Edited and annotated by Joseph R. Svinth. Reprinted by permission of Robert W. Smith. Copyright EJMAS © 2003. All rights reserved. NOTE: Permission to reprint elsewhere on the Internet is denied without express written permission, but you are encouraged to link to this page. Meanwhile, if you decide to print a copy for personal reference, note that the document is about 37,000 words in length. So bring a lot of paper!
(May 28, 1950)
I am greatly obliged to you for your kindness in sending me the extract from L. Adam Beck’s "The Garden of Vision" [Ed.: Beck, Lily Adams, pseudonym; i.e., Eliza Louisa Moresby Beck. Published by Ernest Benn: London, 1933].
Singularly enough, a very careful reading of the extract has been sufficient to satisfy me that the author of the work, whoever he may be, has ingeniously made use of material borrowed apparently without acknowledgement from my own book, The Fighting Spirit of Japan [Fisher Unwin, 1913]. Thus the gist of Arima’s colourful discourse on the kiai and aiki is really a clever réchauffé of my chapters on "The Esoteric Aspects of Bujutsu," particularly Chapter IX in which I give the substance of a remarkable lecture delivered for my special benefit by the famous veteran Nobuyuki Kunishige of the Shinden Isshin-ryu. The most conclusive proof of the true inspiration of Arima’s discourse appears on the last page of the extract, in which he is quoted as saying, "I may do well to give the rules which are considered to hold the secret of kiai!" Then follow these so-called rules which have obviously been lifted almost word for word from page 167 of my book, where I describe them as "verses" which explain the secret of kiai!
It is utterly impossible to entertain the suggestion that this resemblance is merely an amazing coincidence. My book was admittedly the first non-Japanese publication to disclose the underlying esoteric aspects of Japanese martial arts (bujutsu). Before then the West knew nothing of the kiai, aiki, or the power of the saika-tanden developed through deep abdominal breathing. Indeed, I was the first non-Japanese to supply Western judoka with this esoteric terminology. My own opinion is that no such person as Arima is the author of the matter you have kindly sent me. From the context he seems to figure simply as a leading character in a sort of novel or romance based upon various features of Japanese occultism.
I myself knew a prominent yudansha of the Kodokan named Arima who wrote an excellent book on judo that was translated into English. [Ed.: Arima, Sumiotomo. Judo: Japanese Physical Culture. Tokyo: Mitsumura & Co., 1906, 1908.] I left my own copy in Japan, but our famous Gunji Koizumi, founder of the Budokwai, has a copy. Anyhow whoever is responsible for the subject matter has certainly taken a good many liberties with his elaboration of the theme. Certainly I have never yet heard any modern exponent of the kiai or aiki able to produce the startling phenomena so vividly described in the opening passages of the extract.
Kunishige was quite the most remarkable exponent of the kiai ever known to me during something like twenty years’ residence in Japan. Virtually all other demonstrations of the kiai were more or less perfunctory and devoid of genuinely occult efficacy. Of course not being personally acquainted with something like a million members of judo and jujutsu schools – perhaps more – I cannot pretend to know the precise extent of the powers possessed by individuals. It stands to reason, however, that if within the memory of any living person, Japanese or otherwise, a famous master had performed such feats as seemingly transforming a fan into a sword, or vice versa, or rendering a subject lifeless and then restoring him, his fame would long ere this have passed far beyond the boundaries of Dai Nippon.
True, Kunishige could revive a seemingly dead person, and knowledge of kuatsu enables its possessor to restore the victim of strangulation provided it is promptly administered. But, say, the story of causing birds to fall senseless from a tree and then reviving them is taken from my Fighting Spirit of Japan. The story deals with one Matsujuro who flourished hundreds of years ago, and I myself never vouched for its truth!
Our own well-known writer here, Shaw Desmond, has been guilty of similar inroads on my pages without acknowledgement. Such exaggerations are not really advantageous to the best interests of the art.
Naturally I do not object to other writers elaborating ideas taken from my book, but I think they ought to indicate how much of the material served up in the form of a novel or a romance is based upon fact and how much is purely imaginary. Also when they reproduce the precise terminology of Japanese occultism they should be sporting enough to mention the source of their knowledge.
Some time ago I was told by one Major Browne, a 1st Dan (shodan) of our Budokwai, now in Malaya, that he had himself read two novels in which credit was given to my book by the authors for the occult portions of their books. I cannot now recall the titles of the latter. It is therefore just possible that this "Garden of Vision" is one of them, and that somewhere in the author’s introduction or preface mention is made of my book. In that case, of course, I have no grievance. Anyway, I think on further investigation you will find that it is not Arima who is the author, but that he is featured as a character in the book.
You may be interested to hear that a textbook on judo by me will shortly be published by Foyles of London. [Judo. London: W. & G. Foyle, 1950; New York: Dover Publications, 1950.] It runs to about 35,000 words and will contain 34 good line drawings and 32 photographs. Unfortunately the publishers have lost a great opportunity of bringing out a really comprehensive book. Although I describe as many as sixty throws, holds, locks, etc., the restriction of the number of photographs to only 32 means that some 28 techniques will not be illustrated. This is a grave shortcoming for which I cannot be held responsible. The book is to be sold at the absurdly low price of half a crown. [Ed.: Two and one half shillings, at the rate of 20 shillings to the pound.] I am already the author of a smaller manual of only 10,000 words published long before the war by Foulsham & Co., originally at a shilling but now selling at half a crown. [Foulsham's Physical Training Books, by H. F. Bush, in collaboration with E. J. Harrison, W. Foulsham & Co., London; 1935.] And yet a book three times as large will shortly be on the market at the same price! This hardly makes sense.
Well, I must not bore you further with these idle fancies.
Despite my venerable age of 76, I keep in close touch with the Budokwai and am often there for a chin-wag and consultation. I contribute a good deal to our quarterly bulletin, and nearly all my articles have been translated into the French by the leading French school in Paris. I am even contemplating re-emergence as a coach if my new book brings me any further useful publicity. Money is pretty tight on this side, and provided I am not required to engage in violent action on the mat, I think I am still sufficiently vigorous to demonstrate methods.
(Apr. 12, 1953)
Although I personally am very far from satisfied with my latest effort [Ed.: Manual of Judo, London: W. Foulsham & Co. 1952] 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 Oda’s celebrated work on judo. [Ed. Judo on the Ground. The Oda-9th Dan-method "Katamewaza." An interpretation of the Oda system comprising numerous drastic immobilizations, necklocks and dislocation methods hitherto unknown in the West ... Line drawings by Jak. Photographs by I. Morris.] 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? [Ed.: "Mr. Harrison’s friend, aren’t you?"] 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. (I’ll be eighty on my next birthday.)
As for the translation of Oda’s work, I am selecting primarily the newazate. 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 Oda’s style isn’t 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!) [Ed.: The Art of Jiu-jitsu, 1932] and my textbook on wrestling [Ed.: Wrestling: catch-as-catch-can, Cumberland & Westmorland, & all-in styles. Published under the auspices of W. Wood, etc., 1928] 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.
(May 5, 1953)
You may be interested to hear that Foulsham & Co. have commissioned me to do two more judo books. The one for beginners is to comprise about 15,000 words and have a retail price of 3 shillings 6 pence. [Ed.: Judo for Beginners, London, 1953.] The other [Ed: Judo on the Ground], a much more ambitious venture on my part, bids fair to tax my modest powers to the utmost if I may hope to succeed. It is intended to embody the latest instruction in Groundwork, and is based upon a Japanese work written by one of my old-time contemporaries, Tsunetani Oda, 9th Dan. We shall of course frankly acknowledge the source of our information and the publishers have authorised me to offer Oda a fee of 25 guineas for the loan of the original photographic negatives because in the book they come out badly. If he cannot do this we shall be rather put to it to work out line drawings in the text. The manual for beginners is wanted at the beginning of July and the other book, which should run to about 50,000 words, early January next. Amid almost ceaseless alarums and excursions I have to gird up my loins or to vary the metaphor keep my bulbous proboscis to the grindstone many hours a day if I am to deliver the goods in accordance with this timetable.
It may prove impossible. I have still to tackle a lot more of the translation. The original text, I regret to say, is often not so clear as one might wish. (Or at any rate, as I, with my far from thorough knowledge of the Japanese printed word, could well desire.) Were I affluent I should fight shy of any more commitments of this kind, but unfortunately my wife and I are in decidedly difficult financial straits. So I cannot afford to turn down an opportunity of earning a little badly need lucre, albeit well aware beforehand that no sooner is it earned than it will be stolen from me by the blood-sucking vampires of the Inland Revenue. The local government is a gang of lousy socialists who squander hard cash galore at the ratepayers’ expense. One of their latest inspirations is an aviary! And we householders and ratepayers are soaked to provide luxuries and amenities for tenants of council flats [Ed.: Government-subsidized housing] such as we could not possibly afford for ourselves.
So far we haven’t yet been privileged in this country to witness a demonstration of aikido. The one given by Tohei during the First National AAU Judo Tournament in San Jose, California, must certainly have been impressive. [Ed.: Said Robert W. Smith, writing in Budokwai Quarterly Bulletin, July 1953, p. 11: "Tohei (8th Dan in Aikido), a visitor from Japan, put on a remarkable demonstration of this ‘higher Judo’ – although it is, of course, not exactly that. Five yudansha, including Yoshimura (4th Dan) attacked him simultaneously and were summarily beaten off by the agile little man dancing so daintily on the tatami. The bout was unrehearsed and I have never seen anything equal to it."] The exhibition given for my special benefit by the great veteran Kunishige would seem to be the closest approach to it within my own personal experience. His seemingly effortless ability to pull several lusty young judoka around the dojo despite their desperate efforts to resist must surely be ascribed to what he then called aiki. Then, too, his power to resuscitate the seemingly dead – in certain circumstances – undoubtedly savours of the occult.
I have placed in my publishers’ hands the typescript of my judo book for beginners. It was restricted to something like 15,000 words. I need hardly tell you that to keep within these limits I have had to leave out far more than I would have put in, and that the contents have had to be confined to an exposition of fundamental methods with the emphasis on nagewaza. Within those limits I have tried to make the booklet an amalgam of the explanations given by Tsunetani Oda and another prominent authority named Hikochi Aida.
As for the much fuller translation of Oda’s text, I must admit that Oda’s literary style is often far from lucid. It is clear from the context that he has confused his "lefts" and "rights", and rather curiously he speaks about a turn of the body to the right when we in the West would call it a turn to the left! I expect that in the end matters will boil down to something in the nature of judicious eclecticism and adherence to the prudent maxim, "When in doubt, leave out."
Could I afford to turn up my snout at the offer of filthy lucre, I’d gladly chuck my hand in and rest upon my laurels, such as they are, for the duration. After completion of the Manual I was so utterly fed up with struggling against the publishers’ endeavours to ruin the blasted book that I swore a solemn oath that this would be my swan song. Unfortunately, I was fated to perjure myself in this respect. One of my hardest tasks has been to dissuade the well-meaning director from excursions into the domain of cheap sensationalism. To some extent I rejoice to say that these efforts have proved successful.
(Nov. 6, 1953)
I am in this evening of my long and misspent life infernally, hellishly, devilishly, diabolically, and not to forget demonically busy with commitments. Some are paid but all too many are unpaid!
My 80th birthday anniversary was celebrated (if that is the word) at the end of August by my old-time Lithuanian chiefs, friends, and admirers, whose name seems to be legion. I spent almost twenty colourful years in the service of the free and independent Lithuanian Government, now tragically superseded by the ineffably foul and obscene Soviet Russians. Although it is no longer possible for the Lithuanians to demonstrate their appreciation in a very tangible manner, they gave a big reception and dinner in my honour on August 29. For weeks afterward I was kept busy penning letters in Lithuanian acknowledging messages of congratulation from far and near.
Meanwhile I have been in the throes of literary labour. This compilation based on the Oda techniques runs to more than 45,000 words and will have more than a hundred photographic illustrations. Doubtless the piercing optics of hypercritical readers will in due course detect many errors but all the same I devoutly hope that the residue will be found useful.
Trevor Leggett is at present in Japan for the BBC. He has been putting in some practice at the Kodokan, but I hear from my greatest friend Malcolm Gregory that he can no longer vie with the younger generation of judoka. He is not yet forty but he has for some years been troubled with – I think it is – severe migraine and no longer goes in for contest. These days he confines his activities to instruction and the demonstration of kata during the periodical displays.
You will read in due course all about the last international contests held at the Albert Hall on October 30. The Dutch team carried off the European championship by beating the French team, till then holders of the championship. Sad to say our Budokwai team representing this country were badly beaten by the French and didn’t score a single point. The Dutch triumph is remarkable considering not only Holland’s small population but also the fact that their highest graded combatants were only 2nd Dan.
The Budokwai’s Gunji Koizumi and the new instructor Kawamura were the only Japanese performers. During the evening they gave a very fine demonstration of the classical koshiki kata. I also saw Henri Plée, who is the editor of the Anglo-French bimonthly Judo. He has agreed to pay me £50 for the right to translate into French my Fighting Spirit of Japan.
Finally, a small dose of egotism. My small Judo for Beginners will be out on the 10th. Although necessarily restricted in its scope, I have done my utmost to bring the technical descriptions up-to-date.
(Dec. 7, 1953)
My wife and I happen to be confirmed cat lovers. For more than two weeks we have been nursing a beautiful pet female Persian member of our feline family of six. First of all she contracted what is called "cat’s flu," a post-war pathological phenomenon previously unknown to vets. Then in some mysterious way the trouble developed into pneumonia. For days past it has been a case of touch and go with her life hanging in the balance. However, thanks to the ministrations of our splendid vet with no expense spared we are beginning to cherish the hope that she is almost out of danger.
One has to be a cat lover to appreciate the keen anxiety we Harrisonai (Lithuanian plural of our surname!) are feeling as from day to day or even hour to hour we keep track of the patient’s symptoms and meticulously comply with the vet’s directions. And when I personally am required to switch at almost a moment’s notice from the ministrations of a male nurse to a job of translation calling for much mental concentration my correspondence suffers.
I am interested to learn that – as coincidence would have it – your Master’s thesis [ed. at the University of Washington] was on Deportation of Non-Slavic Peoples from The Baltic States to The Soviet Union, 1940-1950. This was undoubtedly one of the most atrocious crimes – the deportation, not your thesis! – recorded in historical annals.
I am wondering which one of my books put you wise to the dichotomy underlying my personality. Perhaps it was Lithuania Past and Present [Ed.: Hazell, Watson & Viney: London, 1928], in which there is a passage referring to the famous catch-as-catch-can wrestler Karl Pozhela [Ed.: also Pojello], a pure Lithuanian whose acquaintance I made first in Great Russia while he was already a champion amateur middleweight. But for the hideous recital of Red enormities in Lithuania, I hope that you have been able to obtain a copy of a booklet I did for the Lithuanian American Information Center in New York entitled Lithuania’s Fight for Freedom [Ed.: New York: 1952; a similarly titled text was published in London in 1944’. I suppose I am one of the very few Britishers able to read, write, speak, and translate Lithuanian.
My other languages, apart from Japanese, are Russian, Polish, French, German (not too good) and Spanish (ditto). While in Japan I acquired a pretty good command of the colloquial or zokugo and today with the aid of a dictionary I can figure out Japanese judo texts. Alas, we are young only once in a lifetime. Believe me, after forty or thereabouts the days, months, and years seem to pass by like lightning, and almost before one realises it one is in the sear and yellow leaf.
My latest judo effort entitled Judo on the Ground, based on the Oda system, is in Foulsham’s hands. It runs to at least 45,000 words and will be quite well illustrated.
(Jan. 23, 1954)
I am daily expecting to have the proofs of Judo on the Ground dumped on me, but actual publication must still be in the offing. The publishers tell me that it will run to about 50,000 words, or about 190 pages. The illustrations are reproduced from Oda’s – very bad – originals. The retail price will be about fifteen shillings.
Belasco, director of Foulshams, has virtually commissioned me to grind out another interpretation of a huge Japanese work by one Aida, 8th Dan, who is reputed to be the best all-round exposition of judo yet extant. But for the grisly fact that my wife and I are in dire need of filthy lucre I should decline with thanks. But needs must, etc., and so I have already made a hesitant start on this arduous task. Fortunately Belasco has authorised me to engage the services of some Japanese student – if one can be found in these confines – to help me with the more difficult and abstruse passages. One other snag is that an Englishman in Japan is engaged in much the same sort of task. Since he enjoys the inestimable advantage of being at the fountainhead of judo knowledge with ready access to the sources, he may very well beat us to it!
I am further fated to work here in the midst of frequent interruptions prejudicial to concentration. Under economic stress I do the translations from French of much of the matter printed in Henri Plée’s Revue Judo Kodokan. The remuneration isn’t exactly munificent but I cannot afford to turn it down. All in all I find the days much too short for the multifarious duties I have to pack into them.
(Feb. 22, 1954)
Although I am usually loath to inflict my troubles upon others, I think you ought to know that I long ago ceased to be a sound insurance risk. The timeworn ticker ain’t what it used to be and might now go back upon me at any moment.
Strange as perhaps it may seem to those that have no special liking for animals in general and cats in particular, the loss in early December of our most beautiful female feline gave me a nasty shock and I simply cannot snap out of the depression into which this painful incident has plunged me. Frankly speaking, apart from a few chosen friends, I am apt to prefer our cats’ society to that of the average human being! However I continue to adhere to my more or less Spartan regimen and well-meaning acquaintances still insist that externally I do not look my true age. Having confessed so much, I will pass on to more cheerful themes.
The Oda whose katamewaza system I have tried to summarise in my new book is Tsunetani Oda, 9th Dan. He is still very much alive. Gregory met him in Tokyo, did some newaza with him, and further reported that Oda remembered me as an older contemporary with whom, to use his own words, he had had in the past many a merry bout of randori. I do not know any other Oda.
The blithesome jest seems to be that while admittedly I do not feel able at eighty to turn out the volume of work whereof I was capable at twenty-five, many of my contemporaries apparently expect me to exude a bloody sight more! And what between sordid domestic chores on the one hand and a voluminous personal correspondence and the production of alleged judo literature (four books in the last three years and a problematical fifth in the offing) on the other, I’m conceited enough to think that my present-day exertions will bear comparison with those of 55 years ago. Yet true enough, were I free and affluent instead of being an economic serf and damned hard up in our halcyon Welfare State, nothing would please me more than to quit the Hub with its hubbubs and like Pope’s "blameless vestal" retire to some remote beauty spot "the world forgetting by the world forgot". But I am evidently fated to die in harness – or should I say in chains?
To answer your question, I have never seen a demonstration of French savate. Nor for that matter have I any first-hand knowledge of karate. Where is there an exposition of this system?
(May 20, 1954)
Speaking of Charles Yerkow, I wish right away to plead guilty to the soft impeachment of not being an original writer on judo. And to the best of my recollection I have never set out to be anything pretentious. "My will hath in it a more modest working." Unless my memory plays me false in the Foreword to my Manual I go out of my way to make this fact quite plain and to avow my debt to leading Japanese authorities.
In a few special cases applicable to – for the most part – tachiwaza I have ventured to obtrude a more or less independent interpretation. For the rest I think it is fair to say that my modest contribution to the art is an amalgam compounded of explanations and expositions culled from such writers as the late Sakujiro Yokoyama, who when he bequeathed me his fine pioneer work on judo [Ed.: Judo. Tokyo: Nishodo, 1915] expressed the hope that I might at some future date make use of it as I have done, plus subsequent writers such as Oda, Takahiko Ishikawa, and Aida.
If I may be permitted the luxury of a pat on my own back (rather a difficult waza), I have been at considerable pains to transmute the frequently muddled locutions and execrable style of the Japanese original texts into passable English. From this point of view my dope is a trifle removed from mere translation.
If you have my smaller Judo for Beginners you will note much the same acknowledgement of my indebtedness to Japanese authorities noted in the Preface. One more claim to an innovation: I think my Foyle’s Judo broke new ground by furnishing readers with a glossary of Japanese judo terminology. This has been greatly amplified in my Manual. My Judo on the Ground, openly based on the Oda system, includes another special glossary of current terms.
Incidentally, Yerkow’s Official Judo [Ed.: New York: A. A. Wyn, 1953] was recently submitted to me by the publishers Herbert Jenkins Ltd. for a report. Between us, I felt bound to tell them that unless the work could be considerably revised and amplified, its publication here would add very little to the knowledge of judo. Yerkow has contrived to omit some of the most effective and spectacular methods in each division, and there is no Japanese terminology. The American publishers refused to allow any alterations to be made in the text so the deal was off.
In the domain of judo bibliography "the cry is still they come" would seem to be an appropriate slogan. At this rate it will soon become a distinction not to have written a book on the subject, as the late Basil Hall Chamberlain once said about books on Japan. Be this as it may, I honestly feel that as an interpreter of sorts I am doing the cause of judo enlightenment in the West a much greater service than were I to attempt to foist my own out-of-date ideas upon a credulous public.
