Kano Jigoro, founded the martial art known around the world but many people don't know his name. They certainly recognize its name though and the powerfully elegant throws it employs.
Kano’s judo had no weight divisions, no point system either. The only way to win was to throw one’s opponent with a perfect nage waza technique.
Scoring an IPPON victory symbolizes the opponent's death. No matter how many points you've scored, you have to risk everything for an IPPON.
While IPPON is the ultimate victory, these days, it's increasingly rare. The rules have changed since the birth of Judo some 120 years ago. Points are scored mainly through what are called [unintelligible 00:01:45].
Winning by IPPON is more difficult than winning by points at a rate of eight to two.
Kano Jigoro's teachings are deeply embedded in Japanese judo. You can see the evidence in the final match of the Jigoro Kano Cup held in Tokyo’s Nippon Budokan in January 2005. It involved one of Japan's leading judoka, Jose Inowe [00:02:13]. Not only had Inowe won three consecutive World Championships, he also brought home the gold medal from the Sydney Olympics. His opponent was Judy Rybak, a formidable force from Venice Vena Rouse.
Five seconds into the match, Inowe tried for an IPPON but his plans went array. He tore his right major pectoral muscle just as he was about to execute a throw, it was a serious injury.
Despite the pain, Inowe carried on with the match but the pain intensified staying in and taking the risk he might never be able to compete again.
Inowe could have tried to win by scoring several minor points but for him, it was IPPON or nothing. 2 minutes and 22 seconds into the match, Inowe executed a brilliant ouchi gaeshi, [00:03:51] one of his favorite techniques, giving him a dazzling IPPON victory.
Winning in that way is spectacular, no doubt about it, but one of the Japanese judoka see IPPON as so much better than any other kind of winning.
Professional fighter Nicholas Pettas wants to find out. He's won the European Championships of judoka style of karate at a Japan Grand Prix Championship of mixed martial arts. Now, he's a man in search of the meaning of Ippon.
[00:04:45] Welcome to Samurai Spirit. I'm your host, Nicholas Pettis. In Japan, they know me as the blue-eyed samurai. And as you can see, I'm standing here in front of a very famous special sports University in Japan here and I've gotten in my hand a brand-new white dogi. I haven't even opened up the belt yet. And why am I holding this Judo dogi in my hand? Because in here, they've got some of the top athletes for the judo in Japan, and we're gonna go find out exactly what it is that they're doing in there. And I've never tried this before, so I'm quite excited to find out exactly what judo is all about. Well, join me on Samurai Spirit today as we bring you judo.
The search starts at a school where many top judoka train, Nippon Sports Science University. Let's go inside and see how these guys actually work out.
Wow! Like more than 100 guys in here, top athletes and this some really big dudes in there.
It's time for him to enroll in Judo 101.
Welcome. Everyone, gather around. Do you have anything to say?
I hope you don't mind me practicing with you? Look at these guys [laughs].
Let's get started. You can join them.
I have experienced all kinds of martial arts but never judo. Scoring IPPON with [unintelligible 00:06:24] is an impressive way to win but it's also most definitely the hard way. I'm really interested in finding out why it means so much to the Japanese judoka.
After warming up, they immediately start Uchikomi, practicing the throw over and over again. Uchikomi helps develop speed and timing. Do it enough that it becomes second nature when an opportunity arises. With the partners practicing both attacks and defense. The essence of Judo is learning to overcome one’s opponent with an effective throw. The ultimate goal, you know by now, IPPON.
International judo matches are five minutes long. The first person to score an IPPON wins no matter what's happened before that. In order to qualify for an IPPON with nage-waza, a judoka has to demonstrate a sufficient amount of power. That power then must be combined with speed, and finally must put an opponent on his back. All three elements are essential to score an IPPON.
If neither opponent achieves IPPON by the end of the match, the judges award a Yusei-gachi to the contestants they feel displayed the better technique and attitude. The decision is based on a number of waza-ari and yuko points.
Waza-ari is awarded for a throw that's good but likes one of the IPPON elements. Compare the two throws; the one on the left is an IPPON, the throw on the right lacks speed so it's awarded a waza-ari instead.
A yuko point is awarded to the throw that lacks two of the IPPON criteria. It doesn't put an opponent on his back in lacks force, and a throw that doesn't show any of the three criteria gets nothing at all. Failing to engage in combat is one of the prohibited acts in judo, and that sometimes can result in a point for the opponent.
