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revived by the warlike Emperor Gotoba (1186
1 198), and again discarded after his death, when
for three and a half centuries the Imperial city



eschewed it, and the military men throughout
the provinces took it up, treating it as one of the
exercises that a soldier should practise. There-
after it was classed with the dances and mimetic
dramas performed at shrines and temples in hon-
our of the deities and to attract monetary contri-
butions, and Kanjin-zumo, or wrestling displays
for charitable purposes, became one of the regular
performances of the time. The professional
wrestler made his appearance at this stage, and
the yose-zumo, or " collection of wrestlers," is for
the first time mentioned. By yose-zumo, as then
practised, is to be understood a kind of wrestling
in which a champion set up a booth and chal-
lenged all comers, meeting them one after another
until he was ousted from the championship or
confirmed in it. Such a method suited the mood
of the Military epoch, and was so zealously
patronised by the great captains, Oda Nobunaga
and Hideyoshi (the Taiko), that the samurai of
the sixteenth century paid almost as much atten-
tion to wrestling as to archery or swordsmanship.
Under the Tokugawa Regents, who had their
court in Yedo, the sport was not less popular.
In the year 1630 an athlete, Akashi Shiganosuke,
opened lists at Yotsu-ya in that city, and for six
days held his own against the strongest men of
the time. Shiganosuke is as famous in Japan
to-day as though he had been an illustrious
scholar or a great legislator. But some fierce
quarrels broke out among the samurai who



attended his yose, 1 and the Tokugawa Govern-
ment, always drastic in its methods, interdicted
the practice of the art altogether. This veto
held for thirty-seven years, when once again
wrestling was revived in its mediaeval form of
Kanjin-zumo, that is to say, a charitable perform-
ance at religious festivals. Since then it has held
a firm place in popular favour, and the profession
now attracts scores of men who find in it a profit-
able and honourable pursuit.

That is the history of the art in outline, but
greater interest attaches to its methods. These
appear to have been elaborated with considerable
care during the reign of Shomu (724-728), and
many features of the system then established
remain without change to the present time.
The champion of Shomu's reign was Seirin,
commonly called " Shiga Seirin," because he
came from Shiga on the borders of Lake Biwa.
He is said to have been invincible, and the title
of Hote-yaku (expert) was conferred on him, the
next in point of skill being distinguished as Hofe-
<waki (assistant expert), or simply Suke-te (assistant).
All the others were called Riki-shi (athlete) or
Sumo-bito (wrestler). They were not " common-
ers " (heimiri) : they all belonged to the military
class. In further recognition of Seirin's prowess,
his province, Omi, was regarded as the centre of
strength and taken as a basis of division, the other
athletes being distinguished as " Eastern " or

1 See Appendix, note 21.


"Western" according to the position of their
birthplaces with regard to Omi. Hence arose
the Eastern and Western camps into which
wrestlers are to-day divided. In Seirin's time
the men of the East wore a hollyhock flower in
the hair for distinguishing badge, and the men
of the West employed a convolvulus in the same
way. Thus it came about that the term " flower
path " (hana-michi} was applied to the place
where these athletes made their entries and exits ;
a term subsequently used to designate the approach
to all stages for mimetic dances or dramatic per-
formances. The holding of the ring against all
comers was not the only form of contest in that
era. The men of the East were regularly paired
against the men of the West, match lists being
compiled, and the office of umpire [giyojt] being
conferred on Seirin and his descendants for all
time. Seirin's family discharged the function,
often only nominal, for fourteen generations,
until the year 1183, when, the last representative
dying childless, the Emperor Gotoba (1190)
conferred the post on Yoshida lyenaga, a squire
of the celebrated Minamoto chieftain, Kiso
Yoshinaka. Yoshida's family thenceforth be-
came the Tsukasa-ke (directing house) of all
wrestlers in the Empire, its representative in each
generation taking the name " Oikade " (conferred
on Yoshida by the sovereign), and holding the
second grade of the fifth official rank, which is
the rank of a prefectural governor in modern



