Forms of Hardness/Strength

by Neil Ohlenkamp

fan3 Go-no-kata

According to Professor Toshiro Daigo1, 10th dan, the Kodokan Go no Kata was developed in 1887. The Kodokan preserved the techniques of this kata from early jujutsu training methods. Originally this kata was called the GoJu no Kata (the form of strength and flexibility), however the research into the kata was inadequate and the developers were not pleased with the 10 techniques devised. So the kata was left as it was in order to think it over.

This kata is now considered a “lost”2kata of Judo because it is not a part of the official Kodokan syllabus and it is seldom taught or practiced today. The techniques of this kata demonstrate the appropriate use of strength, power, and hardness (go) as a counterbalance to the principle of yielding (ju).

Jigoro Kano believed that there are times when it’s appropriate to yield, and there are times when it’s not appropriate to yield. The theory of Judo is to apply the correct amount of force necessary to accomplish the objective. The most efficient use of strength and power is the core principle of Judo as created by Jigoro Kano. Using power efficiently includes standing firm, resisting, and opposing force with force in certain conditions. This kata is designed to clearly show that yielding is not the only tool available to a judoka.

M. Feldenkrais4, in his “Judo – The Art of Defence and Attack” published in 1944, says that the Go no Kata is used for developing strength, and at the time his book was written it was listed as one of the 7 most common kata.

Antony Cundy5 in an article published in Hoplite (the newsletter of the International Hoplology Society) says the traditional Go no Kata is one of the oldest Kodokan kata and “represents an important historical link between the classical practices of jujutsu and the all-round educational emphasis of Jigoro Kano’s Kodokan Judo.” This article describes a demonstration of the Go no Kata in 1998 at the Kodokan, the first time it had been performed at the Kodokan in 50 years.

Seven techniques are included in the kata, three of which are repeated with different entering (irimi) patterns. The techniques are all executed from jigotai (defensive posture) without gripping the clothing. The kata also contains examples of Renraku Waza and Kaeshi Waza giving the exercise a special completeness. Since the techniques are not completed with ukemi (similar to Ju no Kata) it is acceptable for beginners to practice.

According to Kodokan Professor Toshiro Daigo, the Yuko no Katsudo6 published by the Kodokan in November 1921, Gianna Giraldi14, and Antony Cundy’s article, and other knowledgeable sources, there are ten techniques performed in the Go no Kata.

1. Seoi nage
2. Ushiro goshi
3. Sukui nage
4. Hidari Seoi nage
5. Uki goshi
6. Hadaka jime Koshi kudaki
7. Tobi goshi Uki goshi
8. Osoto otoshi
9. Ushiro goshi
10. Kata guruma

Mr. Cundy’s article continues:

The Go no Kata in practice is a complex of prearranged movement patterns, executed by two practitioners who engage in short bursts of strength matching exercises, which are then concluded by the application of a throwing or choking technique. For example, in the first technique, the exponents take a grappler’s embrace, and then attempt to push each other backwards; they then reverse their efforts and attempt to pull each other forward. The pushing procedure is then resumed until the predetermined winner breaks from the pushing action, and utilizes his partner’s momentum to execute a shoulder throw. For exhibition purposes, the timing for the push-pull changes is roughly decided beforehand, however when done in normal training, the timing is not predetermined. This kind of semi-cooperative resistance training is not only an excellent conditioning exercise, but forces the practitioners to act decisively under intensive physical and mental pressure. This type of training differs from the standard Ju no Kata (Forms of Suppleness/Flexibility/Gentleness), which more typify Kodokan training. The Ju no Kata are a fully cooperative kata.

The Go no Kata was reckoned by the late 9th dan Kuhara Yoshiyuki to be the oldest original kata in the Kodokan. This is because the Go no Kata developed from a class drill or form of practice used by Jigoro Kano at the Kodokan in its earliest days. It was loosely defined and was not easily adapted to an organized kata. This exercise has as its base Tenshin Shinyo Ryu and Kito Ryu Jujutsu, modified by the personal studies of Jigoro Kano. However, by the time the Go no Kata was formalized there already existed other Kodokan kata, such as the Nage no Kata and Katame no Kata. In some older texts this Kata is called GoJu no Kata, emphasizing the correlation between the use of the force and the study of submissiveness that is in this exercise.

This kata is thought to be the only Judo kata intended to assist in the development of actual physical force, but also to use correctly the force of Uke during the action. Tenth dan Nagaoka recommended to practice this kata before every lesson like a warming up exercise. Nagaoka also wrote that the Go no Kata contributes to increased willpower, physical force, and Ki. There are very few writings of Jigoro Kano on this kata – and what exists is contained in obscure works such as the November 1921 issue of Yuko no Katsudo6 published by the Kodokan. Further details have been cited by others on the discussion board. In Japan, Sensei Ochiai is an expert in Go no Kata and he continues to practice this exercise while working to get the Kodokan to accept it as an official kata.

According to “Judo Memoirs of Jigoro Kano” by Brian N. Watson16, Jigoro Kano in a series of interviews with Torahei Ochiai said this about the Go no Kata: “This is in essence a fight pitching strength versus strength, after which one performer substitutes strength for flexibility in order to gain final victory over his opponent. For a time this kata was taught at the Kodokan, but since it contains some techniques that are now considered to be unsatisfactory, it has been dropped. I believe that there needs to be a general revision of this kata.”

