonstration of judo techniques by 19-year-old Jigoro Kano. The official date given for the start of Kodokan Judo us 1882, and most likely Kano did not explain his Kodonka Judo then but may have lectured on his study of jujutsu. In any case, President Grant was exposed to the judo master at a very fertile and productive period in pre-Kodokan judo’s history.
The next contact came in 1889, when Kano lectured on the educational values of judo before a group of foreign dignitaries. There were several Americans present but this contact had no discernible result.
The first American to study seriously at the Kodokan was Prof. Ladd from Yale University. Ladd came to the Kodokan sometime during 1889, ten years after Kano ’s demonstration for President Grant. Ladd studied nage (throwing), katame (mat work), atemi-waza (striking techniques), and koshiki-no-kata (self-defense forms).
The number of Americans at the Kodokan did not rise immediately after Ladd’s visit. By 1908, the Kodokan had a total of 13 American members studying in Japan. During 1919 Prof. John Dewey of Columbia University went to the Kodokan to observe as demonstration. Dewey discussed Kodokan judo with Kano and many have been instrumental in the beginning of a pioneering judo program at Columbia University.
Yoshiaki Yamashita, then 6th dan, was the first person to the judo in the U.S. He arrived in 1902 at the invitation of Mr. Graham Hill, director of the Great Northern Railroad. Hill contacted a Mr. Fujiya, who contacted Mr. Shibata, who was a student of Prof. Yamashita, concerning Yamashita’s coming to the U.S. to teach his children judo. After Yamashita arrived, the Hill family decided that judo was much to dangerous for their children. Mr. Hill arranged for judo demonstrations in New York and Chicago . He also tried to arrange for Harvard University to hire Yamashita as a judo teacher.
At the same time, Sen. Lee’s wife and Mrs. Wadsworth started taking judo lessons from Yamashita. They had the sixth floor of a nag-no-kata. There few women started the first judo classes in the country. A men’s judo group made up from various embassies in the area appeared. Thus judo traveled in prominent circles in its embryonic stage in America. For lack of wider participation this judo mission died out with Yamashita’s return to Japan in 1907.
Mrs. Wadsworth was a fine horseman and went to the same country club as did President Theodore Roosevelt. She mentioned to the president that Yamashita was teaching judo and that Roosevelt might be interested in the art. Yamashita was subsequently invited to Washington to give a demonstration at the White House. There was a contest with a wrestler by the name of John Graft, who was the coach at the U.S. Naval Academy and who was teaching President Roosevelt wrestling. Although Yamashita threw him time after time, Graft continued to get up. Finally, Yamashita decided that he would do mat work with Graft, since there seemed to be no end to the match. In the mat work, Yamashita got an arm lock on Graft, but the wrestler would not give up. Yamashita kept up the pressure until Graft groaned as his arm came close to breaking. President Roosevelt was impressed and took judo lesions. After leaving office, he kept mats at home. Roosevelt studied judo for about a year, earning a brown belt in the process. Through the help of the president, Yamashita taught judo at the Naval Academy. In 1935, Yamashita was promoted to 10th dan, the first person to hold that rank. He died later that year.
In 1903, one year after Yamashita’s arrival in America, Shumeshiro Tomita journeyed to the U.S. He was the first person to sign the rolls of the Kodokan; he was instrumental in establishing judo in the U.S. as well as in Japan. Tomita stayed in the U.S. for seven years and taught judo at Princeton and Columbia Universities. After the arrival of Tomita and Yamashita, many judo instructors came to America. Among the very first were Miada Kousen, Sataki Nobushitam, and Ito Tajugoro. Judo in the U.S. first flourished on the West Cost because of its large Japanese population.
Judo in the Pacific Northwest dates back to the beginning of the century when judo was practiced in small, scattered clubs. The first dojo was opened in the Settle area by a judoka named Kano in 1903, but this club closed after only a few months. Prof. Takugoro Ito, then 4th dan, arrived in America in 1907 and opened the Seattle Dojo.
Ito, like many other early judoka, was a wrestler. He held challenge matches, in which he was unbeatable. After several years he left the Seattle area, traveling to South America . Eisei Madia, Akitoro Ono, Satake, and Matruura traveled with him, touring South America as professional wrestlers and returned to San Fancisco in 1914. (Eisei Media stayed in Brazil and the Brazilian government gave him a quarter-million acres near the Amazon for his wrestling feat.)
In the 1920’s, there were two dojos in the state of Washington, the Seattle Dojo and the Tacoma Dojo, operated mainly by yudansha of the respective communities, businessmen, farmers, and laborers. Yoshida sensei of Tocoma, then 3rd dan, was the best judo player. He was employed as a laborer in a sawmill. The other black belts were 1st and 2nd dans. Factions within the Seattle Dojo difficulty working together. It is not known what the exact problem was but, arounf 1930, some members of the Seattle Dojo withdrew and formed their own Tentokukan Dojo. Each club hired teachers from Japan. Among the Seattle Dojo’s teachers in the 1920’s and early 1930’s were senseis: Miyazawa, Shibata, Kaimon Kudo, and Suzuki.