The introduction Nicolas got to judo coincided with a visit by the national team coach, Kazuo Yoshimura. Yoshimura is a master coach who's trained many Olympic gold medalists. He's strict, it's all for the sake of instilling the right spirit [audio pause 00:10:00] in these young athletes. The do or die determination that drives them on to aim for an IPPON. Nikolas had better learn fast.
Okay, first of all, what should you do the moment the referee announces the start of the match?
You mean me?
Yeah, what should you do?
Well, I really don't know.
Well, you need to try and engage your opponent. So, what if someone pulls you sideways like this?
So, I try and get my balance back.
By moving in the opposite direction, right? So, you use that force.
Oh, I see.
In other words, make use of your opponent's natural reflexes to resist the forces that are being applied. Okay now, what happens if you push him down like this?
Well, I try to come back up again.
Right. He's resisting your force and that gives you an opportunity to upset his balance by releasing your hold which allows you to apply a technique.
Kodokan judo recognizes 67 nage-waza throwing techniques. Each throw if executed thoughtfully leads to an IPPON.
Uchimata involves sweeping the opponent's inner thigh from within. Osoto-gari involves clipping the opponent's leg from the side. In tomoe-nage, you drop backwards to throw your opponent over your head. Seoi-nage is breaking an opponent's balance toward you loading him onto your back and throwing him over your shoulder. That's what Nicholas is about to learn.
No, no, no, not like that. Look watch carefully. You're coming in and trying to lift him with your hips. You should use your entire body to load him onto your back, use your entire body.
If you only use your hips, you're forcing it, so your body is bent. So, go ahead, throw him. Go on. Yeah, [chuckles]. You’re too respectful.
[Laughs]. I felt kind of bad for him.
Oh, don't worry. You have to get the feel of it.
Yeah, that's it. You’re getting it. Okay, good. You've got a knack for it.
Practice is important but the best way to understand the importance of IPPON is through an actual encounter, so Nicolas is going to take on some of the students. Nicolas is 180 centimeters tall and weighs 105 kilograms. His opponent is 172 centimeters and 73 kilograms. Is this a fair fight?
Nicolas is hesitant. He uses his larger build to pull his opponent toward him but his actions leave him exposed. His opponent pulls Nicholas's feet and upsets his balance in front with one foot off the ground. Nicholas can't recover and finds himself flat on his back; the victim of a brilliant IPPON.
First of all, I'd like to say thank you very much for it. That was a great wonderful experience for me. It's first time to try judo so it was like a whole new world. I have one question for you. Where did I go wrong when I was fighting in there?
Well, first of all, what you needed the most was the will to fight, so it wasn't a matter of being good or bad judo. You lacked spirit and were reluctant to apply a technique.
And where is the Japanese judo heading towards now? What kind of goals are they looking for?
Well, aiming for an IPPON victory will continue to be the goal.
Why is the IPPON so important to the Japanese judo?
Judo developed out of jujitsu a martial art that involved killing to save one's life.
Yes, of course.
So, the execution of a throw had to be effective enough to kill an opponent, that's what an IPPON is. But Japanese judo also should be graceful with beautiful throws and that's also what we're striving for.
Thank you very much for today. I really learned a lot.
Well, come back and try it again.
Yes, thank you.
[00:17:23] The origins of Judo lie in samurai combat techniques used to defeat actual enemies. These techniques were eventually systematized into jujitsu. The purpose of jujitsu wasn't to win a game. It was to kill someone who wanted to kill you or be killed. That kind of choice focused the mind and underscores the quest for IPPON today.
Kano Jigoro took the techniques of jujitsu practiced on the battlefield and in 1882 created Judo, a martial art infused with spiritual training. He prohibited the use of dangerous thrusts and kicks but he also stressed the importance of doing one's best to execute a clean throw to win by IPPON. In those days, the rules were simple; the first to score an IPPON won the match.
Kano toured the world to promote judo. He was only 158 centimeters tall but he was able to throw hefty Westerners with ease much to the amazement of those who watched. Judo is regarded as a mysterious oriental art but it didn't take much time at all to spread throughout the world.
Today, the International Judo Federation has a membership of 199 countries and regions. More than eight million people across the globe are sent to practice judo. In 1964, it became an Olympic event, worldwide popularity however brought changes. Instead of going for IPPON which demands superior technique, many modern competitors are contempt to score as many points as possible to win by [unintelligible 00:19:14].
Judo in Europe and in other parts of the world is all about winning regardless of how you win.
Oh! I want to become a machine that's capable of defeating Japanese judoka… just kidding. But seriously speaking, I want to win. It doesn't have to be an IPPON, even minor points that are.
