Our minds cannot be typed in some way

Occasionally in the past, a Japanese newsman who saw me practising Judo at the Kodokan, or playing Shogi at the Shogi Association, would have a few words with me. In his article later, he would say something about a blue­ eyed foreigner skilful at Judo, or Shogi. He saw of course that I did not have blue eyes, but blue eyes were supposed to be the marks of a foreigner. He knew his readers would expect the foreigner to be blue-eyed. There is no harm in this, because Japanese meet many foreigners now, and can see that in fact very few of us have blue eyes. (We do have hair on our bodies, though – a fact that Japanese newsmen are too polite to mention.) But there is some danger in thinking that our minds can be typed in some way. Not all Englishmen are gentlemanly but stiff and cold; not all Frenchmen are irritable and witty; not all Germans are hardworking but humourless. There are all sorts of minds behind the “blue eyes” and they are not all the same, any more than the eyes are all blue. One way of explaining national character is to take some incident …

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The Closed Fist of the Teacher

The closed fist of the teacher is an Indian expression, referring to the handing on of a succession in some tradition. It is illustrated by one of the little stories in the Persian classic Gulistan or Rose-garden, which was several times quoted by Dr. Shastri to illustrate some point (not necessarily the same one). Here is a summary: The Ninety-nine Tricks The story can be summarized: A teacher of wrestling had a promising pupil, to whom he taught ninety-nine of the hundred tricks of wrestling. One rare trick, however, he kept back. As the boy became stronger and more skilful, the time came when he began to boast in public: ” Of course in an actual bout I defer to my teacher and allow him to win. But in actual fighting ability I am superior. Wrestling was then (and still is) is a national sport in Persia. The Hundredth Trick The King came to hear of this boast and had a match arranged in his presence between the master and pupil. The young wrestler rushed forward like a furious bull, and then the master made use of that one rare trick which the other had never seen. The master lifted …

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Kangeiko and Shochugeiko

In 1939, I was told about the Kangeiko and the Shochugeiko at the Kodokan for the judo. I was then a strong 3rd dan in Britain and I was not at all upset by the idea of practising during the heat or practising in the early morning in the extreme cold of the winter. There were one or two foreigners at the Kodokan at that time. They told me that the Kangeiko especially was terrifying. It was freezing cold in the Japanese winter, much colder than in Britain, and there was no heating in the Kodokan. But I thought, “Oh no, I know all about this”, and I waited for the winter without any anxiety at all. I had thought it would be like some of the Western austerities which sportsmen do. I did not know that the real idea of the Kangeiko is something quite different from the Western idea of dogged endurance and fighting spirit. Westerners are often surprised when they first hear about the Kangeiko in Japanese Budo. We have the idea of training oneself in endurance of heat and cold, but it is not the same thing. When I was a student, every fortnight I used …

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The second kind of pupil

When I began to train at Judo under Yukio Tani, I was in my late teens. I was very ambitious, and at first thought only of getting more skilful and winning contests. The other teacher at the London Budokwai, Gunji Koizumi, was an artist and a man of great culture. From listening to him, I learnt that Judo should mean much more than showing off on the tatami. He said that the principles of Judo must be applied in every situation in life. This seemed almost meaningless to me at first. After graduating in Law I worked in an office in a big company; how could Judo be applied to my job there? Koizumi showed me that even sitting in a chair can be done properly. Most people sit in an unbalanced position. So they must keep re-adjusting themselves. I practised his method, and found that sitting in a balanced position made the job far less tiring. Tani gave examples from the Budo techniques. He told a few of us about the traditional samurai. In his own family, the father and grandfather had been teachers of Jujutsu. He said that such a samurai was always in a balanced position, so …

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Teacher Out-of-date, Up-to-date

I believe we can say that in the West, the traditional relationship of teacher and pupil has been very much weakened by the ideas of science. In science, the teacher of more than fifty is regarded as probably out of date and wrong on many things. Most of the big discoveries in science are made by very young men. When they grow older, they become unable to change with the still newer ideas which are coming forward from the young men. For instance Einstein, so marvellous in his early discoveries when he was young and unknown, in his later life spent some twenty years fighting a losing battle against the consequences of the quantum theory which he had done much to found. So the conclusion in science is, that the older men can still teach basics which do not change, but they do not like new ideas, and so cannot – or will not – teach them. If we compare this view with the traditions of art or music for instance that the great masterpieces are produced in maturity, or even in old age, as with Beethoven and Hokusai. The later work does not cancel out the earlier, as it …

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Some Shakespeare plays have helped me in life

It is pleasant to be praised. But when one is praised, or one’s country is praised, for some qual­ity which one does not like. .. what is one’s feeling then? I have seen young Indians listening to enthusiastic Western women talking to them about Gandhi, and saying how wonderful he was. The young people were moving their feet uneasily: they were not enthusiastic about Gandhi. I re­member an Indian doctor in such a case, after trying in vain to stem her tide of words, suddenly bursting out, ‘ Gandhi was a sincere man, but his ideals of rustic simplicity are quite impracticable for this age, and his influence has been disastrous. The sooner we forget him, the better for India.’ Few Japanese people would be as rude as that, but I have noticed a weariness and uneasiness in them when Westerners talk about Kabuki or the genius of Murasaki Shikibu, or the poems of Basho. In the play Julius Caesar, some of the Romans commit suicide by falling on their swords; I wondered exactly how they did it, and asked the teacher. But he told me to be quiet and not be cheeky. When I was fifteen, I passed the …

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Too much Man, Too little Man

The principle of Maximum Efficiency — Saidai Noritus Genii,was stated in these words by Dr.Jigoro Kano. When I was sixteen, I heard him explain it, in his beautiful English, at the Judo hall in London. He said that it applies in every action in life: do not use too much force, and do not use too little. Use exactly the amount of force that is necessary. To do this, he said, is Right Use, Zen-Yo. He slso told us that this is the true meaning of the word Ju in Ju-do; to use too much force is Wrong Use, what he called  Hardness or Go-do. (The next day, he brushed some huge Chinese characters on a long roll of paper; it was framed and hung high on the wall of thd judo dojo in London. The words were read and then translated for us: Ju Sai Sai Go o sei-su: ‘the gentle Ju indeed controls the forcible Go’.) In the lecture, he said that Zen-Yo or Right Use applied not only to the amount of force to be used, but also to the amount of material. He gave the example of a tank of goldfish. If the water is absolutely …

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