(Jul. 10, 1954)
I must thank you sincerely for the immense trouble you have taken, as evidenced in your letter addressed to Charles Yerkow, to refute the charge that I am what is called a lift writer on judo. In my last letter to you I brazenly admitted the justice of the soft impeachment. All the same when I read your apologia I was conscious of summat not far removed from a glow of self-righteousness permeating my timeworn carcass.
Incidentally, from that copy of your other letter to "Truley Yours" I learn for the first time that there is a fighting art called Gung Fu. I have already heard about this karate but Gung Fu is new to me. [EN1]
I am fagging away at a very free translation of the well-known work by Aida and have almost finished the draft, which runs perhaps to about 60,000 words. It will be necessary for me to get hold of an intelligent Japanese student well versed in English to help me clarify the obscure and cryptic passages in the original text. I am not in any sense a Japanese scholar. Very much on the contrary it is dashed hard work for me to verify the ever-recurrent unfamiliar terms and expressions in their ideographic guise.
When I based my earlier books on Yokoyama’s excellent manual I had far less trouble because Yokoyama had thoughtfully provided alongside virtually all his ideographs (kanji) their Hiragana pronunciations. The newer judo manuals no longer follow this practice. Therefore I am compelled to look up every unknown word (most of them are disyllables) in the excellent ideographic dictionary in my possession for which I once paid four guineas. Next I combine the two-component on or Sinico-Japanese sounds and verify this combination by reference to Takenoubu Yoshitaro’s very fine and comprehensive Japanese-English dictionary. For the most part I have managed fairly well but all the same here and there I have come up against sticky problems which call for the co-operation of a Japanese native son to solve.
I expect you know that every Japanese ideograph is made up of the so-called radical which indicates the classification of the word and the so-called phonetic which indicates its pronunciation. Unless and until you can identify the radical in an otherwise strange ideograph (kanji) you are bound to have a hell of a job looking up and finding the word in the ideographic dictionary. There are about 214 generally used radicals and the more you know of these the better for your purpose.
During my fairly long residence in Japan I had to work far too hard as a journalist to find the leisure essential to anything approaching mastery of all the radicals or the difficult written language. But, at the cost of one nervous breakdown in my early twenties, I did get the hang of the basic principles and this modest knowledge has since stood me in good stead.
Luckily judo books as a rule are not couched in the Simon-pure written lingo. Instead they are written in semi-colloquial (zokugo) language which I am able – with considerable difficulty at times – to understand. Without that foundation, however, I could never have made use of such a thing as an ideographic dictionary.
Of course my familiarity with the judo terminology has also been a great help in facilitating this ambitious enterprise. And anything like a literal translation of any Japanese book would be sheer imbecility.
My aim has been to transmute the turgid, long-winded, and often absurdly pretentious language of the Japanese author into reasonably lucid English, and I am grateful to you for your tribute to what you regard as my success in this endeavour.
When next you write to me I’d be interested to hear what textbooks you are using at your end in your study of the kanji. I am almost certain that specialists have elaborated appreciably better methods than were available in my day.
My linguistic lot is not at all lightened by the dire necessity of keeping in close touch with my other languages which I need if and when I am called upon (all too rarely) to do a job of translation for filthy lucre. Thus I have to ring the changes on Russian, Polish, and Lithuanian, not to mention French and German.
I shall shortly be starting to translate Kawaishi’s Ma Méthode de Judo from the French. It runs about 40,000 words. Kawaishi is head of the Fédération Française de Judo et de Jiu-jitsu in France and he has granted W. Foulsham & Co. the exclusive right of translation on the express understanding that I undertake it. Foulshams are to pay me 100 guineas for this job, which may take a few months. It may hold up my completion of the Aida version but this work will be much more straightforward. My name will appear on the title page as translator and editor.
Let me confess to you that I have by now had almost a surfeit of judo and would fain retire on my laurels would Destiny permit, but needs must. Were I free and affluent I should like nothing better than to devote my final years to breaking a few lances in the cause of my second homeland, Lithuania.
(Aug. 20, 1954)
"Tell it not in Gath" – 81 this month.
Judo on the Ground ought to be out shortly.
Meanwhile, for about two hours every afternoon I am working with a Japanese student on the revision of my rendering in English of the Japanese text of Aida’s huge classic Analysis of Judo. An exhaustive translation is out of the question and would far and away exceed the publisher’s requirements, but I estimate that I have at least 60,000 words in English. This is a great book but not immaculate. I have never yet in all my experience come across a judo textbook guiltless of errors, usually in the matter of "rights" and "lefts". Also my Japanese assistant has confirmed my independent detection of – in some cases – the erroneous substitution of "arms" for "legs"!
I remember Aida as a young man of about 27 when in the 1920s he spent some time teaching at the Budokwai. So he has now turned sixty. He was short but powerfully built, decidedly good-looking, and invincible on the mat. He is ranked as 8th Dan. His reputation as an authority and instructor stands very high and his book was sponsored by Risei Kano, the late Nagaoka, and Mifune.
The devil alone knows how I am going to type these two scripts when complete. The trouble always is that one has to deal with people that do not possess the foggiest idea of the labour involved in translation from any language and above all from the Japanese.
In the midst of all these alarums and excursions I am almost daily flooded with a spate of Lithuanian literature – bulletins and newspapers from the USA – that I would fain absorb but simply haven’t the leisure essential for this purpose. Truth to tell I have had a surfeit of judo and would, were it possible, retire on my modest laurels, but unhappily we cannot afford to dispense with the none too lavish receipts emanating from that source.
During the past two weeks the tragic suicide by gas poisoning of one of our oldest and most valued friends, an art teacher, has cast a deep shadow over our lives. He was threatened by imminent blindness and could not face the prospect of becoming a burden upon his wife.
That extraordinary American and judo dilettante Walker Edwards is now in town with Tsunetani Oda, 9th Dan, and we have gathered several times under this roof. Oda is in the early sixties, quite on the small side, very inoffensive and appreciative of our restricted hospitality. He has been up in Scotland giving a few lessons in katamewaza at an Edinburgh Dojo, and together with Edwards will shortly be setting out for Germany and then France. Thereafter, I presume, it’s back to Dai Nippon.
Edwards is about 48, tall and rather distinguished looking, but clearly a crank with a firm belief in his own political infallibility. He must have lashings of filthy lucre to travel almost ceaselessly over the globe coquetting with judo. He has brought Oda over from Japan by air and will send him back by the same route.
I hear from Greg [Ed.: e.g., Malcolm Gregory] fairly regularly. He sounds very happy in California but plans at some future date to return to Japan for a refresher course. I presume he will again stay with his great Japanese friend Ishikawa. One of his current problems is to sidestep the allurements of Californian high life as exemplified, between us, by the eternal feminine in swimsuits! From what I know of him I don’t seriously think that the peril is a dire one.
(Sep. 11, 1954)
You’ll be pleased to hear that your colleague Art Broadbent ran me to earth about three weeks ago. He spent a forenoon with us and met my wife who invited him to dine with us the following Sunday. Unfortunately, after accepting the invitation, he found he couldn’t come along. He telephoned me to report that he had had a workout at the Budokwai in its new quarters in South Kensington and had failed to score a single throw!
Kawamura, the chief instructor, had greatly impressed him. Since Broadbent is a 3rd Dan, I think we may fairly assume that under Kawamura’s ministrations the standard of waza must have greatly improved.
Broadbent then told me that he was about to set out again for the North. I should have liked to see more of him, but as they say in Dai Nippon, shikata ga nai, it can’t be helped.
During our personal meeting he told me quite a few interesting things about your own "poisonality." Clearly he is an admirer of yours.
Before leaving London on the eighth instant to visit my oldest surviving first cousin in Yorkshire, I had already typed more than half the translation of Kawaishi’s book. I hope to finish the rest when I get back in about a fortnight or three weeks. But the typing of at least 60,000 words of the Aida book will be a decidedly tough proposition.
Thanks awfully for your all too flattering references to me in your bibliography of judo. I shall have to order a greater size in hats as a result!
(Oct. 10, 1954)
I have just finished my translations of the Kawaishi book and am to take it along to Belasco of Foulshams on Tuesday, the 12th inst. Belasco has agreed to pay me 100 guineas for my pains. We are returning here in a taxi together since Belasco is to dine with us that evening so that my wife can bring her charm to work upon his susceptibilities! He is by the way a widower. We are pretty old friends and I know he rather likes me.
I have made a start on the typing of my Aida version. So far I’ve ground out nearly 80 quarto pages, averaging about 300 words a page. I reckon therefore that my English version must run to at least 60,000 words if not more. As yet I haven’t fixed up any terms with Belasco.
Much to my surprise, Belasco on the telephone the other day brought up the question of my Fighting Spirit of Japan. He told me he had had inquiries from certain quarters about a reprint. Quite a while ago I lent him the book to read in the hope that he might be induced to reproduce it, but gently though firmly he turned down the idea so I let the matter drop. He also mentioned that his son had been discussing it with him. So it may be on the cards that he will finally decide to take a chance on it. The point of course is that a potential clientele for such a work is steadily increasing among judo fans and may already conceivably have reached such proportions as to justify a bolder policy than would formerly have been worthwhile. The joke is that, as I ascertained in our talk over the telephone, Belasco hadn’t actually read the book at all. Indeed, he intimated that he had thought it was some kind of a novel!
Anyhow, I am to cart the thing along with me on Tuesday and this time he really will go through it carefully. We are in a bit of a quandary over the blasted title. Yet in the end it may be advisable to leave it as it is because virtually a hundred percent are within this particular orbit pro-Japanese. Therefore the words "Fighting Spirit of Japan" aren’t at all likely to scare them. And the fact remains that the book has already become widely known by that title and might not later be identified were we to reprint it under some alternative name. But better not count our chickens before they are hatched.
All in all it would seem that I am better known in the USA than in my native land. But are we not told that a man is never a prophet in his own country?
I have already mailed you an autographed copy of my Judo on the Ground. I must warn you that I am not at all satisfied with the overall result, especially as regards "JAK’s" line drawings from the book photographs. Many of his drawings leave a devil of a lot to be desired, and the odds are that sooner or later the book will incur a spate of well-deserved criticism under this particular head. I did actually point out many of these defects to the Foulsham manager Houlgate when I was disentangling the figures but it was evident he had no wish to go to the trouble and delay of having any of them redrawn, so there you are.
In spite of all the raucous ballyhoo about the amenities of our Merrie Welfare State and Spongers’ Paradise, the sad fact remains that we are hag-ridden with a bloated bureaucracy. The most appalling outrages camouflaged as "law" are daily being perpetrated by countless local and central authorities, in the form of the compulsory purchase of land at prices arbitrarily fixed, which prices rarely if ever bear the remotest relation to the actual market value of the land or the prices paid by the dispossessed owners. Thus that hoary old adage about an Englishman’s home being his castle has become a sorry jest. Already one poor victim of such an outrage has gone and hanged himself.
The virtually totalitarian powers and prerogatives of the executive and local government have reached such a pitch that our right to be regarded as a true democracy should be seriously challenged. Even a Tory government has obviously fallen under the malign spell of this official itch for more and more encroachments on the liberty of the subject. I wonder how this state of affairs compares with procedure in the USA.
The recent rate of mortality among our older friends has been alarming, and now I suppose I must be almost the oldest of these relative contemporaries. "The grave doth gape and doting death is near. Therefore exhale!"
(Nov. 24, 1954)
You must realise that the prospective reprint of Fighting Spirit shall have to a large extent be guided by what Belasco wants. Here, for example, is a case in point.
Some weeks ago we had him over here for the evening meal, and after dinner he relaxed up here in an easy chair before the fire and dipped into the pages of said book. When we began to talk about the necessity for abridgement I suggested that perhaps my chapter on the Japanese Eternal Feminine might be sacrificed. Whereupon he put in a most emphatic negative insisting that this was among the most interesting in the book!
This phase of the subject will amuse you. I was over at his office some weeks ago and there met his son Ronnie Belasco, who is married to an American and represents the firm in New York. We discussed between ourselves the question of publication and during this informal talk I regaled both father and son with a rather hectic description of the Japanese licensed quarters, more particularly the famed Tokyo Yoshiwara and the strange distinctive elaborate ceremonial governing the patronage of the higher-class resorts of Tokyo’s "Nightless City". This recital so fascinated both of them that Belasco urged me to include a chapter on this very subject in any reprint of the book! I am quite prepared to do this because I have plenty of material for the purpose.
I am still waiting to hear from Belasco. As a matter of fact I have written him this very day (November 25) in a letter returning my signed copy of the agreement on the Aida book in which your are interested and have asked him to expedite his decision and views on the Fighting Spirit.
I handed in my typescript of translation a few weeks ago. I reckon it must run to quite 70,000 words. Belasco is granting me 10 percent royalty instead of the 7-1/2 percent allowed on the Manual and Judo on the Ground. While admittedly this work is important and many of the author’s descriptions are undoubtedly exceptionally detailed, I found that the text bristled with what are let us hope printer’s errors. Examples include confusion between right and left, hand and foot, etc. Thus he will explain that you seize your opponent’s lapel with your foot or slide your hand along the ground!
The Japanese student Inouye who spent a week with me here entirely confirmed my original discovery of these weird lapses. Moreover his descriptions are unequal and in several instances they impressed me as so poor and incomplete that I deemed it essential to substitute others from Oda and/or Ishikawa to clarify the position for future readers. And he omitted at least ten highly important waza. Here too I have had to provide on my own account. Again although in his introduction he has classified the various methods (tewaza, ashiwaza, koshiwaza, sutemiwaza, etc.) in the subsequent text he lumps them all together "in most admired disorder" without any intimation of the branch to which they belong, so that I have had to make good this lapse as well. Nothing is said about atemiwaza and in every other book the book is orthodox in contradistinction to the Oda method which makes use of the feet and legs in the execution of katamewaza.
I deliberately left out his description of the Ju-no-kata with its 100-odd line drawings. These Forms of Gentleness impress me as of minor interest to younger judoka and their inclusion would have expanded my version far beyond the scope of the Belasco plan for a book to sell at a price between 18 and 25 shillings. At the Budokwai public displays these forms are invariably demonstrated by women or – as a special treat (?) by Koizumi and Dame Russell-Smith -- and rarely fail to bore the spectators and to evoke only perfunctory applause.
I think Balasco hopes to be able to issue the book about July next.
Shortly I shall have galley proofs of Kawaishi’s important book on my hands. Like Oda he has not scrupled to include kansetsuwaza and shimewaza that are taboo at the Kodokan and in this country. He has, however, gone one better than Oda in that he describes some really devastating leg and dislocation neck locks that are entirely foreign to my own judo experience in Dai Nippon. In my preface to my translation I point out that even though these dangerous methods cannot safely be introduced into friendly practice and contest they should nonetheless be taught to responsible yudansha unless we are anxious to expose them (the yudansha) to the possible humiliation not to say disaster of defeat at the hands and legs of toughs and plug-uglies who have managed to pick up this dangerous knowledge.
In a letter to Malcolm Gregory I mentioned this merit of Kawaishi’s book. He still insists that my Judo on the Ground "is the outstanding book of all judo works. Can there ever be a better? I sincerely doubt it." Quite flattering to my senile amour propre. I must admit that I had awaited Greg’s estimate with no little trepidation so that when it came I inwardly breathed a sigh of relief.
Foulshams are having fresh drawings made of the two worst efforts of the ineffable JAK, these for the next printing. Already 2,500 copies of the book have been sold and fresh orders continue to come in. The total printing is 5,000.
What a hell of an uphill task it is, this dealing with publishers! The rub is that Belasco, much as I like him, knows damn all about judo yet takes it upon himself to "check through" my typescript. I am perpetually upon tenterhooks in the uneasy expectation that he will call for some drastic curtailment of the text and thereby almost ruin the work. He wanted to do this with the Manual and his fatuous plan would have necessitated the excision of two chapters! Can you beat it?
While I’d joyfully relegate all further literary exertions in this domain to the demnition bow-wows, when all is said and done I ought to be grateful to Belasco. Without his support the Harrisonai might long ere this have become inextricably bogged down in the red, with a debtor’s prison in the offing as their ultimate objective. What does fairly infuriate me here is that no sooner do we earn a little extra by dint of the most intensive labour than we are robbed of a big slice of it by the State, an institution not inaptly characterised by George Schwartz of the Sunday Times as a "liar, a thief and a cad." Almost invariably at the end of every year we find ourselves bled white by the local and central parasites.
I note that you have got hold of my Peace or War East of Baikal [Ed.: Kelly and Walsh: Yokohama, 1910]. I’m afraid a good many of my political assumptions and inferences haven’t been justified by the sequel and my final decidedly abrupt summing-up now impresses me as inept. All the same I certainly did put in a tremendous amount of work on its compilation and managed to collect a mass of factual material of which numerous other publicists did not subsequently scruple to acknowledge the source.
Many of the photographs were my own. In some respects I was handicapped by my residence in Japan which tended to militate against 100 percent frankness on particular aspects of the problems involved. However, I did sense that notwithstanding the surface veneer of Japanese friendship for the USA there was a strong current of underlying hostility in certain Japanese quarters.
As for remarking on the work of other judo authors, suffice it to say that I would never have the temerity to pose for pictures myself.
(Dec. 15, 1954)
I am again fiendishly busy, this time revising the Manual. Belasco wants an additional 8 or 9 pages (sides) of fresh matter, most of which I have already ground out for insertion. But the trouble with Belasco & Co. always is that when it comes to a pinch they are always afraid to go to any extra expense entailed by the inclusion of extra figures so essential to a clear comprehension of the text. Already in the first edition, as you must have noted, two of the more important shimewaza, viz., the okurierijime and the sodeguruma are not illustrated and in the kansetsuwaza division, that other highly important jumonjigatame, also is not illustrated. I have pointed out that it would be puerile for us to fail to repair these disastrous omissions while at the same time piling on additional illustrated matter. Nonetheless I shall be greatly surprised if these considerations carry a conclusive appeal and induce them to follow my advice. I am indeed amazed that we haven’t long ere this been the recipient of indignant oaths from disappointed readers on their discovery of these blanks.
I am kept busy too by Monsieur Plée, and have only just gotten through the translation of some thousands of words of dope for his next issue. It is dished up to me in long sheets of cheap yellow paper, single-spaced, and bristling with corrections written in with ink, and I am often put to it to make sense of many locutions in the original text.
Did I tell you in my last that the Aida book may see the light by next July? I shall soon be snowed under with the Kawaishi proofs.
(Jan. 8, 1955)
Your news about Mifune’s book [Ed.: Canon of Judo] is startling and it has shaken dear old Belasco more than somewhat. Apparently he is under the impression that some English publishing firm is bringing out the English version. But the inference I have drawn from your letter is that this English translation is being prepared and published in Tokyo. Can you enlighten us further on this important point? Belasco further remarks: "I think I have already explained to you what a racket this publishing business is in this day and age, and I think we must follow the present mode of though which is ‘the devil take the hindmost’."
I must say that personally I really dread the prospect of having to wade through another huge dose of the kanji in order to add my sum of more to that which already has a bloody sight too much. Truth to tell, I’m about sick and tired of judo and all its works, especially the sublimated crap I get in cartloads from Plée, much of it a repetition ad nauseum of orthodox throws as executed by various Japanese. I must frankly say that with rare exceptions the gift of clear and lucid exposition seems to be denied the average Japanese judo writer and as often as not I find it necessary to correct blatant mistakes usually occurring in the confusion of lefts and rights. These writers are too fond of splitting up their explanations into numbered and serialised sections instead of giving you a smoothly running, fluid story of the relevant technique. It will therefore be quite interesting for me to see whether my old friend Mifune has been guilty of the same boring method.
The policy of depicting judo as something sacrosanct which they call "The Way" or "The Path" productive of supermen gives me a pain in my scraggy neck. Actually you’ll find about as much petty intrigue, jealousy, hostile rivalry, and what-not among the ranks of judoka as in any other sporting environment. Were it not that I am in dire need of our debased currency I’d cheerfully withdraw from the wearisome task of interpreting the ideas of Japanese writers and devote the limited residue of my existence to the support of the Lithuanian cause which means a damned sight more to me than judo. The very best and most generous treatment I have ever known in the course of my long and often misspent life has come and continues to come from my old Lithuanian chiefs and colleagues. It is always a source of regret that I cannot give them a great deal more of my time and mental energies, such as they are.
Regarding your question about my perpetual grade of 3rd Dan, it no longer matters to me whether I am moved up a peg before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Between us, doesn’t this very fact illustrate my earlier remark about the petty jealousy underlying the conduct of judo affairs? Nor does this wonderful Way people never tire of prating engender conspicuously good manners. For example, I have yet had an acknowledgement from any Budokwai judoka of a complimentary and autographed copy of any books I have sent them. Fact!
(Jan. 19, 1955)
In the near future I will be revising my Fighting Spirit of Japan which Belasco has to all intents and purposes decided to reprint.
Our local and central fiscal vampires seem to take a sadistic delight in bleeding us white. Only the other day, after waiting ten years since the end of the war, did I feel justified in treating my desiccated hide to a new and roomy overcoat to replace horribly shabby old ones far too tight for my bulbous body. Believe it or not but rarely in the course of my long and often misspent life have I had to slave so hard as in the Dämmerung of my doleful days on this "goodly frame, the earth".
