The Kano Society



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Trevor Leggett     

27.8.1914 - 2.8.2000

 Also please see Trevor Leggett's websites Zen / Books /Yoga

Biographical Details:-

Documentary prepared for Centenary 2014

Memorial 2001

Obituary and Tributes  2000

It is with great sadness that I have to report the death of Trevor Leggett - patron of the Kano Society. He died of a stroke at St Mary's Hospital in the early hours of  Wednesday 2nd August 2000. He had been recovering from an infection brought on by an earlier admission and in typical Leggett style was asking for a room where he could get back to his work whilst in hospital.

Trevor's funeral took place at Mortlake Crematorium on Friday 11th August 2000 at 11am. An appreciation of his life was read by Henry Curtis from the Buddhist society and by Malcolm Hodkinson. The hymns 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind'; and 'To be a Pilgrim' were complimented by readings including some of Trevor's favourite verses and the best epitaph there could be - a passage from his last book 'The Old Zen Master' - 

"We can learn a lot of other things from music. You do not hang on to a chord no matter how beautiful. You do not regret the end of a piece of music. The piece is played and comes to a natural end. In the same way a life is played."

I find it impossible to read this passage without breaking down - but that is not what TP would have wanted - he will now be rejoicing in 'wearing new robes' .

The service was attended by approximately 80 close friends including -  K Watanabe who had left the Japanese team in Thailand and flew over via Tokyo and Tony Sweeney who managed to attend despite leaving for Japan later in the day. Dickie Bowen and Ayako, Syd Hoare, Diana Birch, Malcolm Hodkinson,  and Larry Ralph (Kano Society and Budokwai); Stan Brogan (Kano Society and OdoRyu); Percy Sekine (Judokan and Kano Society)

 Others present were John Pinnell (Budokwai EC); Alan Zipeure (President of London Area BJA); Charles Mack (President British Shotokan Karate Assn);  Ben Anderson and others from the Buddhist Society, and Bernard Alexander, Warwick Stevens and Pam, Ray Ross,  Hyde,  Harold Rhoda, Frank Ward, Malcolm Lister, Liz Newman, Michi Wyman,   Dave Barnard (Renshuden);  John Ritchie, Mick Leigh - (there were others - apologies if I cannot list everyone). Many sent condolences (see below) including Yukimitsu Kano whose message was the first to arrive. Many wished to attend and were unable to such as John Cornish (who sadly had to attend a family funeral); others were abroad.

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Trevor was a man of many skills and many facets - he is missed by many and we all have different memories of his life and how we have been affected by him. On this page we have collected comments, recollections and writings about Trevor Leggett

Index of contributions - (use hyperlink to access them)

Trevor Leggett - Obituary Syd Hoare

Trevor Leggett - Telegraph Obituary

Trevor Leggett - Archives

Trevor Leggett - A brief Zen CV

Trevor Leggett - Eulogy - Malcolm Hodkinson


Yukimitsu KANO - Kodokan

Arthur Tansley - Japan

David Waterhouse - Toronto

Ken Knott - Pennsylvania - USA

 Angelo Sanna - Sardinia

Siv Ostman - Sweden

Brian Watson - Japan

leggettgleeson58.jpg (387975 bytes) TP and Gleeson 1958

Trevor Leggett - Obituary Syd Hoare



It is with the greatest sadness we announce the death of Trevor Leggett.  He died in the early hours of Wednesday 2nd August in his eighty-fifth year.  TP as he was affectionately known was one of the great figures of the Budokwai.

He joined the club in 1932 at the age of eighteen and studied under Yukio Tani who was very famous around the beginning of the century for taking on all comers in public matches.  Tani once said of himself that he was a third rate judoman but had unrivalled experience in beating boxers and wrestlers.  Tani was a very strict teacher of the old samurai school and TP was brought up in that tradition.

In 1938 TP went to Japan to continue his training in judo and there he gained his 4th and fifth dans.  At that time only one other foreigner – O’Neill – had got that high.  The war in Europe started a year later and TP seeing the way things were going got himself attached to the British Embassy and when Japan entered the war in 1941 he was interned along with the other embassy staff.  Eventually he left Japan as part of an exchange with London based Japanese embassy staff.  He served in India from 1943 to 1945 at the British SE Asia Military HQ using his knowledge of Japanese.