Before World War II, three main styles of judo were prominent in North America. The Budokan Style and the Kodokan style predominated in the U.S. In Canada the Kito-ryu was strong, especially in Vancouver, B.C. the Seattle Judo Black Belt Association was organized around 1935 by Kumagai and Salata senseis, tending to unite the two rival American factions. The two instructors were also responsible for organizing the bi-annual 24-man team contests with the Nanka (southern California) team. Southern California and the Northwest had the strongest judo groups at that time.
After World War II, the Tentokukan Dojo was no re-activated because the former membership was spread around the county. This closed out a pioneering judo effort on the West Coast. The Seattle Dojo owned their building and were able to continue with practice after the war.
The Washington team competed against the Vancouver B.C. team annually, against sailors from visiting Japanese training ships, and occasionally with college teams from Japan. Eventually, Nisei yudansha were hired when dojos were opened in Spokane. 1930’s some dojos existed in the state of Washington, and each sponsored an annual tournament.
Judo in the Tacoma, Washington, area as started by Prof. Iwakiri, who was born in Japan, and who came here in 1912. Iwakiri exhibited such skill that he received his 1st dan from Prof. Kano at the age of 13. The Fife-Tacoma Dojo was originally formed as the St. Regis Dojo and was located in the St. Regis lumberyard sawdust pit. (The dojo was later moved from the lumberyard to the corner of 17th and Market Streets). Prof. Kano made two trips to the Fife-Tacoma dojo, in 1932 and 1938, in recognition of its outstanding achievements. In 1932 he presented the dojo a scroll and in 1938 another was given to the yudanshakai. In the 1938 scroll Kano wrote “return to the source,” and the ambiguity of his phrase still caused debate. Most opinion holds that the statement refers to Zen training.
Rev. Yukawa was the first yudanshakai president and served the Fife-Tacoma, Washington area from 1924 to 1925. After Rev. Yuikawa, Prof. Iwakiri served as president from 1940 to 1958.
Before World War II, there were six dojos in the state of Oregon: Shudo-Kan Dojo, Obukan Dojo, Salem Judo Club, Milwaukee Dojo, G.T. Dojo, and the Shobukan Dojo was the first, and was organized under Mitis Nikata, then a 2nd dan. Prof. Kano visited the Portland area in 1932; during the visit he took the occasion to rename the Portland Dojo the Obukan Dojo. Some of the pioneering judo specialists in the Portland area were Mr. Nishizim of Kito-ryu;Mr. Kodayashi of the Kito-ryu; Mr. Sakanio Ichiro,3rd dan from the Kodokan; Mr. Sazaki Ojiro, 2nd dan from the Kandokan; and Mr. Tomori, 2nd dan from the Kokodan.
After World War II, Buddy Ikata gathered together some of the people who knew judo and got the Portland-Obukan Dojo going again. The Obukan was re-established in 1952. Rev. Homma, a Buddhist priest, started judo at the YMCA and the YWCA. The Guiki Dojo started practice again in the spring of 1953 under Mr. Kato and Mr. Hamado, both 2nd dans, and Rev. Homma and Nakata, 3rd dans. March 3, 1960, was the 42nd anniversary of the Obukan Dojo.
Hawaii During the era of Japanese immigration to Hawaii
In the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s, many Japanese immigrants trained in the art of Kodokan judo arrived. The first judo club in Hawaii, the Shunyo-Kan, was formed on March 17, 1909, by Shigemi Teshima and Naomatsu Kaneshige. Consul-Gereral Isami Shishido, 7th dan, joined the club in 1919 and served as chairman of the club’s board of directors for many years.
The Shobu Kan judo club was founded by Yajiro Kitayama, Nakajiro Mino, and others. Its first dojo site was the basement of the Ono Bakery on Beretania Street, followed by several locations in Honolulu, until it was moved to its present location on Kunawai Lane in the Liliha area.
Other clubs were subsequently established, and in 1929, three of the major judo clubs, Shunyo Kan, Shobu Kan, and Hawaii Chuugakko (junior high school) initiated an effort to organize judo in the territory of Hawaii. The organization hoped to demonstrate a united effort to the community and to be recognized as an instrument through which the social and cultural significance of this marital art would be transmitted and perpetuated Organized judo grew rapidly under the supervision of this body, the Hawaii Judo Kyokai. In 1925, the Kodokan issued the first certificates for black belts to judoka in Hawaii. In 1927, a judo seminar was conducted by a visiting Waseda University judo group, headed by Mr. Makino, 6th dan. By 1932, the official recognition from Prof. Kano during one of his stopovers in Honolulu. The certificate of recognition, #76, issued by the Kodokan Judo Institute on November 15, 1932, was the first such authorization granted to a yudanshakai outside of Japan.
The Los Angeles Area
The story of judo in southern California begins with Prof. Ito. Prof. Yamashita and Tomita were his contemporaries in American judo, but of the three only Ito made a lasting contribution to the development of American judo. Wherever Ito stayed, judo took hold and flourished. In 1915 he moved to Los Angeles and established the Rafu Dojo on the first floor of the Yamato Hall, near Jackson and San Pedro Streets. When Prof. Ito returned to Japan after seven years in Los Angeles, the Rafu Dojo continued under management of Prof. Seigoro Murakami, Sr. Matsutaro Nitta, and Ryuji Tatsuno. In July 1917, there were still only two dojos in southern California.