(Feb. 1, 1955)
I have this day received by airmail from Tokyo a copy of the Mifune magnum opus, Judo Kyoten: Michi to Jutsu [Ed.: The Canon of Judo: The Way and the Art]. Am I right in my inference that the book has been sent to me thanks to your kind offices? If so would you write direct to Belasco letting him know the total cost of this service and to whom the money should be paid.
Although I haven’t yet had enough time to examine it in detail even a cursory survey of the contents has sufficed to satisfy me that it is a splendid thing. The effect of this superficial scrutiny is to bring home to one what an absolute tyro one is at this end! It has made me realise as perhaps never before what an impostor I am to pose as an authority on the art! Fortunately I have from the first and consistently been careful at all times to disavow any claim to be an expert.
Belasco wrote me a few days ago that he would like to see me one day this week to discuss the revision of The Fighting Spirit of Japan. You will have learnt from my previous letter that he – greatly daring – plans to have me produce an abridged version of the Mifune masterpiece. Between us I am none too happy over the idea and am daunted by the prospect. A large-scale abridgement could be brought out only at an almost prohibitive price. On the other hand our financial position is so precarious that I hesitate to turn down the proposal out of hand.
(Feb. 9, 1955)
Soon after dispatching my last letter to you I went along to Foulshams and had a talk with Belasco. I think I mentioned to you a short while ago that he has been quite keen on my undertaking what he calls an abridgement of the book as soon as possible despite the virtual certainty that a Kodokan official translation will soon be on the book market. However, after I pointed out that I was not prepared to undertake such an onerous task single-handed, would in any case require skilled Japanese collaboration to tackle such a wealth of fresh material, and that the job might well take a year, he began to see the red light. Now as a possible alternative we are going to approach Risei Kano with a proposition that Foulshams should handle the English translation upon a business basis, something they are well able to do with their world-wide organisation. I must say I am vastly relieved over this possible issue because even if everything were open and above board I do not feel equal to the mental and physical fag, plus eye-strain, which the task would entail.
When I was at the Foulsham office Houlgate told me that the Aida book would not be published before the end of this year or the beginning of next. This is rather bad news for me because before it sees the light the Mifune magnum opus will have stolen a march upon it, so that its sales are likely to be adversely affected. (The authority of a mere 8th Dan like Aida can hardly compare with that of a 10th Dan of Mifune’s calibre.) Lucky for me that Belasco has already paid me an advance royalty of £75 on account of the Aida translation!
Meanwhile I have corrected all the book proofs of my translation of Kawaishi’s Method of Judo, a tiresome and meticulous job for which I’m not paid an extra bean. Despite minor shortcomings from which no judo book is free I regard it as a very valuable addition to the judo bibliography, especially in the Groundwork section.
Probably ere this you’ve read I. Morris’s disparaging notice of the Oda book in the Budokwai Bulletin for January. Or shall we say he has damned it with faint praise? He is wholly within his rights and there is some justification for his comments on the line drawings. Be this as it may I can well afford to take a philosophical view of his remarks seeing that so far some 3,400 copies of the book have been sold. But I had to smile at his curt remark that I had inserted "a few ideas" of my own. Why shouldn’t I? Or am I risking excommunication for my hardihood in criticising the official taboo of leg locks and the use of the leg or legs in the application of shime and kansetsuwaza? In that case my introduction to the Kawaishi translation bids fair to evoke open denunciation of my temerity in challenging orthodoxy.
I’m still waiting for Belasco’s outline of the needed revision of the Fighting Spirit. The protracted delay in this context is simply infuriating. Once I start I intend to do a bit of debunking of the inflated claims wherewith we are nowadays flooded by our prize japanomaniacs. The apparent awe with which these impressionable and credulous worthies speak and write about THE WAY (in caps) is quite ludicrous. So much sublimated crap! Malcolm Gregory shares this viewpoint to the hilt. So does Ishikawa!
(Mar. 21, 1955)
The revision of Fighting Spirit has entailed an average of six or seven hours typing daily for at least six weeks. I see Belasco in a day or two to hand it over.
The true and basic leitmotif of the book is the fighting spirit of Japan, and we hope to attract the attention and interest of readers as far as possible beyond the category of judo fans and fanatics. I have felt bound to do a bit of debunking in the light of what happened during the last war and to make it clear beyond peradventure of doubt that the retention of the old title must not be construed as condoning the ghastly failure of bushido, bujutsu, michi, et al., to live up to their highfalutin professions. And since then the claims put forward by the clamorous votaries of the art to produce a species of superman motivated by the loftiest ethical particulars really give one a pain in the neck.
Belasco plans to bring out the revised version of Fighting Spirit in the autumn and my Aida version early next year. Naturally before then I shall be fairly snowed under with proofs. The revised version of the Manual is already done. Then – most formidable task of all – Belasco wants me to do the story of my misspent life!
The prospect tends to daunt me. I think I have a fair amount of raw material but I’m wondering whether at this late date I shall prove capable of infusing into the story the ingredient of exuberance and la joie de vivre without which any autobiography must inevitably fall flat. Also – a grisly reflection! – shall I survive long enough to consummate the task?
It isn’t being morbid on my part to realise that I am reaching the end of my mortal tether and that my early objective may well be the electric flames of the nearest crematorium. And that’ll be the end of me; at least I think so because I do not believe in survival. I eschew dogmatism and like [the nineteenth century British mathematician William] Winwood Reade I concede its possibility. To all intents and purposes I’m an agnostic like most of my male kinsmen. For the rest I’ve left a brilliant future behind me. I never try to disturb the faith of others and I never start a religious discussion. But there it is.
Before I forget: I’ve followed your advice and have incorporated an appropriate quotation from Herrigel’s fine book [Ed.: Zen and the Art of Archery] into what I conceive to be the most suitable section, as also your friend’s experience described in the Budokwai Bulletin. I’ve done my best with what little data at my disposal to describe karate and aikido. My survey of judo expansion outside Japan avoids statistics, which always tend to be a crashing bore. In any case there would be no space for anything like an exhaustive country-by-country survey and I make no pretence under that head.
I have amplified some of the original chapters, sometimes with personal reminiscences. In treating of the obvious past and now defunct personalities I have naturally adjusted the tense forms accordingly, for the most part making use of what the French would call the past historic.
In my last chapter, "Postscript," I have frankly avowed my conviction that the impact of an alien military occupation upon the Japanese has been and continues to be vulgarising. I know this inevitable tendency from my own military experience during the First World War when I saw it in operation in France and North Russia. It would be too much to expect that judo could remain immune from this pernicious influence.
Overall, my theme was "Tell the truth and shame the devil."
I roughly estimate the revised version to total about 80,000 words. Illustrations are cut down to 17 in place of the original 34. The retail price will be eighteen shillings as against the original twelve shillings six pence for a far better produced book. Belasco is allowing me 10 percent on his sale price only, which is twelve shillings. Of course he is taking a risk. To comply with his requirements I’ve had to sacrifice what I consider quite a bit of interesting stuff. Between us, I fancy the basic material isn’t exactly his cup of tea, but what he thinks is a promising demand has induced him to incur the risk. When all’s said and done the author may propose but the publisher disposes and not without reason. Belasco is a good sort and our association has been a godsend to the Harrisonai.
(Jun. 28, 1955)
I must thank you greatly for quoting me in extenso that condensed but remarkably accurate sketch of my career from H.E. Wilde’s Social Currents in Japan of which I have never heard before. Also for D. Draeger’s flattering comment [Ed.: ""E.J. can make a privy sound like a palace"] on my literary style. How great minds think alike!
Our friend Gregory has beaten you to it with the report of Ishikawa’s arrival. He tells me that Ishikawa would fain persuade him to accompany him on a tour of Cuba and the South Americas but that he’s a little too happy with his present lot in Los Angeles to indulge in a journey with His Nibs. And for my part I don’t blame him, do you?
In other respects his letter reflects a mood which I too largely share, viz., reaction against what he not inaptly calls "cosmic moonshine", which nowadays impinges more and more upon the subject of judo and the martial arts. From the positive awe manifested by our nippomaniacs in their approach to these topics one might well suppose that they were sacrosanct. I get a surfeit of this lunacy from Plée, especially in the sections of his bimonthly devoted to the would-be philosophical and psychological aspects of judo and the martial arts. Thus whenever mention is made of THE WAY, that mystic word is always given in capital letters (LA VOIE in French). For my sins I’m doomed to translate this piffle into English.
Perhaps one of my worst inflictions is the task of wrestling with the text of that imbecile novel entitled Sugata Sanshiro. It began at least two years ago and bids fair to outlive me. I’ve just got off something like ten thousand words of this coagulated crap redolent with references to THE WAY. Here’s one sample gem for your private collection.
The hero Sugata Sanshiro is replying to the beauteous Takako who wants to know what he hopes to get from judo. "I’m trying to understand the principle of the earthly and heavenly law, the Way of Truth, mademoiselle."
And what about this cryptic utterance? "The fact of accepting the combat which will decide life or death while making float the immutable imperturbability of the mind at the mercy of the current of life permits alone the advent of true strength."
Did you ever read such pretentious twaddle?
Perhaps I’ve mentioned in a previous letter that in the revised Fighting Spirit I’ve deemed it my duty to do quite a bit of debunking of this growing craze. Doubtless future readers badly infected with the virus of twaddle will denounce me from the housetops as a backsliding heretic but I hardly think that their yells and cellar-flaps will disturb my sleep at night. I owe my beloved Lithuanians a bloody sight more than budo, bushido, bujutsu, and the rest.
The grim joke is that several members of the juvenile generation have begun to visit me in quest of guidance in judo! If I let them they’d hang on for hours and hours and I’m simply obliged to ration them.
Seeing that you too enjoy other intellectual interests than judo I have to report that I returned a few days ago from a special mission to Bradford, Yorkshire. I represented the Lithuanian Association in Great Britain, of which I am an Honorary Member, at a huge meeting convened to solemnise the fifteenth anniversary of one of the foulest crimes ever recorded in our sinful history – the mass deportations in early June 1940 by the Soviet Secret Police, the NKVD, of at least 100,000 Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians of both sexes and of all ages, including infants in arms, to slave labour camps in Siberia and elsewhere in the Soviet Union. I had to speak shortly in Lithuanian and at greater length in English. This was rather an onerous task at my age but I did my best and I hope not in vain.
I vastly enjoyed the stupendous hospitality of the Lithuanians in that city. It has to be experienced to be believed. We are sending strong resolutions to the heads of the Western Governments briefed to attend those "summit" bleatings at Geneva next month. In them, we emphasised the dangerous and amoral fallacy of "peaceful co-existence" with the monolithic thugs and gangsters of the Communist world. Not that these protests will have any practical effect – in my view at any rate. Nonetheless it’s imperative that we place ourselves on record. Meanwhile a complete conspiracy of silence broods over our precious home press and Parliament as far as the tragic fate of those forgotten millions is concerned.
(Sep. 2, 1955)
I am pleased to hear your favourable report on Ishikawa, whose name and fame originally percolated through to me via Malcolm Gregory, whose chief instructor he was during Greg’s judo training in Dai Nippon. Greg even lived with him for quite awhile before his departure. So soon after his arrival in California Ishikawa looked Greg up at the Los Angeles Athletic Club, and tried hard to persuade Greg to accompany him on a judo tour of the States and South America. Personally I’m not at all surprised that Greg wouldn’t yield to Ishikawa’s blandishments, having become far too closely attached to his local surroundings and its numerous material and cultural amenities. In many ways Gregory has outgrown the Japanese chapter of his personal odyssey and although he must still rely upon his judo qualifications for a livelihood he now prefers to devote most of his leisure to omnivorous reading and the further cultivation of his quite exceptional musical tastes. Like myself he has become bored to the verge of tears by the almost non-stop preposterous claims advanced by well-meaning but undiscriminating enthusiasts seeking to interpret judo not only as the most wonderful and ethical sport in the world but also as a unique philosophy, obedience to whose basic principles must sooner or later transform its disciples into something not far removed from the status of a superman. As doubtless you yourself have noticed such claims are closely associated with the concept of the MICHI (invariably printed in capital letters) which the disciple is adjured to follow if he sincerely wishes to join the serried ranks of the elect. In California, poor Gregory has been subjected to such a surfeit of this brand of piffle that he found even Ishikawa’s presence and conversation somewhat tiresome.
Kenshiro Abe has recently created a system called EN-SHIN-DO "with a valid ethical-philosophic-practical base". DO is of course the Sinico-Japanese reading of the pure Japanese form michi, but without the other kanji it’s hard to say what EN-SHIN means. The only two readings of the form given in my dictionary are "centrifugal" and "the centre of a circle". In any case I’m hardly so credulous as to take the new system seriously.
I haven’t so far met him in the flesh, but from a young correspondent whom I rate as one of the most intelligent, courteous, and appreciative of any, Lowe by name, not yet eighteen years old, I learn that he cut a rather poor figure as an instructor at the recent judo summer school. He went on the mat without donning complete judogi, and Lowe tells me that most of his throws were counters, and that his demonstrations of uchikomi were nothing like so satisfactory as those of I. Morris, a Budokwai 2nd Dan of long standing. Ichiro Abe, a 6th Dan living in Belgium, is personally known to me and is assuredly a first-rate performer on the mat. He must be considerably younger than K. Abe. Of course without seeing K. Abe at work it would not be fair for me to cite Lowe’s opinion as conclusive.
The Fighting Spirit is to appear in October. Belasco has devised quite a striking jacket for it but the fate of the revised version will depend upon its contents. Experts will doubtless detect shortcomings and deplore omissions, but with the data at my disposal I did the best I could. I am prepared to accept the verdict of my future readers in a philosophical spirit which has nothing to do with the overworked MICHI!
Sorry to say that the Harrisonai are just now passing through a decidedly nasty patch. A lot of dry rot has come to light in this guesthouse of ours upon which we rely for our livelihood, and the prospective cost of getting rid of it and making the blasted residence "weather-worthy" (or shall we say watertight?) may very well land us in the red seeing that our sterling resources are wholly inadequate to defray it. Belasco has been more than kind in letting me have an advance on my future royalties well ahead of the due date, but the amount in question is much too small to meet the bill. I plan to approach two organisations of which I am a life member, viz., the British Legion and the Newspaper Press Fund, for additional aid but I cannot be certain that they will stump up more than a negligible proportion of the grand total. I should say that nowhere else in the so-called civilised world is the ownership of house property (we are merely leaseholders) fraught with such onerous responsibilities and overhead charges as in our jocund Welfare State. Then, too, my wife has just undergone a minor operation and isn’t feeling any too well in consequence. Verily it never rains but it pours.
(Oct. 10, 1955)
The revised edition of The Fighting Spirit of Japan came out today. I haven’t yet had my complementary copies but by the merest chance a friend somehow got hold of an advance copy which I inspected yesterday. Speaking quite objectively I feel bound to say that as regards paper, binding, and to a lesser degree printing it isn’t a patch on the original edition published by the late Fisher Unwin at half the price. Also it contains only 250 pages as against 350 in the Unwin edition. In this connexion it has to be noted that whereas in the Unwin edition there are only about 31 or 32 lines to the page, in the Foulsham edition there are 42 and of course many more words to the line as a result of the far narrower margin. Nevertheless judged by present-day standards both paper and typography will doubtless rank as first-class.
The jacket to this new edition is certainly effective with a samurai depicted in full war panoply as the centrepiece. Of course when the Unwin edition came out such vulgarities were unknown but today they are almost universal. Unfortunately some smart Alec whose identity is unknown to me took it upon himself to add an extra blurb entirely without my knowledge just underneath the picture. I don’t suppose the average reader will detect the confusion of epitaphs of which it is guilty but I’ll bet my bottom dollar that you will! Again, some other if not the same idiot has had the colossal nerve to monkey with my new preface. Not only has what I considered an effective turn of phrase been excised, but also he has substituted for my finale one of his own that culminates in a fatuous non sequitur. These changes have been made after I had corrected and returned the proofs. Can you imagine such discourtesy?
Belasco himself was unaware of the imbecile addition to the jacket blurbs and may even be ignorant of this further tampering with my text. He has all along been so decent in his treatment of me that I’m loath to cause any friction but shall certainly lodge a polite protest after receipt of my complimentary copies. But there was one other occasion when I had to put my flat foot down. Believe it or not, they were planning to publish my colossal Aida translation and amplification without my name as translator and editor! I raised such a rumpus that they dropped this monstrous plan like a red-hot potato and now everything in the garden is lovely. Actually I’m dealing with the proofs at my leisure because publication will not take place earlier than May or June next year. This work runs to more than 280 pages without the index which I have yet to compile – a hell of a job as doubtless you know. I suppose my Peace or War index is the most ambitious effort of my long and misspent life.
In your letter you mention Kawaishi’s Self Defence. I take it that this is the French edition? As coincidence will have it, Gailhat, the versatile yudansha and artist, has sent me a complimentary copy of this terrific work with his friendly greetings but no other comment. I at once notified Belasco and he asked me to pass it on to him, which I have done. So the chances are that he will take the necessary steps to obtain Kawaishi’s permission for an English rendering by me. This may prove a longer and rather more difficult job than the translation of his Judo Method. Whether or not Belasco will commission me to write the story of my life will largely depend upon the success or otherwise of the new Fighting Spirit. So nous verrons. In any case I opine that a translation of Kawaishi’s Self Defence would have to be given priority.
I saw Geoffrey Gleeson not long ago at the Budokwai. He certainly looked in the pink. He’s a busy man seeing that in the daytime he’s studying Japanese at the Oriental College for his final diploma and in the evenings is teaching at the Budokwai. Everybody there was very friendly, and the leaflets of my various books as also the flamboyant jacket of The Fighting Spirit are being prominently displayed on the club’s notice board.
Poor Trevor Leggett is recovering from an attack of jaundice and looked much the worse for wear. His newly grown beard is flecked with grey and that made him look far older than his actual age.
I haven’t heard from Greg in well over a month. After disposing of this screed I propose to write one to him to find out if all is well with him. In our fortuitous age one never can tell what may befall us from day to day or even hour to hour.
(Jan. 29, 1956)
The impact of that dry rot horror I reported in a recent letter has all but landed our alarmingly diminishing bank account in the red. Prate as the Confucian "superior person" may about the power of the human mind to alleviate mundane worries, actual experience of our current brand of corrosive financial difficulties suffices to give the lie to what I greatly fear our mutual friend Greg would brutally (or shall I say "emblematically"?) define as "bullshit".
It is indeed lucky for me that before this calamity befell us I had already completed my revision of The Fighting Spirit of Japan and that even more exacting job of translating the Aida book on judo. Had either or both of them coincided with the appalling upheaval occasioned by these structural alterations and the presence of two builders "from morn till dewy eve" for months on end, concentration on those exacting commissions would have been well nigh impossible. Now at least we know the words and have the house more or less to ourselves.
In the wake of those alarums and excursions a lull has set in on the home front. In some ways it is none too welcome since it means less revenue for the Harrisonai. Apart from a few odds and ends of Lithuanian translation, revision of English articles for a Baltic quarterly called East and West at Grub Street rates, and literally occasional shillings for Polish translations which I undertake in collaboration with a Polish colleague, no filthy lucre to speak of has accrued to us from the outside for some months now.
Belasco is awaiting Kawaishi’s consent to my doing a curtailed translation of his My Method of Self Defence. Nothing definite yet has been decided under this head.
As regards The Fighting Spirit of Japan, it is true that although several highly favourable reviews have appeared in the provincial (but not the metropolitan) press, sales are lagging, not more at the moment than about 800 copies. Personally I’m convinced that Belasco was most ill-advised to fix the retail price at 25 shillings instead of, say 21. Now when it is too late perhaps he has arrived at the same conclusion!
In the purely personal sphere my most interesting item of news is my "promotion" to the grade of 4th Dan. This "honour" was conferred upon me on January 7, 1956. The occasion was the Japanese Ambassador’s ceremonial opening of the Budokwai Dojo for the year. I hadn’t beforehand quite made up my mind whether or not to attend the ceremony but a few days before the appointed date Gunji Koizumi rang me up and expressed the hope that I would turn up which I promised to do. The Dojo was pretty well filled but with enough mat space left for the afternoon’s programme to be staged. I had no inkling whatsoever of what was in the wind and was really startled when Koizumi from the ambassadorial dais called out my name and asked me to approach. When I did so he announced that in recognition of my "services to judo" the grading committee had decided to award me the 4th Dan (to be confirmed in due course by the Kodokan). The new black belt signifying the promotion was then handed to me by the Japanese Ambassador who shook hands with me and congratulated me on my preferment. All that was left to me was to make one of my best courtly bows and briefly to express my thanks for this "honour".
The judo programme was in the hands of Gleeson, Palmer, Leggett, and some others with Koizumi looking on from his seat next to the Ambassador. All he did was some randori with a kid in his teens. Both Gleeson and Palmer greatly impressed me. Palmer, now about 23 or 24, I think, has returned from Japan a 4th Dan, like Gleeson, but enormously more muscular and heavier than when he left these shores three years ago. Although not more, I’d say, then five feet nine or so in height he scales more than 14 stone (about 196 pounds avoirdupois), with atlantean shoulders and massive thighs and calves. He wears an 18-inch collar. Both he and Gleeson experienced no difficulty in throwing one after the other in quick succession the members of the customary two-team contest that wound up the proceedings; this meant some fourteen or fifteen opponents for each of them.