The basis of traditional Japanese judo is creating a space by grabbing hold of an opponent's collar and sleeve. This distance is essential in order to apply techniques [pause 00:20:03] and execute a clean throw, an IPPON.
Here is what a match looks like when a contestant is aiming to score points rather than achieve an IPPON. The European contestant in white is muscling around his opponent in blue. He attempts to apply a throw from an impossible position in order to score a point. White wraps his arm around blues back to draw him near. Blue tries to apply a [unintelligible 00:20:40] to score an IPPON, but his attempt fails because of a lack of space. Blue is pushed to the floor enabling white to score a waza-ari. After getting the point, white is content to defend himself and doesn't go out of his way to try to score an IPPON. It's judo but a very different version.
They just have two very large people push each other on that and that's not what judo is all about.
Chuck Wilson is an American who's been practicing judo for half a century. He came to Japan to study judo and ended up staying. The Japanese way has won him over so he doesn't like what he sees in matches in which winning by any means is considered good enough.
What do you feel is the major difference between the judo in Japan and the judo in the Western world?
Well, I think Japan still places a great deal of credibility in the process of how you win, not necessarily winning at any cost. It everybody likes to win. But it's the way you win that becomes important; the stress on an IPPON, a clean throw. Have you seen international competition? It's not always that easy.
And especially with two people who are evenly matched. It's very very difficult to do it but that is what you measure your standard against.
Why does it have to be an IPPON?
It doesn't have to be an IPPON but that is the ideal that you strive for. If you strive for a half point, you'll wind up with a quarter point because there's an opponent over there who's probably do the same thing you do. So, the idea is you strive for the IPPON because that demonstrates a purity of commitment. Winning/losing is not the objective. What is the objective it is to achieving a state of harmony of heart and mind and spirit, so that you demonstrate that through a clean IPPON.
Strengthening the body and spirit and developing techniques by striving for the best, that's what Kano Jigodo’s judo was all about and still is. But that isn't to say that Kano had no interest in winning. He made up for his slight physique by taking control of his opponent's force, incorporating the philosophy that has become the trademark of Judo; softness overcomes hardness.
Is that true? Can softness really overcome hardness? To find out how this works, Nicholas visited Emi Yamagishi. At 149 centimeters and 48 kilograms, she's petite but she has a big profile in judo, currently ranking third in the world in her weight class.
Hi, nice to meet you. My name is Nicholas Pettis. What's your name? Nice to meet you. I understand you’re not very big compared to all the other people. As you can see, I'm about twice as big as you. Do you feel any disadvantage of being so small in a judo world?
Tall people have long limbs so there are times when I can't grab hold of them even if I extend my arms.
If you had to face someone, for example, like another girl that's both bigger than you and heavier than you, how would you feel about that?
As long as you can make an opponent lose their balance and apply a technique at the right moment, it's possible to throw anyone no matter how big they may be. I don't need strength to execute the throw.
Three factors allow softness to overcome hardness; Kuzushi, Tsukuri and Kake. Kuzushi is breaking the opponent's balance. Tsukuri is positioning for the throw and Kake is executing to throw. Three individual elements but they occur almost simultaneously.
Emi Yamagishi says strength isn't all that's important. But can't she believe it when her opponent towers over her? We had her face someone who's 23 centimeters taller and 30 kilograms heavier.
That was a really clean throw. Can you please explain to me exactly what you just did?
I used footwork to make her lose her balance and then when she lunged forward, I pulled back to create enough space for me to throw her.
Could you please do that again? I'd like to see it from the side. Wow! She landed right on her back. Why do you push her before pulling her?
When you push someone, they’ll automatically push back. This gives you a chance.
We asked Professor Michiyoshi Ae of Tsukuba University to analyze the throw from that perspective. He's going to do it using 3D motion capture. Markers are attached to the subject’s main joints. The movements will be recorded, allowing for the data to be displayed. Two athletes took part in the experiment; one weighs roughly 48 kilograms, the same as Yamagishi. The other is roughly 100 kilograms, about the same as Nicholas.
These spots indicate the center of gravity. Let's look at how it shifts during the Kuzushi, Tsukuri and Kake phases. Now, here's the point when the attacker has caught the recipient.
In order to remain standing in position, the vertical projection from the center of gravity needs to fall in the center of the basic support. The base of support is the area within the outline of the ground contact points of both feet.
Now as you can see here, pulling back draws the opponent's center of gravity beyond the base of support. That's how it begins, that's the kuzushi phase. The smaller athlete then places her body under that center of gravity as she moves in quite low and deep.