The Nanka Judo Yudanshakai was organized in 1928. In 1930, the Kodokan Nanka Judo Yudanshakai was formed and Yasutaro Matsuura, then 4th dan, was elected president. Still only eight dojos and fewer than twenty black belts existed in southern California.
The Kodokan Nanka Judo Yudanshakai was reorganized at the direction of Prof. Jigoro Kano in 1932 while he was visiting the Los Angeles Olympic Games. The yudanshakai was renamed once more, this time the Hokubei Judo Yudanshakai or Southern California Judo Black Belt Association of North America; its presidency to devolve permanently upon the Lost Angeles Consul General of Japan. A formal organization of judo occurred as a result of Prof. Kano’s visit, and four yudanshakais, or judo black belt associations were formed: Southern California, Northern California, Seattle and Hawaii.
When World War II started in Dec. 1941, there were twenty-six dojo in southern California, with 422 black belts and about 2,000 students. The black belts were distributed in the following manner: 6th dan-2: 5th dan-5: 4th dan- 6: 3rd dan-42: 2nd dan-101: 1st dan-264: and 2 honorary black belts.
During World War II, judo continued to flourish in relocation camps such as Manzanar, Heart Mountain, Post Gila River, and Rule Lake. Although all other judo clubs ceased operations during the war years, Seinan Dojo kept its doors open. Jack Sirgel, then 2nd dan, the head instructor, visited the Manzanar Relocation Camp with his students to improve their judo techniques, even though the war was as its peak.
San Diego As the last major port of entry for the Japanese on the west coast of the U.S. , the pacific southwest failed to develop large judo communities characteristic of northern cities. According to oral reports, the only judo club or judo activity in the San Diego area before World War II was begun in 1925, and continued for several years, upstairs in the Taiikuki Hall on 6th and Market Streets. The first instructor, Mikinishake Kawaushi, taught for several years; Mizuzaki Showa, 5th dan, taught for about one year before the organization ceased activities. The only other organized martial arts activity in the San Diego area before World War II was a kendo society located in the Buddhist temple at 29th and Market Streets. This organization ceased activities after outbreak of the war.
Judo activity after World War II commenced in the San Diego area in April 1946 with the opening of classes in the city YMCA by AI C. Holtmann. From 1946-54 much prejudice against the Japanese existed. The promotion of judo in the San Diego area proved difficult during the early post-war years. In 1952, with hostility abating, the general public expressed an interest in Japanese goods, culture, arts, and sports.
The San Diego Judo Club joined the Nanka Judo Yudanshakai ( Los Angeles ) in 1954, at the invitation of Mr. Kenneth Kuniyuki. Under Nanka’s jurisdiction much assistance was given in San Diego area in the way of advice, promotions, and technical help. An open invitation to all of Nanka’s tournaments was extended also to the San Diego judoka. The Sanshi Judo Club, located in Oceanside, in 1955, taught by Sachio Matsuhara, joined Nanka in 1955. In that year Benso Tsuji, now a 7th dan, became technical director for the San Diego Judo Club. As the highest graded black belt in the area, he brought his technical knowledge to bear on the teaching and promoting of Judo in the community.
Western United States
The earliest record of judo being taught in the Denver area is that of Dr. T. Ito. Ito had learned his judo in Hawaii and was teaching in the early 1930s. James Fukumitsu, who had studied judo in Japan, was in the area and teaching judo to put himself through college from 1937-40. Some of the other early area judoka were Bill Ohikuma, Don Tanabe, and Nob Ito.
During World War II, judo activity ceased in the area. In 1944, George Kuramoto left the Amachi Relocation Center and with Fred Okimoto started judo classes in the local gymnasium, in the 20th Street Recreation Building, during 1950. During this time Toro Takematsu, 4th dan, had moved to the Denver area and notice and announcement in the Japanese community paper. Takematsu introduced himself to George Kuramoto and Fred Okimoto. Together, they purchased straw mats and started the original Denver Dojo, located between 19th and 20th Streets and Lawrence, the heart of the Japanese community. As the dojo developed, a larger building was rented and renovated.
During 1954, the Judo Black Belt Federation stated to establish local chapters, of yudanshakais. The Rocky Mountain Regional Black Belt Association was recognized as the local governing body.
The first, post-was judo club in the Salt Lake area was formed in 1950 by Frank Nishimura and George Akimoto. Hot Springs, Utah, had a judo club that was started in 1954 by Mr. Mimya and Mr. Okawa, both 1st dans. Their club was active for about three years. In 1955, Mr. Ichi Isogi started judo in Corinnes, Utah. It was later started up again under Mr. Yamasaki. In Ogden, Utah, judo was started in 1956 through the efforts of Mr. Masaichiro Manomoto, 4th dan, Ted Sakawa, 1st, Tom Kimomto, 1st dan, and Mr. Yonetani, 1st dan.
Frank Oryu, an old pioneer in the area, started the first Oregon dojo. An older 4th dan by the name of Muramoto, who also worked for Oryu, helped Oryu organize judo in 1949 and Ontario Dojo was founded in 1950. The Ontario Dojo had a membership of about twenty black belts.
According to a report from Mas Yamashita, judo in the Caldwell-Boise Valley area started about two years after judo in Ontario, Oregon. Judo experienced a strong growth and was doing well when the first tournament was held in 1952.
