Born into a wealthy family of sake
brewers in Kobe, Japan
in 1860, Jigoro Kano was the founder of the martial art
At the age of ten he lost his mother, then moved to Tokyo at eleven when his father obtained a position of office in the Meiji government. In his schooling, the young Kano showed exceptional ability in linguistics. He entered a specialist foreign language school at 15 and went on to study at Tokyo Imperial University, which is now Tokyo University.
Kano began training in Tenshin-Shinyo jujitsu shortly after his arrival in Tokyo. He studied under senseis Hachinosuke Fukuda and Masatomo Iso. Fukada gave him a heavy iron rod, which he used to practice stickfighting techniques, leading to incredible development in his strength and fitness.
The Tenshin-Shinyo style of jujitsu studied by Kano placed an emphasis on grappling techniques. Kano went on to study the Kito-Ryu style, which was better known for its throwing techniques, under sensei Tsunetoshi Iikubo.
In 1882 Kano became a teacher at Gakushuuin, a private school for Japan's young nobles. He also established a children's boarding school and a preperatory school, which he funded through his work as a translator. This was also the year in which Kano founded Kodokan judo.
The martial art took the techniques he had mastered through his study of jujitsu and refined them. He taught judo as a method of physical education throughout a successful career in education. From his position as the head of the Secondary Teacher's School, Kano was able to introduce several foreign sports, including baseball, football, tennis and rowing, into the Japanese physical education programme.
When Japan received an invitation in 1909 to participate in the modern Olympics, Jigoro Kano was chosen to represent his country. He became the first Asian member of the International Olympic Committee. In order to prepare Japanese athletes for competition on the world stage, the Japan Amateur Athletic Association was founded, with Kano as its President.
In 1938 it was announced that the 12th Olympic Games would be held in Japan. To a large extent this decision was down to a lifetime of dedication to sport, martial arts and physical education on the part of Jigoro Kano. He died on the fourth of May, 1938, before the games were scheduled to be held.
Due to the outbreak of World War II, Japan did not get to host the Olympics until 1964.
Kano is remembered for his achievements, his services to his country and to the martial arts, but he is also remembered as a man of character and morality. His children spoke of his pacifist beliefs, and how he would not even intentionally kill an insect. Today a memorial statue of Jigoro Kano stands at the Kodokan judo institute.