After the war he returned to London and began teaching at the Budokwai.  During the 1950s he was responsible for lifting the standard of judo at the club.  He himself was a fanatical trainer.  He never rested during training and encouraged his students to do the same.  We were instructed to  get double figures in practice which meant ten or more randori a night.  The sessions were not particularly organized so this meant training with somebody till you felt you had had enough then immediately looking around for someone else to train with.  A randori with somebody might be five to ten minutes or longer so ten plus randori was quite a lot of work.  Leggett was a great believer in clean technique and he was far and away the best teacher I have ever come across.  He not only drew on his own experience of judo but made many translations from Japanese texts on judo.

In particular he was famous for his Sunday class.  This was always two hours long every Sunday afternoon.  Participation was by invitation only and you had to be at least brown belt.  These Sunday sessions were always packed and invitations to the class were greatly prized.  Virtually all the key figures of British judo graduated from this class.  The class itself was a mixture of grinding hard work, contest and instruction on every aspect of judo.  For example usually once a year we had a Katsu (resuscitation) class.  This was only for black belts.  The class was always announced with the dreaded words – ‘All black belts down stairs to the lower dojo!  Once in the lower dojo we were shown how to bring unconscious people round again and then we had to pair up, strangle our partner out and then revive him and he in turn did the same to you.  TP also had the knack of knowing what and who you dreaded most in judo and he would make sure you confronted that and them in your training.

TP once said that he tried to make the Sunday class as hard if not harder than the sessions in Japan since he wanted to prepare those who intended to go to Japan.  This in fact was the case.  I rarely came across a harder session in Japan and when I was in the British Army PT School at Aldershot and went through some particularly tough courses I never found them worse than those Sundays.

During the 1950s some sixteen British judomen (and a few women) followed TP’s example and went to train in Japan for about two to three years on average.  Competition judo was not particularly developed then and so Japan was the natural place to go to further ones training.  By about the mid-sixties this became less necessary as international competitions rapidly developed in Europe and elsewhere.  The flow to Japan faded away.

TP abruptly pulled out of Judo in the early sixties.  He decided he had produced enough competitors and teachers.  He turned his attention to writing mostly about judo, Budo, eastern philosophy (Adhyamata Yoga) and Zen Buddhism. In all he wrote over thirty books.  His last one came out this year in March and when he died he was working on his next one despite the fact that he was virtually blind. 

He was fluent in Japanese – he headed the BBC’s Japanese Service for twenty four years - and was also a Sanskrit scholar. He was a multi-faceted man with many interests including classical music.  In his youth, he told me, he was almost good enough to be a classical concert pianist.  He was a great inspiration to most of us at the Budokwai.  His message was do not be just a good judoka but be good at everything.  It was always fatal to say to him…I am no good at (X) since he would abruptly say, ‘ Get good at it then’.

It is no exaggeration to say that one of the great figures of world judo has passed away.

Syd Hoare

leggett56.jpg (174477 bytes) TP 1956 demonstrating Go-no-sen-no-kata on Gleeson

Trevor Leggett - Telegraph Obituary   this appeared in the Telegraph on Friday 11th August 2000

TREVOR PRYCE LEGGETT, who has died aged 85, was a renowned judo trainer at the Budokwai in London — the oldest judo club outside Japan — where he influenced a gen­eration of British judoka.

As a shihan, a senior judo master, Leggett, or “T P’ as he was known, was fanatically disciplined. He never rested during training sessions and encouraged his students to do the same. During one of his classes they would be instructed to engage in 10 or more sessions of randori (judo free-fighting) a night, with each session lasting up to 15 minutes An invitation to join his Sunday class was greatly prized. Participants had to be at least brown belts, and virtually all the leading figures of British judo graduated from these sessions.

Once a year he held a katsu (resuscitation) class. Leggett would make the announce­ment: “All black belts downstairs to the lower dojo!” In the lower dojo (judo hall) the participants were shown how to revive some­body who was unconscious. Each member of the class would pair up and take it in turns to strangle his partner until unconscious, and then revive him. Leggett’s intense teaching methods were respected and feared. He had the knack of knowing what the student dreaded most and would ensure that it was confronted during training. Anyone caught half asleep on the mat would be buried with an enormous throw. Leggett saw judo as a training for life, as much about character development as combat on the mat.

