Select Page
Judo being a Martial Art of Japan
February 16, 2024

Judo History

Jerry Hays
– USJF Archivist & Historian

From Stanford University’s archives, accessible via https://hojishinbun.hoover.org/?a=d&d=A-SH1808-003&srpos=4&e=——-en-10–1–img-judo——, there are 6,556 articles dedicated to judo. Furthermore, within this collection, there exists a document titled “History of Japanese in America,” spanning 888 pages and concluding in 1940. Within this document, approximately twenty pages, starting from page 398, are dedicated to the history of judo in the United States, tracing its origins from the arrival of the first Japanese individuals up to the year 1940.The following is from this historical paper –

Judo being a martial art of Japan

Judo being a martial art of Japan since old days, indispensable for the mental and physical discipline, especially for devoted training in Bushido polishing up. It was in 1895, immediately after the Sino-Japanese War, Yaekichi Yabe in San Francisco tried out a correspondent instruction of Judo and in 1896 Sukeichi Yoshii, a native of Kagoshima Prefecture, set up on O’Farrell Street in San Francisco a Kito School Jujitsu practice stage, in 1900 Katsukuma Higashi as a Judo instructor challenged the Western-style wrestling in New York and being recognized by the then well-kwown wrestler Swanson went around teaching policemen in various parts of New York. In 1902 Masaaki Tanimoto, a native of Hiroshima Prefecture, set up three practice stages of the Shibukawa school Jujutsu in San Francisco. This was the first time ever of the teaching of Jujutsu, the technique of Judo.

Thereafter, in September of 1903 the late Yoshiaki Yamashita (then a sixth-degree holder) an official instructor of the Kodo-Kan School being invited by Samuel Hill, the Railroad King, came to the United States, stayed and taught Judo for five years at such as the Naval Academy in Annapolis and Harvard University and contributed greatly to propagate and introduce how superior Judo, the Japanese martial art, was to the world. The then President Roosevelt having invited Yamashita especially to the White House and he himself practiced Judo and even introduced Judo to such as the ladies’ organization of the diplomatic corps. Thus, impression of Judo being the cream of the martial arts of Japan was suddenly spread throughout the world. Thereafter, such as Hyozo Chiba (4th-degree holder then), Tsunejiro Tomita (6th-degree holder then), Mitsuyo Maeda (4th-degree holder then), Nobushiro Satake (4th-degree holder then), Itaro Kono (2nd-degree holder then), Tokugoro Ito (4th-degree holder then), Akitaro Ohno (3rd-degree holder then) and Taraji Miyake came in succession to the United States and later on around in 1940 Isuke Shinmen (5th-degree holder then), Saburo Takahiro (5th-degree holder then), Hyota Okabe (5th-degree holder then), Hikoo Shoji (4th-degree holder then), Setsuzo Ota (4th- degree holder then ) an Shinzo Arakaki (4th-degree holder then) taught Judo to Americans in the West and back East in New York and Chicago to the Americans and frightened them that with the exquisite skill of Judo of the small Japanese throwing the bigger Caucasians.

Judo Gymnasiums Set-up in Various Locations As the population of the Japanese in various places along the Pacific Coast increased tremendously, there was also a gradual increase in number of those with experience in Judo and as the number of the second generation American born Nisei increased it became recognized that the Nisei education, both physically and mentally, for their personality training as the Japanese should be the education fundamentally based on Judo, a martial art of Japan, Judo gymnasiums were established in various locations and around in 1940 there were increasingly many as several thousand among the Japanese and regular Americans who would want to learn Judo, with even the number of those with official Judo grade-holders to have had become as many as over a thousand and performing an important role in the guidance of the Nisei.

Grand-Master Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo and the Kodo-Kan President, came to Los Angeles in 1932, on the occasion of the Los Angeles Olympics, went around visiting the various Judo gymnasiums and at the same time established the Judo Grade-Holders Association in northern, central and southern Pacific Coastal areas. Thus the Judo was even more spurred up in its development. Such as Kodo-Kan official instructors Hidekazu Nagaoka (l0th-degree holder) in 1934 and Kunisaburo lizuka (9th-degree holder) in 1938 also came to the United States to coach and gave courses themselves to the local instructors, which gave advance by  strides both from the technical and spiritual standpoints. On the other hand, Toshitaka Yamanouchi (5th- degree holder) of Los Angeles organized the Judo Training Study Tours to Japan and took the groups several times to Japan and fully shown the strength and developed the skills of Judo in the United States by having them compete against the Butoku-Kai teams of various universities in Japan.