Judo in Omaha began during the mid-1950s. Mike Meriwather taught at the YMCA and Dr. Ashida (at 22 one of the youngest 5th-degree black belts) taught at the University in Lincoln. Also, a number of black belts practiced judo at Offutt Air Force Base. Among the better known military judoka were Sgt. Mann, Augie Hauso, Phil Porter, Carl Flood, and La Verne Raab. The military people did not get involved in civilian judo until about 1958. Around 1960, Darrell Darling, Phil Porter, Paul Own, Wally Barber, who was director of the local YMCA and Mike Manly me at Dr. Ashida’s house and decided to form a yusanshakai. They framed a constitution and made contacts with the yudanshakai officers in Chicago and Denver to implement the project. In 1961 the yudanshakai, which covered the greater part of six states, was formed. The first president of the Midwest Judo Associtaion was Dr. Ashida. The second was La Verne Raab. The third Ike Wakadyashi, had a strong judo program established at Kansas University. The forth president Dr. Loren Braught. The fifth and sixth presidents were Bill Stites and Darrell Darling respectively.
The first commercial judo school, the Omaha Judo Academy, was opened by La Verne Raab and Carl Flood after they left the military. Mel Bruno, who later became head of judo for SAC, taught judo at the Omaha YMCA and at the Omaha Athletic Club.
Chicago Judo first arrived in the Chicago area in Sept. 1903, when Mr. Graham Gill arranged for a judo demonstration by Prof. Yamashita in the cities of New York and Chicago. According to Prof. Kotani, in 1916, Heita Okabe, 4th dan; Toshitaka Yamauchi, 4th dan and Ken Kawabara, 4th dan were teaching judo while studying at the University of Chicago; this would be the earliest organized judo activity in the Midwest.
Mr. Harry Auspitz incorporated the first judo club in the Chicago area in 1938, the Jiu Jitsu Institute. Prior to 1939, judo was practiced sporadically by members of the Japanese Counsulate and other interested individuals. The Ju Jitsu Institute became the first Kodokan instructor was Ralph Mori, who eventually opened his own judo club in 1941. Mori named his dojo the International Judo Club. Mr. Shozo Kuwashima came from New York in 1939 to teach at the institute; he later opened his own dojo. Also in 1941, Mr. Yasushi Tomonari came from New York to teach at the institute. During May of that year, Mr. Masato Tamura, then a 4th dan, came to Chicago from Fife, Washington, and also taught at the institute. With the illness of Mr. Auspitz in 1944, Mr. Tamura became the owner of the Jiu Jitsu Institute.
The Chicago Judo Club was founded by Shozo Kuwashima in 1941. When Kuwashima moved to the West Coast, the Chicago Judo Club was taken over by John Osako and Ruth Gardner.
After World War II, Judo in Chicago received numbers of Japanese who were relocating in the Midwest section of the country. Vince Tamura came to Chicago and helped out at the Jit Jitsu Institute. In 1944, Mr. Yoshitaro Sakai moved in to the area, and Hiro Okamura arrived in 1945 as the relocation camps closed. Hank Okamura relocated close to the Lawson YMCA in 1946 and joined the “Y.” Okamura, wrestling at the YMCA, met Kenji Okimoto; and the two men, who discovered they were both judoka, began to practice together. From this start, judo remained at Lawson YMCA for the next twenty year.
The Chicago Judo Black Belt Association was formed during 1947 and a charter was received directly from the Kodokan. (As a recognized judo organization the yudanshakai could promote up to 3rd-degree black belt.) At that time the Chicago Judo Black Belt Association covered the states of Wisconsin, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, Arkansas , Louisiana, and Michigan. The first constitution for Chicago, a rather informal document, stated the John Osako would be president of the association, and the vice-president would be Mas Tamura. There was not much more to the constitution that that. The charter members of the Chicago Judo Black Belt Association were Masato Tamura, Hank Okamura, Hik Nagao, Yosh Sakai, Carl Shojii, Carl Kalaskai, Jack Ohashi, and Tom Watanabe.
In 1949, Masato Tamura became the president of the yudanshakai and remained in that office for the next fourteen years. During the late 1940’s the Oak Park YMCA stated under Bob Matsuoka. Some noted members of the Chicago Judo Club were Hik Nagao, Tom Okamura, and Kenji Okamoto. The Jiu Jutsu Institute had Masato Tamura, Vince Tamura, Bob Belhatchet, Frank Leszczynski, Bill Burk, Bill Berndt, and Bill Kaufman. During these years, any team that represented the U.S. was mostly made up of people from the Chicago Judo Black Belt Association. Chicago sent teams to the first two Pan-American Judo Tournaments and one of the two American representatives to the 1st World Tournaments in Japan.
Judo was intensively promoted in Chicago during the 1950’s. There were a number of self-defense demonstrations conducted for television shows. Tournaments became regular events with the Lawson YMCA providing a central location.
Konan, of Detroit, was encouraged to break away, about 1952. This change relieved Chicago of the responsibility for all of Michigan and come of the Midwestern areas. Milwaukee, Wis., And St. Louis, MO, were starting to develop judo groups during this time, but, unlike Chicago, these two areas did not have strong Japanese judo players to get the sport going and give guidance to its development.
