Table Speech

“21st Century, the Role to be fulfilled by Judo”

June 7, 2006

Mr. Yasuhiro Yamashita,
Tokai University

 At the time of the Tokyo Olympics, I was an elementary school first grader. The performances by the Japanese athletes left a deep impression on me. I continued to hold the dream of becoming strong and to hoist the Japanese flag at the Olympics, and I was able to achieve my target of becoming number 1 in the world. After retiring from active player, I was the manager of the Japanese national team for a total of 8 years.

 Being in the world of Judo, significant doubts began to rise in my mind. Japanese Judo has become overly preoccupied with winning. Due to this, things have begun to go awry in the manners, morals and ethical values of the Judoists. Doubt arises as to whether this is acceptable.

 Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo defined the purposes of Judo as, “through Judo polish the body and the mind and develop people who will benefit society”. Master Kano thought that the techniques of yawara groomed at the dojo should be used in life and named the art, “Judo” or the “way of softness” and the dojo, “Kodokan”. This was 120 years ago.

 Tradition is not about succeeding the form but it is about succeeding the spirit. I have in many opportunities advocated that we have “become preoccupied with the result and aspired only to execute the perfect throwing technique but have lost sight of the most important spirit”.

 In 2001, a new movement was afoot in the world of Japanese Judo, the Kodokan and All Japan Judo Federation launched a joint project, the “Judo Renaissance Movement”. This is a movement that promotes the idea to once again revisit the ideals of the founder, and through Judo rediscover the importance of building character and teaching to be a man.

 There are two objectives for this Renaissance Movement.

 One is I want to create a world of Judo to which children aspire, and one that makes children want to sling a Judogi over their shoulder and go to the dojo. In the near future, I want to make it a world of judo where Judo is thought of as, “Judo builds character and it is one of the teachings of life.” The other is my desire to do something with the decay in today’s education. Today, in conjunction and in communication with the Judo committee of the Nippon Junior High School Physical Culture Association, we have begun a movement to invite those groups of kids who are guilty of bad conduct, destroying things or bullying into Judo.

 Since 2003 when I became a coaching governor of the International Judo Federation, opportunities to visit many countries around the world have increased. I am thinking of spreading the “Judo Renaissance Movement” to the world and creating a network among the Judo communities worldwide to make a contribution to the healthy development of youths in each country.

 In May of 2003, the 300th anniversary of the establishing of St. Petersburg as the capital was held and I accompanied Prime Minister Koizumi and there I met with President Putin.

 President Putin said, “I tried many types of sports and finally I discovered Judo. For me Judo was not a sport. It is my philosophy. Without Judo, there would be no Putin”. At his home, he is said to have a dojo and in his library a statute of Master Jigoro Kano. I am warmed by Judo having had a role in the exchange between Japan and Russia.

 To spread the movement, an NPO, “Judo Education Solidarity” was established. The NPO is active with the thought of spreading the educational value of Judo not only domestically in Japan, but also to the world. I want to live 5 or 6 lives. I have passed through the life as an athlete and life as a leader and I am in my third life. I cannot yet see what my number 4 and number 5 lives will be like but the last one is clear. In my next life I want to meet two people. One is Master Jigoro Kano. I hope that he would say to me, “Yamashita, you have conquered the summit of the Way of Judo”. The other is Doctor Shigeyoshi Matsumae, the founder of Tokai University. Dr. Matsumae, who is from Kumamoto, the same prefecture as I, used to say, “Through Judo, I want you to deepen friendships and goodwill of the young people of the world. I want you to become a person who can contribute to global peace through sports”. I want him to commend me “job well done”. These would be the greatest and last dreams I hold for my life.