Budokwai  in London 1918-2018



By John Goodbody





The Budokwai in London celebrates its centenary in 2018,



the first judo club to be founded not onlyin Britain but also in Europe. The club has remained a centre of excellence in the Japanese Martial Arts ever since.


It was part of the first-ever international event in Europe when its members fought against Germanclubs in 1929, while its founder, Gunji Koizumi, was a driving force in establishing the European JudoUnion, initially before the Second World War and then, more lastingly, in 1948, as well as the settingup of the International Judo Federation in 1951.


Koizumi, a Japanese immigrant, founded The Budokwai to teach judo and ken-jutsu (sword fighting)wishing to help his adopted country. He wrote: ”I hoped that rendering my service in promoting suchtraining would be a means of pacifying my conscience , which was pricked by the fact that weJapanese, especially students, had been recipients of the kindness and generosity bestowed by thepeople of this country, without making any tangible return.”


As Michel Brousse wrote in the book, ‘Judo for the World’: ”British judo holds a special place in thehistory of world judo, both unique and typical of the emergence of judo in Europe. The specificity ofthe history of early British judo is due to the country, to the context and to the pioneering vision, theunflagging energy of the key figure: Gunji Koizumi.”


The club was established on the ground floor and basement of what had been a German dressmakerin premises backing onto a wall surrounding Buckingham Palace, the London residence of the kingsand queens of the United Kingdom. It officially opened on January 26, 1918 with 12 members.


Koizumi adopted the name of the club or strictly speaking ‘society’ in the following manner: ‘bu’means martial, ‘do’, meaning way and ‘kwai’ meaning society. He always emphasised the character trainingof judo, saying that pupils came into the sport wanting to throw but the first thing they weretaught was how to fall. In other words, one cannot lead a successful life until one has met failure and recovered .


There were three main principles in judo for Koizumi:


1. In pursuance of judo: be earnest, sincere and open-minded for mutual assistance.
2. Treasure chivalry, despise cowardice and esteem straight-living.
3. Never boast of, or misuse one ‘skill in judo or other arts.


An early tradition was the club’s annual show, the first of which was held at The Budokwai on May11, 1918. These continued, often annually, until 1968 when, with the growth of international andnational competitions, the rehearsing for the regular shows distracted members from preparing forthese events.



In 1926, Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, visited the Budokwai and gave his approval to Koizumi’swork, so beginning the long association of the club with the Kodokan. In 1929, The Budokwai wasinvited to Germany by the Frankfurt club. Marcus Kaye, a member of the team, said that uppermostin his mind was how the Budokwai methods would manage against the “husky Teutons.” In fact, the Budokwai won both matches against Frankfurt and also against Wiesbaden.


During the 1930s, Kawaishi Mikinosuke , who was to have such a significant influence on thedevelopment of judo in France, came to Britain for four years, spending two of them practising at The Budokwai. When he returned to France, he linked up with Moshe Feldenkrais, who had beenteaching ju-jutsu for many years, and between them, the pair devised a judo syllabus. They also followed The Budokwai’s innovation of having kyu grades with different coloured belts, white,yellow, orange, green, blue, brown before the black belt dan grades.


One of the leading figures at the Budokwai in the 1930s was Trevor Leggett, who in 1938 wasinvited to the Kodokan in Tokyo, where he was employed in the British Embassy and received hisfifth Dan from the Kodokan, at the time the highest graded non-Japanese judoka in the world . Helater became Head of the Japanese Service of the BBC. At the time of his death in 2000, he had reached the grade of ninth Dan.


The club moved to its current premises in Kensington, one of the most fashionable areas of Londonin 1954. It has benefitted enormously from the instruction given by visiting Japanese, most recently by Yasuhiro Yamashita, Kenzo Nakamura, Hidetoshi Nakanishi, Hirotaka Okada, Maki Tsukada and Kosei Inoue.


One of the leading figures of The Budokwai in the 1950s and 1960s was Charles Palmer, the first non-Japanese to be President of the International Judo Federation. Captain of the British team,when it won the European team title, he was a referee at the 1964 Olympics, when judo first appeared on the Games programme as the selected sport by the Japanese hosts. As Brousse haspointed out this was 24 years after judo had been included in the Olympic programme for 1940,Games that were cancelled because of the War.


Although judo was dropped from the Olympics in 1968, Palmer campaigned ceaselessly and successfully to get it readmitted by the International Olympic Committee for 1972 and it hasremained on the programme ever since. Palmer had also supported having females fighting at the Olympics, supporting the holding of the first Women’s World Championships in New York in 1980 and before his death was delighted to see women’s judo become a medal sport at the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992.



In 1972, Britain had won three medals at the Olympics, two of them by Budokwai members,middleweight Brian Jacks and also Angelo Parisi. Parisi, who was born in Italy, came to Britain as ayoung boy and after winning European junior titles took the senior European light-heavyweight gold medal in 1972 and, aged 19, an Olympic bronze medal in the Open class in 1972.


He then married a French girl and switched nationalities, representing France from 1977 onwards,becoming Olympic heavyweight champion in 1980 and a silver medallist in the Open class in 1984,when he was the flag-bearer for the French team at the Opening Ceremony in the Los Angeles Coliseum. Parisi was renowned for his superb throwing techniques, especially seio-otoshi, a technique that he used to win the final in Moscow at the Olympics, hurling the Bulgarian Dimitar Zaprianov to the mat for ippon.


Other Olympic medallists who were members of The Budokwai were Keith Remfry (1976), Arthur Mapp (1980), Neil Adams (1980 and 1984) and Ray Stevens (1992). Adams was, like Parisi, another marvellous technician, especially with tai-otoshi and also used juji-gatame in newaza, an armlock with which he forced the Japanese, Jiri Kase, to submit in the light-middleweight final at the 1981 World Championships in Maastricht.


Recently, British judo has had a centralised training base for the National Squad in Walsall, near Birmingham. So the Budokwai has become no longer the place where many of the British team train every week. However, it is open seven days a week for both junior and adult judo. Its current premises have a main dojo with two contest mats, a small dojo, a gym, changing rooms, a club room and offices.



The club will celebrate its centenary with a dinner in London in January 2018, with invitations going out to leading figures in both British and international judo. Happy Birthday to The Budokwai and to Eu ropean judo !


John Goodbody, a vice-president of The Budokwai, was a member of the National Judo Squad in 1970. A multi award-winning correspondent with The Times and The Sunday Times in London, he reported the 2016 Olympics, his 13th Summer Games as a journalist.




CONTACTS at 24 August 2017




Article: John Goodbody at john@jbgoodbody.co.uk



Photographs of the Budokwai are available from: davidfinch@judophotos.com