There's a very good reason for getting below the opponent's center of gravity. Imagine the recipient of the throw is this stick, the red circle indicates the center of gravity. Suppose we try to turn the stick to produce a torque of 10 kg-m, we'd have to apply a force of around 50 kilograms to push the stick at a point two-tenths of a meter below the center of gravity. But if we push the stick at four-tenths of a meter below the center of gravity, we only need half the force.
In other words, applying force far away from the center of gravity produces much torque with minimal force. What that means for judo is that by applying force at a point far below the opponent's centre of gravity, a small judoka can throw a much larger person up.
So once in position, the attacker simply has to stretch her knees to flip the bigger person over. Softness overcoming hardness has a scientific basis.
Achieving a clean throw in scoring and an IPPON is the object of desire for judoka. Understanding positioning and movement will allow them to head in that direction but the body needs to learn what the mind already knows. That's what's called practice. [pause 00:30:05]
Practice and more practice to build up speed and accuracy. When judoka in Japan engaged in this repetition, they're honoring the ideals of Judo founder, Kano Jigoro aiming for excellence.
The first thing children learn about judo is the importance of going for an IPPON fair and square right to the end. For that, they must always work hard to do their best. Japanese judoka hear that message from the very first time they put on a Judo gi so by the time they're older, they can't help but go for an IPPON no matter how long the odds may be.
Kosei Inoue exemplifies the spirit, three consecutive world Judo Championships, the old Japan judo championship, an Olympic gold medal, his record speaks for itself and so does his entity. He saw it in that match during the 2005 Jigoro kano cup. He suffered a serious injury, the tear in the right major pectoral muscle. He didn't give up and he didn't just go for a win on points. Even though he faced the possibility of never being able to fight again, he refused to change his tactics, IPPON or nothing. For Inoue, there was no choice.
Even with a torn muscle in your shoulder, you still went for the IPPON. Could you please tell us why? Why didn't you change the strategy and try for something? What we understand as something more easy.
[speaking foreign language 00:32:23]
Inoue needed a year and a half to recover from the 2005 match, even when he had a hard time making a comeback, but his resolution remained unchanged, he would always aim for an IPPON.
The 2008 Japan Championships found him at a crossroads. Winning would take him to the Beijing Olympics, losing could send him into retirement. Inoue stayed with the way he knew. His opponent was one of the top contenders, the match was close. If time ran out, Inoue seemed headed to win by [unintelligible 00:34:03] for his relentless attacks but then--
With only 14 seconds to go, Inoue went for an IPPON with an uchimata throw. His opponent read what was happening. Inoue was held down. IPPON allows no room for playing it safe. But even defeat can be sweet if it comes with this kind of purity. Inoue lost the match. He ended up with a smile.
I felt I had given my all and had done everything I possibly could, that's what put that expression on my face. If it had been a fight between samurai, I'd be dead but I think I was able to die with pride in a way that was aesthetically pleasing to me, that's what was behind that smile. I was able to feel that way because I'd given my best and fought a match I could be proud of.
Inoue could have fit in with a samurai just fine. They too believed that fighting to the death for the principles they believed in made life worth living. That sort of end was seen as proud and honorable, even virtuous. Inoue faced his competitive death in the same way.
I believe personally that the spirit of the samurai is the same as the spirit of judo. It's not about being the strongest, it's about being the best. A samurai is someone who has attained a high level of strength in both body and mind.
I just think you're being an Olympic champion and me, I'm just a beginner, white belt. I've only tried judo through the program. But if it's not too much to ask you, I was hoping maybe we could do a little bit of sparring.
[00:37:45] Thank you for joining us on Samurai Spirit. Our program today introduced you to judo generally known in the world as an Olympic sport but in fact, it is much more than that. Through the people we met in the program, I realized and I hope you also realized that judo is much more complex than just trying to go for an IPPON, which of course means to throw the opponent on the back and win a fight.
Judo as you can hear in the word judo, there is a do the word which means a way like in [unintelligible 00:38:16] or other martial arts based in Japan. It all means that it's not just a sport but it's a way of living. The way you conduct yourself is obviously going to become a direct reflection of how you conduct yourself in a match. So, your whole life is basically reflected in how you fight in the ring.
Now, the Japanese practice judo as a tournament sport with one goal and one objection in mind and that is to get the IPPON. Why? Because that IPPON is a direct reflection of what judo really is, proper way of living and conducting themselves and living in harmony and respectful environment with everyone around you. And that to me shows the true Samurai Spirit. Please come back again and join us for our search for the true Samurai Spirit continues.