Around in 1940 in the United States, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle along the West Coast were the places where Judo had developed the most having many Judo gymnasiums and several hundreds of those with black-belt degrees. Kojiro Haishi (4th-degree holder then), Rikichiro Taguchi (5th-degree holder then) and Shozaburo Kuwajima (3rd-degree holder) were the pioneers in developing Judo exerting their efforts in introducing and propagating Judo in New York and 399 Chicago areas, having many Americans studying Judo. Fourth-Degree Holder Haishi instructed Judo as a regular required subject at a military academy in Chicago since 1917. Around in 1940 the main Judo instructors along the Pacific Coast were such as Toshitaka Yamanouchi (6th-degree holder – temporarily visiting in Japan) of Los Angeles, Ushio Kuroe (5th-degree holder) of San Francisco, Kohei Yoshida on the Coast area, Yasuyuki Kumagai (6th – degree holder) of Seattle and Tetsu Kawasaki (4th-degree holder then) of Stockton.

Judo Grade Holders Association (Yudansha-Kai) and Presidents

In general, around in 1940, the Judo circle in the United States had the Kodo-Kan Yudansha-Kai as the central organization having the Japanese consul generals or consuls as the various local chapter presidents controlling and leading the local Judo gymnasiums. Following were the principal Judo gymnasiums, the history and the status around in 1940 of the Yudansha-Kai:

Northern California Judo Gymnasiums and Yudansha-Kai

History: Around in 1917, Judo-men such as Tokugoro Ito (then 4th degree holder) and Junpachiro Kyono (3rd degree holder) came to the United States about the same time, a few years later such as Masayuki Kawakatsu (5th degree holder), Seizo Takahashi, Mitsugu Taniguchi, Keisuke Tominaga and Shigeru Hari (all these 2nd-degree holders) were practicing Judo at such places in San Francisco at the Japanese Y.M.C.A., Reformed Church Educational Building and the Buddhist Church striving to guide Japanese young-men at the same time and on occasions were conducting competitions with Caucasian wrestlers.

Prior to this, around in 1909, in San Francisco such as Kanemaru Aizawa and Konai Miyamoto had organized a club called the Hokubei Judo Club, and in San Francisco and in Oakland such as Seisha Yokoyama who later became a Mexican lieutenant general, Takazo Shirao, Takeki Muto were teaching Judo. Thereafter, such as Ushio Kuroe (4th-degree holder then), Shingo Watanabe (3rd-degree holder then), Iwao Aoki (3rd-degree holder then) and Buzo Yokoyama (4th- degree holder then) came to live in San Francisco

In September of 1930 the 5th degree holder Ushio Kuroe being in charge and with the support of such as Shingo Watanabe, Iwao Aoki, Katsuchiyo Kasai, Denichi Akashi and Suketaro Doiguchi set up the Soko Judo Dojo at 1726 Sutter Street in San Francisco and held a Judo tournament inviting Judo experts from various areas to commemorate the inauguration of the Judo gymnasium at the same time on the 15th of November of the same year. This was the first time ever for the Judo tournament to be held formally in Northern California.

Following this, in 1931 there was the North and South Judo Tournament held against the Southern California Judo team and in the same year with the coming to America of the Meiji University Judo team (headed by 6th degree holder Coach Masaji Makino) there was a sudden rise of Judo fever. Thus, in 1932 the 2nd North and South Judo tournament was held in Los Angeles with both teams resulting in a remarkable success. In the same year the 10th Olympic in Los Angeles was held having Grand Master Jigoro Kano as the Honorary President of the Japan Athletic Federation coming to the United States, the Soko Judo Dojo sponsored the Welcoming Judo Tournament on August 24, 1932 at the Kinmon Gakuen Hall comprised of all the various Judo gymnasium teams in Northern and Central California at which time there were many of who were elevated in degrees or indoctrinated by Grand master Kano.

