Shiro Saigo was born on Feb 4, 1866, in Aizu Wakamatsu. Aizuwakamatsu is a city on Japan’s Honshu island. In the center, towering white Tsuruga Castle, one of the last strongholds of samurai loyal to the shogunate, has distinctive red-tiled roofs. The surrounding park is known for spring cherry blossoms. Aizu Bukeyashiki is the reconstructed residence of an Edo-era samurai family. You can get there by car via a three-and-a-half-hour north-bound road trip from Tokyo.
Shiro was the third son of Shida Sadajiro, a samurai of the Aizu Domain. In 1882 he moved to Tokyo and enrolled in the Kodokan. According to the Kodokan, in 1884 he was adopted into the family of Tanomo Saigo, a former elder councillor of the Aizu Domain and took the name Hoshina Shiro. In 1888 he reverted to the surname Saigo in order to resurrect the Saigo family line, which had died out with the passing of Tanomo Saigo. Shiro Saigo died in Onomichi in Hiroshima prefecture in December 1922.
Shiro was a bit of an idol in his day. He was mostly known for a legendary fight that pitted Judo against Jujutsu, which up to then, the latter, was the more popular style of martial arts combat. Ya, you heard right. Kinda an early predecessor to MMA so to speak. Shiro, almost overnight, changed the martial arts landscape in Japan. After this legendary fight that saw Judo come up on top, the nation of Japan officially declared Judo it’s national martial art.
But that’s not what we’re here to talk about here today.
More importantly, Shiro was among Kano’s first two students along with Tsunehiro Tomita, to be awarded the yudansha grade, aka, the black belt (which it later became to be known as). In the day, there were only two ‘grades’. Graded and not graded. Of course, eventually, all the other colours of grading would come to be.
So it may seem ironic that Oracle Jiu Jitsu will be releasing a commemorative special Gi, (or the ‘Jodugi’ as it was originally called) for it’s Jiu Jitsu fight apparel gear in honour of a marital artist that in fact defeated Jujutsu. But we all know the importance that Kano played as the founder of the Kodokan. Without Kano, there would be no Maeda, who eventually found his way to Brazil. And without Brazil, there would not be what we popularly know today as Jiu Jitsu.
So to this end, Oracle Jiu Jitsu’s special commemorative Judogi, is in honour of Shiro. The first black belt.
This image very well maybe Shiro’s judogi, as borrowed from the official judoinfo.com website. While we pay respect to the original Gi, Oracle Jiu Jitsu promises to do it’s best to create an authentic, one-of-a-kind, limited edition custom premium Gi, that hopes to capture the spirit of Shiro.
Stay tuned for the drop date.
Coming this summer of 2022.