With the stat of the 1950’s, judo in Chicago began to develop into a citywide sport as new dojos were opened. Bill Kaufman was discharged from the service in 1952 and came back from Japan as a 2nd-degree black belt. Kaufman worked out at the Jiu Jitsu Institute and started his own club at the Hyde Park YMCA. Later he taught at the University of Chicago . Mr. Hikaru Nagao was teaching judo at the Illinois Institute of Technology. In time, these two clubs combined to form the Uptown Dojo.
In the early 1950’s, some students from the original dojos began teaching at various locations around the city, and the Oak Park YMCA was developing a good judo group also. Indiana at this time had a judo community developing under the guidance of Mr. Bill Craig. In local tournaments there would be as many as 80 brown belts competing at one time. National registration was adopted during this period and was run by the Chicago Yudanshakai for a few years. In the late 1950’s, Chicago had 2,800 registered members.
In 1954, Vinve Tamura represented the Chicago Yudanshakai and the U.S. in the 1st World Tournament. There were no weight divisions in early world competitions, so the matches were rough. Tamura lasted until the semi-finals, defeating heavier and higher ranking people. His only loss was to a future world champion.
Texas In 1957 the Second Air Force held its championship tournament in Austin TX, and invited Roy H. “Pop” Moore to officiate the tournament. Pop decided to stay, and, with the help of Col. Walthrop, Beberly Sheffield, from Austin Recreation Department, and a young competitor, Jerry Reid, from Bergstrom Air Force Base, the Austin Judo Club opened its doors.
With the addition of members such as Bill Nagase and Sam Numahiri in Fort Worth , Karl Geis and Rick Landers in Houston , and Rick Mertens in Shreveport , the Southwestern U.S. Judo Association came into being. The association annexed small areas out of several yadanshkais and covered the stated of Texas, Louisiana, Arakansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexio. In 1959 the Southwestern U.S. Championships were helped in Austin, TX , with over 300 competitors attending. In the late 1950’s Bill Nahases and Gail Stolzenburg competed in the National AAU Senior Judo Championships.
The sport continued to grow and attracted several talented instructors to Texas- Ace Sukigara, 3rd dan, to Longview, and Vince Tamura, 5th dan, to Dallas. In 1961 the Southwestern U.S. Judo Yusanshakai became the Texas Judo Black Belt Association, and in 1962 the Texas Yudanshakai was approved by the Judo Black Belt Federation as a regional association. The first officers included John Ebell, Rick Landers, Gail Stolzenburg, Karl Geis, and Vince Tamura.
In 1964 the National Collegiate Championships were held in El Paso with Texans Ace Sukigara, John Rowlett, Wes Maxwell, and Joe Rude among the winners. In 1971 Odessa Boys Club hosted the USJF Junior National Championships with many trophies staying in Texas. In 1975 the High School National Championships were held in Houston.
To keep all the clubs informed of the Judo activities in Texas and surrounding areas, the Texas Yudanshakai had produced since 1963 a bi-monthly magazine entitled Texas Judo News. (Gail Stolzenburg)
Shufu Shufu Yudanshakai at one time had the largest judo area in the U.S. Over the years, new, localized judo organizations grew out of the initial central organization.
James Takemori, 5th dan, had served as rank registration chairman, secretary, and president of Shufu. He related the following information concerning shufu’s history:
“I was in Washington before Shufu was organized. There were only a hanful of men in the area, approximately ten yudansha. Among the black belts present were Kenzo Uyeno, Eichi Koiwai M.D., Nonkey Ishiyama, Donn Draeger, Bill Berndt, Lanny Miyamoto and Masauki Hashimoto Mr. Hashimoto became Shufu’s first president.
There were five yudanshakais prior to the formation of Shufu. The earlier five were in Chicago, Seattle, Hawaii , Hokka, and Nanka. Donn Draeger was and early advocated of a yudanshakai of the East Coast. His efforts resulted in the first meeting of the forming yudanshakai, in the spring of 1953. There were some differences of opinion regarding a name for the new organization. Some felt it should be called, using Japanese terminology, East Coast, while others felt the Japanese for Capitol was more appropriate. The name Capitol final won, thus Shufu Yudanshakai. The early officers of Shufu were: Mr. Hashimoto, president; Kenzo Uyeno, vice-president; Lanny Miyamoto, secretary-treasurer; and Donn Draeger, chairman of the board of examiners.
Shufu eventually stretched from Maine to Florida, including the Panama Canal Zone. Those seeking examination or further study might have had to travel two days for such an activity. Takemori and Uyeno traveled a great deal during that early period; to North Carolina twice a year for promotional tournaments; to New England twice a yearly; and to Dixie states twice yearly. Early applicants for examinations were not very knowledgeable about judo. Many of those tested had learned judo from a book, owing to the small number of instructors on the East Cost. The candidates usually were designed to develop instructors, which the large area desperately needed. Terminology was very highly stressed.
Shufu, unlike many of the other yusanshakais, did not have a large indigenous Japanese population from which to form the basis of the organization. Many of the judo people came from the military. Often, men recently home from military service overseas, would return to the U.S. from Japan as 1st- or 2nd-degree black belts.
Among the instructors in the area were Dr. Koiwai, teaching in Philadelphia at a YMCA; Lanny Miyamoto in Baltimore; Ken Freeman and George Uchida in New York; and Kames Takemore, Bill Berndt, Kenzo Uyeno, and Donn Draeger in Washington. There was earlier named the Pentagon Judo Club, established a dojo outside of the Pentagon.