Grand Master Kano, considering the remarkable thriving of Judo, especially observing the great number of Nisei practicing Judo diligently, brought up the matter of establishing the Judo Yudansha-Kai (Degree-Holders Association) with the then Consul General Kaname Wakasugi. Consul General Wakasugi immediately gathered those concerned with Judo at his official residence and as a result of the conference, in February 1933 the Northern California Yudansha-Kai was founded having Kaname Wakasugi as the inaugura President and having the organization as the headquarters of Judo guidance in Northern and Central California to actively engage in centralizing Judo instructions. Thereafter, in October of 1934, Hidekazu Nagaoka (10th degree holder), an official Kodokan Judo Instructor, on his return trip from study tour of Europe and America, came to San Francisco and on the 14th of the same month held a welcoming Judo tournament at the Kinmon Gakuen Hall for him with the members of the Judo gymnasiums in North and Central California in attendance and the Kodokan Instructor Nagaoka giving a lecture and actual practice session, at which time the then President Consul General Shu Tomii donated a large trophy for the encouragement and guidance of Judo.

Since then, in San Francisco annually the Autumn North and Central California Judo Tournaments had been held competing for this trophy. On October 27, 1936, taking the opportunity of Grand Master Jigoro Kano’s coming to San Francisco on his return trip through the United States from the 11th Olympic held in Berlin, Germany, with the desire of Grand Master Kano and with the painstaking efforts of the then Consul General Kanzo Shiozaki, held an evening lecture and practice Judo session for the American audience, sponsored by the San Francisco Japan Society at the Fairmont Hotel Grand Ball Room on the ground floor. There were over five hundred in attendance that evening including such as those representing the United States Army and Navy Western Headquarters, the veterans’ organizations and the well-known individuals in the sports circle.

Grand Master Kano, in spite of his then advanced age of seventy-six, stepped up on the stage himself and gave a talk in fluent English freely, surpassing in vigor those in the prime of life, from the historical development of Judo and explaining the essence of the Japanese martial-arts effecting the spiritual aspects in life and having 5th degree holder Toshitaka Yamanouchi as his opponent demonstrated his splendid flash-of-lightning skill to prove vividly the superiority of Judo from the scientific and spiritual point of view as the culmination of good use of strength, which amazed all those in attendance.

In 1937, the Waseda University Judo team, and for the second time the Meiji University Judo team (with manager Saburo Hayama, then 5th-degree holder) came to the United States and in 1938 the Keio University team led by Kunisaburo lizuka (then 9th degree holder) came to America, having had competitions at various locations which remarkably developed the Judo skill of the Japanese living in the United States. In 1939 such as Torao Udo (7th degree holder) and Suzuka 5th degree holder went around giving training lessons in various locations in northern and southern parts along the Coast.

  1. Thus, the Judo in North America thrived as the years went by and around 1940 in the North and Central California there were 19 Judo gymnasiums, 132 blackbelt degree holders and over 1,200 members practicing Judo. Following were the locations of the Judo gymnasiums under the jurisdiction of the Northern California Judo Yudansha-Kai:
    San Francisco; Oakland; Pescadero; Salinas; Redwood City; Monterey; Watsonville; Concord; Stockton; Lodi; Sacramento; Walnut Grove; Courtland; Placer; Fresno (two locations); Parlier; Delano; Bakersfield. (As of 1940)

Names of Northern California Yudansha-Kai Officers:
President: Toshito Sato (Consul General)
Executive Director: Tadao Tsukiyama (Consulate Clerk)
Secretary: Suketaro Doiguchi
Various Gymnasium Leaders: Kuroe 5th Degree Holder; Tamanaha 5th-Degree Holder; Watanabe 4th-Degree Holder; Kawasaki 4th-Degree Holder; Okamoto 3rd-Degree Holder; Matsuda 3rd -Degree Holder.

Southern California Judo Gymnasiums and Yudansha-Kai

History:  The Judo circle in Southern California developed centered around in Los Angeles, with over two thousand practicing Judo around in 1940 having had an important role as an American born young Nisei 401 guidance organization. The history goes back to 1918 when Tokugoro Ito, Kodokan 5th degree holder, newly set up the Los Angeles Judo Gymnasium and since then in various places there were seen Judo gymnasiums opened up in various locations. In 1928 Toshitaka Yamanouchi 4th degree holder arrived in Los Angeles from back East and opened up the Moneta Judo Gymnasium. In those days when along with the Japanese language schools the key issue of how to guide the American born Nisei, there was a problem of lack of the Japanese spiritual training facilities and how to supplement the situation.