times. The Emperor also gave to Yoshida a
" war fan " having inscribed on it the legend
ichiml-seifu (" one taste pure wind," signifying
that there is only one perfect style of wrestling),
and to this day the umpire, still a representative
of the Yoshida family, may be seen carrying the
sacred fan as he steps into the ring. With the
Tsukasa-ke rests the sole right of conferring upon
the great champion of the era, the man who has
remained undefeated for six years consecutively,
the badge of premiership, a girdle formed of two
thick strands of white straw, finely plaited, with
tapering ends and short streamers suspended from
it a facsimile, in short, of the rope festooned
over the lintels of houses at New Year's time.
It is not known when the badge of supremacy
took this form, but the wrestlers' records show
that there have been only seventeen premier
champions since history began to be written.
The holder of the coveted distinction at present
is Oozutsu Manyemon, who has achieved the
unparalleled feat of conquering all comers for
nine consecutive years. It is the champion's
privilege to perform a solitary pantomime in the
ring at intervals during the period ten days
of a performance. This dohyo-iri t as it is called,
is a stately and ceremonious business. First stalks
in a " dew-remover " (tsuyu-harai), carrying a
bow. Tsuyu-harai is the name given to the vas-
sal marching in advance of a nobleman to clear
away every obstruction, even dew-drops ; and the


bow commemorates the fact that Oda Nobunaga
conferred that weapon upon Miai Ganyemon, who
worsted all opponents on the occasion (i 570 A. D.)
of a great wrestling-match organised by Nobu-
naga's order at Joraku-ji in Omi. After the
champion an attendant enters bearing a sword,
in token of the fact that Tokugawa lyeyasu hon-
oured the strongest wrestler of his era by a gift
of a sword, the highest distinction that can be
conferred even on a soldier. The champion
wears a magnificently embroidered silk apron,
above which the yoko-zuna (silk belt) is knotted.
Having solemnly thrown his limbs into certain
ordered postures, he takes the bow and describes
some picturesque but meaningless curves with it.
The old-fashioned title of Hote-yaku is no longer
employed. The premier champion is called
Yoko-zuna ; the two champions of the East and
West are known as O-zeki ; the assistant cham-
pions are termed Seki-waki, and the second assist-
ant champions have the curious and unexplained
name of Komusubi (little knot) . The O-zeki, like
the Toko-zuna, are privileged to enter the ring and
posture before the audience, but in their case it
is a divided glory, for they make their entree

The Japanese wrestler is generally a man of
fine stature and grand muscular development.
His proportions differ so greatly from those of
the generality of his countrymen, that by some
observers he has been supposed to belong to a



distinct race. But there is no basis for such a
theory. Among the rural and sea-coast popula-
tion of Japan men of splendid physique are to
be found. The wrestler is one of these. There
is no mystery about his origin. A country lad
gifted with conspicuously fine thews conceives
the ambition of becoming a wrestler, and makes
application to one of the old masters, who takes
him as a pupil, supporting him during his period
of training, which is long and arduous. At last,
if he shows sufficient aptitude, his name is placed
on the roll of wrestlers, and he makes his debut
in the ring at the Yeko-in in Tokyo. The
Yeko-in is a temple where were buried, in 1657,
the charred and unidentifiable remains of an im-
mense multitude of people tradition says over
a hundred thousand who perished in one of
the stupendous conflagrations by which that city
has been periodically visited. Funds to procure
the performance of Buddhist rites for the souls
of these unfortunates were collected, according
to mediaeval custom, by performances of dances,
mimes, and wrestling, and from that time the
place became the wrestlers' metropolitan circus.
Twice every year, in January and in May, tourna-
ments are held there. They continue for ten days,
and by their results the rank of each athlete is
determined until the ensuing tournay. It is a
common supposition among foreigners that the
issue of a match is often arranged beforehand,
and that the combatants merely simulate com-



