History Lesson: Kata Guruma


While Jigaro Kano was studying Tenjin Shinyo-ryu jujitsu under Fukuda Hachinosuke he had difficulty defeating a larger and more senior student named Fukushima Kanekichi. As anyone who’s trained grappling knows, when the stuff you know doesn’t work on someone who’s bigger/stronger/better you start looking for techniques they’ve never seen so that you can eek out that one win in class. Like many of us in this situation Kano turned to other styles to find his silver bullet – first sumo, and then western wrestling. He picked up the fireman’s carry from a wrestling book, and eventually was able to use it to throw Fukushima.

The technique is banned in IJF competition now, but to be honest, I think it’s the epitome of the spirit of judo and all grappling – do what works. It might not be the most beautiful throw or require the most skill, but at the end of the day it’s simple and I’ll be damned if it doesn’t work. Silver bullets stop working once people learn the one trick you’re doing but we all look for them, and it’s always great having that thing you saw in a book or video work. The next time someone gives you a hard time for looking to Sambo, Gouren, or some other folk style for a silver bullet just remind them even Jigaro Kano did it.

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One thought on “History Lesson: Kata Guruma

  1. Pingback: An Incomplete History of Grappling – Judo | Grappling In Wisconsin

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