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on 11 August 2015
This is a fab biography of Jigoro Kano, it provides much more insight and information than you can get through web sources and word of mouth.

Very factual it shows you how the Kodokan built up from a small dojo into a massive institution. It gives coverage of Jigoro himself and his habits, it paints a picture of how many martial art leaders in those days shared knowledge (Ueshiba, Funakoshi and others feature), it covers some of Jigoro's key students and where some of the second and third generation students ended up (USA, Britain, Europe etc.). Elements of Japans social culture are touched on, such as how Jigoro ran his family and how he viewed women in the Kodokan, and it covers how martial arts as physical training/sport filtered into the Japanese education system.

I think this would be an excellent book for anyone wanting to learn about the development and expansion of martial arts, about Japanese society and about the philosophy of the original Judo.

Two things stand out which make this four star;
1. The book is written in english, but the writing style is very Japanese; their way of expression is so very different I found this exhausting to read at some points (I read in half hour stints mostly). It's not as smooth or 'light touch' as english biographies tend to be.
2. There are sudden gaps in information on certain students. Kyuzo Mifune is an example, throughout the book he only features in two or three paragraphs. This may be disappointing for some readers.
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on 16 May 2014
Judo is one of the most wonderful sports you could ever hope to enjoy. Kano Jigoro's life is worth studying because of his ability to keep the baby and throw out the bath water. There is also a danger that he is not placed in his cultural and historical context and that what he taught is not approached in the same spirit he approached jiu jitsu. The founder of judo was rational and applied critical thinking to what he was taught. He respected tradition with out holding it in too much reverence. Biographical information helps protect us from the curse of reverence, which is ironically undermines the very critical thinking that made him s great.
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on 27 March 2014
A good book if you need some (hence a portrait in the title) background information on the founder of judo.
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