Kosen Judo - The original BJJ


Mitsuyo Maeda, Carlos Gracie's original sensei, was a Kodokan Judo instructor who's specialty was ground fighting (newaza). This type of ground-only fighting is often referred to as Kosen Judo. While BJJ did not directly come from Kosen Judo, it is important to understand that Judo has always included all of the ground fighting techniques that are popular today in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Kosen Judo (高專柔道) refers to a set of competition rules of Kodokan judo with particular emphasis on ground grappling techniques such as pinning holds (osaekomi-waza), joint locks (kansetsu-waza) and chokeholds (shime-waza), referred to as newaza in Japanese martial arts.

The Ko in Kosen (高専 kōsen) actually meant High School judo, and based around the Budokuden Martial Arts hall in central Kyoto. Schools started holding their own judo competitions from 1914. The rules of a Kosen judo match were mainly Dai Nippon Butokukai and Kodokan rules prior to 1925 changes. They allowed direct transition to newaza, enabling scenarios where one less skilled judoka could use hikkomi to drag down the other into newaza (a tactic now known as "pulling-guard" in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu), and this was exploited by some teams that matched their less skilled students against the more skilled students of the rival teams, aiming at a draw in newaza. To achieve victory under the judo rules of the time the judoka had to score ippon as there were no intermediate scores, or a draw was declared at the referee's discretion.

The 1925 Kodokan Judo rule changes were largely a reaction to Kosen Judo's competition emphasis on newaza. As opposed to earlier ruleset, transition to groundwork was limited by much stricter rules and by 1929, yusei-gachi rule was introduced to end draws in matches. However, Kosen schools continued to hold interscholastic competition (高專大会 kōsen taikai) tournaments with former rules.

Differently to modern Judo rules leg-locks were allowed. (Leg-locks started being prohibited by Kodokan rules in 1914 in shiai and randori as well. By 1925 all joint-locks except elbow locks were totally prohibited together with neck cranks).

The matches had no time limit and were usually contested on a mat 20x20 meters in total size. A starting zone 8x8 meters was marked on the mat as well as a danger zone which ended at 16x16 Meters.

− If a Judoka went out of the danger zone the match would be restarted. If they were actively engaged in newaza the referee would call sono-mama to freeze them into position, drag them to the middle of the competition area, and call yoshi to restart the match in the same situation. This device was common in Judo in general and is still part of the official Judo rules, addressed in article 18 - Sono-mama, but has since fallen into disuse, allowing modern Judoka to escape newaza by going out of the competition zone.

Kosen judo, as a distinct "style" focusing training towards the Kosen ruleset, flourished in the Kyoto region until around 1940. The style and the peculiar ruleset is still studied for "seven imperials judo" (七帝柔道 Sichitei jūdō / nanatei jūdō tournaments of (former) imperial universities and is taught especially in Kyoto.


Shichitei Judo / Kosen Judo Tournaments


Japan's seven national universities began their Judo Tournament in 1952. The forerunners of this event were the Kosen Judo Tournaments dating back to before WWII. Today's seven national universities are Hokkaido U., Tohoku U., Tokyo U., Nagoya U., Kyoto U., Osaka U., and Kyushu U. These schools share a storied tradition. Every year, their Judo clubs meet to test their skills against one another and see who trained hardest. This fierce, but friendly competition embodies the spirit of Shichitei Judo and keeps alive the Kosen tradition. Students train without respite, developing not only their minds and bodies, but their fighting spirit; and their endeavors, in turn, develop the art of Shichitei Judo, itself.

From its inception, Judo has been comprised of standing techniques and groundwork. Shichitei Judo has always emphasized the cultivation of the latter, strong Newaza. From the third tournament in 1954, Shichitei rules permit students to use Hikikomi to pull the opponent straight into Newaza. Also, Shichitei Judo emphasizes the uninterrupted flow of matches, allowing players to fully demonstrate their prowess by flexibly using the mat space in and outside the competition area to the greatest extent possible. Contestants are expected to understand the principles underlying these rules and compete with dignity and respect for their opponents.

For Shichitei Judo (Kosen Judo) Tournament Rules, see the following documents:


 Gokor Chivichyan: "Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is Kosen Judo" @14:40


If you are paying an enormous price each month for your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu classes and your primary takedown is pulling guard or tackling your opponent, then you need to join The Judokai.

If your Judo school does not put enough emphasis on groundfighting and submissions, and focuses only on the subset of throws allowed in IJF Judo, then you need to join The Judokai.

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