I could laugh at my failures. I knew they would not be for ever.

A Motto is a maxim, a sort of slogan, which is often on the crest of a coat-of-arms of a family or a city or a university and so on. It is supposed to show the ideal of the holder. I saw above the desk of a Japanese executive the two characters: Tesshi – Iron Will. My feeling was that probably he was trying to strengthen his will, not that he had one. Similarly, if I saw on the wall in a politician’s office the English motto: Honesty Is The Best Policy, I should feel a bit suspicious. Sometimes a motto is very misleading. By the side of the tomb of King Edward I of England, in Westminster Abbey, there is an inscription: Pactum Est Factum, Promised is Done. This 13th century king borrowed great sums of money from the Jewish bankers , but when he could not pay it …

Read moreI could laugh at my failures. I knew they would not be for ever.

In life, most people judge what to do by looking at outside standards often they simply do what other people are doing.

People who live in towns (in other words, most people) keep themselves upright by looking at the walls when they are indoors, and looking at the corners of the buildings when they are outside. They use these things to tell them what is vertical. This is proved by putting people in special rooms where the walls are slightly tilted to one side. When they are asked to walk across such a room, they walk unsteadily. They must continually adjust their balance. However much they try, they unconsciously align themselves with the walls, which means that they tend to lean a little to one side. If they are told to shut their eyes, they can walk fairly steadily. But with shut eyes, an ordinary person cannot balance himself very well, because his inner balance is weak. A footballer or skater put in the room does much better: he is trained to feel his balance …

Read moreIn life, most people judge what to do by looking at outside standards often they simply do what other people are doing.

Everything changes; everything ends in Goodbye to all that

Like Japanese, French people do not like to say, “Goodbye”. Instead of “Adieu” (goodbye) they would rather say “Au revoir”, meaning roughly, “till we meet again”. The French have the famous saying: “To say ‘Goodbye’ is to die a little.” This became a song, popularized by Ella Fitzgerald, among others. That French expression is attractively poetic; it says much in very few words. English people admire the French for their ability to invent such sayings. We are not so clever at making them. The proof is, that we British have to use a French phrase to describe them: “mot juste”. That means: “exactly the right word for it”. What an awkward English phrase for the neat French “mot juste”! In such things we feel a cultural inferiority to our French neighbours across the Channel. To save our pride, we say to ourselves: “After all, these are only small things: the …

Read moreEverything changes; everything ends in Goodbye to all that

The man who relies on certain tricks in life, may have success for a time, but it cannot last long.

One of the elements in more advanced stages of the Ways is, to develop ingenuity. Some of this can be done by the student himself. For instance, in judo he can try practising with one arm tucked inside his belt, so that he has only die other arm to fight with. This will sometimes give him an insight into the true mechanics of a throw, especially if he tends to rely on the strength of his arms to make up for lack of technique. When he has only one arm to use, he can no longer do this, and he has to discover how to use the rest of his body properly. Some physically strong judo men tend to use one or two techniques which they can force through by their strength. But if they come up against a good technician, who can anticipate and forestall their favourite technique, they …

Read moreThe man who relies on certain tricks in life, may have success for a time, but it cannot last long.

Why do we do judo? The true answer is to train body and mind to act efficiently in life

EVEN EFFORT There has to be some effort in a judo technique, but Dr.Kano’s principle was to make that effort efficient. In his time there were still some flourishing jujutsu schools, though not as flourishing as they had been. He studied their methods, and found that a good many techniques relied on surprise and extra strength developed by particular exercises. They were not using the body as an efficient unit. For this reason, they tried to keep their techniques secret. Although judo is no longer generally taught in this way, one sometimes sees something like it. If a man has a very strong right arm, he can get results with a poor technique because of the extra strength he has with that arm. Unless something is done to check it, he will develop more and more limited judo, and cannot acquire a real mastery of it. But it is not …

Read moreWhy do we do judo? The true answer is to train body and mind to act efficiently in life

In the Far East the Dragon is the spirit of transcendence

At the Kodokan in the 1930s national Judo contests were held every year. Each county in Japan provided at least two contestants, and these were reduced to 64 and then to 32. In those days contests were decided by a full point – throw, lock, or hold – and there were no half points. This meant that were a fair number of drawn contests. Even though on contestant was clearly superior to the other if he failed to score the full point the contest was drawn. The winner was then determined by chance: the two contestants stood by the side of the mat, and the referee presented one of them with two straws and if he choose the long one he won and if he pulled the short one he lost. I was deeply impressed by an incident that I saw on one such occasion in the forth round. The …

Read moreIn the Far East the Dragon is the spirit of transcendence

The outer calm, which so impresses visitors to Japan, is part of an external gloss.

