Sanshiro Sugata comes up to Tokyo in order to study “Jujitsu”, an old Japanese martial art. He is going to visit the school of Saburo Monma, a well-known Jujitsu teacher. Incidentally, he witnesses a fierce fight between Shogoro Yano, a young teacher in Japanese Literature, and several strong disciples from the Monma School. To Sanshiro’s greatest surprise, Shogoro Yano displays a wonderful skill and throws his attackers into the canal, one after another, without using much force on his side.
Sanshiro begins to learn more about Yano, and his new art in self-defence, which he calls “Judo”. “Jujitsu” which has been handed down for generations as a martial art is now in the hands of old-fashioned people, who little understand the meeting of the democratic new era of Meiji. Since the fall of the Shogunate some 15 years before, these ex-samurai became jobless. They keep their training halls but many of them have become cynical or desperate, losing sense of honor. On the other hand, Shogoro Yano wishes to create a new school of this old art, modifying its traditional techniques. He renders it less dangerous by eliminating such tricks devised to kill or seriously cripple the opponent. He also emphasizes the spiritual value of training, and strictly prohibits his students to hold a match with those from other schools, unless it is with his permission.
Coming to Yano’s Shudokan School, Sanshiro learns many things. First, he is taught to be modest. He is involved in a street brawl and is severely reprimanded by Yano. Then he is taught to be perseverant. While Sanshiro is on his good behavior, Shudokan is visited by Gennosuke Higaki, commonly believed to be the strongest “Jujitsu” man of the day. As Sanshiro is prohibited to do a match, he is forced to stay quiet when Higaki defeats all the students who happen to be there.
Monma School makes an official challenge to Shudokan. Sanshiro is elected by Prof. yano to represent his school. He plays a match with Monma and wins, by throwing the latter so hard that the man is killed on the spot. This incident gives him a nickname, and people begin to call him “Killer” Sanshiro. He is at a loss what to do, when he discovers that Osumi, Monma’s orphaned child is after him for revenge. This second trial makes Sanshiro a man of larger caliber.
The Metropolitan Police Board holds the Championships of all martial arts, to employ the representatives of the victorious schools the official instructors at the Board. The main event is a match between Hansuke Murai, representing “Jujitsu” and Sanshiro Sugata, representing the Shudokan “Judo”.
Gennosuke Higaki, who belongs to Murai’s school, comes to him and tells him to let him represent “Jujitsu” school, saying that he is the only Jujitsu man who can defeat Sanshiro, Higaki wants the post of the martial art instructor at the police Board and the hand of Sayo, who is Hansuke’s beautiful daughter. Hansuke turns down the talk. Hansuke believes that it is one’s character that counts, rather than mere skill and power. After sending Higaki away, Hansuke trains himself with redoubled efforts to prepare himself for the Championship.
Several days before the match, however, Sanshiro finds Hansuke’s daughter Sayo is praying before a shrine for her father’s victory. He is so impressed by her daughterly affection that his fighting spirit begins to wither. This third trial is broken through thanks to the severe reprimand by the old priest of the temple, where Yano’s Shudokan sets headquarters.
In the Championships, Sanshito wins, but he is not very happy. He is worried about old Hansuke Murai, until Sayo pays a visit at Shudokan to ask Sanshiro to come and see her father. Old Murai is now confined in bed, after exhausting his energy in the fierce match. As he talks with Murai, whose days are evidently numbered, Sanshiro finds in him the very image of the vanishing samurai spirit.
Finding Sayo’s heart is fascinated by Sanshiro, Higaki challenges Sanshiro to a duel. After a fierce struggle that lasts for half an hour, it is Sanshiro who remains standing on the grassy ground. Higaki who may have been stronger in physic, better in techniques, turns out a loser, as he has been lacking in spiritual culture.
- Akira Kurosawa
- Original Story
- Tsuneo Tomita
- Akira Kurosawa
- Japan Release year
- Running Time