The Seeker's Locus 8
What the man who "raised Geesink" has to say about the "truth" of Koudoukan, Butokukai, and the secret of judo
Guest - Haku Michigami
Host - Yasuo Yoshimune(researcher of classic martial arts)
An "Action - Reaction"
Setup with an
"Automatic" Movement
It all happened in 1964. With the Olympics in Tokyo, the whole country was filled with excitement. This was the first Olympics where judo was an event. It also meant that Japan could not accept any losses as the motherland of judo. However, Anton Geesink stood on its way, big and strong. In the eighth series of "The Seeker's Locus", we will ask Geesink's 'raiser' Haku Michigami about the training of the 1964 gold medalist. Yasuo Yoshimune will also approach the truth of Butokukai judo, also known as jujutsu.
Admiration Towards Conde Koma
and Beginning Judo
Yoshimine: I would like to start by asking why you started Judo.
Michigami: I have taught judo in Europe and Africa for 47 years. I came back to Japan about 20 times, and all of those stays were short ones. I try hard not no forget Japanese, but since my life is centered in foreign countries, I do not have much opportunities to communicate using Japanese.
Why did I start judo? The cue probably came from reading Mitsuyo Maeda's Sekai Kenka Ryokoki. The protagonist, Conde Koma, travels around the world as he throws all his opponents in judo matches, and I was very intrigued in the story. I started judo at the same time when I entered a commercial school when I was thirteen, and received 1 Dan when I was fifteen. Later, I entered the Dai-Nihon Butokukai's(Great-Japan Association of Martial Arts and Virtue) martial arts school known as Busen.
Yoshimine: What kind of a place was the professional martial arts school?
Michigami: When I entered Busen, there were about 500 applicants. Out of these, the school only takes in 20. The Butokukai included many martial arts such as kendo and judo. Busen was one of the organizations.
Yoshimine: Please tell us how it was like during that time.
Michigami: For example, it is normal nowadays for people to cheer at matches. However, bouts used to be carried out in a very tense, quiet environment. It was also prohibited for one to take photographs.
At Busen, the seniors were required to go into a knight-errantry. Before my year, students went to Taiwan, Manchuria, and Korea. In my case, I went to Hiroshima during my sophomore year, and was victorious against the local judoist. In my junior year, I went to Nagoya where there was a 10 VS 10 team match. In that game, I successfully beat five opponents. I also had a 9-1 record in individual bouts. In my senior year, I traveled around East-Northeast Japan along with ten Busen students.
"Action - Reaction"
Yoshimine: What kind of a path did you lead until you started Anton Geesink's training?
Michigami: I was introduced to Mr. Bonemori, the chairman of the French Judo Federation by a Busen teacher. As a result, I went to France for the first time in July, 1953. We were taught never to "step in the master's shadows" in our times, and as a result, I was told to teach judo in France for a year. I arrived there on 11th, saw the Paris Festival on the 14th, and opened a two week training session at a city called Thonon, near the border to Switzerland. I also taught for two weeks at a city near the Atlantic called Biarritz, and Arcachon, which lies 60km away from Bordeaux.
I was 173cm tall and weighed 78kg before going to France, but because of the new climate and food, my weight dropped to 66kg. After the series of two week sessions, I returned to Paris where I taught judoists with Dans. At the same time, Mr.Bonemori asked me to be responsible for training Southwestern France, which meant almost half of France. This was something very big.
Yoshimine: Did you accept the offer?
Michigami: Yes, there was no way I could say "non." And when I requested Mr. Bonemori for a plane ticket back home after a year, (also the end of the contract) he requested me to stay longer, since everyone was learning seriously.
Judo is not about throwing one's opponent forcefully; one must defeat the enemy using "action-reaction"(*). Since this idea was not taught in Europe, I decided to stay for another year, until July 1955. But then, about twenty judoists came over in January, and joined the French training session. Finally, they asked me to teach in Holland.
* Michigami uses this expression to teach how one can defeat an opponent with larger physique.
Meeting Geesink
Michigami: Although I first told them that I was going to go back to Japan, they came to Bordeaux again in May, driving 1250km all the way from Holland. I was very surprised how passionate they were, and decided to take the ride to their homeland.
Yoshimine: So that's how you started training Dutch athletes.
Michigami: Yes. I first taught for a week there, but they asked me to come back again. They took the time and effort to send me an airplane ticket. When I visited Holland for the second time, they asked me to be the director of arts of the Dutch Judo Federation. I said that I can not do such a thing, but they pushed me very strongly, so I took the position and it was decided that I will visit there about five times a year. With all these events, I could not go back to Japan until 1961.
This was also because I started teaching in Africa and in island countries near Cuba. I taught 20-25 students in Holland,