Monday, June 20, 2011

Kosen Judo

This past Saturday, one of the PHD students studying Judo at the Kokusai Budo Daigaku offered to take me to a dojo in Tokyo where they primarily focus on newaza [寝技] OR GROUND FIGHTING. The Newaza Kenkyukai—newaza research group—was founded after the death of their Sensei, Kanae Hirata, in 1998 at the age of 76. It is said that Hirata Sensei practiced judo up and until the day before he died.

The Newaza Kenkyukai practices what is known as Kosen Judo [高專柔道] or the Seven Imperials Judo [七帝柔道] referring to the seven imperial universities where Kosen rules are still applied. Kosen Judo differs from the more widely recognized Kodokan Judo in its greater emphasis on ground fighting. In 1925, when Jigoro Kano established rules limiting the time Judo players could spend on the ground, some groups continued to hold tournaments under the old system. These groups became popularly known as Kosen Judo. Whereas in Kodokan Judo players only have a very limited time—depending on the referee, as few as ten seconds—to show progress while on the ground, Kosen rules allow for matches held almost primarily on the ground.

The Kenkyukai training was held from 1:00-5:00PM on Saturday at a sports center in Tokyo. After stretches and some light leg exercises, we played three rounds of tachi-waza (standing fighting). When these three rounds were over, dojo members kneeled in two rows facing one-another and we began ne-waza.
When I wrestled in High school, my matches nearly always ended short seconds after a take-down. I was so hopelessly bad at wrestling on the ground that my coach referred to me as a turtle; once I was on my back, I was stuck. AS an adult, however, I have developed a great enthusiasm for ne-waza; to the extent that I am actually much better at ne-waza than tachi-waza. This being said, the members of the newaza Kenkyukai showed me a class of ground fighter I have never before seen. After two straight hours of training with only one short break for water, I honestly thought I was going to vomit. I am no stranger to hard training, but the combined heat and my relative inexperience with prolonged ground fighting pushed me to a new limit. When I mentioned to a friend, “I’m not sure I’m going to last!” He said, “You have to. IF you stop now, they’ll never let you come back.”

So I lasted. One of the assistant sensei even made me a motodachi in the last twenty minutes of training. (That is to say, while others were given the chance to take a break, I was made to fight every round.) In total, I believe we fought over 30 rounds lasting five-minutes each.

I have taken every opportunity to travel and train in the last few months. The newaza Kenkyukai, however, has been the most impressive group I have seen. Every member is serious; every member is active. Members do not hesitate to choke you out or teach you to choke them out. After we finished training, the entire group walked to a nearby izakaya (bar) for dinner and drinks. The sensei liked me, I was told, as my sake glass was never left empty for more than a moment. After thirteen shots, the language barior was no longer a problem.


  1. Hey man great story, fromAruba i read you adventures and am inspired to undertake the same adventure.

  2. Hey man great story, fromAruba i read you adventures and am inspired to undertake the same adventure.

  3. Great adventure man! I just want to know, do they enroll foreigners as active students only for the purpose of learning Kosen Judo, or do you also have to engage in the academics in the university besides learning Judo?