I have a hunch, old man, that you won’t be surprised to hear that this belated and by no means over-generous award of 4th Dan leaves me cold. At this late date I could have cheerfully dispensed with it "for the duration", when, as the poet says, "the grave doth gape and doting death is near. Therefore exhale!"
Rather significantly some weeks earlier when I first met Charley Palmer at the Budokwai shortly after his return from Japan, he informed me in strict confidence that the Kodokan powers-that-be had sounded him before his departure on the subject of my promotion and had asked him to ascertain my views on it. I then told Palmer that while I had no desire to be promoted by the Budokwai I should certainly appreciate a higher Dan conferred by my old Alma Mater. Of course no particular Dan was ever mentioned but I was virtually sure that after all these years it would not have been lower than a 5th. But now of course whether wittingly or unwittingly Koizumi has forestalled any move from that quarter and so I must be content to bear my blushing honours thick upon me until the inevitable hour.
Making the best of a bad job, however, I have notified Belasco of this development. He has already made arrangements to have "4th Dan" substituted for "3rd Dan" on the title page of the Aida book, publication of which is scheduled for May or thereabouts. Presumably future editions (if any) of my other books will be similarly amended. So much for this egotistical interlude.
I must correct your erroneous impression that Kenshiro Abe, 7th Dan, is attached to the Budokwai. Actually he is the prize packet of the London Judo Society, which after the Budokwai is the largest and best-equipped dojo in Great Britain. Some idea of his grotesque mentality can be deduced from a photograph of himself that he has widely circulated in these confines since his arrival in the UK. In this print he is shown clad in an ill-fitting boiler suit, his scanty locks unkempt, and holding in his left hand a huge card on which in his own handwriting is featured the following cryptic message to a wondering world all agog to receive this unique revelation: "Judo is a way of life. We must to select No. 1 of way of life of human being. Judo lesson alway necessary gentle and softness of moving. I think sure No. 1 of life there are in circular movement as sun center and many star moveing all way. Judo best of strength is throu use strength of contestants." So now, dear boy, you know!
Doubtless you will have read in the Budokwai Bulletin Koizumi’s report of Abe’s decidedly eccentric behaviour at the Bisham Abbey summer school. There he distinguished himself by dishing out Dan grades to all and sundry (in a Pickwickian sense), and more than once was seen to be "off-balance" on the mat under the impact of "hot and rebellious liquors" in his blood. Of course having got him Eric Dominy and George Chew must make the best of him. Be careful not to confuse K. Abe, 7th Dan, with Ichiro Abe, 6th Dan, of Belgium. The latter is a much younger man, a handsome Japanese, and from the little I have seen of him in action at the Albert Hall a splendid performer.
Perhaps inevitably at my time of life some of the resilience of my erstwhile interest in the "gentle way" has oozed out of my cerebellum, and give way to my preoccupation with the life and death struggle with those foul and foetid foes of "civilised" mankind, the Communists. In particular I am concerned with the tragic lot of the Lithuanians and the other two Baltic peoples. The comparative ease with which these Kremlin thugs and sub-humans can almost at will bamboozle quite a big section of the inhabitants of these isles is simply staggering and must be seen on the spot to be believed. We refuse to be insulted and the more verbal kicks Messrs. Bulganin and Kruschchev land on one cheek of our silly backsides the more eagerly we proffer the other cheek for similar treatment. It’s an old English custom, methinks. And when, as now seems fairly certain, those two bloodstained malefactors visit us in April the cups of tea they will be called upon to quaff and the addresses of welcome they’ll have to acknowledge may well baffle computation. "Whom the gods wish to destroy," etc. At the present rate we are losing the Cold War upon almost all fronts. In the absence of any coherent, well-thought out plan we are reduced to the pitiful role of "semi-despondent furies" rushing madly hither and thither from one spot to another on the periphery or perimeter trying to extinguish local conflagrations kindled by Soviet agents and hirelings. What a game! And the end is not yet, not by a long chalk. Nor do I opine that I am destined to witness it.
However, in the interim I am not insensible to the appeal of judo as a kind of escapism. And while Greg was here life for me wasn’t devoid of zest. His departure has left me without a single congenial male friend to take his place. But in his absence I find Charley Palmer a very fine lad indeed. We had him over the other day for tea in connexion with my need for some information on the cost of living in Japan and other details required by one of my fans, a young fellow named Hart, at present working in Kenya but desperately eager to get to Japan to prosecute his judo studies to the point of a black belt. He is only a Budokwai 3rd Kyu. Palmer very kindly furnished me with the necessary information for transmission to Hart.
Palmer is obviously a youth of good breeding. His physical presence is, as already intimated, most impressive. Outside the Budokwai he is teaching judo at the rate of a pound per hour and is evidently doing very well along those lines. I think he really enjoyed his visit and certainly did ample justice to the tea and cake served up by my wife! She too shared my liking for the braw laddie. He is going to buy a copy of The Fighting Spirit and then get me to autograph it. He made excellent use of his stay in Dai Nippon and now speaks and reads Japanese with facility. Gleeson ditto.
Greg wrote some time ago that he was contemplating matrimony but has since – wisely in my opinion – abandoned the idea. He plans shortly to embark upon a further stage of his earthly Odyssey, perhaps to revisit Japan and then carry on to other fields and pastures new. He is leading a very full and colourful life, both physical and intellectual, reading omnivorously and listening to the best classical music, his love of which he shares with us. One should avoid the one-track mind. Don’t you agree?
(Oct. 29, 1956)
Our mutual friend John Wilson of Chicago has again taken up the threads of our correspondence. I must say that his letters reflect an attractive and virile personality while his photograph taken while in the act of demonstrating a hadakajime on one of his victims reveals him to be a good-looking fellow. He is evidently leading the kind of life he loves as a judo instructor and teacher too of bayonet fighting in the Marine Reserves. His last letter to me contained a generous and really eloquent tribute to my modest services in the cause of judo, i.e., the printed word. I must confess that as I read this appreciation I felt moved almost to the point of "piping the lachrymal glands". I shall certainly file his missive among the family archives.
He asked me in his letter, as a personal favour, to write a letter to his friend Al Holtmann of the Southern California School of Judo and Jujutsu. He stocks most of books and has told John that already he has sold upwards of 2,000 of them. I lost no time in complying with John’s request and hope that my letter was to Holtmann’s liking!
John also tells me that he was recently in California. During his tour he visited Los Angeles but unfortunately was not then aware of Gregory’s address at the Los Angeles Athletic Club and so failed to meet him. But he quotes at some length your feeling description of Greg’s prowess in groundwork, more especially that he resembled on octopus on the mat with what seemed like four arms and four legs, and that when he done toying with you there wasn’t a moving part in your body. You weren’t just pinned, you were nailed to the tatami! Naturally I shall quote this part of John’s letter in my next letter to Greg together with his tribute to myself. I know quite well beforehand that Greg will lap up both excerpts with avidity.
You may be mildly interested to hear that a new quarterly judo journal has now made its appearance. It is published by Judo Limited, 91 Wellesley Road, Croydon, Surrey. Editors G. A. Edwards and A. R. Menzies, Technical Adviser, T. P. Leggett. In their prospectus they feature as prospective collaborators Koizumi, Harrison, and Leggett in that order and plan to include me as a leading judo "personality" in the wake of GK [Gunji Koizumi, founder of the Budokwai].
The initial issue contains some excellent material, notably an article on basic principles of judo by Leggett. P. S. Porter [Ed.: e.g., Phil Porter], Captain USAF, writes on judo in the USA, Richard Bowen on judo organisation in Tokyo, and Leggett again on contest glimpses. Some 47 pages in all. I’ve taken out a year’s subscription as a friendly gesture. If later I can think of something to write about I shall try to oblige them but can no longer, I fear, hope to keep pace with budding writers of the younger generation who enjoy the advantage of deriving their knowledge, both empirical and theoretical, from practice and observation on the good old mat. Still, figuring in the role of purveyor of the knowledge of others, I have just completed the typing of my latest translation, Kawaishi’s Les Katas Complets de Judo. This little job has taken me all of two months, averaging perhaps six hours a day. Including the illustrations by Gailhat my script totals 280 or more pages. Belasco has promised me £100 and I am now awaiting a telephone message appointing a date for my delivery of the goods and, I devoutly hope, collection of my "renoomeration", as a famous town councillor of the old Vancouver was wont to say. I still have to correct the proofs of my condensed version of Kawaishi’s other work, My Method of Self Defence, for which too I have to make an index.
I wonder whether you agree with me that Gailhat’s drawings are often more than a little crude and lacking in clarity? Nevertheless on the whole Kawaishi’s description of the seven katas will prove a valuable addition to the judo bibliography.
Greg sent me rather a vague account of his experiences in Cuba with Ishikawa. He said that Ishikawa seemed to have aged appreciably since their last meeting and most of the time was morose and taciturn. Also his waza lacked its whilom dynamism. Meanwhile Greg continues to be absorbed in omnivorous reading, and writing. All in all a very happy man.
(Feb. 20, 1956)
It may interest you to hear that Belasco has commissioned me to grind out a drastically curtailed English version of Kawaishi’s Ma Méthodé de Self-Défense, a sort of companion volume to his My Method of Judo with which I have already dealt. The original French text runs to over 380 pages but His Nibs wants me to reduce this tome to little more than 96 pages (sides)! This means that allowing one side for the illustration itself only about 50 sides at the very outside would be left for the letterpress. And yet he wants to sell such a book for at least 9 shillings 6 pence, and probably 12 shillings 6 pence! My Manual, approximately double the size, sells at 9 shillings 6 pence. Where is the sense of proportion in such planning?
Anyhow, I have devoted more than a weekend to a very careful examination of the text and have reached the conclusion that he will be a veritable Peter Schlemihl if he refuses to expand the translation considerably and insists upon adherence to his first intention. I have written to him in this sense but of course far more discreetly because as the result of my examination of the text I am convinced that a more generous version would appeal to a wide circle of aspiring judoka. Kawaishi’s final section of atemi alone runs to about 93 pages and in my opinion his exposition of this all-important branch of the art is the best. Certainly it is the most comprehensive and lavishly illustrated of any known to me, at any rate in any European language.
Some of Kawaishi’s techniques are positively fiendish and would be a veritable godsend (?) to every self-respecting thug and plug-ugly conversant with the English language! And now that our sloppy parliamentary idealists have decreed the abolition of capital punishment these paladins of the underworld will be fairly clamouring for knowledge of just this kind to enable them to cope more effectively with our upholders of law and order. Few things better calculated to encourage knowledge of this kind among our enterprising criminal classes could be conceived than our abolition of the death penalty. Personally I am strongly in favour of getting rid of our truly barbarous method of hanging and also for restricting execution to those guilty of the foulest kinds of premeditated murder. I would, however, extend some other less ghoulish type of elimination to persons guilty of cruelty to both children and animals and could I have my way I’d cheerfully include most vivisectionists and votaries of our atrocious blood sports! But what a hope!
Anyway, I must now await Belasco’s final ruling on the book. The non-atemi part of the book contains many traumatic counters not found in any other work that I know of. For his original scheme Belasco was willing to pay me only £50 but with the proviso that for every new edition he would add £20. Not what you’d call a princely remuneration but then beggars cannot be choosers.
If, as I feel sure you share with me the conviction that not even judo is the be-all and the end-all of life, then you are probably interested in this truly dastardly visit in April of those two bloodstained malefactors "Bulge" and "Krush". [EN2] I stand aghast at the poltroonery masquerading as "statesmanship" responsible for this descensus Averni or more mildly the monolithic imbecility of [Prime Minister Anthony] Eden & Co. With the monstrous decision to require the Queen to receive those ruffians and to smile sweetly upon them we would appear to have reached the nadir of national abasement. If only the queen had the moral guts to refuse emphatically to sully her hands with this unsavoury and malodorous greeting! Let us however hope that the instant those bastards cease to pollute the atmosphere with their foul presence she will rush to the nearest available toilet and there disinfect her hands with the strongest possible solution. Active steps are now being taken to organize mass protests against this visit and to demonstrate publicly when B and K appear in public – if they do. We Harrisonai are signing a petition to Parliament on this score on behalf of the Balts and other enslaved peoples. To all intents and purposes our press has gagged unofficial correspondence on the subject, and two of my own letters have been merely acknowledged but not printed.
(Apr. 25, 1956)
When I read your remark that my Ground was being published in the United States by Sterling Publishers I got quite a jolt. Under the terms of my agreements with Foulshams, in the event of any of my books being published in the USA I am entitled to 50 percent of the proceeds. Therefore I lost no time in getting in touch with the braw Belasco, who was equally prompt in letting me know that the work in question is not being published but merely handled by the firm you mention. He assured me that if and when any American publisher brought out a purely American edition of any of my books Foulshams would not fail to honour their agreement with me.
Since we last exchanged letters Belasco’s only son Ronald has gone back to New York. There he should long ere this have arranged with some reputable New York house to handle my revised Fighting Spirit of Japan. In this context I may report that the revised version has had some quite complimentary notices in the home press but not yet in any leading metropolitan rag. The Glasgow Herald, an important provincial daily, gave it much more than a column. Of course, from the outset we have not been banking on big sales but rather on a steadily growing demand for the book in both hemispheres. In my opinion the retail price of 25 shillings for a book of 250 pages or some 85,000 words is a bit steep but Belasco tells me emphatically that on the basis of rising costs even after the lapse of only a few months since its publication he couldn’t afford to publish it at less than 30 shillings! However, when these figures are converted into your high-grade currency the retail price on your side will be only a bagatelle. So we must possess our alleged souls in patience and abide the issue. I must confess that I was sorry to have to scrap so much of the original material, but Belasco was insistent and needs must, etc.
My translation (with additions) of Hikoichi Aida’s important book, which we have entitled Kodokan Judo, has seen the light. My name as translator and editor is featured on the jacket in letters not very much smaller than those assigned to the author, and we were able to add to it my new rating as 4th Dan. With my glossary and index the book runs to 280-odd pages and contains about 82,000 words. The line drawings must number about 300. Apart from Mifune’s huge book and the Kodokan’s official work in English I fancy my Aida version must be among the more comprehensive efforts on the market. And already I’ve had several letters of appreciation from English correspondents. The original Japanese text was guilty of many curious omissions of major techniques that I had to make good from other authoritative Japanese sources. Then too the text fairly bristled with misprints and confusion between "lefts" and "rights". Even so I have no doubt that later expert scrutiny by non-Japanese yudansha will bring to light sundry bloomers for which I bleat "Peccavi" in advance. ‘Twas ever thus.
Greg will be off to Cuba in June to join his old teacher Ishikawa for a season. He tells me he now scales 185 pounds, and has been getting into hard training for the trip. In all respects he seems to be on top of the world. Most of his leisure is devoted to omnivorous reading of poetry and belles-lettres. I may have told you before that his memory is amazing and although he ruefully admits that he cannot hope to vie with our great Macaulay in the domain of mnemonics he has experienced no great difficulty in memorising the whole of the first part of Dryden’s translation of the Aeneid and sundry speeches from Shakespeare. He has paid me the compliment of asking my advice on various points and it was I who earnestly advised him to read Macaulay, in my opinion our greatest stylist.
To such an extent did Greg not so long ago become engrossed in this quest for Kultur that he began to feel disillusionment with judo and all its works. Later, however, this mood softened and he is now happily able to combine his professional duties with the private pursuit of his cultural objectives.
Music is another of his ruling passions and he avails himself of every chance to listen to the classics. I may have mentioned before that he has a fine baritone voice. Had he elected to have it trained properly he might well have won distinction on the concert platform or perhaps, with the help of his impressive physical presence, even on the operatic stage.
Wisely, in my opinion, he thought better of his recent matrimonial plans. The maiden of his fancy would not agree to accompany him on his projected travels, and he recalled in time the Baconian aphorism, "He that hath wife and children hath given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief." Even though that sweeping assertion can be largely controverted by a citation of some of the most illustrious names in history, alike ancient and modern, yet with taxation and the cost of living at their present day level, when it comes to mobility and the adventurous life "a young man married is a young man marred." From latest indications Greg ain’t likely to become a Benedick for may years to come, if then.
I attended the Budokwai’s 39th annual display at the Albert Hall on March 31. All in all it is fair to pronounce it a big success. The hall was crowded. An excellent innovation was the substitution of ground level matting for the platform heretofore used on these occasions. The drawback of this was the frequency with which performers used to fall over the edge and thus continually hold up the action. From the evening’s showing I am inclined to rate young Palmer as a more formidable yudansha than Gleeson, and it was he who was chosen to dispose of ten black belts of the Budokwai towards the close of the programme. True, he did not succeed in this arduous task with quite the same facility as 6th Dan Japanese who have in the past thrown that number in under three minutes but he nonetheless discharged it in a highly creditable manner for a 4th Dan. If you haven’t seen Palmer in the flesh I may mention that although not more than, say, five feet nine inches in height, he scales 14 stone and a bit stripped, i.e., over 196 pounds, with a 46-inch chest and an 18-inch neck. His calves and thighs fairly bulge. He plans to return to Japan a year or so hence for further training. In his contest with a yudansha of the French Racing Club de France team, a good head taller, he drew and throughout the tussle displayed, I thought, a more aggressive spirit. In other respects he has an agreeable personality and bears the hallmarks of good breeding. He is without doubt the top-ranking non-Japanese yudansha in England today. The team of the 7th Air Division Strategic Air Command, USAF, had no chance whatever in the contests with either the French team or our own Budokwai bunch. Thus in their contest with the latter, with one exception (a draw), they were all thrown in swift succession, and the Budokwai team beat the French by one point. The expert tuition given during some two years by the Japanese 6th Dan Kawamura is beginning to bear fruit.
One outstanding Budokwai 2nd Dan, Young by name, threw his French opponent with a truly devastating uchimata. He’s a big fellow and should go far. But as regards the first international to be held in Tokyo in May, I should say the victory for the Japanese is a foregone conclusion. As Greg writes, "Do these imbecile organisers actually consider that their representatives are going to put up a show against a contingent comprising say Yoshimatsu, Natsui, Daigo, Hirosai, Osawa and a veritable host of other GIANTS equally as formidable as the above? Vanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas. Give me leave to vomit, E.J."
Perhaps you won’t be surprised to hear that owing to the current pollution of the atmosphere of this fair isle by the presence of those bloody bastards Bulganin and Khrushchev, whom I have coarsely renamed Bullshit and Krapp (!), my own thoughts and to some extent activities have been divorced from judo to the domain of what the immortal Count Smorltolk dubbed "politics". It is at any rate gratifying to my senile conceit to observe that the obscene fiasco we are now witnessing merely confirms what I and my Lithuanian friends had prognosticated when Eden at the ill-starred Geneva conference was so foolish as to invite these gory gangsters to visit us in April. It passes our comprehension how a person of his diplomatic training could ever have expected any worthwhile result from heart-to-heart yappings with a couple of mass murderers. They have all along until the last minute been at special pains to demonstrate their hatred of this country and their determination to do everything in their power to ruin us. How on earth could anybody familiar with these damning facts formulate therefrom an inductive policy seeking with any likelihood of success "peaceful coexistence" with such a satanic regime, even at the loathsome price of abandonment to their tragic fate of the millions groaning under the communist yoke behind the Iron Curtain? Those who share my views, and they must run into many millions, even though minority millions, can but rejoice that these blood-bespattered miscreants have not been slow to show the cloven hoof and to submit demands which no self-respecting government could possibly entertain.
I do hope you have read in your press some account of the truly terrific rag staged by the students at Oxford some days ago. I rather imagine that the haunting refrain of "Poor old Joe" will for many moons ring in the ears of B. and K., and that in their minds’ eye hereafter the legend printed in large letters that "Big Brother is watching you" will linger even longer.
Apart from that, the demeanour of the London and provincial crowds has from the first to last been cold and reserved, with negligible exceptions. By way of contrast, the marvellous mass demonstration on Sunday by thousands of Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, and Ukrainians that culminated at the Cenotaph where the Polish General Anders laid a wreath, evoked a veritable ovation from at least 40,000 spectators assembled there to greet it. The petition handed in at 10 Downing Street was signed by something like 60,000 persons.
Some days ago I attended a press conference at Lithuanian House. The president of the Lithuanian Association in Great Britain, one Bajorinas, presided with conspicuous success. Some fifty correspondents of leading papers were present and their entire attitude was friendly and sympathetic.
The Lithuanian weekly here, "Europos Lietuvis", will shortly be printing the story of my sacerdotal life. After that I expect to be asked to give a recording of my dulcet tones in Lithuanian for broadcasting, by special request, behind the Iron Curtain to Lithuanians in their native land now under the foul yoke of the Reds. So much for that.