Trevor Pryce Leggett was born in London on August 22 1914. His father, a professional musician, had been a musical child prodigy and the leader of orchestras under Sir Thomas Beecham. He did not approve of his son’s interest in judo, so to begin with Trevor attended sessions in secret.In 1932 he joined the Budokwai and studied under Yukio Tani, celebrated at the beginning of the century for taking on all corners in public matches. Tani was a strict teacher of the old samurai school and Leg­gett was trained in that tradition. During this period he also studied law at the University of London, graduating in 1934 

He went to Japan in 1938 and there contin­ued his judo training. He gained his contest fifth dan, a level that even, today very few non-Japanese have achieved. He embraced the challenges set by his Japanese fellow students of judo, who were inclined to be unimpressed by the Englishman. On one occasion, after a training session, he stood for an hour in a cold shower when the Japa­nese man next to him refused to be the first to leave. In the end, both men agreed to leave together so that neither would lose face. When the Second World War broke out in Europe, Leggett was attached to the British embassy in Tokyo. In 1941 Japan entered the war and he was interned along with the other embassy staff. During his internment he con­tinued his judo training with his guards. He left Japan as part of an’ exchange with London-based Japanese embassy staff.

From 1943 to 1945 Leggett served in India at the British South-East Asia Military Head­quarters, where his fluency in Japanese proved a great asset. When the war was over he returned to London and in 1946 joined the external services of the BBC. He was a val­ued member of the Far Eastern section as Japanese editor. In 1950 his post was redes­ignated as programme organiser of the Japanese section. A sympathetic and courteous colleague, he was highly respected for his knowledge of Japan and its people and remained with the BBC until his retirement in 1969.

Leggett began teaching at the Budokwai in 1945, and in 1954 was made a senior instruc­tor. But in 1964 he suddenly severed all connections with judo teaching. He decided he had produced enough competitors and teach­ers. Instead he turned his attention to writ­ing books about judo, Budo (the Japanese equivalent of European chivalry), eastern philosophy (Adhyamata Yoga) and Zen Buddhism. While in Japan, Leggett had undergone a ritual training at a Buddhist monastery. Part of this involved sitting outside the building for a number of days followed by a prolonged period in the lotus position, once admission had been gained. When he returned to live in London, he became a regular lecturer at the Buddhist Society. A Japanese friend once described Leggett as “more Japanese than the Japanese”. Such was his love of Japan custom that be even wore a fundoshi, the loin cloth worn only by the most traditional Japanese man. 

Leggett published 30 books, among them Zen and the Ways; Championship Judo Tai­Otosho and Ouch-Gari Attacks; Cloth and Stone — Stories of Yoga; and Zen and the Spirit of Budo.    For his contribution to introducing Japa­nese culture to Britain, he was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Japanese Government in 1984. 

leggett58.jpg (58057 bytes)  TP 1958 demonstrating Gonosen-no-kata on Gleeson at the Chelsea Town Hall

Trevor Leggett - Archives - from Judo Personalities - by A. Menzies - in Judo Magazine Vol 1 No 5 February 1957)

Name:  TREVOR PRYCE LEGGETT. Bachelor of Laws (London University).

Born: 1914

Business or Profession : Japanese Programme Organiser. B B.C. 

Age when started Judo  I8: at the Budokwai. under the famous Yukio Tani.; 1st. 2nd and 3rd Dan at The Budokwai.; 4th (at age 24). 5th and 6th Dan at The Kodokan. Tokyo.  Has lived abroad— India, Japan. Germany. etc., and was interned in Japan during the last war. Training for Judo for Englishmen in Japan was T.P.L.’s idea, and he was responsible for making such trips possible. All post-war Budokwai British team members trained by him. 

Hobbies Chess: 1st Dan at Shogi (Japanese chess). and as there are 25 Kyu grades in Shogi this is a high achievement. The only Occidental who has such a ranking.  Oriental philosophy: has published several translations of Buddhist texts.

TPleggett+hyde1951.jpg (12335 bytes) Leggett and Hyde 1951

Trevor Leggett - A brief Zen CV -

Trevor Leggett was a patron of the Kano Society -  He has until recently also been President of the Budokwai. Many of us have known him mainly as a Judo instructor and this aspect of his life is covered in the archives, and other articles however he is also known as a Zen scholar and writer. - The brief CV below covers some of that side of his work.

Trevor Leggett's teacher of Yoga and its philosophy was the late Dr. Hari Prasad Shastri, pandit and jnani of India. Dr Shastri was commissioned by his own teacher to spread the ancient Yoga abroad, which he did in China, Japan and lastly for twenty seven years in Britain until his death in 1956. The Yoga is based on the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita but is to be spread on non-sectarian and universal lines. It has a clear-cut philosophy and training method.  Trevor Leggett was his pupil for eighteen years and was one of those entrusted with the continuation of Dr. Shastri's mission. All Leggett's books on spiritual subjects are dedicated to his teacher.

