Founder & History

The History of the Intermountain Yudanshakai
The Intermountain Yudanshakai, also known as the Intermountain Black Belt Association Inc., is a consortium of judo clubs affiliated with the United States Judo Federation. Approximately three hundred or more members are spread out over a geographic area including members from Idaho, Oregon, Colorado, and Utah. The Intermountain Yudanshakai was created to service judo clubs in the Intermountain west region of the United States.

Prior to the formation of the Intermountain Yudanshakai in 1964, clubs in Idaho and eastern Oregon were affiliated with the Northwest Yudanshakai. Utah clubs were affiliated with the Rocky Mountain Yudanshakai at the time. Logistics of travel and demographic necessity provided the incentive for the formation of the Intermountain Yudanshakai in late 1964 by the United States Judo Federation.

Today the Intermountain Yudanshakai continues to support the clubs of the beautiful Intermountain region by living the values, goals, and mission we so proudly uphold.

Dr. Jigoro Kano (Kano Jigoro) is the founder of Judo. He was a perfectionist, a disciplinarian and a traditionalist. But, at the same time, an innovator, an internationalist and a man of great generosity. More important, he was a famous educator and the father of modern sports in Japan. But above all, Jigoro Kano was the founder of Judo.

Jigoro Kano was born to a family that operated a small sake brewery hence they were in a good financial status. Never physically strong, he suffered from various illnesses as a child and was constantly bullied. He tried to learn jujutsu to get even, but was opposed by his parents who feared he could be seriously injured. His parents instead had him study rigorously and in 1877, Kano enrolled in Imperial University. Away from his parents, he finally started learning jujutsu. He studied two different jujutsu styles each focusing on different aspects of fighting techniques.

Jujitsu was flourishing during Jigoro’s boyhood. It is fair to say mid-19th century was the golden age of jujutsu. So it was with rather anxious expectation that Jigoro looked forward to moving to Tokyo, where most of the jujutsu activity was going on. When he was 17, his father ordered him to go to the capital on board one of the sake-carrying steel ships, but he insisted on traveling by land. His father relented — and a good thing, too, because the vessel he was to sail broke up in stormy seas en route to Tokyo and sank.

The University Years

Jigoro Kano started his training in jujutsu at the age of 17 under the supervision of his first instructor, Ryuji Katagiri. Katagiri felt he was too young for serious training. As a result, Katagiri gave him only a few formal exercises for study. The determined young man was not about to be put off so easily, however, and finally wound up at the dojo of Hachinosuke Fukuda, a master in the Tenjin-Shinyo School of Jujutsu who had been recommended by Dr. Yagi.
Fukuda stressed technique over formal exercises, or kata. His method was to give an explanation of the exercises, but to concentrate on free-style fighting in practice sessions. Jigoro Kano’s emphasis on “randori” in Judo undoubtedly found its beginnings here under the influence of Fukuda. It would be mainly from Fukuda and later from sensei Iikubo that he would develop the idea of teaching “randori” first and as the students achieve strenght introduce the kata.
In 1882, Kano founded Kodokan Judo. His system of martial arts (judo) all but replaced its parent art of jujutsu in Japan. Kano also successfully introduced judo into the Japanese school system. Also a member of the International Olympic Committee for Japan, Kano believed in the Games as a way to bring countries together. When World War II was imminent, he lobbied for having the 1940 Olympic Games organized in Japan. This finally happened in 1964, after his death, when the Games were held in Tokyo. For this occasion, Judo became an Olympic discipline, which raised a controversy in the Judo world. Indeed, Kano had always been opposed to organized competition in Judo, for he believed it would taint the non-opposition spirit of his art.
Kano died of pneumonia in 1938, aboard the SS Hikawa Maru after attending an IOC conference, promoting Judo as an Olympic sport. There are, however, allegations that he actually died of food poisoning. Supporters of this hypothesis claim that, since Japan was engaging in World War II, the government had plans to turn the Kodokan into a military academy. Critics argue that this is impossible, however, since Japan did not enter the war until three years later in 1941, whereas the hypothesis claims that Japan was involved in the war at the time of his death. Kano was outspoken in his opposition to the militarization of the Kodokan and he stated that there was no place for militarism in the Kodokan. It is alleged that after his death, a few weeks later, the Kodokan indeed became a military academy. The myth also falls down here as the Kodokan was not made into a military academy until after the end of the war.