Most of my youthful illusions have gone by the board at this late date in my life. Hard facts have made me a pessimist and I cannot agree with Panglosse that everything is for the best in "this best of all possible worlds". I have no belief in survival after death nor can I persuade myself that with such a lamentable record we humans deserve it. The late Colonel Ingersoll wasn’t far wrong when he opined that an honest God was the noblest work of man. And belief in survival seems to me to be based on our colossal human conceit. There seems to me to be more inductive justification for poor old Macbeth’s conclusion that life "is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing". Thoughts, perchance, emanating from a course of Young’s "Night Thoughts", Harvey on "The Tomb", and Drelincourt on "Death"!
Outside the orbit of my chosen friends, among whom I rejoice to include your noble self, the more I see of some humans the more I love my cats! By and large is not the dumb creation much more beautiful and infinitely less destructive than mankind? So, while I may sustain interest in events and pleasure in communion with the elite in literature, art, and to a lesser degree science, my future is now in the past.
(Jun. 17, 1956)
I expect that long before you receive this screed you’ll have heard from Belasco. When I saw him some days ago and allowed him to read your letter he almost there and then summoned one of his lady secretaries and dictated to her a letter to you, the Leitmotiv of which was a request that you should send him as soon as possible a copy of Kenji Tomiki’s new book on judo [Ed.: Judo. Tokyo: Japan Travel Bureau, 1956]. Now with the top dogs in the judo hierarchy catching the cacoëthes scribendi in this virulent form and even transmuting their valuable instruction at first hand into English I can hear myself muttering sotto voce, "Farewell! Othello’s occupation’s gone!" Seriously I feel now that I have sung my swan song as far as judo dope is concerned. Physically divorced from the mat as I am bound to be at my age I have nothing new to contribute to the rapidly increasing capital stock of judo literature and no longer feel equal to the task of translating from Japanese originals. Deciphering badly printed ideographs imposes rather too much strain upon my ancient and deteriorating vision.
My latest effort in that line, namely Hikoichi Aida’s book that Foulshams have already issued under the style of Kodokan Judo, will be my last. Is it yet available at your end? If you like I shall be happy to send you an autographed copy. Sales to date verge on a thousand, I believe.
Regarding Kawaishi’s Self Defence, my drastically curtailed translation is in Belasco’s hands. He doesn’t intend to publish it for some months yet. Unfortunately I was obliged to cut down the English version to little more than a third of the original because Belasco did not feel justified in risking another 18 shilling book on the lines of my full translation of Kawaishi’s My Method of Judo. He plans to sell the English version at not more than 9 shillings 6.
In this context, it seems that of all my books The Manual of Judo is, on the basis of sales, the most popular. My last half-year’s royalties were the best to date and came in the nick of time to cushion the nasty jolt we Harrisonai received from the dry rot horror. Even so we live laborious days in this dreary dump "ever and anon" subjugated to the tender ministrations of Big Brother Bloodsucker, alike local and central who, like the poor, are ever with us. It is now crystal clear that the sinister process of wiping out the middle classes is well under way. In this respect governmental policy seems to be bipartisan. "Strange that such difference should be twixt Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee." Also "a plague o’ both your houses!"
At the moment my red and swollen proboscis is glued to the grindstone of a simply shocking German Photostat text of some 30,000 words. I have been commissioned to translate it for a certain Lithuanian organisation in Toronto. I’m not very strong in German and to make matters worse the author’s style is about the most complicated and difficult I’ve ever come across, an inference which is confirmed by an ex-Censorship colleague who is virtually bilingual. Nor do I expect to be paid anything like an economic fee for my pains.
Thanks for your news about the judo matches in Tokyo. I had already heard about Natsu but your additional details are most welcome. I also received today a letter from Greg in Havana.
Speaking of which, Belasco vastly enjoyed your letter, especially the last paragraph about Ishikawa’s experience in Cuba. [Ed.: Said Smith: "Rounding out gossip I may tell of Ishikawa’s first week in Cuba. It is his practice to take falls without end at the beginning of any new class. And so he did there. Everyone threw him easily. Unknown to him, the black belts got to grumbling about the ‘old man they sent us who can’t throw’ and even began a signature petition to be sent Japan for his recall. Ishikawa finally got wind of it and the next day took down the total judo population of Cuba without undue effort."] What morons the local judoka must be not to know that every high-ranking yudansha always falls when bouting with mudansha whenever in his judgement the technique of the tyro would be adequate to throw an opponent of his pupil’s grading!
(Jul. 18, 1956)
I have been so deeply immersed in hackwork, ultimate payment for which seems problematical, that it is hard for me to adapt my diurnal timetable. I have only just got through a really shocking translation of at least 30,000 words of legalistic German jargon, the contents of a Photostat reproduction of a thesis on the Lithuanian-Polish dispute on Vilna which a certain Lithuanian savant named Anysas composed for his doctorate at Hamburg University in 1934. This translation was, for some cryptic reason, wanted by a Lithuanian organisation in Toronto yclept the Union of Lithuanians of the Vilna (Vilnius) Region. Although in answer to their inquiry I had frankly told them that I was far from strong in German they insisted that I should undertake the task. Apart from its innate difficulties this was made more irksome by the fact that the book was, as already mentioned, in the form of a Photostat. That is, white lettering on a black background. Perusal imposed a severe strain upon my ageing vision. The job took me nearly three months and the typescript ran to almost 120 pages. I’ve already mailed it to my principals and have modestly asked £75 for my pains.
On the heels of this commission and from the same principals I’ve received a second rush job in the shape of a translation. This time it’s from the Lithuanian language, 78 foolscap typewritten sheets on the History of Vilna by a Dr. Sapoka. Of course in comparison with the first named ordeal this task is child’s play, and for the most part my difficulties resolve themselves into the mental struggle of converting the very ancient syntactical locutions of the Lithuanian literary language into lucid English.
As soon as I’m through with this work I shall have to begin translation for Belasco of Kawaishi’s latest product, namely The Five Katas. Have you perchance seen it? Belasco has had the good sense to realise that in this case any abridgement would be fatuous and harmful, and so I must translate the text in toto for the reasonable fee of £100.
Quite irrespective of these specific commissions, I am obliged to help the better two-thirds with the daily shopping; co-operate with my Polish colleague in occasional translations mostly from Polish; revise the English of articles destined for publication in a quarterly called East and West, edited by a Baltic triumvirate composed of an Estonian, a Latvian, and a Lithuanian; and also at intervals translate a Lithuanian article for the same outfit. More rarely the Foreign Office, the War Office, and the Ministry of National Insurance call upon me for Lithuanian translations. Russian seems today almost moribund and at a discount. And translation work generally has been degraded to the hack category and is wretchedly paid – a veritable mug’s game well worthy of Grub Street. When in addition to all these demands upon my time and mental energy I have also to cope with a steady fan mail you will, I feel sure, realise that for this ‘ere Ancient of Days life is far removed from the dolce far niente of the hedonist and sybarite.
That brochure you sent on the translation of Mifune’s Canon makes hilarious reading. I took it along to show Belasco and he has hung on to it for reference. It does seem the acme of imbecility to spoil Mifune’s valuable book with such "English, as she is japped". The English of that other official Kodokan judo book may not be impeccable – I haven’t had a chance to scrutinise it – but I’m pretty sure it’s very much better than this Seibundo brand.
I mailed you some days ago an autographed copy of my Aida Kodokan Judo for your edification. It bids to sell well. Belasco junior told me, when I saw him with his father the other day, that they had just shipped a thousand copies to their Toronto office. Several fan correspondents have already written me letters of appreciation about the book.
The well-known publishers Herbert Jenkins Ltd. are printing a drastically revised version of Yerkow’s book on the katas that I vetted for them months ago. I gave them an objective report and albeit mindful of its shortcomings felt bound to state that if textually overhauled and terminologically standardised, it might sell reasonably well on the home market. A few other minor judo books passed by me for the same publishers (before I gave birth to my manual) have since confirmed my judgement. So the other day one T.W. Eagle, a director of the firm, called here to discuss a few small points of terminology in the book proofs and I let him have the Aida book for reference. Of course he has now known me for some years past. We had quite a long talk and finally, greatly to my surprise, he avowed himself so deeply impressed by some of my yarns that he plainly told me he would be willing seriously to consider the publication of my reminisces. It so happens that months ago, before the publication of the revised Fighting Spirit, I gave Belasco a fairly detailed synopsis of this material. I inferred at the time that his final decision would be largely determined by the sales of Fighting Spirit. Seeing that these have hitherto been far from spectacular, I have a hunch that His Nibs has pigeonholed the synopsis à la venue des Coquecigrues. But now after what Eagle has said to me I am in a somewhat embarrassing position because I’m damned certain that the moment I tell Belasco about Eagle’s approach he will promptly decide to handle my story. Thus vis-à-vis Eagle I shall appear in the light of playing one man off against the other. Of course discounting the factor of my tenuous tenure of existence there’s no desperate hurry since I shall have enough on my hands to keep me out of mischief for a good few moons to come. And but for Eagle’s intervention I should undoubtedly have abandoned all idea of inflicting my edifying chronicle upon a reading public already surfeited with similar pabulum. So we must possess our alleged souls in patience and await further developments.
That self defence conundrum [Ed.: Smith wrote Harrison to ask, "If you had six hours to teach a person of little athletic ability how to defend himself unarmed, with death as the second prize, how and what would you teach him?"] you’ve submitted to me for solution places me in a quandary. As a certain Babu [Ed.: British-educated Indian] is reported to have remarked sotto voce while watching an amateur Shakespearean performance, "You have omitted." But if I am allowed to assume that the person of little athletic ability has a spacious hinterland in his rear, is not surrounded by foes, and is being assailed only by one foe, then my advice to him would surely be to turn tail and run like hell! And I could give him this sage counsel in about six seconds instead of six hours! You say nowt about his opponent or opponents. Don’t forget: "A little learning is a dangerous thing:/Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring." Opposed to a competent judoka or seasoned plug-ugly your person of little athletic ability would be a bad insurance risk even if he had previously been coached for six hours by anybody, and would stand about as much chance of survival as a snowball in Hades.
I note that you ascribe the recent shift by the Kremlin gangsters to "shrewd thinking". Now while I agree that it does not emanate from military weakness I am convinced that the sequel will prove that Mr. Krapp has been guilty of perhaps the biggest political and psychological blunder yet perpetrated by Bolshevism. The earlier ones included: (1) the excommunication of Tito [EN3]; (2) the Berlin blockade [EN4]; and (3) the withdrawal of the Soviet delegation from the UN Security Council but for which Korea might very well today be wholly under the iron heel of Communism. And now this one. Why already its repercussions are visible and audible behind the Iron Curtain, as witness the Poznan drama [EN5]. And the end is not yet. The leaven is bound to spread and may conceivably leaven the lump. Of course Stalin was a moral monster but these howling jackals who are now trying to make us believe that they were not his willing and ardent accomplices are pygmies in comparison. The current spectacle of their desperate efforts to convince the gullible that Stalin alone was responsible for the Soviets’ appalling crimes is worthy only of contempt and loathing. Of course these bloody shits can now shoot off their jaws to the top of their bent secure in the knowledge that Stalin can no longer challenge or refute their ex parte piffle. "When the sands are all dry he’s as gay as a lark and will talk in contemptuous tones of the shark; but when the tide rises and sharks are around, his voice has a timid and tremulous sound."
Belief in the infallibility of the Kremlin oligarchy has no inductive basis and should be sternly resisted. Doubtless if they could confine the issue to conventional weapons our name would be Mudd, but they are well aware that an overt attack by them would inevitably be resisted through recourse to nuclear power and that a victory on either side would only be a Pyrrhic one. [EN6]
If they had been really so astute as some people think, they would have left well alone and sleeping dogs lie, and would then have been almost assured of an economic-cum-political triumph. Now, since their fatuous prattle about more freedom has started this ferment, they dare not concentrate all their energies on a full-scale economic war. Instead they will be obliged to divert ever more and more physical and mental vigilance to the arduous task of suppressing all further symptoms of popular unrest in the satellite countries.
Unfortunately this Kremlin bloomer appears likely to be offset by our own apparent inability to take advantage of it, and our seemingly rooted objection to the encouragement of discontent (rather than armed revolt) among the enslaved peoples. Thus in this country the obscene farce continues of cultivating closer and more friendly relations with endless visitors from Soviet Russia and the satellite states, most of whom are obviously carefully vetted Communist agents bent on subversive propaganda. Apparently many of our starry-eyed idealists cherish the delusion that first-hand acquaintance with our wondrous way of life will eventually soften the Bolsheviks’ hard hearts and so hasten the advent of brotherly love.
Although the USA has hitherto fought shy of analogous imbecility, our supreme blunder – to which Truman was largely contributory – was when we hearkened to Malik’s dulcet tones and agreed to a truce in Korea at a moment when the Chinese Reds were clearly bleeding to death. If only MacArthur had been given a free hand to smash the bastards in their hideout beyond the Yalu, the war might very well have been decided in our favour. [EN7] Then there is the suicidal policy of admitting ever more and more Communist states into the United Nations. If we finally give way to left wing clamour we may yet see Red China snugly ensconced as a full-blown member, unless the USA gives fair warning that in such event she will walk out of the crazy edifice worm-eaten with dry-rot. [EN8]
I feel moved to end on a somewhat despondent note. I am often depressed and infuriated in crimes not necessarily of violence but of fiendish cruelty to defenceless animals. If I could have my way, not only would I retain capital punishment, albeit in some other form than hanging, but I would extend it to include adults guilty of such crimes, all followers of blood sports (big-game hunters to boot), and vivisection scientists. On the other hand, to paraphrase the immortal W.S. Gilbert, "Many a murderer I’d restore to his friends and his relations." Yes, old man, the more I see of humans the more I love our cats!
(Dec. 4, 1956)
I’ve already attentively perused your article on "certain American shortcomings in physical matters" with the 16th Olympiad as its text. It held my interest from first to last, and this quite irrespective of whether or not I agreed with your conclusions in every particular. It does seem a pity that you could not find an editor sufficiently broad-minded and impartial to publish it.
Not yet knowing the complete results of the Melbourne contests [Editor: The 1956 Olympics] I’m unable to judge how far your pessimistic appraisement of America’s chances is justified. You were surely taking a bit of a risk when you instituted comparisons so uniformly adverse to America’s athletic superiority and so favourable to Russia’s. [EN9] But although you may be theoretically right in supporting the amateur status of the Russian athletes, from all we know at this end about Soviet methods – and several of my own acquaintances have decidedly unpleasant first-hand knowledge of this – we may take it for granted that in the process of selection of prospective champions the candidates are subjected to an iron physical as well as moral discipline which comparatively free country would for a moment tolerate. The effect of this discipline, backed up if need be by force, is that whatever the nominal status of the Russian athlete may be, his real status is 100 percent professional. The very best men and women humanly available in their respective specialities are chosen, and woe betides them if they fail to give of their best! Of course it also goes without saying that it is to the nominee’s personal advantage and safety to give of his best just as it is worthwhile for propaganda purposes for the Soviets’ vile regime to train its sports representatives to the utmost and at all times to keep them in clover as a specially privileged class.
How can you fairly compare the factors in this domain operative in the USSR and the USA? Talk about conditioning! From infancy to manhood the Soviet citizen is conditioned to realise that if he doesn’t do as he is told something damned disagreeable – and physically at that – will surely happen to him. On the other hand, the citizen of every Western democracy is in no such dread. Apart from moral and material (but not physical) suasion the amateur and professional sportsman has nothing to fear. He cannot, like his Soviet opposite number, be suddenly whisked off to some Arctic concentration camp for contumacy. In these circumstances an American victory would be disproportionately creditable to democratic methods. [EN10]
With such promising native raw material to work upon is it surprising that the organisers of the Soviet Olympic teams should succeed in producing impressive results? But if to equal or surpass them America or any other Western democracy must forfeit its freedom choice and voluntary submission to stern discipline (as boxer Rocky Marciano was always willing to do), then to hell with Soviet athletic superiority if and when it is conclusively demonstrated! After all, there are many other far more important values in life than the Olympiads. And what sane human being, without some special axe to grind, would voluntarily exchange the free and comfortable life of the average American citizen for the drab, dreary, horribly congested, and police-ridden existence of the dweller behind the Iron Curtain?
The West’s willingness to maintain not only diplomatic and business but also so-called "cultural" relations with the abominable Soviet regime becomes increasingly contemptible. It would take me too long to descant upon the current political situation in the wake of the Anglo-French capitulation at Suez. The one little country that has emerged with honour and distinction from the entire sorry business is Israel, whose magnificent and well-merited drubbing of the lousy Egyptians in the Sinai campaign has by the grotesque body known as the United Nations, as also – alas – by President Eisenhower himself been mendaciously designated "aggression". Yet why in the name of sanity Israel’s refusal to commit suicide merely to gratify the monstrous ego of our Manchester Guardian, The Observer, and The Economist, plus the senile vanity of the United Nations should be thus preposterously misrepresented the devil only knows. I candidly admit that I have little use for the United (?) Nations as it is presently constituted. The Assembly has already degenerated into an instrument for promoting anarchy and racial spite, and as Lord Hailsham has aptly said, "Much that the Assembly’s Afro-Asian group is putting forward under its authority at the present time is mere radicalism and nothing more."
The journal Judo issued by Judo Ltd. is a monthly whereas both the Budokwai Judo Bulletin and the London Judo Society’s Judo Review are quarterlies. The new journal Judo will shortly feature yours truly among "Judo Personalities". Some days ago it sent along a photographer to snap me in a would-be dignified pose seated at this table gazing sternly at a copy of my Fighting Spirit of Japan. Edwards, the editor, also intends to include some particulars of my missionary career culled from a copy of a synopsis that I prepared months ago for Belasco when the idea was mooted of publishing my memoirs. But although my modest judo books have been selling extremely well the sales of the revised Fighting Spirit are disappointing. I’ve no doubt that this fact has induced Belasco to pigeonhole the synopsis for the time being.
The Aida text yielded me £100 in royalties for the last half year – really a record.
Perhaps you’ve already heard that the projected European judo championships at Vienna had to be cancelled almost at a moment’s notice owing to the huge influx of refugees from Hungary. We had quite a strong team that might have given a good account. A pity.
Domestic worries tend to impair my morale. The wife is awaiting another operation, this time for what is called hiatus hernia. It will necessitate some ten days in hospital. Even with daily help I shall not find it easy to cope with the running of this rather large guesthouse and my own recurrent professional duties. I shall be eighty-bloody-four next August, so this isn’t exactly an idle jest. "And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe, and then from hour to hour we rot and rot, and thereby hangs a tale." The portents warn me that I am now undergoing the latter grisly process.
I derive no little intellectual pleasure from the easygoing study of the Japanese written language provided by the late W. G. Aston’s classic Grammar, a copy of which I was lucky enough to pick up some days ago at Luzac’s wonderful Oriental bookshop facing the British Museum. It’s the second edition of 1877, quite worn but intact. I study this in conjunction with Pearson’s folio of 10,000 ideographs that I also possess. It cost me four guineas some years ago and is now out of print and unobtainable. Of course the colloquial (zokugo) is a joke compared with the written medium.
Naturally at my time of life I don’t aspire or expect to shine as a Japanese scholar. I shall be content to remain a dabbler in this sphere. It’s strange the fascination which Things Japanese still hold for me after all these years. But in my case my very modest knowledge of the language had to be acquired after the day’s hard work as a journalist in Yokohama and Tokyo, as also my equally modest knowledge of jujutsu and judo. Almost but not quite on a par with the fascination of Japanese is that of Lithuanian and Russian. The former is really more difficult than Russian.
John Wilson has resumed his correspondence with me and his letters reveal a really fine and sterling nature. He has every right to plume himself on his grim experience of warfare in Korea under arctic conditions when he was only 23 years of age. Gregory keeps in epistolary touch with me. These days the prefulgency of the Muses seems to outshine that of the palestra. Most of his ample leisure is devoted to omnivorous reading so that his hours on the mat tend to become perfunctory.
(Feb. 12, 1957)
Greg writes me that he plans to visit the UK this summer for six weeks or two months. I must hang on till then at all costs.
I had to chortle to my ancient self on reading your appraisement of my photograph as produced in the new Judo magazine. I hope you are right about "the ramrod back, the cut of the chin, too", but as regards "those hands" through no fault of your own I have to inform you that in the actual flesh they are exceptionally small! True enough, in the photograph they are made to appear large and powerful, perhaps because they were nearest to the camera. One other exasperating distortion of the mug of E.J.H. is what looks for all the world like a malignant growth along the side of my left cheek!
Reverting to those hands: Even now I can well remember how angry I felt one day at the old Japan Herald office in Yokohama when my veteran boss, the late Brooke, then turned seventy, suddenly noticed my hands and with a raucous guffaw comment: "Why, Harrison, what nice little ladylike hands you have!" That was verily in the long ago when I was only about 21 or 22 years old. Today it may be true to say that my hands have aged less than other parts of my anatomy. Certainly they are hardly gnarled at all despite sundry domestic chores such as the coal and coke shovelling to which they are reduced in the twilight of my days.
There is also one other physical characteristic that a photograph cannot reproduce. This is one’s complexion. In my case it is distinctly ruddy and in life that does tend in some degree to tone down the ravages of Anno Domini. All the same it remains only too true as Touchstone sagely remarks – "And so from hour to hour we ripe and ripe, and then from hour to hour we rot and rot, and thereby hangs a tale".