At which time, the Judo gymnasiums, all of a sudden developed throughout the entire Southern California, especially with the arrival in Los Angeles of Grand Master Jigoro Kano on several occasions greatly aspired the Judo fever and in March of 1930 the Hokubei Nanka Judo Yudansha-Kai was established, attempting place under control within the jurisdiction and at the same time organizing the Japan Judo Training Study Tour every year, visiting various locations in Japan, Korea and Manchuria, showing in Japan the essence of the Japanese Judo of those born abroad and had continued on striving for the expansion of Judo by conducting Judo tournament every year and holding such as the North and South Judo Competition to improve their skills.

As of 1940, there were 29 Judo gymnasiums belonging to the Hokubei Nanka Judo Yudansha-Kai, with the total membership in the gymnasiums being approximately 1,500 and the official degree holders being: 6th degree holder – 1; 5th degree holder – 5; 4th degree holder – 6; 3rd degree holders- 44; 2nd degree holder -105; 1st degree holder – 200; Total – 365 degree holders.

Locations of Judo Gymnasiums (As of 1940)

San Pedro; Hollywood; San Gabriel; Orange; Harbor City; Glendale; Santa Barbara Shobu-Kan; North Hollywood; Moneta Bungle; Venice; Reedley; Palos Verdes; Los Angeles; Uptown; Delano; Norwalk; Hawthorn; Senshin, Bakersfield; Oxnard; Coyote Pass; Lompock; Aroyo Grande; San Fernando; Brawley; Seinan (Southwestern ); Santa Maria; Guadalupe.

Nanka Judo Yudansha-Kai Officers (As of 1940)
President: Hiroshi Yoshida (Los Angeles Consul)
Vice Presidents: Matsutaro Nitta; Kiro Nagano
Treasurer: Seigoro Murakami
Auditor: lyashigelida
Executive Secretary: Tatsuji Tatsuno
Leaders/Tnstructors: Kohei Yoshida; Yasutaro Matsuura; Nobuo Nishimori; lyashige Yamada; Tadashi lida; Kiro Nagano; Koyo Tamanaha; Seigoro Murakami; Tasuke Hagio; Kaname Kiiniyuki; Takashi Kikuchi; TomoakiUejima; Sawaichi Fukuda.

Seattle Judo Gymnasium and Yudansha-Kai

History: Judo gymnasium in the United States was first set up in Seattle in February of 1908 and this was the first time the Kodokan Judo of Japan had made inroads into the United States. The Judo gymnasium was called the “Seattle Dojo” (the ‘Seattle Judo Gymnasium’), as the central gymnasium of all the northern region it had chapter gymnasiums in twelve various locations and was considered an influential Judo gymnasium.

Around in 1940, twenty-four long years had gone by, with way over a hundred of it 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st degree holder having had turned out and was considered both nominally and virtually a substantial Judo gymnasium. Around in 1934 the land and the building was purchased and as the property it owned had the site for 85 tatami (straw-mats of Approx. 3′ x 6′) spread out, being the most outstanding gymnasium along the Pacific Coast. The founder of the gymnasium was Kodokan 7th -degree holder Tokugoro Ito, who himself as the master-instructor instructed and trained the members of the gymnasium and during the time he was away on a nation-wide self-training Judo tour, Yasutaro Miyazawa 4th-degree holder took charge as the instructor, thereafter Kanji Suzuki 5th degree holder, Eitaro Suzuki 5th-degree holder, Jinkyo Shiro 4th-degree holder and Yokoyama 4th-degree holder each took charge of teaching and around in 1940 Yasuyuki Kumagai 6th degree holder, Yasutaro Miyazawa 4th- degree holder and Masataro Shibata 4th-degree holder were in charge of the teaching.