petition. That is never the case at the Yeko-in,
though it may possibly happen at performances
in the provinces. The wrestler cannot afford to
trifle with his duties at the Yeko-in. He enters
the arena once every second day, or five times
altogether during a tournay. On his first appear-
ance he becomes entitled to a daily salary the
equivalent of two shillings, and if he loses more
than one out of his five bouts, he cannot look for
an increase of emoluments. Four victories and
one defeat, or three victories and two draws,
entitle him to an additional sixpence, and five
victories raise his stipend to three shillings. Thus
working his way gradually upward, he reaches
the coveted figure of twenty shillings ( i o yen), ob-
tains a place (seki) among the names printed in
capitals on the roll, and is called a Seki-tori (place-
holder), or, less aristocratically, & juryo-dori (ten-
jy^vz-receiver). Seventy shillings is the limit of
his regular earnings at one tournay, and whatever
his stipend, he never fails to hand over a liberal
portion to his teacher. But this sum, which is
paid by the lessee, represents only a fraction of
the successful wrestler's earnings. His progress
is keenly watched by numerous enthusiasts among
the audience, and often when he spreads his vic-
torious arms in the ring, the cheering onlookers
dofF their mantles or surcoats and fling them at his
feet, redeeming them afterwards for substantial
sums. Besides, in the intervals between the
Yeko-in tournays, the wrestlers travel from place



to place in the great cities and in the provinces,
and the portion of their earnings that falls to
their share in connection with these performances
is a matter of arrangement with the lessee. The
latter also furnishes them with food and drink
meat and sake (rice-beer) in unlimited quanti-
ties. They observe no regimen in their diet, for
obesity, so long as it does not interfere with their
muscular efficiency, is an advantage ; the greater
their weight, the greater being their inertia, which,
as will presently be understood, is a gain to Japan-
ese wrestlers, though the vast accumulations of
adipose tissue that some of them display seem at
once repulsive and unworkmanlike to Occidental
eyes. There is a strictly observed system of eti-
quette with regard to the manner of serving their
meals, but it has no special interest except as the
only etiquette with which their lives conform.
For the continence and self-restraint elsewhere
considered essential to the development of a high
type of muscular energy are not observed with
any strictness by these Japanese athletes. Many
a career of high promise is wrecked on its
threshold by sensual excess.

To adhere strictly to a chronological system
in tracing the developments of every Japanese
custom, would sometimes necessitate fragment-
ary and bewildering treatment. Wrestling is
one of the subjects that does not lend itself to
such division. The important position it occu-
pied as a part of every samurai s training during



the Military epoch entitles it to a place here,
whereas its practice as a professional art belongs
more properly to a later era. For obvious
reasons, however, to say now at once what has
to be said about it will be convenient, and as it
is one of the Japanese institutions that specially
attract the attention of foreigners visiting the
Far East, no apology is needed for speaking of
it with some minuteness.

In truth, the science of wrestling as seen in
Japan must be classed as one of the things that
are essentially Japanese. Its exact counterpart is
not to be found in any other country. The
wrestlers at the Olympic Games, in the Circus,
in Nineveh and in Egypt, stood facing each
other from the first, and while they resorted to
various tactics of pulling, pushing, twisting the
body, interlocking the limbs, and even hitting,
their ultimate aim was to obtain the mastery
over one another's legs and thus secure a fall.
But in the Japanese science of wrestling, as prac-
tised since the eighth century, the fall is always
a subordinate incident, the principal object being
to force the adversary out of a circular ring
fifteen feet in diameter. As in Greece and
Rome, so also in Japan, the wrestler is almost
completely naked, wearing nothing but a loin-
cloth and a girdle. The combatants are re-
quired to begin by squatting opposite to each
other in the centre of the ring, and the umpire
stands close by, his prime duty being to see that


at the moment when they spring upright to
commence the play, neither has the slightest
advantage in priority of rising or in difference
of inhalation. Sometimes this prefatory per-
formance occupies several minutes, for when
the men are well matched and highly skilled,
they attach importance to points of the most
trifling nature, quite imperceptible to ordinary
observers. At last, rising erect on terms of
absolute equality, and receiving the signal from
the umpire, they begin to fence for grips, or to
make thrusting motions with the hands, or even
to butt with the head. In this part of the con-
test the onlooker might conclude that there
were no limitations whatever. The arms, the
legs, the girdle, the neck, the throat, in short,
every part of an adversary's body may be seized,
and it is even lawful to slap the face with the
open hand, though such a manoeuvre seldom
commends itself on account of the dangerous
opportunity it offers to a nimble adversary.
Kicking alone is seen to be strictly forbidden.
But this absence of restraining rule is only ap-
parent. Every grip or thrust has to be strictly
conformed to what is called the " direct " prin-
ciple ; that is to say, a combatant must not
divide his force and apply it in opposite direc-
tions so as to produce what are mathematically
termed " moments." For example, to deliver
a downward thrust on an opponent's arm while
forcing his wrist upward, or to bend his fingers