My drastically abridged version of Kawaishi’s Self Defence should be out shortly. I shall not fail to send you an autographed copy but have a decided hunch that since you already possess the complete French original this English translation with its numerous omissions won’t be of much use to you.
Many thanks for calling my attention to the Encyclopaedia Britannica’s poor article on judo. At the moment I’m in the throes of a smallish book for Belasco to be entitled Judo for Women (!!). This sort of thing has now degenerated into summat not far removed from hackwork. Frankly, it’s solely the Harrisonai’s dire need for currency that keeps my swollen proboscis to the literary grindstone. Duplication is almost impossible to avoid.
(Apr. 10, 1957)
Among my many correspondents is one Dr. Baudisch, whose name appears in my revised Fighting Spirit. He is an Austrian savant of superlative erudition. Turned seventy, he now lives in retirement at Innsbruck with his charming Dutch wife following many years spent in Indonesia as a university lecturer. His letters couched in wonderful English are really in a class apart and as often as not include philosophical reflections and comments well deserving of serious study. He is a Doctor of Jurisprudence of Vienna University and of course a classical scholar.
Some years ago during a visit to this country he was moved to seek my acquaintance after reading the original Fighting Spirit. So he obtained my address from the Budokwai and with his wife came along here by appointment to meet me. Physically tall and spare he amazed me by giving a demonstration of the kekka-fuza method of squatting which pertains to Zen. Personally I have never been able to do it and what is more Dr. Baudisch is the first man of any nation I have ever with my own eyes seen perform it. What intensified my admiration for such suppleness of limb in a veteran was his assurance that he mastered this method when already in his fifties!
Since that occasion we have kept up a regular correspondence which I greatly value. We are both looking forward to the possibility of a reunion in the not too distant future, albeit at my time of life the positive chances on my side can hardly be rated as roseate.
A spate of crapulous bilge emanates from certain quarters about the compensations of old age but as far as I am concerned I am as yet aware of damned few. The Russkies have from long before Bolshevism was ever heard or dreamt of summed up the subject succinctly and tersely in three words which can be transliterated as starrost ne radost, meaning simply "Old age is no joy." So we may leave it at that and pass on with averted gaze.
I ascertained over the telephone this very morning that my drastically abridged version of Kawaishi’s Self Defence will be out early next week. Foulshams are as usual letting me have six complimentary copies one of which I have already earmarked for you. I opine that you’ll want me to autograph it. I’ll gladly do it but only on condition that on no account must you dream of paying for it.
I’ve had a short letter from our mutual friend John Wilson of Chicago who, as doubtless you know, expects shortly to be enrolled in the ranks of the Chicago police force. In his letter he has set me a puzzle by asking me to provide him with information about "yawara" which he thinks is the name of a mysterious old-time Japanese weapon in the form of a stick edged with spikes to endanger the hands of any would-be assailant. Of course yawara is one of the synonyms for the old jujutsu or taijutsu and has the same meaning of "softness," "gentleness," etc. I even went to the trouble of ringing up Koizumi who confirmed my understanding of the term and had no knowledge of the kind of weapon described by Wilson. So I have written John a letter along these lines and must await further developments, if any.
My reunion with Greg this summer is summat to which I’m looking forward with a mixture of pleasure and anxiety. The latter feeling emanates from the certainty that Greg cannot fail to notice the changes for the worse wrought by time in my ancient frame and dial, even though he’ll be too tactful to mention them aloud. What the hell can one expect? Even the ruddy complexion I still retain cannot greatly offset this deterioration.
Although not more than 175 pounds in my togs (quite heavy enough at that for hardly 5 feet 6 inches), I feel too heavy for my underpinning. The knees especially are apt to react negatively after my Sunday forenoon duty walk, formerly a genuine pleasure but nowadays perfunctory. And even with us, though apparently not to the same extent as in the USA, true country walks along leafy lanes are not readily accessible without recourse to a railway journey from the hub. Within the time at my disposal I have to ring the changes on Kew and Richmond. Our trouble here in this guesthouse is that we have to forfeit our private life, and much of our time goes in answering the blasted telephone and front door bell. Mental concentration becomes almost impossible.
I note from my copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations that one of his Cunninghame Graham’s sayings in a letter to Theodore Roosevelt was "God forbid that I should go to any heaven in which there are no horses". In my case I suppose I’d substitute "cats" for horses, fond as I am of them and many other animals. That being so you won’t be surprised to know that my detestation of our abominable blood sports and the debased votaries thereof is every whit as intense as of vivisection and its callous practitioners. And did the fate of these malefactors rest in my hands they would be speedily obliterated without benefit of clergy. How sayeth the poet? "Humanely, aye and knightly I’d deal with such a one. I’d take and tie him tightly, and blow him from a gun."
From these trite observations you’ll doubtless infer (and rightly) that I’m quite as qualmish of the foul odour of those bastards as Ancient Pistol was of the smell of leak. What makes the situation still worse is that the members of our royal family should set such an appalling example to our precious snobocracy. The Queen herself and Prince Philip are so heartless as to shoot beautiful stags in the royal parks, not to mention hunting foxes, shooting grouse, and taking part in all the rest of the vile "sports" dear to the hearts (?) of our upper classes. Quite futile to write protests to our servile press; my letters are never published.
I don’t think Greg will stay very long in England as he plans an extensive tour of the Continent. Nor could he, I imagine, ever settle here after his experience of the fleshpots of California.
(Jun. 19, 1957)
"Whom the gods love die young" was said of yore, so thank goodness I’ve been excluded from that category.
I must file a gentle and grandfatherly reproach against you on the score of your failure to encounter a statement on the kekka-fuza in my revised Fighting Spirit of Japan. If you will take the trouble to turn to pages 144-5 of said book under the caption "Zen and Za-Zen" on page 144 you cannot possibly overlook it. Naturally when I first read your letter I felt a bit puzzled and asked myself whether in fact I might have omitted from the revised version a detailed description of this manner of squatting which I was certain did appear in the original edition. But it was quite by accident and while in quest of other passages that I spotted the kekka-fuza statement on pp. 144-5 of the revised version. As you can suppose, this discovery afforded me very great relief.
My knowledge of Japanese poetry is decidedly superficial and for the most part culled from such japanologues as Aston, Chamberlain, Dr. Imbrie, and some others. Thus from a verse which Imbrie reproduces in one of his masterly renderings of Japanese sermons I’m tempted to quote as applicable to my case the following lines: "O Bloom of Youth! Whither has thou gone, leaving in thy stead an unknown old man?"
Whenever I can snatch a few hours a week from my multifarious commitments I try to improve my indifferent knowledge of the Japanese written lingo by studying Aston’s classic and truly masterly A Grammar of the Japanese Written Language published as far back as 1877. Without that and the additional aid of Person’s stupendous Ten Thousand Chinese-Japanese Characters I could never have ground out my rendering of Aida’s work which we have dared to designate Kodokan Judo.
It seems to me that the foreigner in Japan either succumbs once and for all to the lure and fascination of Nihongo or else undergoes a revulsion to the other extreme, and henceforth consigns everything Nipponese to Pluto’s damned lake for ever and a day. In my case the Japanese language has never ceased to interest me and one of my great regrets is that through force of circumstances during my fairly long sojourn in Japan I was never able to specialise in its systematic study.
My most important news since my last letter to you is the arrival in this country of our mutual friend Gregory. He flew all the way from Los Angeles, with a stopover in New York, and blew in upon us on June 3. He’s in terrific form, looking not a day older than when he left England some seven years ago. He avows himself to be the happiest man on earth and one of the most fortunate. He admits the allure of London but would never seriously contemplate settling down in his native land; the fleshpots of "God’s own country" are much too centripetal in their functioning to permit any such translation.
Before proceeding north to stay with his aunt at Runcorn and his mother in Wales he spent about three days in the Hub. One evening he took my wife and self to the posh Piccadilly Hotel where he wined and dined à la Lucullus and we heard the chimes at midnight before we got home. He’s on three months’ leave from the Jonathan Club of Los Angeles, where he is now athletic director. His judo teaching is confined to three evenings at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Between these two postings I understand that he earns considerably more than £3,000 in terms of English currency. It would be utterly impossible for him here to come within miles of that figure. It is of course the total per annum. And if he did our penal taxation would relieve him of no less than £1,076.15.0! Under such circumstances is it likely that he is conscious of any persistent Drang nach dem Vaterland? Not bloody likely!
He’ll look us up again when he returns south to embark on his continental tour and lastly when he gets back here to ship for the USA, not by air this time. His next will be devoted to a round-the-world trip that will take in India, an old love of his from his military service days during the last war. At my age I’m left speculating on the likelihood of our enjoying many reunions.
I haven’t seen Shaw Desmond’s autobiography or even any parts of it. I’ve known him for ages and quite like the bully boy. His success has been considerable. But his judo cannot be taken seriously as he began it far too late in life.
(Aug. 13, 1957)
Greg has been very much around of late. His appearance on the scene has acted as a veritable tonic for yours truly. Indeed kind friends aver that since his advent my ancient dial has even become slightly rejuvenated!
He has been spending as much time as he decently can in London and in touch with us. Of course he is by filial duty bound and so visited his mother in Wales and his aunt (by marriage) at Runcorn, Cheshire. At the time of writing he is still (for the second time) staying with his mother. We expect him back here about two weeks hence when he will soon after his arrival return by air to the USA and Los Angeles.
While he has been in this country I in my turn have stolen a fortnight off from the dreary demnition grind. For the first time in two years, I have had a quiet tranquil break with my only surviving first cousin, a Mrs. Nené Phillips-Schwabe and her daughter at the village of New Earswick, near York. This village was originally founded by the Rowntree family, the wealthy Quakers, owners of the immense chocolate factory situated about a mile away nearer York. There is no startling scenery in the neighbourhood. The charm of the place lies in its numerous beautifully kept gardens, surrounding farms and playing fields, and comparatively clean air not altogether fouled by the mephitic emanations from endless motor traffic. For me too the temporary escape from recurrent telephone calls and the front door bell afforded a vast relief.
While up there I went into York twice. Once was with my cousin to see the film Teahouse of the August Moon starring that Japanese actress whose name I can’t at the moment recall. Doubtless you’ve seen it. Anyway she is certainly very glamorous and dances beautifully. Also Brando as the interpreter gives a masterly performance. My second visit was to have a farewell look at the glorious Minster while a service was in progress. The fact that I am an avowed agnostic with no belief in our survival after death could not detract from the aesthetic impact of these sights and sounds upon my jaded senses.
On my return to the Hub I found Greg in residence here. Then on Monday, a bank holiday, he took me along on my first (and probably my last) visit to Stratford-upon-Avon. Of course he footed the entire bill for this indulgence. Despite the crowds and the muggy heat we fairly revelled n this experience which culminated in our attendance that evening at the splendid Memorial Theatre. We saw As You Like It with Peggy Ashcroft in the role of Rosalind.
We are both of us fanatical admirers of the Swan of Avon, and can recite from memory numerous speeches from his plays. Perhaps you know that Greg’s memory is simply stupendous. His greatest feat is to recite the entire text of Dryden’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid. He let me test him, but after I had heard him reel off without the slightest hesitation at least twenty pages of my copy of the work I threw up the sponge. My own memory is reputed to be somewhat above the average but such a mnemonic achievement is wholly beyond my powers.
I have no further connexion with Plée’s publication. He saw fit to drop me without the formality of any notice either verbal or written, but then suddenly without any warning had the nerve to mail me a batch marked "Urgent" for my attention. Naturally I returned the dope the same day. I am really glad to be relieved of that poorly paid job and the fag of translating badly typed French on the cheapest kind of paper and riddled with scrawled interlineations.
I am not aware that the new monthly Judo is run by the British Judo Association. The proprietors are given simply as Judo Limited, with G.A. Edwards and A.R. Menzies as joint editors. It is making a very creditable show, quite irrespective of my own modest contributions to its columns! They’ve gone out of their way to boost me and my contributions to judo bibliography.
Incidentally, my latest atrocities in this line, viz., Judo for Women and Junior Judo, are likely to see the light of print this autumn. They are both small volumes and cannot greatly enhance whatever reputation I already possess. Of the two the former is by far the better because I have been at pains to drag in a little up-to-date data culled from a recent work on judo by Tadao Otaki, 8th Dan of the Kodokan. But Belasco has seen fit to cut the Junior Judo to the bone so that I wash my hands of the consequences of such shortsighted tactics.
My translation of Kawaishi’s The Complete Judo Katas will also be out this autumn. We are using your Bibliography in an attempt to get hold of one or more authoritative Japanese works on karate and at the moment are considering the advisability of translating a French manual on that art by Robert Lasserre in collaboration with Ineo Osaki, 7th Dan.
(Oct. 20, 1957)
I hope you won’t contract a dangerous attack of swelled head when I admit that your quotation from Samuel Pepys anent the painful end of my namesake Major-General Harrison evoked a horse sort of cackle from my larynx. [EN11] No mean feat, let me assure you, these fuliginous days in the colourless confines of Fulham! Oppressed with the dual evils of old age and summat not far removed from insolvency I laugh as the Scotchman is reputed to joke: "Wi’ difficulty". The fact that I am familiar with the passage in question by no means detracts from the immediate effect it had on me.
The enclosed picture from K. Saito’s Jiu Jitsu Tricks [Ed.: New York, 1905] is interesting but the top man isn’t I. From what little we can see of his face he might almost pass for a replica of myself in those far-off days save for the fact that I do not remember ever having practised jujutsu or judo in the buff. Certainly we were not allowed to do so at any dojo known to me in those days. In 1905 I was practising almost daily at the old Kodokan.
Thanks for offering to let me have a list of the karate books in your possession. I am writing today to Belasco mentioning your kind offer and suggesting that perhaps it might be worth our while to ascertain from you how we can speedily obtain a copy of the Funakoshi book. So far Belasco has commissioned me to translate a French book on the art by a Robert Lasserre in collaboration with an alleged Japanese expert named Ineo Osaki, 7th Dan. I have already completed the typescript but am not handing it in to Belasco lest he should jump to the conclusion that the task has been too easy!
Belasco also wants me to grind out a considerably bigger book under my own name based upon two Japanese originals, namely Zukai Setsumei: Karate-Dô-Nyumon, compiled by the Society for Study of Japanese Karate, and Karate no Nara-Kata by Reikishi Oya (publishers Kinendo). I must say I’m none too happy about this latter commission. It is one thing for me, with my very imperfect knowledge of printed Japanese to tackle a Japanese book on judo, with the terminology of which I am fairly familiar, and quite another to extract the sense from a Japanese book dealing with an art whose Japanese terminology is strange to me. I have already ascertained from this French book that the founders of karate have elaborated a jargon of their own no mention of which can be found in any Japanese dictionary extant. Indeed, many of the terms are printed not in kanji but in katakana and bear no resemblance whatever to any Japanese words known to me or contained in any dictionary. [EN12] Belasco is willing to pay for Japanese help but even so it is quite on the cards that even a Japanese student won’t know what the darned terms really mean.
As far as this French book is concerned I must frankly admit that for literary purposes a translation makes dull reading. Most of the methods explained and illustrated are defensive and only in a few instances are we shown counterattacks. The sight of a very mild-looking Japanese demonstrating a series of defensive postures with no adversary in sight is apt to prove boring to say the least. The Japanese books are superior in this respect but even those allot the lion’s share of space to solo postures. Meanwhile the figures showing dual demonstrations seem to be much of a muchness. In other words they lack the dynamic quality of numerous judo techniques.
The French text is padded to a positively grotesque degree, and I estimate that its 140 pages won’t make more than about 90 in our English version. The author has evidently purposely made the figures as large as possible to create an impression on his readers. Thus in many cases we find a single photograph occupying almost an entire page with a few lines of letterpress top and bottom. The book was published in Toulouse and obviously publication was paid for. The French style is very poor, as my bilingual Polish colleague confirms. The punctuation especially is simply appalling. The author’s ignorance of Japanese is revealed by the manner in which the Japanese names of the techniques and postures are cut up into syllables, each with a capital initial letter, when actually they constitute single words. Throughout the author also prints karate in capitals (KARATE) and describes the art as little if at less than sublime. I have no patience with such fatuous pretensions whether adduced on behalf of karate, judo, or any other Japanese martial art. So of course in my version I reduced all such capital letters to lower case as I have done in all my latest books on judo. Why should we attach any sanctity to these arts any more than we do to boxing, fencing, tennis, football, swimming, wrestling, etc.? I was glad to a little debunking of this crapulous bilge in the new Fighting Spirit.
I have vastly enjoyed reading Donn Draeger’s vivid description quoted by you of the manner in which that astounding Osawa taught that cad Gruel a well-deserved lesson. I have never before heard of such disgusting behaviour by any foreigner practising judo at the Kodokan. [EN13] Needless to say throughout my active days on the mat over there I strictly conformed to Japanese etiquette. Gregory, by the way, entertains an immense admiration for Osawa as perhaps the greatest comparative lightweight judoka of modern time.
We have had the immense pleasure of seeing Greg here on his last three-month holiday from Los Angeles. During the visit he toured France and Italy. We hadn’t seen him for seven years but though he had his 35th birthday on July 22 last he has changed very little since he left these shores. In all respects he was in splendid fettle.
Besides his own income in California, which must now in terms of sterling exceed £3,000, Greg’s mother Mrs. Roberts is quite a wealthy woman. She runs the biggest wholesale grocery business in North Wales and at her death he will come into most of her estate. From all accounts she is a very fine woman both physically and mentally, a little over seventy. She married a second time but her second husband, Roberts, died a few years ago.
Greg left London by air on the night of August 29. Besides my wife and myself a mutual friend in the person of one Charles Grant, 3rd Dan, a short but very stocky specimen and a sterling character to boot, saw him off. Although we kept a stiff upper lip I couldn’t refrain from quoting to myself the lines: "If we do meet again why we shall smile. If not, why then this parting was well made."
He is now bent on making his mark as a writer for TV and the cinema. From what we have heard of his attempts in this line we are convinced that he is bound to succeed. He plans next year to travel round the world and to include in his itinerary a visit to Darjeeling, India, which he remembers from his military service during the last war. He will also revisit Japan. He is most anxious to duplicate my visit to the Great Wall of China and the Ming Tombs but he will be well-advised to take careful stock of the situation before burning his boats in that adventure. It was fairly safe in my day but things have changed fundamentally since then, now that this foul Communism is in the ascendant.
Greg is quite sure that he will again find me alive and kicking but I’m afraid I can’t share his cheery optimism. While he was here he swore by all the gods that he couldn’t detect any change in my physical appearance or mental manifestations. Yet after all I’m the best judge and I cannot hide from myself the grisly truth that I am on my last lap hell-bent for the demnition bow-wows.
I have no patience with all the ballyhoo about the so-called compensations of old age. Perhaps physical decay is preferable to mental decay, though both are pretty ghastly, but I personally have no wish to survive after I become dependent upon others for help in getting about the house and other physical functions. I am attached to relatively few friends and relations, but between us I think I shall mostly regret leaving our cats! Strangely or not the death of a cat depresses me more than that of a human being and I keep a note of the dates of the passing of nearly all our erstwhile feline and canine pals. And now when I contemplate our failure to provide a wholehearted united front to the palpable plotting of Soviet Communists bent on destroying the so-called Western democracies at all costs and our pathetic persistence in clinging to a policy of cultural exchanges and coexistence I am tempted to conclude that perhaps after all extinction of the entire human race and the earth’s relegation to the four-footed kingdom might be the best solution. Assuredly its members could hardly make a more tragic hash of things than we have.
Perhaps ere these lines meet your eye we shall know whether the latest blackmailing tactics of that ineffable bastard Comrade Khrushchev will convince us once and for all that any further palavers with those sub-humans are futile and a waste of time. Yet so weak is this country’s position that despite our obligations to Turkey under the Baghdad Pact and NATO I’m almost certain that most people would clamour for the humiliation of a second Munich in preference to our virtual extinction in the event of a general war. [EN14] In this context I find not entirely inapt those hackneyed lines from Hudibras: "Some have been beaten till they know what wood a cudgel’s of by th’ blow; some kicked until they can feel whether a shoe be Spanish or neats-leather". Perhaps for "Spanish" we might substitute "Russian". I opine that by this time many of our so-called statesmen’s backsides must have got tanned to much the same consistency. Talk about karate!
(Mar. 7, 1958)
There has been a lull in my judo literary activities and methinks that the portents foreshadow (who said "adumbrate"?) my final retirement into the limbo of has-beens, if not never-wassers. Naturally coincident with the advent of members of the younger generation one must also reckon with the appearance of aspiring Richmonds in the literary field. Among such doubtless the eminence grise of non-Japanese yudansha is our Trevor Leggett, 6th Dan, who enjoys the advantage of being able to write almost at first hand on the art. A good runner-up is Geoffrey Gleeson, 4th Dan. Both of them are good Japanese scholars, the former eminently so.
