CNN  — 

Jigoro Kano – the “Father of Judo” – features on today’s Google Doodle.

Illustrated by Cynthia Yuan Cheng, the Doodle celebrates the life of the legendary Japanese judo pioneer on what would have been his 161st birthday.

Born in 1860 in Mikage, during his childhood, Kano moved to Tokyo where he would eventually open his own dojo – the Kodokan Judo Institute – in 1882.

Meaning ‘the gentle way,’ Judo was born when Kano removed the more dangerous techniques of jiujitsu.

According to Noaki Murata, curator of the Kodokan International Judo Center library and museum, Kano centered the sport on two key values.

“The ultimate goal is to put inside our mind two principles,” Murata explained to CNN Sport in 2018.

“The principle of maximum efficiency and the principle of mutual welfare and benefit, that’s the spirit of judo.

“Think and do, think and do.”

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Former world number one Tal Flicker told CNN in 2018: “I think the most obvious value people can take from judo and apply to their lives is respect.

“Before a fight, you give a bow to your opponent. Then you fight like you want to eat each other, but at the end of the fight, you shake hands and bow again. Other sports could learn from that.”


In the early 20th century, the International Olympic Committee wished to bring Japan and Korea into the Olympic fold and – as one of the country’s highest authorities on sports and fitness – in 1909 Kano was sent by Japan to officially represent the nation on the IOC.

As a result, he became the first Asian member of the IOC.

Kano would go on to play a key role in Japan’s bid for securing hosting privileges to the ‘Lost Games’ in 1940, giving a keynote speech to the IOC at the end of the 1932 Games in Los Angeles.

According to the IOC leader of the time, Henri de Baillet-Latour of Belgium, Kano told those in the room that holding the Games in Japan would extend the vision of the movement’s founder, Pierre de Coubertin, and bridge the gap that existed between the East and the West.

Kano died in 1938 aged 77, but his legacy had long been preserved and has since blossomed into a martial art with global popularity.

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In 1960, Judo was approved as an official Olympic sport, debuting four years later at the 1964 Games – fittingly, at its spiritual home of Tokyo.

Murata’s hero, Isao Inokuma, would become a heavyweight gold medalist at the Tokyo Games, and in the last half century, the sport has gone from strength to strength.

Japan's Hisayoshi Harasawa and South Korea's Kim Minjong compete in the judo men's +100kg elimination round during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

A record 389 competitors from 136 countries qualified for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, while figures from 2014 claim there are 28 millions judo practitioners around the world with eight million in Japan alone.

Judo’s explosion has not come without a tinge of sadness for Murata though, who does not want to see Kano’s core values overridden by the pursuit of medals.

“This is not bad,” Murata insisted. “But I think Jigoro Kano would be feeling very sad if all Japanese think of judo as a sport only.”