Calligraphy and Philosophy of Prof. Jigoro Kano

Prof. Jigoro Kano learned calligraphy and Chinese literature since he was young. Prof. Kano was also a master of calligraphy and was left a number of works to his disciples. His calligraphy can be found not only in those phrases from “Shisho-gokyô (the Four Books and Five Classics of Confucianism, known as the Nine Chinese Classics /四書五経)” but also from his own coined words.

Kendo Yokoyama (1872-1943), a writer and reviewer, described Kano’s writings as:

Kano’s writings reveal a fluid, semi-cursive style, vigorous, full of spirit and ultimately free as illustrated.

(Kendo Yokoyama, Prof. Jigoro Kano, 1931: 31)

One of Kano’s disciples, Muneo Shioya M.D., examined the number of phrases Kano used in his calligraphy the following words repeatedly (Kano Jigoro, Kodonkan ed., 1964: 665).

Jyundô-Seïsyô / 順道制勝81Seiryoku-Zenyo / 精力善用66
Tsutomureba Kanarazu Tassu / 力必達21Shin-shin Jizai / 心身自在12
Jinryoku / 尽力11Onore wo Nashite Yo wo Ekisu / 成己益世8
Seiryoku Saizen Katsuyo / 精力最善活用5Jita-Kyoeï / 自他共栄5
Onore wo Nasu/ 己成5Shu-ko Chijin / 修己治人3

It is claimed that there are up to 226 writings Prof. Kano left.

Among others, the most frequent phrase written was “順道制勝 (Jyundô-Seïsyô).” This phrase highlights Kano’s belief that: “regardless of winning or losing, you need to follow the right path and, even if you lose by following this right path, it is more valuable than winning being against the path." (Jigoro Kano, “In the spirit of cultural philosophy of Kodokan Judo”, in Yuko-no Katsudou, Vol.8, No.2, 1922).

Prof. Kano’s calligraphy illustrates his values in education and judo and his wish for world peace. Kano’s message in calligraphy, which can still be found hung on the walls of Judojôs (training place for judo) and schools across Japan, provides a strong message to this date.

Jigoro Kano’s Penname

Prof. Kano’s penname, until he was 60, was “Kônan (甲南).” During his 60's, he wrote under the name “Shinkosaï (進乎斎)” changing it again to “Ki-Issaï (帰一斎)” in his 70’s.

The name “Kônan” was chosen after Rokko mountain (六甲山) near Kano’s hometown, and hence this was chosen as his first penname.

“Shinkosaï” was inspired by a phrase of Zhuangzi (荘子), an ancient Chinese philosopher. Echoing an ancient story regarding a cook who valued “the way” more than skills, Prof. Kano intended to include the value-based meaning in his penname “Shinkosaï” stressing the importance of pursuing one's path as a human being rather than acquiring skills.

It is presumed that “Ki-Itsu (帰一)” of “Ki-Issaï (帰一斎)” represents the phrase of the Chinese Confucianist , “even though hundreds of royal laws would not be the same, things come back to the same place (百王乃法不同 所帰者一也).”

In 1912, Eichi Shibusawa and Jinzo Naruse founded “Ki-Itsu Association (帰一協会)” aiming to further study the fundamental principles shared in ethics, religion, and philosophies. With this kind of social trend, Prof. Kano also pursued his fundamental principle.

He mentioned that, “to expound the moral philosophy, it would be possible to do so based on a certain theory or religion for those people who have a theory or religion themselves. However, for those who don’t have any, it would be very difficult to make them understood. Unless the moral philosophy is expounded grounded on the fundamental principle that anyone can comprehend, it would be difficult to expound and prevail the moral philosophy in a real sense.”

He continued by stressing that “this means Jita-Kyoei…as long as people live together, the mutual reconciliation and collaboration is essential; people should concede and assist each other.” (Jigoro Kano dictation by Torahei Ochiai, “Kano Jigoro as Judoka, 6”, in Sakkô, Vol.7, No.4, 1928).

Kano therefore intended to express his fundamental principles of “Jita-Kyoei” by using his penname, “Ki-Issaï” with the belief that the principle can be accepted for all the people.

