In 1904, “Judo’s founder Jigoro Kano sent one of his strongest young judoka, Mitsuyo Maeda (1880-1941) with Jojiro Tomita to the White House to assist in a judo demonstration for President Teddy Roosevelt. After a formal demonstration, an American football player in the audience issued an impromptu challenge.” The less adept Tomita took to the floor instead of Maeda. “Tomita failed with a throw and was pinned helplessly beneath the football player’s bulk. Maeda, abashed by Tomita’s poor showing and frantic to reassert the superiority of Kodokan Judo, stayed on. He persuaded some Japanese businessmen to stake him $1,000 in prize money and embarked on a long career of challenging all comers throughout North and South America. The 5’5”, 154-pound Maeda was said to have engaged in over 1,000 challenge matches, never once losing a judo-style competition and only once or twice suffering defeat as a professional wrestler. In Brazil, where he eventually settled he was feted as Conte Comte (“Count Combat”) and his savage system of fighting, now called ‘Gracie Jujutsu,’ is employed by certain fighters in present-day ‘no-holds-barred’ professional matches.” 1
B I O G R A P H Y
It was Maeda who brought Jiu-Jitsu to Brazil. As a member of the Kodokan, Maeda went to America with his kohai Satake, etc. as Judo ambassadors. He was said to have fought more than 100 fights and in Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America, he was respected as Count Koma (Conde Koma).
Maeda was born in Aomori Prefecture in 1878. When he was a boy, he learned Tenshin (Tenshin Shin’yo) Jiu-Jitsu. He moved to Tokyo when he was about 18 and went to Tokyo Senmon School. He began practicing Judo and a record of him entering the Kodokan is dated 1897. He was very persistant and never gave up on anything. He was naturaly talented in judo and rose through the ranks quickly to establish himself as the most promising young judoka in the Kodokan. Maeda was a small man at 164 cm, 70 kilo.
In 1904, he travelled to the U.S. with one of his instructors, Tsunejiro Tomita. The first and only place they demonstrated judo together was at the U.S. Army academy in West Point. Contrary to what has been published, they never went to the White House to meet the President, Teddy Roosevelt. It was the Kodokan great, Yoshitsugu Yamashita who taught Roosevelt judo at the White House and later engaged in a match with a wrestler nearly twice his size at Roosevelt’s request, which took place at the U.S. Naval academy in Annapolis. Yamashita won with an arm bar and was given a teaching position at the academy.
The demonstration at West Point however was a failure. Tomita and Maeda performed kata, but the Americans did not comprehend the techniques they were observing. Maeda was challenged by a student who was a wrestling champion. Maeda accepted the challenge and the wrestler ended up pinning Maeda which the wrestler had felt garnered him victory over Maeda. Maeda, who was not familiar with western wrestling continued to fight until he put his opponent in a joint lock forcing the wrestler to tap out. The students at West Point then wanted to see Tomita fight. In their minds, since Tomita was the instructor, he must have been better than Maeda. Tomita was in his 40’s and was past his prime. He had no choice but to accept a fight or he would of lost face. His larger American opponent rushed and tackled him. Tomita was held helpless under the larger man and forced to give up.
After this incident, Tomita and Maeda separated. Tomita left for the West Coast and Maeda stayed in New York. Maeda began teaching at Princeton University part-time after he had won some challenge matches. He also commuted to teach in New York City, but his American students did not take to the Japanese style of teaching and he often found his students did not stay long. Maeda was approached to engage in a match for prize money by the local japanese. Maeda wasn’t having much success teaching judo so he accepted. This was a violation of Kodokan rules which prohibited members from engaging in