Judo and the process of nation-building in japan: Kanō jigorō and the formation of kōdōkan judo

Tetsuya Nakajima*, Lee Thompson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Although the founding of judo by Kanō Jigorō has been well studied, perhaps less is known about the sociohistorical background behind its formation. This paper considers how the system of judo was constructed in the context of the formation of the nation state in Japan. Each aspect of Kanō's judo was developed in response to specific conditions–in particular, the Ministry of Education's aversion to the martial arts. Kanō developed what he referred to as the ‘values’ of judo in the context of the ministry's adoption of gymnastic exercises for the physical education curriculum. Moreover, Kanō believed that continuity with older schools of jujutsu was important, although in order to legitimize judo's patriotic credentials, he rejected the prevailing theory of jujutsu's Chinese origins. At the same time, he also excluded ‘frivolous’ techniques and attempted to restore jujutsu to its ‘original’ noble essence as a practical form of combat. The diverse and flexible history of jujutsu came to be forgotten.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-110
Number of pages14
JournalAsia Pacific Journal of Sport and Social Science
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • East Asia
  • Gymnastics
  • Invention of tradition
  • Jujutsu
  • Sports

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Judo and the process of nation-building in japan: Kanō jigorō and the formation of kōdōkan judo'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this