From what I have read of Leggett’s contributions to both the Budokwai Quarterly Bulletin and the monthly magazine Judo I realise that if he cared to devote the necessary time to the task he could surely produce a major work on judo. On the other hand I have for so long been divorced from the dojo mat that when I write I must have recourse to second-hand sources. Leggett too is in close touch with the Kodokan (he’s just back from a three-month visit to Japan) and therefore enjoys a dual advantage over us lesser breeds outside the law.
After hearing my praises, Belasco Jr. asked me to sound out Leggett on the subject of his joining the Foulsham fold and undertaking a book on judo with more or less carte blanche as to scope and other terms, summat I have never yet enjoyed. I’ve already written Leggett in that sense but do not expect to get a reply for some days yet.
The latter day trend in my case has been for my books to grow ever smaller and beautifully less. However it may interest you to know that a certain American firm of publishers has bought from Foulshams my Junior Judo for issue in the USA with the right, of course, to Americanise the orthography and other details. Belasco has informed me that my share of the deal will amount to about £75. Little enough but also far more than I had ever anticipated.
I can’t remember whether or not I told you about Foulsham’s gamble over karate. Thus they authorised me to translate a book on the art by alleged French authority named Lasserre for a fee of £100. After I had already done the job to the best of my ability and handed in the typescript the blasted author began to raise all sorts of difficulties and as yet no agreement has been signed! But Foulshams had to pay me the said fee.
I can honestly say that my English version of a not very impressive book is superior to the original, which bristles with mistakes in the transliteration of the Japanese terminology. What is more, I provided an index and a glossary, both of which are lacking in the French text.
Now Belasco is seriously thinking of getting me to grind out a book on karate based on material contained in a vastly superior Japanese original compiled by the Society for Study of Japanese Karate. It is entitled Karate-Do Nyumon. Something along the lines of my Manual of Judo is contemplated, that is as regards scope and format. Although I begin to feel too old for any more exacting Grub Street labour of this kind I can’t very well afford to turn it down; the pecuniary devil drives us Harrisonai to the wall. Anyway, nous verrons.
I wish I could honestly tell you that everything in our garden is lovely but were I to do so I’d be qualifying for the role of an Ananias. My poor wife has had a very nasty nervous breakdown in the wake of her operation some months ago for what is called hiatus hernia. It was obviously coupled with our cumulative economic anxieties. While it may be true that certain sections of the community benefit greatly from the amenities of the Welfare State (blessed word!) we members of the so-called middle classes most emphatically do not (or at all events only to a decidedly secondary extent). We seem to be ever shelling out more and more for progressively less and less to satiate the voracious maw of our local and central bloodsuckers. But I must refrain from unfolding a tale calculated to "harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood, make thy two eyes like stars, start from their spheres, thy knotted and combined locks to part and each particular hair to stand on end like quills upon the fretful porpentine."
The wife is now much better after a series of injections by our attendant medico. Were I a religious man I might be induced to say that it was providential that at my ominous age I contrived to keep my flat feet going throughout all these cacophonous alarums and excursions. Nonetheless I am not immortal and cannot expect to totter much longer on the surface of this "goodly frame, the earth". But I won’t say the "grave doth gape" for me because I intend to be cremated and have my ashes scattered to the four winds of heaven.
No room left on this air letter to descant upon the sorry state of the world today. Alas for my posterity! But isn’t it weird how our starry-eyed idealists and even so-called statesmen can emerge from "summit" or any other kind of bloody talks with the Kremlin sub-humans? As for the enslaved East European peoples it is now abundantly clear that to save our own precious hides we are willing to throw them to the Muscovite wolves.
(May 31, 1958)
Having just perused that very interesting article of yours in the April Fortieth Anniversary number of the Budokwai Bulletin, I am all the more at a loss to understand why you never receive the Bulletin – the minimum courtesy, one would suppose, in recognition of your valuable contributions. I share Al Holtmann’s impression that the departure of Dame Russell-Smith has coincided with a slump in administrative efficiency.
Your comments on karate [Ed.: "I have both karate books you mention and concur that the amalgam will make an excellent book"] are quite apt at the present moment since I am daily in throes of parturition of a would-be manual on that lethal art which Foulshams have commissioned me to compile. But perhaps you are already aware of that important fact.
I am quite relieved to be told that the new book on karate by Mas Oyama [Ed.: What is Karate?] is "quite bad" because Belasco has ordered a copy and had the book been good its appearance on the literary scene might have boded ill for my contribution to karate bibliography.
As you know, I have never posed as a Japanese scholar. All the same lacking my admittedly modest knowledge of printed Japanese it would have been absolutely impossible for me to grind out a book of this sort based on two Japanese originals, viz., Karate-Dô Nyumon ("Introduction to Karate Way") and Karate no Narai-kata ("Methods for Study of Karate"). My book will be a sort of amalgam of those two.
With the aid of my priceless lexicon of 10,000 Chinese characters and the Kenkyusha’s marvellous new Japanese-English dictionary, I’ve been able to convert the relevant text into romaji and thereafter to distil an English version. In the last stage of this gruelling task I am allowed the services of a young Japanese named Taiyo Ono, a judo 3rd Dan, employed under Leggett on the Japanese Language staff of the BBC. He has hitherto put in two evenings a week (two hours per evening) vetting my text and elucidating doubtful points. He himself acknowledges the great difficulty of this work owing to the weird allegorical terminology of karate, which bears hardly any resemblance to that of judo. I have still to exude an introduction and then pass on to the dreary demnition grind of typing the finished article.
My one dread is that when all’s ready Belasco will, as is his wont, clamp down and insist upon drastic abridgement of my text. In that case I may cut up rough and point out the risk a very small book on this comparatively fresh subject will run of inviting unfavourable comment from reviewers. However, I fancy his son Ronnie has a bit more horse sense and better appreciates the enormous trouble I have gone to turn out summat worthy of the probably bombastic title Belasco is almost sure to tack on the printed book.
I hope and expect that this book will be my final contribution to the bibliography of the Japanese martial arts. At 85 this August I feel sure you will agree that I have every right to feel weary. I am anxious to do a dignified inkyo [Ed: "Retirement from active life"]and to devote my remaining leisure hours to more congenial cultural pursuits.
It may interest you to hear that, largely through my intermediary, Koizumi has at last consented to do a really big book (a magnum opus) on judo for Belasco. It will be sold at as much as 42 shillings and will evidently be the largest book of its kind hitherto brought out by Foulshams. Belasco also wants to get Leggett to do a biggish book on judo for beginners – to sell perhaps at 15 shillings, and yet a third by Gleeson.
In principle both those worthies are willing to add their sum of more to that which has too much but Leggett has already committed himself to Tuttle to produce a big book on Buddhism based on Japanese sources and cannot hope to fulfil this commission earlier than six months. Gleeson, meanwhile, is swotting hard for his final Japanese exams. So there you are. Certainly I concede that members of the younger generation of active judoka are much better qualified than I can now pretend to be at producing comparatively first-hand books on judo. Youth will be served in this domain as in so many others.
Greg, the one and indivisible, is at present engrossed in the writing of a would-be cinema play based on the life story of our poet Pope. From what I have already seen of some of his earlier attempts in this sphere I am not surprised to hear that a certain Frank Butler, who supervises scripts at Warner Bros. Studios in Hollywood, has assessed the dialogue as among the finest he has ever read. He said that dramatically Greg had not talent but positive genius. This Butler is the winner of the 1944 Academy Award of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and went so far as to say that he only wished that his name were on the cover. But the question still remains whether the ting would be commercial.
Greg plans a round-the-world tour for this year’s vacation. It will include India, Japan, and China, if possible.
(Jul. 11, 1958)
I’m delighted to hear that Judo Ltd. has ordered 200 copies of your Complete Guide to Judo; that fact augurs well for future sales in this country. I fully agree with what you write about that organisation. It seems replete with enterprise and the editors have gone out of their way to publicise my books. Ever since I contributed that series of articles on judo masters known to me they have been sending me their monthly issues gratis.
That article of yours on French boxing (la Boxe Française) appears in the current issue of Judo. I’ve read it with interest and am looking forward to its continuation in the August number. Here again it really astonishes me how you contrive to co-ordinate all these concurrent activities with your quest for what the Russkies term "the crust of bread".
Regarding the book Belasco wants Gleeson to write, after seeing your book I’m wondering whether you may not have in certain respects forestalled him because Belasco has told me that it is to include data about the early beginnings of judo.
I haven’t yet found time to let Belasco know about your book. It is even on the cards that he will feel peeved about that Foreword of mine. If so, it will be just too bad and the prospect leaves my ancient withers entirely unwrung.
After about six months’ gruelling fag I have now finished the English version of karate as planned. As usual Belasco would not hear of a really big book and even looks askance at my 120-odd quarto pages of typewriting with 160-odd figures. I have included a glossary that the original did not contain and it is agreed that there shall be an index when the page proofs are ready. But this Manual of Karate won’t be out before February next and the devil knows what may happen in the interim.
According to our agreement the book will be published at 15 shillings and my royalty is to be 10 percent. I am to receive in due course an advance of £75 which I intend to spend on a badly needed holiday for my wife who has now for many months been overworked in the wake of that nasty operation she had many months ago. Barring the unexpected she will be going to sunny Spain during September. The complete change of air and scene her doctor urges is essential.
Ere this Greg will have set out on his round-the-world trip which may include Japan since he plans to visit Hong Kong. We do not yet know for certain whether he will include England in his itinerary. He would like to following in my footsteps and take in the Great Wall of China but this will not be possible because the Communist Chinks would never grant him permission. Also even if they did it would not be safe these days to wander so far afield.
Although his would-be film with the Pope Leitmotiv has won golden opinions from top quarters nothing definite has emerged in the tangible shape of currency. Fortunately Greg can afford to wait and he is far too canny to burn his boats.
I note with interest that among the stalwarts contributing to judo in New York you list William Feinsinger. It so chances he has found me out and we have latterly been in correspondence. He first approached me to ascertain whether I had translated Kawaishi’s The Seven Katas of Judo and I was able to answer in the affirmative. His last letter lies before me and is dated July 6. With it he sent me his photograph taken alongside his teacher, the veteran Kiyose Nakae. Feinsinger assuredly looms up as a stout fellow!
Byron exuded a mouthful when he wrote, "Years steal fire from the brain as vigour from the limb. And life’s enchanted cup but sparkles near the brim." I still adhere to my matutinal jerks but they tend to become perfunctory and the ancient ticker feels far less reliable than of yore. For the rest the international outlook makes me irremediably pessimistic. The West seems to be losing the Cold War hands down. It has ceased to draw the moral line anywhere.
(Aug. 29, 1958)
You may be interested to hear that since Greg left Los Angeles in July on his two-month vacation we’ve had two cards from him, both from Hong Kong, which impresses him as an earthly paradise. In the long ago I spent about a week there. Admittedly it is beautiful and was quite an experience to ascend the Peak by the special railway. The summit is 1,809 feet above sea level and as you ascend and descend the harbour below seems to rise at quite an angle which of course varies in response to the given elevation. All the same I wasn’t conscious of the slightest desire to migrate to Hong Kong from Dai Nippon if for no other reason than the heat and humidity. True, a Tokyo summer is trying enough, but it doesn’t last forever. (After the customary typhoon towards the end of September the weather gradually cools off, and from then onwards until, say, May or June one can depend upon comparatively bracing weather with plenty of sunshine.)
The most trying season in Japan is the so-called nyûbai. Intolerably muggy, it gives way to the humid heat of July and August. Even now I recall what a shock I got when on opening a cabin trunk in which I had kept the clothes I used to wear in California I saw that they were virtually ruined by a white layer of mould. (There was a vulgar joke current in those days among the European and American denizens of the Yokohama settlement to the effect that unless one were very careful one’s testicles would become mouldy in the nyûbai)
As regards scenic beauty, Japan can boast of landscapes, seascapes, lakes, and mountains superior to Hong Kong. But perhaps Hong Kong is preferable to Shanghai, which I also visited, as the locals assured me that summer in Shanghai was perfect hell.
But reverting to Greg, he reports that en route to Hong Kong he stopped off in Japan. While in Tokyo he bouted at the Keishicho Dojo with Miwa, 5th Dan, whom he threw 2-0 using osotogari and haraigoshi. The audible comment of the onlookers was: "The Ishikawa technique!" All were delighted to see him again.
Despite his concurrent cultural interests Greg admits in his first picture card that "I’ll never shake this bloody judo; it is as much a part of me as my head is, so why fight it?" Why, indeed?
Shortly before quitting Los Angeles, Greg took on a monster pro wrestler scaling 317 pounds. He knocked the wrestler out using "one helluva okuri-ashi-barai" which he had been practising a good deal before the encounter. His victim had to be revived. The encounter took place in the Jonathan Club Dojo.
Yes, I knew at the time about Greg’s fencing lessons from the famous Aldo Nadi, but seeing that he hasn’t mentioned them for quite a long time I’m almost certain they’ve been dropped.
We don’t know yet whether he will find time for a visit to his native land this trip or if he does so, how long he’ll stay here. Of course I have no wish to be morbid but all the same, when one has just celebrated (?) one’s 85th birthday anniversary one may be pardoned for speculating on the likelihood of another reunion this side of the Great Divide.
Life in these drab confines cannot honestly be described as halcyon for a desiccated old blighter such as myself. As the Russkies used to say, old age is no joy. He Harrisonai are far from affluent and I cannot feeling worried by the thought of how my wife will carry on if, as seems likely, I predecease her. (I am more than twenty years her senior.) On the other hand she has had a very nasty spell of bad health necessitating hospital treatment and several operations. Although now much better she badly needs the change of scene and climate prescribed by her doctor.
Extra work has been thrust upon her by the presence of our married daughter, her husband, and their twin sons (our grandsons) now 9-1/2 years old. So we are more than a bit crowded and the boys are more than a bit noisy and hopelessly pampered. It’s a darned good thing for them that thanks to my Japanese training they never have the slightest inkling that I simply detest the fortissimo blare of the radio morning, noon, and night, and particularly at meal times, or that their decidedly raucous voices jar on the nerves of both myself and Mrs. H.!
(Nov. 3, 1958)
Foulshams plan to bring out my karate effort (to be entitled The Manual of Karate) early February. Originally Belasco demanded a book of not more than 90 pages! When I read his letter I narrowly escaped an apoplectic seizure. Anyhow, in the end I extorted his consent to a book of about 140 pages. I think I have already told you upon what Japanese originals it is based and that before attempting the final typescript I secured the co-operation of a young Japanese judo 3rd Dan named Yukio Ono to make sure that everything was in order. Inevitably, I fear, save for those genuinely interested in this purely fighting art, the manual will make dull and monotonous reading.
In my modest compilation I have devoted almost the lion’s share of space to a description of the karate post and several other gadgets designed for the toughening and "tempering" of hands and feet. A young artist named Peter Johnson, a judo mudansha who illustrated some of Dominy’s books, is now at work reproducing the line drawings from the Japanese originals. If still on this side of the Great Divide I shall send you an autographed and complimentary copy as soon as possible after its publication.
I ought really to have another medical check. I suffer from a defective circulation to the ancient ticker, to ameliorate which our doctor has provided me with certain tablets which, whenever I get a pain in the cardiac region, are to be placed underneath the tongue and allowed to melt there. They are usually efficacious but it is significant that nowadays I have to use them oftener than a year or so ago. Yet in the morning after my shave and bath and on a perfectly empty tummy I can still go through my half-hour jerks with spring-grip dumb-bells without experiencing any discomfort. However, nous verrons. "The paths of glory lead but to the grave."
I continue to recommend your splendid book to all my fan correspondents and I have already sent Greg a copy of it. He is now back in Los Angeles. He seems to have spent most of his time in Hong Kong.
The October issue of the Budokwai Bulletin contains an effusion from my mill designed to administer the coup de grace to Moshe Feldenkrais, who had the nerve to question the validity of an observation in one of my books counselling abstention from sexual intercourse while training, or at any rate strict moderation. No names were mentioned but it is an open secret that he was the target of my dialectical passados.
I was genuinely sorry to read in the current Bulletin the report of the death of Kunisaburo Iizuka, 10th Dan, at the age of 84. He was one of my Japanese contemporaries during my active days at the old Kodokan, and as coincidence would have it, I mentioned his name in the aforesaid epistle to the October Bulletin. He was a sort of pocket Hercules, only 5 feet 1 inches in height and a little over 9 stone in weight but his waza was devastating alike in tachiwaza and newaza.
Another interesting item is that Leggett has opened his own dojo. It is called the Renshuden and is situated in NW Central London. The redoubtable Matsushita will be teaching there part of the week; he attends the Budokwai from 6.30 p.m. on Wednesdays.
(Dec. 26, 1958)
Ancient of days as I am, what high-stepping Nihongo calls "giri" – a stern sense of duty – still dooms me to the demnition grind, and to pull my weight and help my gravely overtaxed better half. Despite the fact that she is some 25 years my junior she has had one hell of a time with her concatenation of operations which have inevitably weakened her.
Thanks to a timely hunch I managed to correct the proofs of my Manual of Karate just before the advent of the ironically designated "festive season". It proved to be quite a job. These were the so-called page proofs but they were none too good and I shall have to demand a further revise. I’ve supplied both a glossary and an index. And although karate is entitled to rank high as a fighting art without lethal weapons yet compared with judo in book form it makes dull and monotonous reading. I shall be agreeably surprised if the book sells anything like so well as my modest judo literary efforts. What do you think?
His Nibs Belasco must write a blurb of his own for the jacket. At least he had the kindness to submit it to me before confirmation. Ye gods, it was simply ghastly! In places it was not even grammatical. This time I really lost my patience akin to that of Job and rang up the considerably more cultured manager Houlgate who thoroughly sympathised with me. Anyhow I’ve ground out my own version and shall insist upon its substitution for the one provided by Belasco. Remember how he ruined my foreword to the Fighting Spirit with that last paragraph? And how he "killed" most of my original foreword, which I had already corrected in the supposedly final proofs? He is wholly destitute of any sense or comprehension of – so to say – psychological factors or values. Confidentially the manger has pointed out to me that Belasco is a first-class salesman but hardly a literary shining light.
Our married daughter Aldona, plus her husband Nick Collins and our twin grandsons Jonathan and Glyn are spending the Christmas break with us. The twins have their tenth birthday on the 27th. Albeit loveable youngsters they are really about the noisiest twain within not only my own long-drawn-out experience but that of the wife as well. Their toy revolvers and air-guns are rarely silent indoors, and my wife’s nerves are at the end of an imperfect day fairly shattered. In a word, pandemonium and Bedlam reign supreme "from morn to dewy eve".
Gadzooks, but I’m glad to see and hear the last of Christmas. It seems to have degenerated into an excuse for gormandising, guzzling, and drinking not wisely but too well. The thought of the horrible slaughter of feathered and other livestock involved in this disgusting orgy never fails to sadden me. It confirms the opinion at which I arrived many moons ago that we are among Nature’s worst exhibits and that the Christian religion is appreciably inferior to the Buddhist doctrine. But I remain an agnostic.
(Feb. 21, 1959)
If you are still getting the Budokwai Bulletin you’ll already have noticed the drastic change made in its format and the reduction in price to 2 shillings 6 pence. In many ways Judo Limited’s monthly magazine Judo is more enterprising and inevitably more up to date than the Budokwai Bulletin, now renamed Judo Bulletin.
Mustn’t forget to tell you that my latest and doubtless last book The Manual of Karate-Do should be out early March. Albeit not all I might have wished it to be it runs to about 140 pages, with a glossary and an index, retail price 18 shillings. I’m afraid it makes for rather monotonous reading, inevitably so since the art lacks the variety and spectacular attributes of judo. Originally Belasco wanted to restrict the book to only 90 pages (!) but my reactions written and vocal to this demand were so emphatic that he compromised for a somewhat longer book. I haven’t the foggiest idea of how it will compare with the other karate books known to you but not to me and must therefore take my chance under this head.
I have also been revising two of my earliest small manuals, The Art of Jujitsu and The Art of Wrestling. They run to about 90 pages each. I’m renaming the former The Art of Judo and have as far as possible brought its instruction more up to date. The new text is to include demonstrations of five selected throws, four in the text and a fifth on the jacket. These will be photographic shots featuring Charles Palmer, 4th Dan and another good English black belt. Belasco is to pay me £75 for this service, which ain’t too bad seeing that the job hasn’t really taken very long. But we are still waiting for those photos.
The manual on wrestling contains several quite good demonstrations of "clicks" by the former world welterweight champion Billy Wood, whom I knew quite well way back in 1934. I have a presentation photograph of him and his physique in those days was simply magnificent.
Greg seems in the pink and hard at work on prospective cinema scripts. For one dealing with a Japanese background I’ve been able to furnish him with rather valuable data.
Meanwhile in these fuliginous confines we are passing through about
the worst visitation of lethal smog on record. At my age I marvel to find
myself still able to breathe and survive these mephitic exhalations.
(May 19, 1959)
The fickle jade Fortune continues to smile upon Greg. In his latest letter he reports that he has made his first TV sale to a series and expects to net for this contribution $1,300. I won’t bore you with the details.