(Article supported by Prof. Hisashi Sanada, University of Tsukuba)

  • zoom常択最善志堅行力
    常択最善志堅行力 (Kônan/甲南) (collection of Hyogo University of Teacher Education)
    Lectura: Tsune ni Saizen wo Erabi Kokorozashi Kataku Tsutomete Okonaü
    Significado: Siempre elige el mejor camino y haz un esfuerzo firme y determinante.

    常択最善志堅行力 (Kônan/甲南) (collection of Hyogo University of Teacher Education)

    Reading: Tsune ni Saizen wo Erabi Kokorozashi Kataku Tsutomete Okonaü
    Meaning: Always choose the very best way and make a firm and determined effort
  • zoom成己益世
    成己益世 (Shinkosaï/進乎斎) (owned by Ms Asako Yokoyama)
    Reading: Onore wo Nashite Yo wo Ekisu
    Meaning: Putting the utmost effort to grow up to be a great person should come first and then contribute to the society


    読み : 己を成して世を益す
    意味 : 自身を成長させてから社会のために尽くすことができる

    号 : 進乎斎 / 所蔵 : 横山アサ子氏

  • zoom修己治人
    修己治人 (Shinkosaï/進乎斎) (owned by Ms Asako Yokoyama)
    Reading: Onore wo Osame te Hito wo Osamu
    Meaning: Discipline oneself and govern others


    読み : 己を修めて人を治む
    意味 : 自分自身を修めてはじめて、人を治めることができる

    号 : 進乎斎 / 所蔵 : 横山アサ子氏

  • zoom力必達
    力必達 (Shinkosaï/進乎斎) (owned by Ms Setsuko Otaki)
    Reading: Tsutomu-reba Kanarazu Tassu
    Meaning: All effort shall pay off to achieve a goal


    読み : 力(つとむ)れば必ず達す
    意味 : 努力すれば必ず目的に達すことができる

    号 : 進乎斎 / 所蔵 : 大滝節子氏

  • zoom択道竭力
    擇道竭力 (Ki-Issaï/帰一斎) (owned by Mr Michio Tanimoto)
    Reading: Michi wo Erabi-te Chikara wo Tsukusu
    Meaning: One shall choose his way and do it to the best of his ability


    読み : 道を択びて力を竭(つ)くす
    意味 : 道を択んだ後に、努力する

    号 : 帰一斎 / 所蔵 : 谷本道夫氏

  • zoom尽己竢成
    盡己竢成 ” (Ki-Issaï/帰一斎) (owned by Mr Michio Tanimoto)
    Reading: Onore wo Tsukushite Naru-wo Matsu
    Meaning: Do your best and await success


    読み : 己を尽くして成るを竢(ま)つ
    意味 : 自身で努力して、成功することを待つ

    号 : 帰一斎 / 所蔵 : 谷本道夫氏

  • zoom教育之事天下莫偉焉
    教育之事天下莫偉焉 一人徳教広加万人 一世化育遠及百世 (Shinkosaï/進乎斎) (owned by Ms Asako Yokoyama)
    Reading: Kyoiku no Koto, Tenka Koreyori I-naru wa nashi
    Hitori no Tokkyo, Hiroku Ban-nin ni Kuwawari
    Isseï no Kaïku Tôku Hyakuseï ni Oyobu
    Meaning: Nothing under the sun is greater than education. By educating one person with virtue and sending him/her into the society of his/her generation, we make a contribution by extending a hundred generations to come.

    教育之事天下莫偉焉 一人徳教広加万人 一世化育遠及百世

    読み : 教育のこと、天下これより偉なるはなし 一人の徳教、広く万人に加わり
    意味 : 世の中に教育ほど尊いものはない、一人の徳の教えは、広く万人に影響し、一代の教えが百代後の世まで及ぼす

    所蔵 : 横山アサ子氏

  • zoom自他共栄
    自他共栄 (Shinkosaï/進乎斎) (collection of University of Tsukuba)
    Reading: Jita-Kyoei
    Meaning: an attention to the mutual prosperity for oneself and others


    読み : じたきょうえい
    意味 : 自身も他者も共に成長し栄えること

    号 : 進乎斎 / 所蔵 : 筑波大学


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