Trevor Leggett has lived in India and Japan and knows Sanskrit and Japanese. From 1946 for 24 years head of the BBC Japanese Service broadcasting in Japanese to Japan twice a day.

He is a translator and author of some thirty books mostly on Eastern and Far Eastern yoga and Zen, with some cross-cultural studies. Three of them in Japanese. He also holds the rank of 6th Dan in Judo from Kodokan, Tokyo and 5th Dan in Shogi, Japanese chess.

In 1984 he was awarded the Third Degree of the Order of the Sacred Treasure, by the Emperor of Japan, in recognition of his services to cross-cultural relations between East and West, through broadcasting, translations and other books, and through active introduction of aspects of Japanese culture to the West. There are eight degrees of this Order, from the First down, and this is the Third Grade, which is in practice the highest a private individual can get.

In 1987 he was awarded the All-Japan Buddhist Association Literary Award for Translations of Japanese.

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The sleeve which is carrying nothing is light -
The evening cool!  

Trevor Leggett has been the author of many Judo books and most of us will have read his book on Kata Judo which is regarded as a classic, however in the last two decades his writing has focused more on the philosophical side of Judo and on Zen. He continues to write despite his advanced age and blindness. The following is an extract from his latest book ' The Old Zen Master' published March 2000

Extract from "Robes of Honour"  

 "...In these ways, we put robes of honour on ourselves, and they hamper us and we can't do the job properly.

In Judo there is a certain grading contest called 'one-against-ten.' You have to take on ten men-one after another. They are generally a couple of grades below you, and with luck are so terrified of you, that it is easy to dispose of them. But one or two of them think, 'Everybody knows I'm going to lose anyway, so I've nothing to lose,' and they come shooting at you, taking fantastic risks. Because you are so sure of your own superiority, which he doesn't seem to recognize, and because he comes straight at you - 'whoosh' - you can't get the robes of self-conceit and assurance off in time, so that, once in a blue moon, he scores. Then you know what it is like to look an utter fool. This happened to some rather famous contest men who were not fully alert because they felt it was unnecessary. They had already put on the robes of their coming victory. No longer simply the judo champions they ought to be, they became judo champions combined with something restricting - judo champions in cumbersome robes of honour."

Eulogy By Malcolm Hodkinson

Trevor Pryce Leggett, 1914-2000, an appreciation

This short appreciation of Trevor Leggett is a shortened version of the one delivered at his funeral on August 11th 2000.

Many others can speak to the many varied achievements of this remarkable man. He was dauntingly able, but sometimes perceived, because of his intense application and seriousness of purpose, as a somewhat forbidding and stern personality. I base this appreciation on his last few years of poor heath when, as a retired physician, I was able to give regular practical support and came to know him more closely.


My memories are of an intensely warm and human person with an amazing sense of humour and who faced his illness with exemplary courage and adaptability and with far-ranging and undiminished intellectual curiosity. He made masterly use of well-chosen stories, often teaching by parable. I shall recount just a couple of such stories which highlight his intrinsic personality.


Trevor spoke of his first judo teacher, the legendary Yukio Tani. One day at the Budokwai a young man was injured in practice and lay on the mat making a great hullabaloo. After a short while Tani came over and simply said; “shall I send for your mother”. Subsequently, arriving at the Budokwai with a bad cold, Trevor told Tani that he was too unwell to practice. Tani said he should and, remembering;  “shall I send for your mother”, Trevor did. After a short time Tani said Trevor could finish practice now; he had made his point - one should face adversity not be overcome by it - a lesson Trevor followed all his life, notably in his fortitude during his last years of illness.


My second story illustrates this. Trevor had had his left eye removed and I subsequently took him to Moorfields Hospital for the fitting of his prosthesis (false eye). This involved a gruelling morning during which umpteen different prostheses were tried, an uncomfortable procedure, given a recently healed socket which was still sore and sensitive. A couple of minutes into the journey home, rather than grumble or complain, Trevor came up with his appropriate story! In China many years ago, a man had been sentenced to death but appealed to the Emperor. The Emperor said he would pardon him if he could say which of his eyes was a glass eye. Unhesitatingly and correctly, the prisoner chose the left. The Emperor pardoned him, asking how he had chosen so unhesitatingly. The man replied; “I chose the eye showing the glimmer of compassion!” How many of us could hope to keep our humour and sense of perspective as well as Trevor?


Trevor was a valiant man. He had no fear of illness or death and his sole concern was that he be able to continue his work. His sudden death at a time he was actively planning his early return to work was ideal for him: a good death culminating a good life.

 Professor Malcolm Hodkinson

3 September 2000