When I am asked how to tell the difference between Japanese and Chinese, I sometimes answer: ‘In general, Japanese are more self-controlled. They talk less excitedly, speak in lower tone, move their bodies less and do not use many gestures. They usually do not interrupt each other. They seem a rather placid people’. ‘But remember’, I add, ‘this applies to the exterior’. ‘Within, the Japanese may be irritable, nervous, quarrelsome and deeply emotional. It is only that at ordinary times they do not like to show it. Only at exceptional times, when they are really roused, they do show it’. I sometimes explain that the ordinary word for ‘Excuse me’ in Japanese is shitsurei. Rei means something like a ceremony, orderly and harmonious; shitsu means losing it or breaking it. So the word shitsurei means: ‘I am doing something out of order, breaking the smooth surface conduct which is so …

Read moreThe outer calm, which so impresses visitors to Japan, is part of an external gloss.

Let us shoot at each other. If you are the better archer, you will win’. The challenge was declined.

For over 10 years from 1952 at the 100-tatami London Budokwai, I ran a weekend class for black belts, who came from all over Britain every week to attend. There were about 60 of them, and they became the Judo teachers of the next generation. We held a kangeiko every year. An athletics coach once asked me, ‘What benefit do they get from this?’ ‘It is a training in being able to face difficult circumstances’, I told him, ‘with inner calm and resolution’. ‘Well, what is the good of that?’ he asked. ‘The Judo competitions will be held, like all athletic competitions, in reasonable circumstances—not in the very early morning in midwinter with the windows open’. ‘Yes, but in your athletic competitions, have you ever noticed how very nervous many of the competitors are?’ I asked. ‘The smallest thing seems to upset them and put them off’. And I gave …

Read moreLet us shoot at each other. If you are the better archer, you will win’. The challenge was declined.

A common bad habit in life is to take in ghost lodgers.

A common bad habit in life is to take in ghost lodgers. What are ghost lodgers? They are ideas, notions, beliefs, which we have once invited into our minds for a few minutes, but which then come to live with us. Often we do not want to have these lodgers, but somehow they are there, with us all the time. Why cannot we get rid of them? They are just ideas, so they are nothing; it should be easy to throw them out. But it is not so. There is a saying that it is easier to get rid of a burglar than a ghost; that may seem surprising, but it is true. If we think there is a burglar in the house, we can call the neighbours, and the police. Then together we search the whole house, every inch of it. We do not find any burglar, and we …

Read moreA common bad habit in life is to take in ghost lodgers.

One of the most important things in life is gentle persistence.

Both Japanese and British are keen gardeners. That means that we know how to observe nature, and how to co­operate with nature. It is like making now friends: we have to look carefully at their ways of thinking and feeling, and discover how to co-operate with them without hurting their feelings. They may also teach us something unconsciously: when we see their weaknesses, we try not to become infected with them. They teach us what to avoid, and nature will also teach us in that way, if we are ready to listen. One of the most important things is gentle persistence. If we want to modify the way a tree is growing, it is no use abruptly forcing it in the new direction. That will probably break the tree. There has to be steady pressure, not too strong but absolutely continuous. Then the tree will adapt, and finally grow strongly …

Read moreOne of the most important things in life is gentle persistence.

The principle of Ju, or Gentleness

The principle of Ju, or Gentleness, or not using unnecessary force, was well-known in the Taoist texts of China, but it was not a Way. That is to say, the technical excellence, though it showed the principle of Ju, was not thought of as a Way to learn that principle of Gentleness for life. For instance in the ancient classics such as Chuang Tzu there are passages like this: ’A duke was watching his chief cook cut up an ox. The cook’s knife followed the natural lines of the body, and he never used unnecessary force. And so his knife never needed sharpening. As he watched, the duke was very impressed and he said: “From my cook I have learnt about the principle of Ju – Gentleness.” Again, it is said in the same classic that Confucius was once watching a fisherman who lived near a waterfall. The fisherman could …

Read moreThe principle of Ju, or Gentleness

If the flint of the heart can be struck skilfully, it may produce a flash of inspiration

When steel is struck skilfully against a flint, a spark can be produced. If you have ever tried this, or seen it being done, you will know that you do not get a spark every time you strike the flint. But if you keep trying, you get some. If you want fire, you have to go on striking until you get some sparks. In this article, the heart is compared to a flint. In English we have a phrase: ’a heart like flint’, and it means someone who is never moved by appeals for help, or for more time to pay, and so on. Most of us behave like this sometimes. A variation of the phrase is: ’a heart of stone’, and there is a saying; ’One cannot get blood out of a stone.’ One cannot get blood out of a flint, either. But one can get a spark by …

Read moreIf the flint of the heart can be struck skilfully, it may produce a flash of inspiration

To learn something positive we need instruction, observation, inference and experience