The level of judo awareness and numbers of practicing judokas in the various areas of Shufu increased. It soon became practical for more localized judo organizations to exist. The first to develop a base sufficient to fun its own affairs was the Florida area. Next, New England formed its own yudanshakai, followed by the Dixie States, and Allegheny Mountain. As long as the local judo population has sufficient number and knowledge to administer judo in its area, the more efficient service of a local yudanshakia is preferred. This concepts has motivated the spilling of areas from Shufu’s original territory.
The first record of any U.S. collegiate judo participation was in the early 1930’s when Henry Stone, a young coach at the University of California , Berkeley sent a few students to participate in some tournaments held in San Francisco.
In 1937 Emilio Bruno, a student, introduced judo as a sport to the physical education department at San Jose State College; later the judo program was taken over by another student, Yosh Uchida. Mr. Uchida took the first group of college judo competitors from San Jose to Southern California to participate in yudanshakai tournament. The beginning of sectional tournaments.
World War II interrupted all collegiate judo. In 1946, Yosh Uchida returned to college and helped revive the judo program at San Jose State. Many of the students, who were World War II veterans, had been taught strictly self-defense in the service. Because fine technique was lacking among the judo participants, great force was used on opponents and small competitors were easily injured.
In 1948 Henry Stone devised a weight system that he hoped would aid the growth and development of judo. For several years, the weight system was experimented with at San Jose State in the physical education classes and proved worthwhile. The original weight divisions were: 130, 150, 180 lbs, and unlimited. These divisions were adopted by the AAU, but have since been revised several times in an effort to keep up with changes in body size. The weight divisions adopted by the Olympic Judo Committee, and used in the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964, were 156, 176, heavyweight, and open.
Most of the early college judo participation and development was carried out on the west coast at San Jose and U.C. Berkeley. Dual meets between the two schools were initiated in the early 1950s. Un 1953, the first collegiate judo championships were held at U.C. Berkeley, called the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate Judo Championships. Also in 1953, the first National AAU Judo Championships were held in San Jose State. Lyle Hunt, a San Jose State senior, was the first grand champion of the National AAU Championships. Later in 1953, as a college student, Lyle represented the U.S. in several tournaments in Europe, along with John Osoko from Chicago. Yosh Uchida, from San Jose State, was coach. This was the first U.S. representation abroad in the sport. Judo was recognized as in intercollegiate sport at San Jose in 1954, but the growth of judo was definitely hampered over the years by a general lack of understanding and knowledge of the sport by athletic directors and physical education departments chairmen, who have been traditionally reluctant to accept new minor sports.
In 1955 San Jose State hosted the first International All-Star Collegiate competitors. Haruo Imamura, who won the U.S. National AAU Grand Championships in 1960, was a member of that team. The tournament was the first all-college judo participation on an international scale between two countries, although sometime during the mid-1930s, a team from Keio University had participated in a yudanshakai tournament in southern California.
Henry Stone, the great leader of judo, passed away suddenly in 1955 and judo floundered on the university level. A long-smouldering feud between the NCAA and the AAU flared up in 1960, and it became impossible for college teams to compete in AAU-sanctioned tournaments. On May 12, 1962 college leaders met and organized the National Collegiate Judo Association. In 1962 the first National Collegiate Judo Championships were held at the U.S. Air Force Academy, San Jose State, U.C. Berkeley, University of Minnesota, Mankato State College, and the Eastern Collegiate Judo Association. Since then many National Collegiate Judo Championships have been held in various colleges and universities across the country.
In 1967, the National Collegiate Judo Association selected Howard Fish to represent the U.S. in the University Games held in Tokyo . George Uchisa, of U.S. Berkeley, was coach and manager. The only U.S. representative, Fish won a bronze medal in both the heavyweight and open divisions. Because of Fish’s outstanding performance, the NCJA was invited to send a team to Lisbon, Portugal, in 1968. The U.S. sent Mike Ogata, Doug Graham, Roy Sukimoto, Gary Martin, and Yosh Uchida as coach. Doug Graham won a silver medal in the 205 lb division. These two U.S. collegiate judoists lost only to collegiate competitors from Japan .
In 1972 the University Games were held in London. Team members included David Lond, John Reed, Tom Cullen, Louis Gonzalez, Tom Masterson, and Tom Tigg. In Soo Hwang, From Yale University, severed as coach-manager. Tigg won the silver medal in the 139 lb division.
For all the University Game competition, financial help was received from the USJF. Without this national governing body, U.S. judo would have had a far greater struggle; and certainly, without its financial aid, competitors would never have been able to compete internationally. (Yosh Uchida)
The Armed Forces The organized judo program in the U.S. Armed Forces began in the Air Force in 1950 when Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, then commander-in-chief of the Strategic Air Command, USAF, directed the setting up of a model physical conditioning unit at Offutt AFB, Neb. In 1951 similar conditioning units were set up at other SAC bases. Gen. LeMay appointed Emilio (“Mel”) Bruno, a former National AAU Wrestling Champion and 5th-degree in judo, to direct the program. At this time, civilian judo instructors staffed six SAC bases; that rest had physical conditioning units, but no judo instructors. In direct charge of the judo and conditioning program for SAC was Gen. Tomas Power, laters honorary chairman of the National AAU Judo Committee.