back while pulling his fore-arm forward, is foul
play, and any v/restler resorting to such tricks
would be at once expelled from the ring and
forbidden to practise his profession. 1 At the
same time, although the prime aim is to thrust
an adversary from the ring, a throw also counts
decisively ; not a throw with complicated con-
ditions, as in the French or Cornish style, but
a fall constituted by touching the ground with
any part of the body except the soles of the feet.
To drop on one knee, or even to lay a finger on
the sand of the arena, amounts to defeat. The
skilled expert, however, never deliberately tries
for a throw. His body bent slightly forward,
his legs firmly braced, he carefully parries his
opponent's attempts to get a favourable hold,
and, on his own part, avoids with equal care any
undue impetuosity of attack or extreme muscu-
lar effort such as might impair his power of re-
silience. It follows from the purpose to be
achieved that the acme of skill consists in exert-
ing a maximum of force with a minimum disturb-
ance of position, just as a master of the rapier
confines the area of his lunges and parries to a
circle of minute radius. Hence the finest dis-
plays of Japanese wrestling seem less interesting
to an uninitiated observer than the comparatively
brisk and violent struggles of amateur combat-
ants. Further, it is the umpire's care to inter-
pose before the point of exhaustion has been

1 See Appendix, note 22.



reached, and, after an interval of rest, to replace
the men in exactly the same grips they had
before the interruption, the idea of these pauses
being to prevent any unscientific exercise of
brute force. If the course of the contest satis-
fies the umpire that neither man is likely to gain
an advantage over the other, he declares the
bout " divided " (hiki-waki), and if there occurs
a perplexity which the elders of the ring can-
not agree to solve, the umpire says " we take
chare " (o-azukari} y and again the struggle is
drawn. Absolute good temper prevails. The
wrestler is generally an uneducated man of low
origin, but roughness and violence are for-
eign to his disposition, and he possesses the
Japanese characteristic of being able to accept
his reverses or welcome his successes with un-
failing equanimity.

The whole science of wrestling is supposed to
be comprised in forty-eight devices, " forty-
eight hands," as they are called, namely, twelve
thrusts, twelve grasps, twelve twists, and twelve
under-grips, each having a distinctive name,
another example of the extraordinary elaboration
to which every art and every pastime is carried
in Japan. It is a commonly entertained belief
that these have never been changed since they
were reduced to rule in the eighth century. But
that is a fallacy. Various celebrities in successive
ages added methods of their own, and a thorough
master of the craft in the present era must be



acquainted with about one hundred and fifty or
one hundred and sixty " hands." Thus, during
the Military epoch, when wrestling had a place
scarcely second to archery and fencing in a sol-
dier's training, great captains like Hatake-yama,
Kawazu-no-Saburo, and Moritano-no-Goro, were
as famous for wrestling as for the leadership of
soldiers, and the forty-eight " hands " received
various additions from them.

Wrestling in Japan has its esoterics. They are
founded on the Chinese philosophy of the Ch'i.
The easiest way to explain this is to describe the
arena. There is a circular ring covered with
sand, its circumference formed by sixteen bags
of sand laid end to end. Entrances are made on
the east and west by removing two of these bags ;
over the ring a roof is supported on four equi-
distant pillars, and under the eaves of the roof
there is suspended a narrow curtain, which used
formerly to be of black cloth with a conventional
wave pattern, but is now purple. These things
are all allegorical. The ring represents the pri-
mordial circle, chaos. The entrances, forming
the ideograph " two," represent the primaeval
forces (the Tin and the Tang] from whose inter-
actions all things were evolved. The four pil-
lars represent the four seasons that on the east,
draped in blue, is spring ; that on the west, draped
in white, autumn ; that on the south, draped in
red, summer ; and that on the north, draped in
black, winter. The sixteen sand-bags represent