Judo History & Philosophy

The early history of Judo and that of its founder, Japanese polymath and educator Kano Jigoro (surname first in Japanese) (1860-1938), are inseparable. Kano was born into a well-to-do Japanese family. His grandfather was a self-made man, a sake brewer from Shiga prefecture in central Japan; however, Kano’s father was not the eldest son and did not inherit the business, but instead became a Shinto priest and government official, with enough influence for his son to enter the second incoming class of Tokyo Imperial University.

Kano was a small, frail boy, who, even in his twenties, did not weigh more than a hundred pounds, and was often picked on by bullies. He first started pursuing jujutsu, at that time a flourishing art, at the age of 17, but met with little success—in part due to difficulties finding a teacher who would take him on as a serious student. When he went off to the University to study literature at the age of 18, he continued his martial efforts, eventually gaining a referral to Hachinosuke Fukuda, a master of the Tenjin Shinyo-ryu and ancestor of noted Japanese/American judoka Keiko Fukuda, who is one of Kano’s oldest surviving students. Fukuda is said to have emphasized technique over formal exercise, sowing the seeds of Kano’s emphasis of randori, or free practice, in Judo.

Little more than a year after Kano joined Fukuda’s school, Fukuda took ill and died. Kano then became a student in another Tenjin Shinyo school, that of Masatomo Iso, who put more emphasis on formal kata than did Fukuda. Through dedication, Kano quickly earned the title “shihan”, or master, and became assistant instructor to Iso at the age of 21. Iso, too, took ill, and Kano, feeling that he still had much to learn, took up another style, becoming a student of Tsunetoshi Iikubo of Kito Ryu. Like Fukuda, Iikubo placed much emphasis on free practice; on the other hand, Kito Ryu emphasized throwing techniques to a much greater degree than Tenjin Shinyo Ryu.

By this time, Kano was devising new techniques, such as the kata guruma ( or ‘shoulder wheel’, known as a fireman’s carry to Western wrestlers who use(d) a slightly different form of this technique) and uki goshi (floating hip toss). His thoughts were already on doing more than expanding the canons of Kito and Tenjin Shinyo Ryu; full of new ideas, in part as a result of his education, Kano had in mind a major reformation of jujutsu, with techniques based on sound scientific principles, and with focus on development of the body, mind, and character of young men in addition to development of martial prowess. At the age of 22, just about to finish his degree at the University, Kano took 9 students from Iikubo’s school to study jujutsu under him at the Eishoji Temple. Although two years would pass before it would be called by that name, and Kano had not yet been accorded the title of “master” in the Kito ryu — Iikubo would come to the temple to help teach three days a week, this was the founding of the Kodokan or “place for learning the way.”

The word Judo is composed of two kanji: “ju”, which means gentleness, and “do”, way or road (the same character as the Chinese “tao”). Thus Judo literally means “the gentle way”, or “the way of giving way”, and may also be defined as “the way of suppleness”, “the way of flexibility, or “the way of adaptability”. To English speakers, Judo and Jujutsu would mean “the easy way”, as in the easiest way to accomplish something. Judo takes from jujutsu (“gentle art”) the principle of using one’s opponent’s strength against him and adapting well to changing circumstances. For example, if the attacker was to push against his opponent he would find his opponent stepping to the side and allowing (usually with the aid of a foot to trip him up) his momentum to throw him forwards (the inverse being true for pulling). Kano saw jujutsu as a disconnected bag of tricks, and sought to unify it according to some principle; he found it in the notion of “maximum efficiency”. Jujutsu techniques which relied solely on superior strength were discarded or adapted in favour of those which involved redirecting the opponent’s force, off balancing the opponent, or making use of superior leverage.