Because of an obvious deficiency of instructors, Power sent two classes of airmen (24 men) to the Kodokan Institute in Tokyo in 1952 for several weeks training. This was the first such training for any Armed Forces group.
Air Force judo received asses impetus in 1953 when ten experts from Japan, six in judo, three in karate, and one in aikido, gave demonstrations at over 70 Air Force Bases over a three-month period. The purpose of this tour was to train judo instructors and combat crews and to give exhibitions on and off base. Many civilian judo clubs had their first visit from high-ranking judo teachers as a result of this tour. One of the highlights of the tour was a demonstration at the White House on July 22. The year 1953, was also marked by the first National AAU Judo tournament held at San Jose State College. A SAC team participated in these first Nationals.
In 1954, the first SAC Judo Tournament was held at Offutt AFB; the Grand Champion was Airman Morris Curtis. Also in 1954, 26 SAC Air Police went to the Kodokan to study judo for ten weeks. The curriculum consisted of police tactics, aikido, karate, and of course, judo.
Two SAC judoists advanced to the last few rounds in the 1954 AAU National Championships at Kezar Stadium, San Francisco. The 12-man SAC team won 29 rounds and lost 19 but was unable to place a man. Staff Sgt. Ed Maley, SAC, member of the 1955 SAC Judo Team, placed in the 1955 AAU National Championships-third in the 150-lb division. The Air Research and Development Command, USAD (ARDC), also entered a team in 1955, after only a year of competition, and A/1C Vern Raab won an unofficial fourth place in the heavyweight division.
The year 1954 also brought 10-man AAU-Air Force teams visits to six Japanese cities to compete in 16 contests. Five members of the team were Air Force, and the most successful member for the team was to heard from many times in the future. This man Staff Sgt, George Harris, won all of his 19 contests.
Seventy men from SAC and ARDC Judo Association was formed and received recognition from the Kodokan in 1956. Emilio Bruno was elected president, and the association was permitted to grant judo rank. This was the first and only Armed Forces judo association to be so recognized by the Kodokan. SAC and ARDC sent 280 Air Policemen for four-week classes at the Kodokan during 1956.
Again in 1956, the Air Force placed one man in the national AAU Judo Tournament at Seattle . Returning from his successful Japanese tour, George Harris, then a 2nd dan, placed third in the heavyweight division.
In 1957, after only five years in judo Staff Sgt. George Harris won the Grand Championship in the National AAU Judo Championships in Hawaii. Harris was first in the heavyweight division; sweeping the division with him were A/1C Lenwood Williams in second place and A/2C Ed Mede, third. The Air Force also took the National 5-man Team Championship for the first time.
Winners of the SAC and ARDC tournaments represented the Air Force in the AAU tournaments on April 13 and 14 in Chicago. Twelve Air Force judoists participated, with George Harris successfully defending his Grand Championship, and the Air Force team captured the National 5-Man Team Championship for the second year in a row. Due to the great power of southern California in the lower weight divisions, the Air Force was unable to win the overall team championships.
The SAC Judo Team, consisting of L. Williams, E. Mede, G. Harris. J. Reid, R. Moxley, and M. O’Connor (trainer) was designated as the U.S. Pan- American Judo Team in 1958. Team members won first and fourth in the 3rd dan category (Harris and Williams), third in the 2nd dan(Reid), and second in the 1st dan (Mede). In the fall of 1958, George Harris and Ed Mede represented the U.S. in the 2nd World Tournament, held in Tokyo . Harris’s three wins before losing to Sone, a Japanese 5th degree, placed him in a tie for fifth place along with the four other defeated quarter finalists. As a result of this fine record, George Harris was promoted to 4th degree in judo, the first Armed Forces man to be so honored. (Lt. Agulla Gibbs Dibrell)
The Governance of U.S. Judo The development of a national governing body for U.S. judo started in 1952, through the efforts of Dr. Henry A. Stone, Maj. Draeger, and others. At the time there was no national authority to give guidance to local judo communities and insure the logical and orderly development of judo as a sport. The Amateur Judo Association was a first attempt at establishing a national governing structure. Dr. Stone served as the first president. Authority to grant the most coveted Kodokan judo rank was assumed by the national organization. High ranking individuals were no longer permitted to grant promotions independently. The growth of local judo organizations was encouraged, promotion privileges were granted to yudanshakais, and national communications avenue was opened.
Until the early 1960’s, judo in the U.S. had grown in a haphazard, somewhat informal fashion. Most leaders tended to be purists, preferring the security and recognition offered by their local influence. Judo was structured strictly on rank, and those without the proper credentials were considered outsiders. It was judo rank, that coveted mantle of recognition, which for so many years retarded the formation of a strong, responsive national organization. As judo spread across the nation, false claims to rank and promotions were commonplace, and the existing organization was powerless to take action. Those leaders who had feared a national organization and popularization of judo in time became the strongest voices for change.
The national organization was renamed the Judo Black Belt Federation. President Yosh Uchida (1960-61) delegated the task of laying the groundwork for reorganization to Donald Pohl, a relatively unknown 1st dan from Detroit . Pohl, the executive secretary of the Detroit Judo Club (then the nation’s largest non-profit club), had effected a pilot program for a national rank system.