Many years at Judo—first as a student and then as an honorary teacher in London—have given me some valuable lessons for life. I discovered that one can learn in four main ways—instruction, observation, inference and personal experience. My conclusion is that to know something thoroughly one must learn it in all these four ways. This applies to life in general, but we can see it in a model from Budo. Budo practice in a dojo training hall is like doing an experiment in a laboratory. If the correct result is clearly confirmed, one can recognize the same principle everywhere outside the laboratory, though not in such a clear form. For instance, the principle of gravity is demonstrated in a laboratory, inside a vacuum. In the vacuum, a thread falls at the same rate as a stone. This does not happen in the world outside because of air resistance. But the …

Read moreTo learn something positive we need instruction, observation, inference and experience

Some of the Japanese masters of the sword were also highly skilled in other arts

Some of the Japanese masters of the sword were also highly skilled in other arts. There is a phrase: Life-giving Sword, Death-dealing Sword, and some incidents in their lives illustrate it. Kojuro was a young sword master, who was also a beautiful dancer. He was from a noble family, and on one occasion went on a picnic with two girls of the imperial house, with two attendants not trained in arms. The father of one of the girls had incurred the enmity of another courtier and Kojuro learned privately that this man was determined on revenge. He had no chance of killing the father but it was possible he might try to assassinate the daughter. The picnic went well until Kojuro noticed a movement in a little clump of trees not far away. He suspected this might be two or three rogue samurai commissioned to kill the girl. If there …

Read moreSome of the Japanese masters of the sword were also highly skilled in other arts

Zen masters are fond of drawing a big circle, to represent the perfection of the universal Buddha-nature

An English Judo man is sometimes asked to control someone who has got drunk. In Japan, to get drunk is not thought to be a great disgrace; people tend to treat the drunken man like a child. They try to calm him and get him to fall asleep. But in England generally, it is thought to be a failure in self-control, and such a man is disliked. ‘He does not know when to stop,’ is a frequent criticism in such cases. The drunken man knows this, and he often denies that he is drunk. ‘You may think I am drunk, but I am not drunk,’ he says defiantly. There is a famous comic poem where the drunken man says: ‘I’m not so think as you drunk I am.’ Of course this is not English – it is meaningless. He means to say: ‘I am not so drunk as you think …

Read moreZen masters are fond of drawing a big circle, to represent the perfection of the universal Buddha-nature

The Budo spirit does not give us technique, but it gives us calm courage

This applies in many fields, including speaking a foreign language. Japanese students tend to learn correct grammar and many sentences by heart. But often they have no fluency. They have to prepare each sentence inwardly before they speak it. I have sometimes taught the Japanese language to British people, and I have been told that my methods are rather unusual. But often the students become interested. Take the word shitsurei, for example. I explain that this means roughly ‘Excuse me’, and tell the student, ‘You say this when there is some little accident, whether it is your fault or not’. The student nods yes, and I make him say the word two or three times. Then I tell him to stand up and walk past me, brushing against me. He does so, silently. Then I say: ‘You should have said “Shitsurei” automatically’. I make him do it several times more, …

Read moreThe Budo spirit does not give us technique, but it gives us calm courage

Bullying is a problem all over the world, but the amount of it varies in different countries and at different times

Bullying is a problem all over the world, but the amount of it varies in different countries and at different times in their history. There are a few scientists who say that it is a fundamental natural instinct in herd animals; the very weak ones are attacked, and finally killed. So they do not live to breed, and the herd consists only of strong animals. This is supposed to be an advantage in the struggle for survival. Even if it is possibly true in the case of some animals, it is not true for humans. The Spartans applied the idea; the weaker boys often died under the terribly harsh treatment they were given. Sparta became very strong in war. But they did not realize that some weak bodies hold very intelligent minds. They killed some of these physically weak but mentally strong children. Their war strategy became mechanical and fixed. …

Read moreBullying is a problem all over the world, but the amount of it varies in different countries and at different times

Duties are not so much spoken about; rights are everywhere

‘Duty’ is a word which has changed its status in England during the last 100 years. In the 19th century, it was everywhere. In novels of the Victorian age (roughly 1840 to 1900) the great problem for the hero or heroine was to find out what was their duty. When they could see clearly their duty, they at once did it, without any questioning or doubt. The hero or heroine was contrasted with those who did not know, or did not do, their duty. For instance, a talented boy who is a medical student gets a chance to go to the capital co study further and do research work. But his mother is sick and has no one to look after her. Should he leave her? Is his duty to his parent, or is there a higher duty to humanity in general? Soon after I arrived in Japan early in …

