Journal of Combative Sport, Dec 2005


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Some Stories of Ichiro Hatta

Editor's note: In 1952, Ichiro Hatta (1906-1983) was both a judoka and the coach of the Japanese Olympic wrestling team. His unconventional methods caused the Japanese judo community to pronounce anathema on Hatta, a situation that did not change over time. Hatta in turn accused the judoka of living too much in a greenhouse, and failing to make up their minds whether they were practicing a martial art or an Olympic sport. And, whenever in London, he often visited the Budokwai and the London Judo Society. The following are some accounts of his teaching methods. For some additional accounts, see

Mr. Ichiro Hatta's Training Methods

By T. P. Leggett

From the Budokwai Quarterly Bulletin, October 1952, pp. 6-7. Copyright © 1952, 2005 The Budokwai. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

First of all, training is to be Spartan. The judoka must be prepared to work hard and consistently without complaining about conditions. There must be deliberate austerity in such matters as smoking, drinking, amusements, late nights, eating too rich food and so on. The reasons were interesting. "It is not that one cigarette will necessarily do very much harm: but the will-power required to cut it right out will stand you in good stead during the hard training and in contest. Furthermore, suppose you have a cigarette, or a late night, your confidence in your condition is impaired. If next day you feel even a little off form, you at once attribute it to last night's cigarette, or last week's late night, and because you know you did break the training you cannot place full reliance on your condition. But if you know that you have kept to the training, even though you have a slight headache you throw it off at once because you have fullest confidence in your bodily condition.

The next point was that practice has to be continuous. By five hours' practice daily a beginner could reach a high grade at judo. If he cannot practise that much, then by special study of "waza" or technique he can attain the same result with less daily practice. But he must practise every day. And he must get enough sleep, at least eight hours and sometimes ten a night.

Mr. Hatta warned judo men against "sticking" and not being able to give up a wrong attitude. He told us that in wrestling also a man is liable to end his progress if he cannot give up an incorrect habit in favour of something better.

Judo training can be pursued even off the mat -- to run up stairs instead of taking the lift, for example. He himself, during the six years of his strenuous training, was told by his teacher to develop the left side. He began to use the left side for everything in daily life: opening doors, handling the chop-sticks, straphanging -- all were done with the left. In two years he was able to use the left side in judo equally with the right. While he was still pursuing the "left side training", however, he discovered also that his right leg was slightly weaker than the left. So when travelling on the trams he use to strap-hang with the left arm, but stand almost entirely on the right leg. People sometimes noticed something and used to laugh, but after all he achieved his objective, which was what mattered. Perhaps this story shows with perfect clarity the combination of thought and will, which is the basis of training.


Necklocks Heterodox

By E. J. Harrison

From the Budokwai Quarterly Bulletin, October 1952, pp. 20-21. Copyright © 1952, 2005 The Budokwai. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I was privileged in August this year [1952] to witness two truly magnificent demonstrations of some of the latest judo methods given by Ichiro Hatta, 7th Dan, who had previously headed a Japanese wrestling team at the Helsinki Olympic Games. The first demonstration, coupled, of course, with invaluable instruction, took place on the evening of 11th August [1952] at the South London Judo Society's dojo, and the second and last on the following evening at the Budokwai. Both demonstrations were well attended by Black Belts avid for enlightenment.

For me personally the first demonstration was of special interest because it afforded ocular evidence of the infiltration of hitherto, so to say, heterodox "te" or tricks into the art, but more particularly perhaps into that of Shimewaza (Necklocks) and to a lesser degree Kansetsuwaza (Art of Bending and Twisting the Joints).

It is of course common knowledge that the rules of both practice and contest heretofore obtaining in Western dojo have strictly forbidden the application of the competitor's leg or legs to his opponent's neck in order to reinforce the efficacy of his hand-grip on his opponent's collar. I have never made a secret of my own feeling that the process of trying to adapt judo to Western susceptibilities in the domain of sport had already been carried to excess and bid fair to rob of much of its efficacy as a fighting art which it must ever remain, whatever else it may be! Moreover, given proper guidance I see no reason why methods necessitating use of the legs in Shimewaza need be more dangerous than many already permissible throws, holds and locks. If, therefore, our English judoka are to be fully equipped to cope with possible emergencies likely to arise in international contests it is imperative that they should be kept apprised of all such developments and trends at the fountain head.

In my estimation the most impressive and efficacious necklock in the above mentioned category illustrated by Hatta was that in which he combined a left-hand grip on his opponent's left collar with the deadly counter-action of his left leg passed over his opponent's neck from his opponent's right side so that the under part of the knee-joint pressed down heavily against his opponent's neck at the back. Hatta was, of course, lying on his back with the opponent bending over him. His left hand hold on his opponent's back collar was taken with the four fingers inside and the thumb outside it in the so-called reverse grip or gyaku-ni toru tokori. From the supine position with his right hand Hatta gripped his own left ankle from above, and co-ordinated a strong downward tightening hand pull on it with a stretching movement of his left thigh and, of course, corresponding tension of his left-hand grip on his opponent's left back collar and then fall's back with both legs encircling his opponent's waist. His opponent may then perhaps be tempted to go for a hold-down (osaekomi) with his right hand and arm thrust forward from the point of the assailant's inner thigh. Swift co-ordination of the relevant movements is, as always in such cases, essential to the success of this drastic technique. Quick as lightning you must pass your left leg over your opponent's rear neck from his right side neck, and then follow up this action with the sequences already described.

Seeing that Hatta did not couple his demonstration with any warning against the use of the leg in either practice or contest, we are surely justified in inferring that this method is no longer banned in Japan. This conclusion is further strengthened by the fact that Tsunetani Oda, 9th Dan, in his latest textbook on the art, generally regarded as the last word on Katamewaza or Groundwork, of which he is the acknowledged greatest living master, describes several such methods without any qualification or cautionary comment.

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JCS Dec 2005