Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Original Intent of Judo

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an interview with an early British student of Judo, who learned from the founder of Judo, Jigoro Kano. I've excerpted a portion below.

Trevor Pryce Leggett; Physical Education, Judo, and Kano's Original Intention. An interview conducted October 6, 1999 with the assistance of Richard "Dicky" Bowen.

"The future of Budo is in response." -T.P. Leggett-

While in London I was able to visit with Britain's senior Judoka, Trevor Leggett. With his eighty-five years stretching through Judo, Buddhism, Education, Language and Psychology in many ways he is a Renaissance man. His many books on both Judo and Buddhism have been the gate for several generations of readers to enter Asia. Quick to get to the point he said he preferred the interview to focus on things important to him rather than on himself. So it was.

He recalled how at the age of seventeen, hearing Kano lecture on Judo. "Judo for life not competition" was his message. Leggett recalled how even in old age Kano stood straight with impeccable "shinzen hontai" or balanced posture. In Leggett's book on Judo kata Kano is pictured with the same posture demonstrating the Ju No Kata, or kata of ideal movements. "Even better than his younger partner" says Leggett. Leggett continued, "Kano did not want Judo in the Olympics. Yes, he had an interest in the Olympics but this was not to do with entering it. Judo has been destroyed by competition. Kano said it was "Maximum efficiency leading to mutual aid and understanding" The animal movements of a man controlled by a ritualized activity which in turn becomes friendship and understanding. The understanding gained on the judo mats is then extended to business and into interpersonal relationships and into life generally. Judo was not supposed to become a political arena.

Kano said, that to try to force through one's point of view by stressing advantages of wealth, of strength, or political advantage may overcome the opposition for the moment but the opponent is not really convinced, he has to be convinced by calm reasoning. With Judo protocol and courtesies to keep the animal aspect in check wedded to a vigorous physical exchange, Judo can cut through class and cultural differences to create a comradery of friendship. The ritual of bowing, particularly the kneeling bow, is part of this development. The emphasis on cleanliness is also part of this. Walking down a dirty, smelly hall does not do one any good.

Modern Judo has done away with these ideas and abandoned the intent of Kano. This along with the overemphasis on competition has morally and technically bankrupted Judo. It was not intended as a sport for an audience to watch, it was a practice to be participated in. The cleanliness, the order, the ritual courtesies led by a good teacher - this was the path Kano taught. This creates understanding with accompanying technical proficiency.

One tough medical student who practiced randori with me would say, "Thank you" after I threw him and "Excuse me" after he threw me! Initially I did not understand his pedantic adherence to saying this over and over. Then I realized. It was his way of checking himself and his own temper. This is what allowed him to maintain his own self observation and discipline.

And this is not unique to the Japanese. The old aristocratic British after the French Revolution took up boxing so they could settle scores without the authority of the sword (which characterized the French way). The story of Squire Smith shows this. Squire Smith tied his horse up to go in a shop and a cartman pushed it aside. The Squire emerged from the shop catching him and they had a fight. They were separated by the police but the carter went home wondering whether the Squire, his landlord, would have him thrown out of his house. Instead the cartman received a handerchief from the Squire. When he opened it he saw two golden coins and a note which read, "That was the best fight I've had in many years!" Empty hand combat can transmute into friendship. But this cannot happen with a sword.

I asked Leggett for his views on physical education and his comment was, "They need to get away from ball games. Life is not a ball that you can throw and kick and steer. These ball games require too much space and have no relevance to life. On the other hand if they taught Kendo, or Judo, or some sort of stick-fighting - that is something that teaches economy, posture and timing. These are traits used in life and can also give one a way to defend oneself.

Judo for instance teaches you how to use the body and movement in changing furniture around! Exercises from Judo and other martial arts, like Shaolin, you can do everyday with minimal space. They are good for you and have utility in life. The one ball game I believe is the exception is golf because it favours experience and spans age groups. At sixty-five I could still play golf against young men in their twenties and win. Admittedly as a trained judoman I could retain balance well into age. But still it required too much space and most cannot do it everyday. For some time I had a ball on a string hanging from the doorway and a small wooden sword. I would hit the ball with the small sword and try to hit it again and again while it swung from each hit. It develops timing and responsiveness.


Anonymous said...

Interesting article... I really think judo has been subverted and derailed by the emphasis on competition.

Although aikido has its potential weaknesses in terms of training (if people don't attack you sincerely, it's hard to know if your actions are truly adequate to the situation), but the lack of a competitive aspect is certainly to its advantage... and the bowing is definitely there.


Rick Matz said...

About a year ago, when it was clear that I'd have more time on my hands and was going to begin training in a martial art again, I thought long and hard about exactly what I would train in, where, and under whom.

Judo was on my list for a while, as it's really a beautiful form of budo. At 50 however, this body just doesn't move the way it used to.

Another of my criteria was that I Study a form that I could practice on my own mostly, into my old age. Judo requires a training partner, and a special space (the mats).

But still, Judo would make an interesting study.

Dave Chesser said...

Rhadi Ferguson is one of the US' top judoka and he recently posted over at an article about doing anything it took to win.

Thankfully many people were disgusted with what he wrote but he does represent one strong train of thought in modern judo.

Rick Matz said...

Thanks for the pointer to that article. It's an interesting read. His view is not my cup of tea.

Anonymous said...

If people want to do dirty judo, why not just compete mma? I don't get it. Not everyone has to do much shiai. Otoh, good randori is what ph should be like, a kind of r&d with moderate resistance and no whining. Still, I suppose I'll stop judo by 50. In the meantime, it's great fun on its own and as a great base - some overlap with ima on one side, and bjj on the other (I'll probably do ph and bjj at 50 if I'm not doing only qigong).

Rick Matz said...

"... and no whining."

Great line.