During the brief tenure of President Renyo Uyeno (before his untimely death at the age of 39 on June 1, 1963), the Judo Black Belt Federation launched a national rank registration procedure, which was coupled with a detailed rank identification system. This was the basis for future financial stability of the organization. The Judo Black Belt Federation also adopted a comprehensive system and published the Judo Bulletin.
Although the early leaders of the Judo Black Belt Federation (then known as the Amateur Judo Association), had actively sought out the Amateur Athletic Union and had been granted the right to represent U.S. judo on the international level, little attention or significance was attached to this accommodation until early in the 1960s when amateurism and sanctions began to become important. As the Judo Black Belt Federation expanded (18 yudanshakais in 1963) and tournaments were more widely attended, the importance and presence of the AAU began to be noticed. The Judo Black Belt Federation and Amateur Athletic Union succeeded in maintaining an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual assistance during the remainder of the decade.
In 1963 the Judo Black Belt Federation joined the Amateur Athletic Union in producing the first of what were to be five joint handbooks (two published by Phil Porter and three by Don Pohl). Sales of the books, mostly through the Federation, exceeded 1000,000 copies. All proceeds were given to the Amateur Athletic Union Judo Committee to help finance its operation. When proceeds from the sale of handbooks failed to provide the necessary funding for the expanding program, the Judo Black Belt Federation authorized grants in excess of $75,000 to the Amateur Athletic Union to help finance international competition and related programs.
In 1964 and 1966, Hiro Fujimoto of Detroit was elected president of the Federation and Dr. Eichi Koiwai of Philadelphia , vice-president. Dr. Koiwai assumed the presidency at the 1968 election, holding office for several terms. During the uncertain years of the 1960s the Federation changed its name to the U.S. Judo Federation, published a book of procedures, rewrote the judo contest rules, adopted a comprehensive promotion procedure, drafted a new referees’ certification procedure, and expanded to 25 yudanshakais.
Judo soon grew to the third largest sport in the array of Amateur Athletic Union activities. What were first considered minor contentions between the Union and the Federation soon grew to open disagreement over philosophy, priorities, and control. Amateurism became a none of contention, considered by many a stumbling block in the way of development. Amateur Athletic Union advocates, on the other hand, questioned the unchallenged control of rank exercised by the U.S. Judo Federation.
In 1969 the differences and positions that had been fought out at the meetings finally culminated in one of the yudanshakais (the Armed Forces Judo Association) withdrawing from the U.S. Judo Federation to start a rival nation organization. The Armed Forces judo Association adopted a name similar to that of the parent organization, the U.S. Judo Association. The association closely aligned itself with the philosophy and position of the Amateur Athletic Union.
By Dennis Helm
About the Author
The principal author, Dennis Helm, Roku Dan, 6th Degree Black Belt in Judo and a 6th Degree Black Belt in Heike-Ryu Jiu Jitsu, began studying Judo and Jiu Jitsu at the Jiu Jitsu Institute in Chicago, Illinois, under Masato Tamura, Eighth Dan Judo, and Vince Tamura, Ninth Dan Judo (Ninth Dan in Heike-Ryu Jiu Jitsu), during the middle 1950’s.
With the retirement of Masato Tamura and Vince Tamura’s moving to Texas, Helm joined Uptown Dojo in Chicago and remained a member until it closed in 1977. Dennis Helm is now a member of the Tohkon Dojo in the City of Chicago and the Heike-Ryu Jiu Jitsu/Judo and Kyudo Dojo located in Burlington Wis-consin. The Heike-Ryu Jiu Jitsu/Judo and Kyudo Dojo is dedicated to studying the advanced Kodokan Judo Kata s and Heike-Ryu Jiu Jitsu. This Dojo is made up of high-ranking Judo/Jiu Jitsu players.
Helm’ s undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral work were done at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
2000 YEARS Jiu Jitsu Kodokan Judo Early American Judo – by Dennis Helm
The history of Jiu Jitsu is traced back to 230 BC and forward to 1882 when Kodokan Judo came into being.
Sample Text From the Book
The origin of Jujitsu is lost in the mists of antiquity. The “Nihon Shoki,” THE CHRONICLE OF JAPAN, a history, compiled by Imperial command in 720 AD refers to a tournament of Chikara Kurabe, (a fight to the death), refers to the contest of strength, which was held in the 7th year of the Emperor Suinin.
The year was 230 BC. when Emperor Suinin ordered two strong men named Nomi No Sukune and Tagima No Kuehaya to wrestle in his presence. This struggle to test the strength and courage of the two ancient giants consisted mainly of kicking, hitting, and gouging with Sukune gaining advantage of his opponent by breaking his ribs, after which he “trampled” upon his loins and back until Kuehaya was fatally injured. Although this incident is generally cited as being the origin of wrestling in Japan, it would seem that it was actually more in the nature of Jiu Jitsu in view of the fact that Kuehaya was kicked and gouged to death. Although it is questionable whether the brutal fighting of the Chikara Kurabe bore any relation to either the Sumo or Jujitsu of later days, the event is recorded as an important historic proof showing the embryonic stage of both Sumo and Jujitsu in the remote past.
During this period fights to the death became extremely popular and were organized in almost every city in Japan. As the value of human life became more respected the brutal fighting art of Chikara Kurabe evolved into a more humane art called Kumi Uchi, the grappling of the Samurai.