two groups of the Eight Diagrams, 1 and the black
eaves-curtain with its design of white waves repre-
sents the passion-calming element. At the base
of each pillar sits an expert, whom age has com-
pelled to retire from the arena, and who has
acted as teacher to the men in the ring. Near
him is placed a vessel of water with a wine-cup
beside it, and wrestlers, before a contest, take a
draught of this water, in deference to the old
custom of warriors on the eve of a perilous un-
dertaking who exchanged a " water-cup " (mizu-
sakazuki} in token of farewell that might be
for ever. The relations of the wrestlers to their
teacher are the poetical phase of their career.
They still regulate their treatment of him by the
ancient formula of reverence, that to tread even
within three feet of his shadow is disrespectful.
Altogether the Japanese wrestler has no counter-
part elsewhere. The nature of his profession is
not reflected in his daily life ; though uneducated,
he knows how to conduct himself with propriety
in the high society to which his patrons often
introduce him ; he has a fine moral code of his
own which holds him in the path of honest man-
liness, and the crime of abusing his strength is
almost unrecorded against him.

It has already been noted that the Japanese
swordsman practised an art called by various
names at different epochs or by different schools,
but having for its fundamental principle the sub-

1 See Appendix, note 23.

VOL. in. 6 g j


stitution of subtlety for strength. This method
of parrying or delivering an attack has now begun
to attract attention in Europe, and is enthusiasti-
cally studied in Japan under the name of ju-jutsu
or ju-d5y a term of which the nearest English
equivalent is the " art of pliancy.*' Ju-jutsu does
not appear to have been familiar to the Japanese
in ancient eras. At any rate, they were not ac-
quainted with it in the elaborate form that it
assumed during the seventeenth century. Accord-
ing to the view of some historians, its methods
were first taught by a Chinese immigrant at that
time. But nothing of the kind has ever been
known to exist in China. The probability, if
not the certainty, is that what ju-jutsu received
from China was merely some new plans for dis-
abling an adversary by striking or kicking ; and
that, since this happened at a time when the art
had passed out of vogue, its professors tried to
bring about a renaissance by magnifying the value
of the Chinese innovations. In point of fact,
such innovations were discordant with the true
spirit of the system, which aimed, not at break-
ing down force by force, nor yet at initiating
assaults, but at utilising an enemy's strength for
his own destruction, and at rendering his attacks
suicidal. It may be supposed, on superficial
reflection, that to set up a distinction between
such an art and wrestling is pedantic. In a
sense that is true. If by " wrestling " is under-
stood every possible device for overthrowing an



opponent, then ju-jutsu is wrestling. But it is
not Japanese wrestling. In the first place, Japan-
ese wrestling absolutely forbids every dangerous
resolution of force into components acting in
opposite directions, whereas ju-jutsu puts such
resolution in the forefront of its methods. In
the second place, Japanese wrestling has for its
object the development of strength in excess of
that of an adversary, whereas ju-jutsu seeks prima-
rily to divert an adversary's force into directions
fatal to his own equilibrium. So essential is the
difference between the two arts that while success
in wrestling depends theoretically on preponder-
ance of force on the side of the victor, success in
ju-jutsu is promoted by preponderance of force
on the side of the vanquished. A skilled wrestler
of great thews fares worse than a feeble tyro at
the hands of a ju-jutsu expert. The science starts
from the mathematical principle that the stability
of a body is destroyed so soon as the vertical line
passing through its centre of gravity falls outside
its base. To achieve disturbance of equilibrium
in accordance with that principle, the ju-jutsu
player may throw himself on the ground by way
of preliminary to throwing his opponent, a
sequence of proceedings that would, of course, be
suicidal in wrestling. In fact, to know how to
fall is as essential a part of his science as to know
how to throw. Checking, disabling by blows
delivered in special parts of the body, paralysing
an opponent's limb by applying a " breaking



moment " to it, all these are branches of the
science, but it has its root in making an enemy
undo himself by his own strength. These prin-
ciples may be seen strikingly illustrated in any of
the schools in Tokyo, where weak striplings not
yet out of their teens easily gain the mastery over
stalwart men. On the abolition of feudalism

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