A magazine of martial and movement arts, with a focus on the internal style of Tai Chi Chuan
Manual of Judo
by E. J. Harrison
(Sterling Publishing Co. 1961, 172 pages)
Review by Christopher Dow
Ernest John Harrison (1873–1961) was an English writer and Judoka. You can see by his year of birth that he was an early adopter of the art, having learned it in Japan as a young man working for the Yokohama newspaper, Japan Herald. He’d been interested in wrestling as a youth, and during his time in Japan, while in his early twenties, he took up Tenjin Shinyo-ryu Jujutsu. Soon after, he turned to Judo and was the first foreign-born person to be awarded a black belt in Kodokan Judo. He eventually reached 4th Dan in the art. His book, Fighting Arts of Japan, was among the first books in English on the Japanese martial arts. (1)
Harrison studied for a time with Kyuzo Mifune,10th Dan, who is widely regarded as one of the greatest technicians of Judo and who assumed leadership of Kodokan Judo upon the death of its founder and greatest exponent, Kano Jigoro. (2) Mifune penned the forward to Harrison’s Manual of Judo, originally published in 1952 and reissued in paperback in 1961. (Both are shown above.) But this is just one of more than fifteen books on Judo that Harrison wrote, primarily during the latter half of his life.
In his introduction, Harrison emphasizes that he is versed in, but not expert at, Judo, but that someone has to begin the process of an English-language literary tradition for Judo to help preserve the integrity of the art and to keep abreast of important information and developments. Mifune’s foreword, pithy as it is brief, is presented here in its entirety: “Freedom in continuous change! The heart should be a clear mirror polished a thousand times and should rely on god-like speed and courage!”
In a chapter title “Introductory Remarks,” Harrison defines Judo by its purpose, history, basic principles, and disctinction from the allied art of Jujutsu. In this chapter, he expends some time on the rationale of Judo, essentials of practice, etiquette, the several categories of techniques, and the importance of abdominal breathing. A ten-page glossary of terms and concepts closes out the material prior to the instruction section.
The instruction section includes all sorts of throws, sweeps, pins, and joint locks, along with a bit of grappling spread over 120 pages. It is composed of text and illustrations—mostly well-executed line drawings, but there are a few photos of, often, Kyuzo Mifune throwing Harrison this way and that. The illustrations are more than adequate in terms of clarity and completeness, and the text is even more so. All too often, the application instruction sections of martial arts manuals skimp on the verbal description, relying instead on photos or drawings. In his textual explanations, Harrison mixes in discussions of Judo and the martial arts in general that elevate the discussion beyond the norm for this sort of material. For example, here’s a quote from that section that could find a home in almost any martial art practitioner’s (he)art:
“Do not get discouraged if in the early stages of your noviatiate you cannot successfully translate these basic principles into practice…. Dogged patience and perseverance are just as important and necessary ingredients of your mental and moral make-up as are good health and strength of your purely physical equipment, for success in your study of this fascinating art.” (3)
A chapter on attacking vital spots is next, and the book ends with an index, which is unusual for martial arts manuals. But then, this book had its genesis in the era just before the burgeoning of mass-market paperbacks, when hard-bound books freqently had indexes which were then included in subsequent paper-bound editions.
There have been a lot of Judo books since this one was written, but its author and its historical place in the canon of Judo literature in English are notable. And it’s well written by an author who was a professional writer on a diversity of subjects. I don’t know if it would have much specific interest outside of Judo circles, but within them, it’s certainly a worth-while read.
1 "Ernest John Harrison," Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_John_Harrison.
2 "Kyuzo Mifune," Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyuzo_Mifune.
3 Harrison, E. J., Manual of Judo (Sterling Publishing Company, 1961), page 40.