Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Kano's rainbow nation -Part 1

The Japanese have usually been a closed society where not many things are revealed to outsiders, especially in the area of martial arts. Now, this goes for other societies as well. The chinese were (and some still are) particular about teaching Kung Fu to non-chinese. Sometimes, other chinese are even prohibited, with the 'secret' techniques residing within the clan, or the family

Judo is one of those very rare abberations where divisions of race, gender and societal differences are broken down very quickly. When Judo was established, it was not long after that women were allowed to practice it. On the mat, no one knows if you're a rich man or a poor one, in a judogi, the only means of telling someone apart is the belt colour and how hard they throw you.

It is even more remarkable that Jigaro Kano then proceeded to open the practice of Judo to non-Japanese, to the extent that legends like Yukio Tani and Ishikawa were sent to Britain and Europe to spread the gospel of Judo. I suspect that this may have much to do with Kano's upbringing.

When he was young, he was enamoured with American baseball, which he was exposed to as a student in an international school. Mind you, remember that Japan at that time had no sport, or a concept of sport. Martial arts was for killing, and that was it. But by that time, it was starting to fall out of favour with a populace more attuned to the change that modern society was bringing. Western clothes and technology were more relevant that learning jujitsu from an ever decreasing pool of teachers. And furthermore, it was archaic. It was the equivalent of learning the art of the quick draw from Wyatt Earp in the 21st century. Good for a yarn but quite impractical.

What Kano did was a fundamental paradigm shift. He didn't just learn the old arts as a keepsake. No, he changed their operating structure by applying a sporting mindset to it. He made the mental leap and understood that Jujitsu as practiced and taught as it was, would gradually die out, even if he himself learnt and practiced it meticulously to to the end. He was just one person trying to stop the tide from coming in.

But how did this look in practice?

(To be continued in part 2)

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