We revert to the egotistic theme of The Manual of Karate. When I mailed a copy to Greg I had an uneasy feeling that he might be bored by the task of perusal of its contents. You can imagine my relief and glad surprise on sighting the following comments: "Next came your most wonderful book on karate. Far from boring me (as you anticipated) I became engrossed in the volume. I venture to say that it is one of the very best things you’ve done." Nonetheless I myself am well aware of its shortcomings, not all of which ought to be ascribed to me.
I wish I could agree that the major branch of the Harrisonian dichotomy was in fine fettle. Far from it, old man. What can you expect at eighty-five and verging on eighty-six this summer – that is, if we ever have one. We had a foul winter which didn’t do me any good although I did contrive to dodge the undertaker. Although our medico avers that my blood pressure is perfect and the cardiac condition no worse, I myself am uneasily conscious that the ancient underpinning is no longer quite so reliable. As a result, walking weekends out of town tends to become more perfunctory than pleasurable.
Britain isn’t any longer so trampable as in the halcyon days of Hazlitt, Macaulay, and the rest. Nor is our atmosphere so pure, polluted as it is more and more with the foul effluvium of motorcars and factory chimneys. Debased as my own sense of smell has become I am quite aware of this truth every time I sally forth within the metropolitan periphery.
(Jul. 9, 1959)
All your judo news is interesting. Regarding Donn Draeger’s weightlifting program, of course strength is bound to be an important factor in judo shiai. The famous Sakujiro Yokoyama, perhaps my greatest teacher, emphasised this point in his book on judo, although I did not scruple to utilise it in my own modest manuals. But of course it should be rightly used, not muri-ni (unreasonably). In the initial stages of training the tyro should be warned not to resort to strength in randori as opposed to shiai. Also once your tsurikomi, kuzushi, and tsukuri have succeeded in unbalancing your opponent, it does seem to me that the infusion of physical strength to complete and round off the process will be almost tantamount to a reflex action.
You may be interested to hear that if I survive long enough I shall translate yet one more book from the French of M. Kawaishi, 7th Dan. He has just celebrated his sixtieth birthday anniversary and is still in fine fettle, and looking years younger.
This work deals with what we may call renzokuwaza, or sequences combined with counters in tachiwaza. It is profusely illustrated with photographs in which Kawaishi figures as tori and a prominent French judoka as uke. Belasco has agreed to pay me £75 on completion of this task. It won’t be easy because of the by no means always lucid French original. After that, quien sabe? After all, I’m well on the downward chronological path. Or would it be more correct to say the upward? In the words of a Japanese tanka:
O Bloom of youth
Whither hast thou gone
Leaving in thy stead
An unknown old man?
To wish to survive a moment longer than one can fend for oneself would imply poltroonery unworthy of a veteran judoka. Perish the thought! Personally I am an agnostic. Although I have never been able to believe in the likelihood of survival after physical death I am not so presumptuous as to deny it. Frankly the prospect of immortality doesn’t attract me at all. Its dogmatic assumption by any religious denomination has always impressed me as one more proof of the colossal conceit of mankind. Really, arrogating to mankind a spiritual prerogative that it denies to the dumb creation not withstanding the ominous truth that we may be nature’s worst exhibits! In this context I’ll refer you to a pithy remark made by Mark Twain in his Adventures of Hucklebery Finn. It runs: "If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man."
Of course I’m being a bit cynical seeing that more than most, I imagine, I’ve been darned lucky in the possession of the staunchest friends who have stood by me through thick and thin. So I’m not grousing; it is just that the inevitable hour approaches.
Meanwhile I’m still able to find relaxation in the never failing sympathetic company of our four cats and intellectually in recurrent communion with my favourite Lithuanian, Russian, and Japanese authors. It is also consoling to know that our only child, our daughter Aldona, is nowadays really happy with her handsome husband and their twin sons.
Greg is an erratic correspondent but all his letters reflect a thoroughly happy man labouring in his chosen vocation. There’s no doubt that he is really gifted as a writer of TV scripts. Unless a hitch intervenes his series based on Japanese themes ought to prove a winner. His great hope remains the eventual acceptance of his play dealing with the life of Pope, which I was the first to suggest some years ago.
I’m still kept busy coping with my fan mail. And would you believe it? I’ve been informed by Belasco that Foulshams has just filled an American order for 500 copies of my karate book! Quite unexpected for me, I can assure you. And those trifles Junior Judo and Judo for Women have been selling well in the USA and Spain. Thus recent sales of the former in the USA have netted me £69. If and when the Spanish obstacle of mañana can be surmounted I ought to get £75 from that source. Patience is a virtue.
(Jul. 16, 1959)
From present indications it won’t be before next year that Foulshams will need a translation of that French book by Kawaishi. They have too much dope on their plate as it is.
It seems that Gunji Koizumi is hard at work on his magnum opus. About two-thirds through with it, I hear. When published the retail price will not be less than 45 shillings. It will be the highest-priced book on judo hitherto brought out by Foulshams. I have no doubt that it will be their most important and authoritative work in that domain. Unquestionably Koizumi, 7th Dan, is one of the most highly qualified yudansha. It will be lavishly illustrated with action photographs.
Other books on a lesser scale by Leggett and Gleeson do not appear likely to materialise for quite a long time to come. Leggett told me he was commissioned by Tuttle to write a biggish book on Buddhism and so could not possibly accept any other assignments. Meanwhile Gleeson pleaded that he was swatting hard for his final Japanese examinations at the Oriental College in London.
(Sep. 2, 1959)
I note your mention of that Dutchman Jon Bluming, 3rd Dan [Ed.: Who had recently arrived in Tokyo, by way of Halifax, Nova Scotia]. It so happens that a very ardent young fan of mine, John Crawford, is a civil servant residing at East St. John, New Brunswick. He has more than once sung the praises of that self-same person. He forgot to give his measurements, though! I didn’t know that Bluming had beaten such aces as Naminaga and Watanabe. Still, there are among the Japanese elite not a few heavyweights. Even if they are not so tall as Bluming they are not far short of him in avoirdupois. For example, Kawabata weighs 230 pounds and Miyake weighs 281, though their respective heights are only 5’8" and 5’7"! Y. Oda is 6’2" and weighs 210 pounds. All the same no non-Japanese has yet managed to bring back the world championship laurels. I’m inclined to think that the generally superior Japanese development of the leg and thigh muscles, perhaps ascribable to the habit of squatting, does confer upon Japanese judoka a specific advantage over the Westerner.
Richard Bowen reports from Tokyo that the "young men are gradually nudging the older and generally heavier men off the contest mats." Wouldn’t it be a sad omen for the rationale of judo if victory on the mat inevitably and always accrued to the taller and heavier opponent?
In Greg’s opinion when it comes to waza he had never seen anybody equal to the lightweight Osawa who scales not very much more that 150 pounds. The admission of weight categories in judo shiai does seem to militate against that rationale and for that reason has hitherto been rejected in Japan.
Regarding my ancient self. At the moment phlebitis in the right leg is giving me trouble. Old age, no doubt. I’d be guilty of what Churchill once called a "terminological inexactitude" were I to aver that I feel in the pink. What the hell can one expect when one has entered his 87th year?
(Oct. 13-14, 1959)
How wonderful it is to be young! And why do we grow old? In this context I’m moved to quote a little Japanese haiku (one of the countless gems comprising only three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, or 17 in all) which reads in the original and translation:
Hita ni koso
Toshi wa yori nure
Haru no kusa!
It is only man who becomes aged
Oh! Thou grass of spring!
It is but one of many included in W.G. Aston’s amazing grammar of the Japanese written language that I have been studying.
In occasional retrospective surveys of my past from the present pinnacle of my ninth decade I’m apt to find it hard to believe that I was ever young. It is therefore some consolation to know that printed proof of the fact is embodied in at least two of my books, namely Peace or War East of Baikal? and The Fighting Spirit of Japan.
This Shaolin whereof you write must be quite a fighting art. Perhaps in the end it will be advisable for the 100 percent fighting man to have an omnibus textbook descriptive of the whole boiling lot of them – jujutsu, judo, karate, Shaolin, not to say our own boxing, wrestling, and fencing, nor must I forget kendo. The future fighting man must be nothing if not eclectic.
I had no idea that Taipei was so tough. I have always regretted that I never had the chance to pay the visit to Formosa. I was also interested to read your mention of shoving exercise at which your 120-pound opponent proved more than a match for your 180-pound avoirdupois. At the risk of telling you something you already know, I’ll briefly describe a shoving technique taught me – was it by Kunishige? Anyhow, the kernel of this waza is for its exponent to crouch lower than his opponent and from that stance to push upwards. Thus it often happens that the shorter man does enjoy an advantage over a taller adversary.
I begin to dread another winter after a truly wonderful summer which has brought drought in its train. This blasted bodily declension, for many years only very gradual, has during the past two years or so ominously accelerated. Together with a marked deterioration of the overworked ticker, I wonder if my name will soon have to be deleted from the nominal roll.
Those Westerners who believe that lasting peace can be established between the capitalist and imperialist West and the Communist East are living in a fool’s paradise and are in for a decidedly rude awakening. The West seems reconciled to the cowardly and humiliating policy of paying for a temporary and illusory "peaceful coexistence" with a Soviet Russia dominated by a mass murderer in the repulsive person of Mr. K. We have virtually recognised the subjection of some hundred millions in Eastern Europe to the foul yoke of Communism. If by now we haven’t learnt that any agreement made with the USSR isn’t worth the paper on which it is written or printed, then we are beyond praying for.
Would you believe it, that karate manual of mine has been selling like hotcakes. To date it has netted me rather more than £100. Moreover I have had frequent telephone calls about it from young fellows keen to learn that art. I’ve passed them on to the only karate school so far functioning in this country. It’s at Hornchurch, Essex, and is run by one V.C.F. Bell who claims to be a 2nd Dan of the Yoseikan karate school in Tokyo.
Among recent fan letters are several from admirers in Greece. One of them is the editor of an important daily in Athens and vice president of the only judo dojo in Greece. He bears the sonorous name of Karagiorgas. The other is named Constantas, and is a fellow member of the same dojo.
In his first letter Karagiorgas wrote about my "most wonderful books," all of which he possessed. Later he rolled up in London on a professional visit to the Farnborough air display and presented me with a highly artistic specimen of Grecian ceramic art. The motif is none other than Achilles in warlike panoply. It now adorns the wall above the mantelpiece in the sitting room where I’m typing these lines.
This Karagiorgas turned out to be quite a handsome fellow. Thirty-eight years old, dark of course, and about my height but much lighter. He covered the Korean War for his paper and had many narrow escapes. After the war he spent seven months in Japan, during which time he put in a lot of practice at the Kodokan. A really agreeable and sympathetic type.
Greg is as usual a somewhat erratic correspondent. His last letter revealed him as being well and happy but hard at work on his prospective TV serials. The wife is on the whole well though ever and anon subject to reminders that she isn’t so young as she used to be.
(Mar. 21, 1960)
I regret to report that I have had a very nasty breakdown in the wake of an emotional shock caused by the sudden and painful death of a favourite cat, and I am present confined to the house under doctor’s orders. As you know, I have for many years suffered from a cardiac affection due to defective circulation. Even in normal circumstances the state of the ancient ticker was not getting any better. And for years I’ve had to use certain small tablets prescribed by our doctor – as good as any heart specialist – to alleviate the pain in that region. But since January the symptoms have become more frequent and painful. The treatment has latterly shown positive results and I’m now sleeping better than before. Still, all physical exertion must be avoided and to all intents and purposes I’m immobilised. As a result a lot of extra works falls upon my devoted wife Rene, now sixty years of age.
It is good to read about your content in Formosa. Together with Greg and one Richard Bliss, also a resident of California, I rate you as one of my best friends. Alas, we are not fated ever to meet in the flesh.
Regarding what your friend Donn Draeger writes concerning the use of weights as a complement to judo practice, I would not presume to criticise the advocacy of the man on the spot. The important thing is that the teacher be thoroughly qualified to instruct his pupils. Virtually all modern judoka recognise the importance of strength as a factor in the arena. They decry only its wrongful application.
Foulshams will shortly be publishing Gunji Koizumi’s magnum opus on the art. [Ed.: My Study of Judo. The principle and the technical fundamentals. W. Foulsham & Co.: London, 1960.] I’ve had a cursory glance at the manuscript and have no doubt that after some necessary revision it will prove a very valuable addition to the prolific bibliography of judo. Foulshams wanted me to type his script but naturally I could not undertake such a task in my present state of health.
I get Judo Ltd.’s monthly Judo, and actually revised the text of a Japanese author’s article on [the Australian judo pioneer] Dr. A.J. Ross! Ross is the brother of my first wife Cicely, since divorced.
Greg remains a very erratic correspondent and I haven’t had a letter from him for some months past.
What a hell of a mess the world is in today! A regular vortex or serbonian fog in which we are all wallowing and from which we seem unable to extricate ourselves. I’m sorry for my posterity but what the hell has posterity ever done for me that I should grieve for it?
Smith sent Harrison two more letters, one dated May 27, 1960 and another dated Jan. 10, 1961. Neither seems to have been answered, and in the second letter, Smith wrote, "I haven’t heard from you in an awful long time. I do hope illness has not got you by the scruff of the neck."
However, it was not illness but the Reaper that had Harrison by the scruff of the neck. Thus, in July 1961, Judo Ltd.’s Judo (page 32) reported: "We are sorry to learn that the death occurred recently of ERNEST JOHN HARRISON at the age of 88 years. A well-known grand old man of judo with a colourful career, and even to-day his books and translations on judo are still widely read."
Noted Smith in Martial Musings (1999): "When I visited the Kodokan in 1961 the first fellow I ran into there was a fine British yudansha, Syd Hoare. He greeted me with ‘Hi, Brother Bob,’ and a laugh, letting me know that he had seen an article I had written for a British journal in which I said that I had been working so hard with half a dozen Chinese boxing teachers that my wife now called me ‘Brother Bob’. Then he sobered and asked, ‘Did you know that E.J. died?’ My face fell and something in my belly knotted and I died a little. I hadn’t, I told him, and he gave me some necessary time and space."
EN1. This is not entirely true, as on February 11, 1918, Harrison, then a junior officer in a British construction battalion whose members were Chinese, noted in his diary, "While enjoying my post-tiffin nap the head boy called me saying that Van Ess wanted me to come out to see some coolie stunts. I went down and found two fellows stripped to the waist going through kata-like movements. One man had a knife with which he made mimic attacks upon the other. The display was quite good and thrilling in its way. Then nothing would satisfy Van Ess but that I should try conclusions with the bigger man of the two. He being stripped it was not easy to obtain a grip, and during the first en.c.o.unter, as I twisted his arm, he caught my foot and managed to bring me on all-fours to the ground -- of course no fall at all in wrestling, but none the less a source of great delight to the mess onlookers. Then we repaired to softer soil on the east side of the mess. The coolie donned his tunic and in quick succession I twice put him on his back without trouble. He declined to have any further truck with me. The two fellows then continued their stunts. The culmination was one in which the smaller man lay with his head resting cheek downwards on a stool; the other placed seven bricks upon the other side of the head, and then seizing a single brick dealt the pile a violent blow which shattered them in fragments over the head of the recumbent coolie who at once sprang up none the worse for his experience. The taller coolie also broke several bricks over his own head. Several snaps were taken by Van Ess, Lowder, Cormack, etc, of these interesting scenes."
EN2. Following the death of Josef Stalin in March 1953, Nikita Khrushchev became the head of the Soviet Communist party. Meanwhile, Nikolai Bulganin became the Soviet premier.
EN3. Josip Broz Tito was the Communist leader of post-World War II Yugoslavia. In June 1948, the Soviets denounced Tito for putting Yugoslav interests above Soviet interests, which in turn led to Tito divorcing his country from the Soviet bloc. The fact that the Soviet army was not physically in Yugoslavia at the time played a large role in the success of this separation.
EN4. In a deliberate effort to interfere with Western access to Berlin, in June 1948, the Soviets stopped all rail traffic between Berlin and West Germany. The British, French, and Americans retaliated by re-supplying the city by air. The Soviets admitted defeat in May 1949, and rail traffic gradually resumed.
EN5. At the 20th Party Congress held in Moscow on February 14-25, 1956, Khrushchev attacked the memory of Stalin and announced that more liberal policy would henceforth be followed. This revived hope of personal liberty throughout Eastern Europe, and on June 28, 1956, industrial workers struck in Poznan, Poland. Soviet troops were called out, and over the next two days fifty Poles were killed and hundreds more were injured.
EN6. On June 6, 1956, the Soviets demanded the reduction of American and British forces in Germany. On August 7, NATO refused, but at the time of Harrison’s letter, this was not yet a foregone conclusion.
EN7. US President Harry Truman’s goal in fighting the Korean War was to restore status quo pro ante, which meant dividing Korea into a Soviet sector north of the 38th Parallel and a US sector south of the 38th Parallel. Meanwhile, Truman’s field commander, General Douglas MacArthur, wanted to bring all of Korea under US control. Therefore, MacArthur publicly advocated conventional attack on Chinese airbases and supply depots, and privately asked for nuclear attacks. Because both requests were contrary to national command policy, MacArthur was eventually relieved. "Malik" was the Soviet Ambassador to the United Nations who first proposed a cease-fire in June 1951. Although Harrison saw the subsequent stalemate in Korea as a UN defeat, the Soviets viewed it otherwise, as it directly contributed to a nasty political rift between China and the Soviet Union.
EN8. There is a logical inconsistency in Harrison’s reasoning here. If the Soviets’ big mistake was walking out of the Security Council in 1950, thereby allowing the UN to defend South Korea, then the Americans would have been equally foolish had they left the UN simply because new member nations did not submit their foreign policy to Washington for approval. Of course, nobody ever said that Harrison’s politics (or those of anyone else) had to be logically consistent.
EN9. Because the Bolsheviks objected to the commercialism and economic elitism of the Olympics, the Soviets boycotted all pre-war Olympic Games. The Bolsheviks were not, however, averse to physical culture. Accordingly, they soon organized their own socialist sport festivals known as Spartakiads, a name honoring a German socialist movement crushed in 1919. In 1947, Stalin decided that the Soviets should participate in the Olympics, thus making the games a battleground in the Cold War. Stalin originally wanted Soviet athletes to enter the 1948 Olympics, but due to the ravages of the Great Patriotic War, he could not be guaranteed a large number of gold medals. (Participation was not enough for Stalin; he wanted medals.) Therefore, he decided to postpone entry until 1952. To ensure that Soviet athletes met Olympic eligibility requirements, top athletes were no longer given cash payments by their clubs. Instead, they received sinecures in government or the military. Because the Soviets had few good athletic facilities, coaches started having players swim during the summer, run in the spring and fall, and do cross-country skiing in the winter. In the process, they invented what is today known as cross training. At the same time, however, schoolteachers were required to identify potential athletes, and to encourage students to participate in minor sports such as small-bore rifle shooting, fencing, and wrestling. After all, there was less competition in the minor sports, and in the hunt for Olympic gold, a medal was a medal. Thus, the Soviet national teams of the 1950s were essentially professional teams. In the West, track-and-field, swimming, basketball, and military boxing teams were of course similarly trained and recruited, but to the Americans and British that was different.
EN10. In this paragraph, Harrison is again being (as is his right) logically inconsistent. After all, if his own fear of poverty is sufficient to make him willing to translate judo books for a pittance, then why shouldn’t a young athlete conditioned by advertising drive himself hard in hopes of obtaining a lucrative professional contract? On less contentious ground, the proclivity of US draft boards to consciously change athletes’ draft statuses (the most famous case involves boxer Muhammad Ali, but there were others) suggests that the United States was also capable of playing political hardball with national sports heroes. If these editorial observations are correct, then Harrison’s concluding sentence should properly credit the success of the US Olympic team to capitalist rather than democratic methods.
EN11. Diary, Oct. 13, 1659: "I went out to Charing Cross, to see Major-general Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered; which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition. He was presently cut down, and his head and heart shown to the people, at which there was great shouts of joy."
EN12. Harrison’s problem was that the vocabulary of karate includes many Ryukyuan and Southern Chinese loan words not contained in either the Tokyo dialect or his Japanese dictionaries.
EN13. During the summer of 1957, Gruel, a Frenchman training at the Kodokan in Japan, became enraged during randori, and struck his opponent in the mouth, thereby knocking out several teeth. At the time, none of the Japanese watching made any comment. Subsequently, however, Draeger watched Osawa throw the Frenchmen with "three tsurikomigoshi in a row and the 260-lb monster was quite shaken. I should mention that in all these and following waza, the master ‘lost’ control during kake and let go completely with his hands. A few ashiharai of lightning speed with similar treatment, and the hulk crawled off the tatami. I noticed Daigo (now at 235 pounds) standing by just in case Osawa couldn’t do it. It wasn’t necessary. He was quite beaten."
EN14. As Harrison wrote these words, Britain and
Turkey were at loggerheads over Cyprus. While the British had picked the
island up from the Ottoman Turks seventy years before, after World War
II the island’s mostly Greek population wanted union with Greece rather
than Turkey. Meanwhile, the British Government had adopted the American
nuclear strategy of mutually assured destruction and, and consequently
began drastically reducing its conventional military forces. Therefore,
it lacked the conventional military power to force Turkey to do its bidding,
as would have been the case even a decade earlier.