Aikido Journal Home » Articles » Life of Jigoro Kano Founder of Judo (05) Aiki News Japan

Life of Jigoro Kano Founder of Judo (05)

by Jigoro Kano

Aiki News #84 (Spring 1990)

Kano devises a set of rules at his school to develop “sound characters and enterprising dispositions” among the boys in his charge.

Beginnings Of The Kano Private School

Let me say a few words about the early days of the Kano Private School, which was founded at about the same time as the Kodokan. The Kano Private School, like the Kodokan, started with just a handful of live-in students and staff. The students consisted of several young people who had been placed with me for instruction and supervision by my relatives and acquaintances, and the live-in students were made up of several private school students whom I supported in exchange for their help in teaching Judo to the others. Thus, we didn’t have any strict rules in the beginning, and the school was very small but had a very homey atmosphere. However, as the number and variety of students gradually increased, some rules became necessary. The school’s aims and principles of education also needed to be clarified. So gradually our rules came into being. We didn’t even decide on the name, “Kano Private School,” from the beginning, but just fell into the habit of calling it that because the students gathered to study under me.

During our days at Kita Inari-cho in Shitaya, and Imagawa-koji, we had virtually no rules at all, and no written educational principles. But we did get the students together from time to time in an informal setting to tell them didactic stories, and we were always available to give individual advice. Soon after moving to Kami-Niban-cho in 1884, we hammered out clear principles of education and discipline. Among the boys in my care at that time, there were some who tended to be selfish or unintentionally lazy because they had been born into rich families and were used to being pampered by houseboys and servants, and there were others who got into mischief because of their circumstances, though they were not necessarily bad boys. So I was asked by the parents to bring them up strictly. I personally believed that those who had been raised since infancy under difficult circumstances naturally developed sound characters and soon acquired an intrepid and enterprising disposition. I also believed that those who had been pampered and protected from worldy affairs through the warm care of their parents and thus never experienced privation and poverty naturally needed to cultivate their spirit in the private school.

The Rules

Since we were not bound by traditional rules, we were able to create rules which reflected the current times. During the early days of the school at Kami-Niban-cho the students got up at 4:45 a.m. and went to bed at 9:30 p.m., though I can recall sending the younger ones to bed a little earlier. I organized a wake-up call system among the students. Each one took his turn to wake up all the others. The student on duty had to be awake before 4:45 a.m. and made his wake-up rounds, ringing the bell at 4:45. Those who were not on wake-up duty could sleep soundly, with an easy mind, until time to get up. At that time I felt that everyone ought to develop the ability to be able to wake up without fail at a specified time, and so I organized this system. I provided a lamp and watch at the bedside of the student on duty and I ordered the student on duty to take the greatest possible pains to accomplish his duty without fail at the proper time. Thus, all the off-duty students could leave the responsibility for waking up in the hands of the student on duty, and they could sleep soundly and without anxiety until time to get up.

As soon as each student had gotten up, he swept his own room. Then the student on-duty cleaned up the garden and entrance way. Study and practice hours were at specific regular times, and at those times all of the students were required to be in the dojo without fail. The recess hour was also the same every day. During study times, each student was required to sit up straight, to wear his hakama, and was not allowed to relax. When the instructors ate their meals, the students took turns serving them. During meals the instructors chatted with the students on various matters. The masters were able to reason with the students, while at the same time they became aware of the students’ opinions. When guests came to visit, a student always met them at the front door, and escorted them back to the porch on their departure. The students took turns answering the door. Non-paying students and the children of wealthy families of high-position were all treated equally. Except when we gave permission for the students to go out in a group, students were not allowed to leave the school unless they had a particular reason. Home visits, though for various reasons these rules did not apply universally, were permitted twice a month at specified times to those whose parents lived in Tokyo.

When a student entered my school, I took charge of him on the condition that everything concerning that student would be left in my hands. I made the parents understand that there might be times when I would refuse a student permission to go home even though they might so request. The very first students at my school when it was at Kami Niban-cho included Masujiro Honda, Itsuro Munakata, Takejiro Yuasa, and Shiro Saigo, among others. Once a student had been admitted to my school, he was required to wear hakama from morning until night, and this rule applied strictly to all the students, except when they wore their dogi for practice in the dojo. I permitted senior students to have some pocket money, but as a general rule, I prohibited all other students from having any money. So I provided them with the basic necessities. Naturally, I didn’t allow my students to buy candy whenever they liked, nor to bring it with them from home. I had them eat sweets during our weekly school tea-party.

All the students were required to appear in the dojo every day, with no excuses. On Sundays all the students gathered together, and I gave them lectures on maintaining a good mental attitude for daily life, and about the essential points for leading a successful life. On the Sundays when the students were not allowed to go home, I encouraged them to go out in groups on walks around the suburbs. They were not permitted to use a charcoal brazier for heat even in the very coldest of mid-winter weather, and they had to do all the household chores themselves, from lamp-cleaning, sweeping and dusting the living room, to preparing their own baths. The only thing they didn’t have to do was cook.

I believed that this course of action would result in good discipline. And I had many good examples and precedents to draw on when I enacted these rules. Jomyo-In Temple in Ueno belonged to the Risshu sect la Buddhist sect which originated in China, and was brought to Japan in 745 A.D. by the Chinese priest Ganjin. Obeying their commandments was their only creed]. The chief priest at that time had studied under my grandfather. Because of this connection, he often came to see my grandfather, and I sometimes visited the temple as well. These Buddhist precepts as many know are quite severe. There is only one meal a day. The priests and acolytes get up at about 4:00 a.m. and sweep and dust all the rooms, always paying scrupulous attention to cleaning both the inside and the outside of the temple. At that temple you could find no dust or dirt anywhere in the sacred precincts. Seeing this custom with my own eyes, I used it as a base when I created the school rules on early rising, household cleaning, and so on.

The New Year’s Day Ceremony

If I remember correctly, my school started to hold its annual New Year’s Day ceremony in 1884. In this ceremony I, as head of Kano Private School, filled a small sake cup with a spiced sake, called toso, specially made for New Year’s Day. Then, without taking a sip, I passed it on to the next most senior person. He in turn poured some toso into the cup, and without drinking, passed the cup on again. After the cup had made the rounds of the students gathered, each one pouring and passing but not drinking, it was returned to me. Then I again passed it around without drinking or pouring. On the third time, I sipped an amount smaller than that which I had poured during the first round, and everyone else did the same, passing the cup among themselves. When the cup returned to me the last time, there would still be some toso left. With this cup the ceremony ended.

(The full article is available for subscribers.)

Subscription Required

To read this article in its entirety please login below or if you are not a subscriber click here to subscribe.

Remember my login information.