JCS/The Great Enablers:
E.J. Harrison

E.J. Harrison to R.W. Smith: April 12, 1953

Extracts from letters written by E.J. Harrison to Robert W. Smith. Letters in the Joseph R. Svinth collection, reprinted courtesy of Robert W. Smith and Joseph R. Svinth. Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.

Although I personally am very far from satisfied with my latest effort [Manual of Judo] I do feel justified in laying the "flattering unction" to my soul that the unprecedented epistolary interest thus manifested in the Manual may be interpreted as proof that its many readers are pleased with it. What is more, most of the obvious shortcomings should be ascribed not to my own incompetence but to the disheartening parsimony of the publishers, who, on the grounds of economy, insisted upon the excision of hundreds of words from the original text, the scrapping of a detailed index, and the omission of several illustrations of very important methods. Truly the path of the aspiring judo author is beset with obstacles!

I am now doing the translations of the French text explanatory of various techniques, hitherto rendered into French from the Japanese original of the late Shuichi Nagaoka, 10th Dan, and Kaichiro Samura, 10th Dan. I have not so far been paid for this service, but instead am receiving free copies of the Anglo-French Judo Review including a complete set from its inception.

It may interest you to hear that I am engaged during my spare time in translating the Groundwork section of Tsunetani Odas celebrated work on judo. Oda is another of my contemporaries and well remembers me. He is now 9th Dan, and universally recognised as the greatest living authority on all three branches of katamewaza. I sent these versions to my pet protégé Malcolm Gregory, now 4th Dan, in Tokyo. He has acclaimed them, in his customary buoyant and trenchant manner, as the work of a "bloody genius!"

My old contemporary Shuichi Nagaoka died shortly before a copy of my Manual could reach him, but he remembered me, as when Gregory visited him, he referred to him as "Harrison-san no tomodachi, ne? The news of his demise at the age of 78 or 79 greatly depressed me. I do not derive any great personal satisfaction or gratification from the reflection that I am now the oldest living judoka in the world. (Ill be eighty on my next birthday.)

As for the translation of Odas work, I am selecting primarily the newaza te. Of those, I am especially selecting the less orthodox and more drastic methods that have hitherto been banned at the Budokwai. Examples include the use of one leg or both legs to reinforce the power of the arms in various necklocks and bonelocks. I have begun on the kansetsuwaza, which number at least sixty, and am almost ready to start typing my rendering of 25 or thereabouts, together with an introduction.

I do not pose as a Japanese scholar, but thanks to my ability to use a very fine ideographic dictionary coupled with my knowledge of the two syllabaries, the Hiragana and Katakana, I can generally grind out a fairly lucid rendering. Unfortunately Odas style isnt quite so clear as it might be and much less so than that of dear old Sakujiro Yokoyama, now no more, whose judo manual bequeathed me in the old days has served as a valuable guide to the interpretation of the more orthodox techniques.

The manager of Foulshams, publishers of the new Manual, Belasco by name, who ages ago accepted my little textbook on jujutsu (under the auspices of the late Yukio Tani!) and my textbook on wrestling, has arranged to see me in a few days to discuss the publication of a new book which would include these Oda methods. It is as yet too soon to say whether this plan a long-term one at best can be realised, but both my wife and I feel pretty sure that had not the Manual been selling well Belasco would never dream of bothering his head about another work from my pen.

JCS Jan 2000