Read moreDuties are not so much spoken about; rights are everywhere

Study and find out for yourselves, not secondhand

One of Dr. Kano’s main themes is that we should study. ‘Far more important than studying by books’, he says, ‘is actually to study for oneself’. Books ought to have a government health warning on them; they are addictive and they can seriously damage your health. Study and find out for yourselves, not secondhand. He said that the kata or pattern should be studied in its traditional forms, but he added that new kata must be developed. People tend to think, ‘Tell us what to do, because we don’t know’. No, study and find things out for yourselves. There is inspiration if we can control the mind. Traditionally, after the Judo practice they used to practise controlling the mind. They practised sitting quite still for five or ten minutes, pouring with sweat or maybe blood, but not moving. ‘Really? What’s the use of that?’ people ask. A great use. From …

Read moreStudy and find out for yourselves, not secondhand

I have no strategy. I make kyojitsu, emptiness and fullness, my strategy

When I taught advanced Judo classes at the London Budokwai, I sometimes used a special training method, based on this Budo principle. About halfway I divided the class, usually of about 60, into two groups—A and B. Then I set them in pairs of roughly equal ability. I told the men in Group A: ‘Practise as you would normally. Attack or be cautious, just as you like’. Then I said to the men in Group B: ‘You must not make any attack or counter, till I call “Now!” You may defend yourself, but you must not attack or counter’. ‘But when I call “Now!” you must attack continuously, without any break at all. You must go on, whether there’s an opportunity or not, till I call “Stop!” If you’re thrown, grab his foot from the ground and give it a pull, jump up and go at him without waiting to …

Read moreI have no strategy. I make kyojitsu, emptiness and fullness, my strategy

A part of the inner training of Budo is to overcome unconscious bonds

‘Boys, be ambitious!’ I came across these words recently. A British teacher working in Japan told me about these words, which he said has had a profound effect on Japanese youth. It made me wonder: ‘Have there been words spoken by Japanese which have had a deep effect on my own life?’ There have been such words indeed, but I realize that they have not been general maxims like ‘Boys, be ambitious!’ They were individual remarks which were said to me directly or which I overheard. A few such words were spoken by Yukio Tani, my Judo teacher. I heard them when I was about 17, and they made a lasting impression, because I was very keen on Judo. Tani had a wonderful reputation. When I was taught by him, he was already over 50, but was still very skilful. Over 20 years before, my father had seen this small …

Read moreA part of the inner training of Budo is to overcome unconscious bonds

The future of Budo is something which must come from Japanese themselves

The future of Budo is something which must come from Japanese themselves. No foreigner can decide it for them; nor can any single Japanese decide it. It must come from the inner life of the Budo tradition. But sometimes the interest shown by foreigners can help to reawaken interest in Budo among Japanese themselves. Furthermore, to see how other countries have developed— or have failed to develop—their own traditions can be a hint for Japanese. I will now take the example of how the Western ideal of chivalry changed as it led to the ideal of the English gentleman. Chivalry developed among the European knights, especially the Normans, who brought it to Britain. It taught not only the ancient Roman virtue of bravery but also kindness to the weak, especially women, and respect for defeated enemies. The respect for the defeated was a big advance on the Roman idea: Romans …

Read moreThe future of Budo is something which must come from Japanese themselves

There’s a traditional Japanese farce called Changing Zazen

There’s a traditional Japanese farce called Changing Zazen. Such farces are played between the serious Kabuki plays and are generally about some local lord, who’s always depicted as an absolute fool; it’s very democratic. Anyway, in this one, the local lord wants to go to the red light quarters, but he’s completely under the domi-nation of his wife. So one day he says to ^ her, ‘Enough of my dissolute ways, so con-trary to the Buddha’s teachings. I’m going to change and every week I’m going to sit all night in zazen,’ (formal sitting meditation). Now, the Japanese monks adopted from China, for the winter, a long wadded meditation robe with a hood, to keep out the cold. The wife said, ‘I shall be looking in on you, you know.’ ‘Of course!’ We see him get into this robe at the beginning of the night and she sees him into …

Read moreThere’s a traditional Japanese farce called Changing Zazen

Consciousness can the self be known

9 The seer meditating, seeing everything in the Self, will not be deluded, And whoever sees the Self alone in everything, He is Brahman, glorious in the highest heaven. The word atman is (an abbreviated locative) – ‘in the Self’. Moreover, seeing, perceiving, everything, every thing. The meaning is that he is seeing only the Self-nature of every thing, and in everything the Self supreme. he will not be deluded he does not come to be deluded, for there is no falling into delusion for one who sees the unity of the Self, as witness the Vedic verse, ‘There what delusion . . .’ (Isa 7). What exactly is this vision of Self which destroys delusion? The verse says, meditating, with his senses withdrawn, being a seer (kavi), a wise man (medhāvin) in meditation (dhyāna). Delusion (moha) does not disappear simply by a view (darsana) arising (merely) out of words. …

Read moreConsciousness can the self be known

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!