Other Judo principles and kata developed over the first three decades of the 20th century, and the older Go no Kata, which was based more on jujutsu principles and training methods, gradually fell into disfavor and was seldom practiced or taught. Since this kata was not standardized as a part of the Kodokan curriculum, it also changed over the years. There is a great deal of mystery surrounding the original Go no Kata, and the fact that there are different versions makes it difficult to accurately describe this kata with any sense of authority.

Because the kata has not been accepted and standardized by the Kodokan, in some places today the Go no Kata is sometimes thought of as a demonstration of how striking techniques are incorporated into Kodokan Judo. Although Toshiro Daigo, Mr. Cundy, and other experts do not mention striking as a part of the Kodokan Go no Kata, in some versions atemi (striking) is a central part of the Go no Kata. “The Complete 7 Katas of Judo” by M. Kawaishi7 describes the Go no Kata as the “Kata of force or of blows, more characteristic of Karate-Do (the technique of the Atemis).” In addition, Steven Cunningham8 says, “there are a lot of atemi, as well as throws and other things in Go no Kata“. The IJF even published a paper by Bruno Carmeni15 which lists kata that are not practiced any more such as, “strength and hitting kata go no kata – made of ten techniques that study push and physical strength. It is violent and contracted (a kind of Japanese savate), nowadays it is usually practised within Japanese karate gyms.”

In fact, completely different versions of the Go no Kata have been created with the same name to demonstrate the concept of hardness and strength as used in Judo. According to Mr. Cunningham again, “A sidenote is that Kyuzo Mifune, tenth dan, constructed a different Go no Kata during the WWII years. He intended it, I think, to replace the older one. Variants of Mifune’s Go no Kata, probably reflecting different stages in the development of his form, appear periodically, adding to the confusion regarding Go no Kata.” Apparently, the later versions of the Go no Kata preserve the atemiwaza (striking techniques) of Judo, and blend the hardness of karate with the more yielding grappling principles of Judo. Practicing this kata provides the judoka with a lesson in hard techniques, and a familiarity with a more distant range of fighting than the close contact found in most Judo techniques.

In his book, The Complete Book of Judo9, Geof Gleeson, described a new Go no Kata he devised to demonstrate the principle of go as it applies to competitive skills. “If fighters want to use power to beat their opponent that is fine — as long as they know when and how to use it!” The author uses 15 techniques to study basic principles of force such as, “How a localised (limb) force can be overcome by a total (body weight) force,” and, “How a body weight force can be overcome by a dynamic body movement.”

In yet another version according to George Parulski10, the Go no Kata is composed of two sections: the omote or frontal fundamentals (11 techniques), and the tachi-ai, or standing techniques (9 techniques). Attacks are defended with blocks, various kicks, punches and strikes, throws, and wrist and arm locks. This version has also been published in a book by Jan Muilwijk11. The original source of this kata is questionable and it seems to be the creation of Mr. Parulski.

With the general lack of information available about the original Kodokan Go no Kata, Judo experts have been free to create variations that focus on their interpretation of the principle of go. Although every source seems to agree that the efficient use of power is an essential element of Judo practice which should be preserved in a kata, the use of power in Judo means different things to different people. The central principles of go may in the end be as complex as those of ju.

As in the closing of a circle, this brings us back to the requirement in Judo for strength and power to be used in a flexible and judicious way, the way most suited to the situation. “It is not the factor of strength that Dr. Kano opposed, but its misuse.”12

As Jigoro Kano concludes, “Is there, then, any principle which never fails of application? Yes, there is! And that is the principle of Maximum Efficiency in Use of Mind and Body.”13


1. Professor Toshiro Daigo, kudan, Handout Distributed at Kodokan Kata Clinic, June 2003, Tokyo (also in Kodokan New Japanese-English Dictionary of Judo, page 142)

2. Geof Gleeson, 1975, All About Judo, EP Publishing Ltd.

3. Tadao Otaki & Donn Draeger, 1983, Judo Formal Techniques, Japan Publications Trading Co.

4. M. Feldenkrais, 1944, Judo – The Art of Defence and Attack, Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd

5. Antony Cundy, Fall 1999, “The Go no Kata: An Introduction to the Forgotten Form of Kodokan Judo”, Hoplite, International Hoplology Society

6. Yuko no Katsudo, Kodokan, 1921

7. M. Kawaishi, 1957, The Complete 7 Katas of Judo, W. Foulsham & Co. Ltd

8. Steven R. Cunningham, 1998, The Dynamic Nature of Kata, Judo Forum Online Magazine

9. Geof Gleeson, 1976, The Complete Book of Judo, Coles Publishing Co., Toronto, Canada

10. George Parulski, 1998, The Complete CD-ROM of Judo, Kobushi Multimedia

11. Jan Muilwijk, 2006, Go No Kata: Reconstruction of a Lost Kata,

12. Donn F. Draeger, 1966, Judo Randori No Kata and Ju No Kata, AAU-JBBF Judo Handbook, US Amateur Athletic Union

13. Jigoro Kano, Judo: The Japanese Art of Self Defense, Judo Information Site

14. Gianna Giraldi, (translated by Llyr C. Jones, 2007) Go no Kata

15. Bruno Carmeni, 1997, Judo for Visually Impaired Athletes

16. Brian N. Watson, 2008, Judo Memoirs of Jigoro Kano, Trafford Publishing

More Information:

1. Discussion and Demonstration Video

2. More Discussion

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