1914 - 2000
By: Syd Hoare 7th Dan
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 5th 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
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.
Fluent in Japanese, T.P. 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.
Interviewed Trever Leggett
Issue 6 , Spring 1996
Hicks, MBE 7th Dan.
T.P.Leggett In 1954 Trevor Leggett (who we knew as T.P.) suggested
to me that he should run a week long judo course in Bristol. I was
astonished at our good fortune, as he seldom taught outside London.
We were not disappointed. Many of the course members from Judokwai
Bristol and the University felt profoundly inspired by an underlying
philosophy, which transcended his brilliant teaching of skill and
tactics. For years I referred to notes I made at the time.
T.P. visited Bristol and the Western Area on a number of subsequent
occasions, and he invited me to attend his famous Sunday class for
brown and black belts. I vividly remember breaking my journeys to
London on the back of a motor scooter to perform T.P.'s required
number of uchi komi repetitions on the grass verge. We were never
The first Coaching Conferences were enriched by the attendance of
T.P. They were organised by his outstanding pupil and National Coach
- Geof Gleeson, and the camerarderie of the coaches was enhanced
by T.P.'s friendship and humour during our "off duty" periods. He
was a brilliant raconteur, and his tales of Yukio Tani, Ushi Jima
and other legendary judoka held us spellbound.
Perhaps the most extraordinary quality of this formidable fighting
man was his complimentary breadth of culture. For T.P. judo was
an ethical and educational training which opened doors of understanding
far beyond the dojo.I found him enormously interested in whatever
I was able to explain about my painting. He told me that he was
taking drawing lessons, as this was the art in which he was least
competent. By contrast , the lure of a high quality piano always
revealed a musician of professional ability.
Some may have found this cultural hunger a little daunting. His
most dedicated pupils were sometimes alarmed when required to write
essays. But this adherence to Kano's emphasis on education and the
samurai tradition of instruction by Zen monks might be a rewarding
antidote to contemporary pressure for "no strain - easy gain". The
last book T.P. sent me is "the Dragon Mask" - written by himself.
He inscribed it with an idiograph of "The Soaring Dragon"; and it
is packed with rare wisdom.
In 1964 I had the temerity to fill the centre of Bristol with a
Festival of Judo to celebrate the entry of judo into the Olympic
Games. It included a major exhibition of Japanese prints, demonstrations
of The Tea Ceremony as well as daily judo instruction and demonstrations
by members of the British Judo Team in the centre of the city. During
the hectic preparations we suffered the usual prophets of doom.
But T.P. sent me a card with the single phrase - : "Fortune Favours
The Brave". It was inspirational reassurance from a Soaring Dragon.
Long may he soar.
Next Article »