Seattle and Various Other Judo Gymnasiums
When it was first set up in 1908, though there were only about twenty or so members, in 1918 there were over thirty members and as the local gymnasiums, new gymnasiums were set up in Tacoma and Fife during the same year, increasing the membership of the gymnasiums to 129 around in 1928. Since around then, the American born small and young Nisei Judo-ists started to show up, with the membership increasing more than ever and around in 1940, besides the main gymnasium (the headquarters), in Seattle
there was the Tentoku-Kan Dojo and the total number of gymnasiums was eighteen. There were seven in Oregon, five in Canada and in five years up to 1940, the total number of those practicing Judo, including the local areas centered around in Seattle, had reached approximately one-thousand. The names of the various gymnasiums were as follows:

Seattle Dojo; Tentoku-Kan Dojo; Green Lake Dojo; Bainbridge Dojo; Belleview Dojo;
Sundale Dojo; Kent Dojo; White River Dojo; Fife Dojo; Tacoma Dojo; Eatonville Dojo;
Yakima Dojo; Ohbu-Kan; Shudo-Kan; Shobu-Kan; Milwaukee Dojo; Hood River Dojo;
Spokane Dojo; Taiiku Dojo. Total Dojo Membership – 1,000; Degree Holders – 400.

Grand Master Kano and Yudansha-Kai
In 1931 with Kodokan President and Grand Master Jigoro Kano having had come to Seattle and having had the Hokubei Seattle Judo Yudansha-Kai organized, the Seattle Dojo being the headquarters the coordination of the Judo gymnasiums in various areas had been contemplated by conducting annual Judo tournaments. Even though there appeared many Caucasians studying Judo in the latter part of 1940s and around in 1940 had increased in number of those taking up practicing Judo at various gymnasiums, most of those degree holders were American born Nisei, who had been able to train themselves in Judo in the same way as those Japanese in Japan even from the language standpoint and had come up with a remarkable achievement. Especially since Nisei were well built physically, fast in learning Judo both physically and spiritually, showing a remarkable progress and there were quite promising Judoists in the future coming up
thereafter. There were frequent competitions among the various gymnasiums and in 1938 such as Yasuyuki Kumagai 6th-degree holder and Yasutaro Miyazawa 4th-degree holder leading their 25 gymnasium members went down south to Los Angeles and held a north and south Judo competition, which had drawn the attention of those in the Judo circle as the biggest Judo tournament in the United States and was quite a successful

Around in 1940 the headquarter instructors assigned to the various local gymnasiums were: Yasuyuki Kumagai 7th-degree holder; Yasutaro Miyazawa 4th-degree holder; Masataro Shibata 4th-degree holder; Jun Nitta 4th-degree holder; Goro Mochizuki 3rd-degree holder; Ichiro Sakano 3rd-degree holder; Matsuo Sakagami 3rd-degree holder; Mitsuzo Yano 3rd-degree holder; Taked Horiuchi 3rd-degree holder; Nishimori 3rd-degree holder; Tamura 3rd-degree holder.

Portland Dojo
It was in 1908 when a Judo gymnasium was first set up and Itaro Kono was in charge of the Portland Dojo and in 1910 Tokugoro Ito came to give Judo lessons to many of the young-men. Thereafter, the gymnasium became extinct and closed for a while, along with the growth of the Nisei young-men, a new gymnasium was set up on Davis Street and around in 1940 Judo lesson had been given on a large scale.

American Police Departments and Judo
In 1906, Yoshiaki Yamashita (10th-degree holder), Kodokan Official instructor, who was then 7th-degree holder, came to the United States and taught Judo to the then President Theodore Roosevelt, Judo came to be recognized in various circles as the martial art of Japan. In 1915 Kojiro Haishi 3rd- degree holder, in the capacity of 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, instructed Judo to the Army officers at the Apton Barracks on Long Island in New York, and later he was also called on as an official instructor of the Chicago Military Academy. With other Judo experts residing in various places and teaching Judo, Judo came to be widely known among the people in the United States. Around in 1940, Atsuo Matsuyama (native of Miyakonojo in Miyazaki-Ken), who had been operating a huge private Judo gymnasium at 566 Fulton Street in San Francisco
for many years teaching the “Yawara”, old name for Judo, to the Caucasians was called on in 1929 by Dr. August Volmar, an authority on police administration, who was appointed Berkeley Police Chief in California and concurrently was the University of California lecturer, and for about one year taught the Berkeley Police officers the “Yawara” and at the same time taught them the “pistol snatching method” Matsuyama had devised, which method was adopted and used by police officers throughout the United States.

In addition, Matsuyama had contributed greatly to the American police circle by revising and improving the dubs, which the police officers carry with them. Thereafter, Matsuyama had been invited by police departments in various states engaged in teaching “Yawara” and had been devoting himself in the friendship relation between Japan and the United States through the martial art and also taught many American born Nisei and Caucasians coming to his gymnasium.