The Origins and Development of Kanō Jigorō’s Jūdō Philosophies 嘉納治五郎の柔道原理の原因と開発

The paper linked herein was published in December 2021 in the International Judo Federation’s Arts and Science of Judo online ‘zine, Vol. 1, No. 2.

The Origins and Development of Kanō Jigorō’s Jūdō Philosophies
By Lance Gatling. Pages 50-64.

Kanō’s jūdō philosophies – Seiryoku zenyō Jita kyōei – adorn tens of thousands of judo dojo across the world, but what exactly do these phrases mean? They are typically translated as ‘Best use of energy / mutual benefit’, even this does not clarify the origins and precise meaning of the phrases.


Despite many searches, I can’t find anything else like this paper. It details what Kanō proposed as the true philosophy of jūdō and how he adopted Western Utilitarian philosophy taught in his youth, blending in elements of traditional Eastern philosophies of Confucianism and Daoism.
…….. (to continue reading, click on the READ MORE link below)

Producing it for the professional periodical editor and peer reviewers of the International Judo Federation’s new Arts and Sciences of Judo was interesting. I did experience some pushback from a content editor or two, which was probably to be expected given that I am not an academic and presented a new, complex thesis complete with extensive documentation that has apparently been overlooked until today.

Most papers on the topic are either in error – stating categorically that the origins of the philosophies (there are actually two) are from classic Eastern sources such as Confucianism and Daoism – or are too vague, not citing the specific inspirations for Kanō, but rather citing Utilitarianism in general as a Western influence.

My approach was somewhat unique, a fact that I only understood in retrospect. I intentionally ignored the common Western sources for primary sources, largely Kanō shihan himself and other prewar Japanese sources. I have the luxury of a stupidly large library of Kanō materials, as I have collected everything single thing written by Kanō or period pieces about him that I could find over more than 15 years. In doing so I have materials that range from Kanō-edited jūdō-related monthlies to philosophy texts to transcripts of Kanō speeches and interviews. In doing so I have found numerous Kanō works that heretofore escaped the notice of judo researchers until now. Granted, only a portion proved useful for this particular topic, but bits and snippets helped fill in the spaces between the major, cogent points.

As a side benefit, I looked at length for English versions of some ancient Chinese classic texts, 2500-year-old philosophical and military strategy texts that Kanō studied in his youth (by his account, starting at the age of 6 in his birthplace and hometown of Mikage village, now a part of eastern Kobe City). Because I was unable to find English translations for key texts, I translated them myself, and in doing so may well now may be able to present the first known English translation. As this is the full explanation of the concept of flexibility, for the purposes of this paper, I left it simply as is, but there is much more to be explored in that along with some other new findings. Later, perhaps.

So, please take a look. Please let me know what you think. If you find anything interesting herein, please sign up and you’ll get automatic updates when I post new material.

My paper is on pages 50 to 72.

The Origins and Development of Kanō Jigorō’s Jūdō Philosophies 嘉納治五郎の柔道原理の原因と開発, Arts and Sciences of Judo, Vol. 1, No. 2

Certainly none of this is required to learn today’s sport judo but I hope it provides food for thought as to the broader meaning Kanō strove to impart, and increase appreciation of the vision and nature of Kanō’s vision for jūdō.

I hope you enjoy it!


Lance Gatling
Author / Lecturer
The Kanō Chronicles
Tokyo, Japan – please send a note to give us feedback.
Thank you!
©2021 Lance Gatling, The Kanō Chronicles

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