Gentle Judo

Sometimes a gentle approach works better than violence. One man named Kano Jigoro believed this with all his heart. He took violent Japanese fighting arts and transformed them into a refined martial art called judo. The word "judo" means the gentle way.

Kano was born in Mikage, Japan, in 1860. He grew up next to the ocean, and his grandfather's family had a business brewing sake. Sake (SAH-kee) is an alcoholic Japanese drink made out of rice. It is made in a process similar to that of beer. Photographs of him as an older man show a serene, strong face, but Kano was sick a lot when he was young. When he was fourteen, he only weighed 90 pounds. He decided to strengthen himself by studying martial arts. He went to two jujitsu schools. Jujitsu was the ancient system of hand-to-hand combat that the stalwart samurai warriors had developed over many centuries. These fighting methods appealed to Kano because small men could overcome larger opponents. This sounded like the perfect plan for him!

However, there was one problem. Many people who practiced these old fighting techniques got hurt. Kano, who had endured so much due to his poor health, certainly did not want to suffer more! He didn't like the dangerous jujitsu throwing techniques that put men on the floor with loud thuds. He didn't like it when opponents painfully twisted each other's arms or legs. Ouch! Later, he explained why he wanted to change these practices. He said, "I founded a new system for physical culture and mental training-jujitsu was despised as something that made rowdies of young men. Judo (was) an entirely different thing." Kano wanted to create a gentle form of self-defense.

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