Shihan Mikonosuke Kawaishi
7th Dan Judo. 1899-1969

Originally written by Sensei Tony Papenfuss, PhD,
4th Dan with the Australian JiuJitsu Judo and Chinese Boxing Federation of Instructors
Edited by Neil Ohlenkamp
Further notes from the Federation

Mikonosuke Kawaishi was born in Kyoto in 1899, and he died on January 30, 1969 in Paris. He studied jujitsu at the Dai Nippon Butokukai in Kyoto. It is not known exactly what style of jujitsu he learned, although it seems it was a form of Aiki-jujitsu. A group in England that continues to teach this form refer to their teachings as Kawaishi Ryu Jujitsu.

Portrait of Shihan Mikonosuke Kawaishi

In the mid-1920’s he left Japan and toured the United States, teaching particularly in New York and San Diego. In 1928, he arrived in the United Kingdom and established a jujitsu club in Liverpool, where he taught Aiki-jujitsu. He supplemented his meager income from teaching by wrestling professionally under the name “Matsuda”, taking on wrestlers and boxers in the ring and on stage in music halls.

In 1931, he moved to London, founding the Anglo-Japanese Judo Club and teaching Judo at Oxford University. Around this time Kawaishi was awarded his third dan by Jigoro Kano. It was common at this time for jujitsu instructors to teach, or call what they taught, Judo. Moreover, Kano awarded many jujitsu exponents Judo black belts in order to recruit them into the Kodokan.

In 1936, then a fourth dan, Kawaishi moved to Paris where he taught jujitsu and Judo. During World War 2, Kawaishi returned to Japan and was imprisoned in Manchuria for a time, but he returned to Paris after the war to continue teaching.

Before the war, Kawaishi and his student Moshe Feldenkreis had prepared the photographs for a book on Judo. Feldenkreis had to flee France during this time. Kawaishi later used the photographs in Standing Judo, while Feldenkreis wrote Judo, and Higher Judo.

Kawaishi came to believe that merely transplanting the teaching methods of Japan to the West was inappropriate. He developed an intuitive style of instruction and a numerical ordering of the techniques that he felt was more suitable for the West. He adapted his teaching methods to suit the European culture. This became known as the Kawaishi Method. One of the changes he is credited with is the introduction of many colored belts to recognize advancement in Judo. This seemed to catch on in France and there was a rapid growth of interest in Judo. His system of Judo is fully described in his book My Method of Judo written when he was a 7th dan and published in English in 1955. He wrote:

And now some words of advice. Learn thoroughly all these movements. Study them carefully in all their details. One can never know too much technique. And then, above all, at the dojo train hard, conscientiously, seriously and courageously.

After World War II and through the 1950’s, the Kodokan moved more and more towards the sport of Judo; banning techniques from shiai (contest) and dropping them from the Kodokan syllabus. Kawaishi, however, continued to teach many of these techniques. This led to several political splits and critics suggesting he had departed from the spirit of Kodokan Judo. His proponents, on the other hand, say that his teachings remained closer to Kano’s jujitsu. In fact, the strength of his Judo has led some jujitsu historians to believe that he was a Judoka who also taught a system of Goshin-jitsu (self defense).

Kawaishi placed special emphasis on kata training. He promulgated Kyuzo Mifune’s Gonosen No Kata (Forms of Counters) in Europe, and possibly his own version of Go No Kata, the forms of hardness. He also wrote the book Seven Katas of Judo. Gonosen No Kata remains comparatively common in Europe, but practically unheard of in the United States as a result of Kawaishi’s (and Gunji Koizumi’s) teachings.

Kawaishi is credited with being the person most responsible for the spread of Judo throughout France and much of Europe. His books continue to be popular, and the Kawaishi Method is still practiced around the world today. Kawaishi and Moshe Feldenkrais founded the French Judo Federation and he served as Technical Director for many years. In 1947 he and Koizumi held the first ever international Judo tournament between France and the United Kingdom which became known as the Kawaishi Cup.

Kawaishi Shihan died on January 30, 1969. Every year a group of his students visits his grave on the anniversary of his death to celebrate his contribution to the martial arts. At the time of writing, his eldest son, Norikazu Kawaishi, still lives and teaches in France.

A further note from the Federation;

Professor Wally Strauss brought Kawaishi’s system of Judo, together with knowledge of several other arts, to Australia from Europe. Much of the refinement of techniques also came from Hanshi Peter Chek, a first-generation student of Kawaishi and a good friend of the Professor’s who had also arrived here in Australia. Early in his martial arts career, at 22 years of age, Hanshi Chek won the prestigious Kawaishi medal in the Champion de Paris tournament before coming to Australia several years later. He helped Professor Strauss refine and interpret the numerical association of techniques according to the Kawaishi system. The Australian Federation of Instructors continues to use Kawaishi’s numerical system today.

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