Born : 8 July 1885 - Japan
Died : 15 April 1965 (aged 79) - Putney, London, United Kingdom
Japanese - English
Judo master & Musuem consultant on Oriental ware
Meher Baba's 1st visit to England. 12th September 1931
THAT FIRST DAY, many people came to see Meher Baba. Among them were Maggie Barton, Kitty and Herbert's older sister Martha May Cluse, Horace Fleming and a Japanese jujitsu teacher named Koizumi. Baba met them all individually and then stopped seeing visitors, deciding to have a private meeting with Herbert, Meredith, Kitty, Margaret and a few others. During this occasion, Paul Robeson records were played.
Lord Meher ; BHau Kalchuri - Vol.4 Page 1410 Lord Meher Online Edition Page 1259
Meher Baba's 1st visit to England. 14th September 1931 - East Challacombe retreat
Another fortunate devotee to meet the Master that day was Katherine Anna Tolhurst, called Kim. Kim was an intelligent, red-haired young woman; she was interested in Buddhism and was studying judo under Koizumi. The martial arts teacher Koizumi had met Baba in London and had spoken to Kim, telling her about Meher Baba, Meredith Starr and of the ashram in Devonshire. Koizumi urged her that this Baba was someone who would interest her. She wrote to Meredith that she was a seeker who had always hoped to find the real answers in life.
Lord Meher ; Bhau Kalchuri - Vol.4 Page
Lord Meher Online Edition Page 1263
8 July 1885(1885-07-08)
Komatsuka Oaza, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan
15 April 1965 (aged 79)
Putney, London, United Kingdom
|Rank||8th dan (Kodokan)|
Richard Bowen, Charles Palmer, Percy Sekine
Gunji Koizumi (小泉 軍治, Koizumi Gunji , 8 July 1885 – 15 April 1965), known affectionately by colleagues as G.K., was a Japanese master of judo who introduced this martial art to the United Kingdom, and came to be known
as the 'Father of British Judo.' He was the founder of the
Budokwai, a pioneering Japanese martial arts society in
England. Koizumi helped establish the British Judo Association, and founded the European Judo Union. He held the rank of 8th dan in judo. Koizumi's apparent suicide
in 1965 shocked the worldwide judo community.
Koizumi was born on 8 July 1885 in the village of Komatsuka Oaza (around 20 miles north of Tokyo at that time; the entire area is now part of metropolitan Tokyo) in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan. He was the younger son of a
tenant farmer, Shukichi Koizumi, and his
wife, Katsu. Koizumi had an elder brother, Chiyokichi, and a younger sister, Iku. In 1897, aged 12, Koizumi began
training in the art of kendo at school. Koizumi also began learning English from a neighbour who had been to America.
As the younger son in the family, he had the options of starting his own farm or being adopted into a family without a male heir
(a Japanese custom); he disliked both options. In July 1900, shortly before he turned 15, he left home to seek his fortune in Tokyo, where he enrolled as a trainee telegrapher under a government scheme. In 1901, he started practising jujutsu under Tago Nobushige at the Tenjin Shinyo-ryu. Once qualified as a telegrapher he worked for a while in Tokyo before taking a job on the railways in Korea. In 1904, he trained under Yamada Nobukatsu, a former samurai. By now, Koizumi had decided that he wanted to study electricity, and that the best place to do so
was in the United States of America. He travelled through Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and India, working as he went. While in Singapore in 1905, he trained under Tsunejiro Akishima.
On 4 May 1906, Koizumi arrived in Mostyn, North Wales, aboard the SS Romsford. He then travelled to Liverpool, where he took up the post of instructor at the Kara
Ashikaga School of Jujitsu. He then travelled south to London, where he collaborated with former Bartitsu Club instructor Sadakazu Uyenishi, who was operating his own jujitsu school in Piccadilly Circus. During this period, Koizumi also taught jujitsu at the London Polytechnic and for the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. After several months, he set off for New York, arriving in May 1907. He secured work in the Newark Public Service Railway Company. After a few years, dissatisfied with life in the USA, he returned to England. He tried to start an electric lighting company in Vauxhall Road, London, but lacked sufficient funds. In January 1912, he set up a lacquer ware studio in Ebury Street, London.
In 1918, at his own expense, Koizumi established a society in London called the Budokwai (Way of Knighthood Society). The Budokwai offered tuition in jujutsu, kendo, and other Japanese arts to the British people. Koizumi secured a location in Lower Grosvenor Place, along the back wall of Buckingham Palace, and the Budokwai's premises opened on 26 January 1918.
In 1919, Koizumi helped establish the Kyosai Kai, a society that aimed to provide medical, employment, and housing assistance to
Japanese people in England. Koizumi served as General Secretary of this organisation, which was based in the Budokwai's premises. In July 1920, Jigoro Kano, founder of the Kodokan, visited the Budokwai while on his way to the Olympic Games in Antwerp. After some discussion, Koizumi and Yukio Tani (another Budokwai instructor) agreed to change to the judo system, and Kano awarded them 2nd dan judo certifications.
In 1922, Koizumi, an expert in Oriental lacquerware, was appointed as a consultant to the Victoria and Albert Museum—and later catalogued the museum's
entire lacquerware collection. Koizumi's book, Lacquer work: A practical exposition of the art of lacquering together with valuable notes for the collector, was published in
1925. In 1932, he was promoted to 4th dan in judo.
Through World War II, judo training continued at the Budokwai, but at great financial cost to Koizumi. Biographer Richard Bowen notes that, unusually, "Koizumi was not interned and indeed suffered no restrictions"
during this time (p. 319). In 1948, Koizumi was promoted to 6th dan in judo. He helped establish the British Judo Association on 24 July 1948. He served as the
association's inaugural President. By the end of the decade, he
had retired from business and had turned his full attention to teaching judo in the UK. In 1951, he attained the rank
of 7th dan in judo.
On 19 September 1954, the Budokwai moved to new, larger premises; shortly after this, Koizumi returned to Japan for the first time in 50 years. His sister, relatives, and a Kodokan delegation led by its President, Risei Kano (one of Jigoro Kano's sons), received him at the airport. The Kodokan treated him as an honoured guest. After his visit, Koizumi returned to the UK. Koizumi wrote some books on judo, including Judo: The basic technical principles and exercises, supplemented with contest rules and grading syllabus (1958) and My study of Judo: The principles and the technical fundamentals (1960). He continued teaching judo throughout the early 1960s.
The night before Koizumi died, Charles Palmer (one of Koizumi's students) sensed that
something was amiss—Black Belt magazine correspondent Kei Tsumura relates that "instead of his [Koizumi's] usual smiling 'good-night', he shook his
[Palmer's] hand and said 'good-bye'" (p. 50). On 15 April 1965, Koizumi apparently committed suicide. He was found wearing his best suit, seated in his favourite chair, beside the
gas stove in his home, and reportedly with a plastic bag over his head.
Koizumi's death shocked the worldwide judo community, and caused much controversy. Some considered his suicide dishonourable, while others argued that his death mirrored those of honourable samurai. Grant (1965) indicated that he had been promoted to 8th dan before he died, but Fromm and Soames (1982) stated that the Kodokan promoted him to 8th dan posthumously.