Dr. Jigoro Kano and Judo

The Buddhist Ideal of Mutual Benefit A lecture delivered at a meeting of the British Judo Federation When I was a boy, I heard Dr. Jigoro Kano speak in London. He was then 70, my age now, I thought he was a remarkable old boy, but I wasn’t very impressed with remarkable old boys then, so I don’t expect anyone to be impressed now. His complete works, his complete writings, have just been published in Japan, and I telexed to have them sent by airmail. There are about 1,200 pages here in these three volumes, written in the old style of Japanese. I will just read you one little extract about Judo and other sports. Of course, things change, but this was the opinion of Dr. Kano, the founder of Judo. What I have here is a rough translation of the summarizing part of a short article which he wrote …

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What We Learn from Judo

  Recently competitive sports have become popular in Japan, and often the question comes up as to the relation between competitive sports and Judo. The question is put in various forms, but I will present the two extremes. 1 There are those who attack competitive sports and say that since in Japan we have our martial arts (bujutsu) which are excellent for either spiritual education or physical education, or both, so what necessity is there for all the problems which will be involved in becoming enthusiastic to import sports? If we practise our own indigenous bujutsu arts, then we shall be encouraging the spirit of the Japanese people in a natural way, and it will also be a training in virtue. But the import of foreign sports will naturally affect the spirit too, and perhaps we should end up as foreigners. 2 Then again there are others who point to …

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Study for Yourself, Cultivate Yourself

One basic principle which he put forward came from Buddhism—Jita kyoei or ‘mutual benefit for oneself and others’. We in the West do not think so much in this way; we think just of a good man. The good man sacrifices his own interests for others. But in the East they contrast the merely good man with the wise man, who is able to benefit himself as well as others. And the view of Dr. Kano is that you cannot in fact do much good to other people, unless you have cultivated yourself. We tend to think: ‘Oh, no, no. Do some good to others. Never mind about yourself’. In such cases where it is a question of what to think and what to do, Dr. Kano recommended us to study for ourselves. Again and again he says in these writings: ‘Study for yourself, do research yourself, find these things …

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Bunbu Ryodo

A great second principle emphasized by Dr. Kano is Bunbu Ryodo. You will recognize two out of the four Japanese characters here: the second character bu, or the first character in Budokai, means ‘martial’ or ‘fighting will’ and ‘courage’; and the last character do, or the second character in Judo, means a Way, as distinct from merely a technical skill. The whole phrase means ‘Culture and Martial Power, Both Ways Together’. Now, bun means literature and stands for civilization and culture in general; bu, as you know, means fighting spirit. Dr. Kano was using a very old ideal in Japan: culture and power united together. Culture without power will be ineffective, and power without culture will be barbarous. Dr. Kano exemplified the ideal in himself; he invented Judo, and then he was a great figure in Japanese education, headmaster of two important colleges and the author of all these writings …

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Training for What?

Dr. Kano says that we must not specialize in some training without thinking what the training is for. There is an important Confucian saying: ‘The true man is not a tool’. He is not an implement. Suppose we are paid to do something, say, to build a bridge. If we neglect the inner culture, the development of our intelligence and will and sense of beauty in our bridge-building, then we are just an implement that builds bridges. In the same way when we teach Judo, we must not just teach technique: we must develop our own intelligence and capacity for thinking. Judo is an inspiring system of training for life, because in Judo the impossible happens. In about 1903 my father saw Yukio Tani, who had just come to the West. My father was very impressed with Tani’s marvellous victories over wrestlers and boxers. Tani was very famous; he appears, …

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The Wide Range and the Short Range

Technique develops, and in a very wide field of possibilities technique can develop almost endlessly. Even in a narrow field, it is wrong to think that the best technique has necessarily been found after a couple of hundred years’ experience. We should not become slaves to fixed ideas and analysis of technique. I learnt the piano as a kid under a teacher of the old school, who was a pupil of the great teacher Oskar Beringer. He taught me to play scales with a matchbox balanced on the back of the hand. I learnt to keep the back of the hand level even when the thumb passes underneath the fingers. I made quite good progress and became able to do it. And then my father sent me to a very famous teacher, and one of the first things he said to me was, ‘Why do you keep your hands so …

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Judo in Real Life

Mental control is a very important part of Judo training. We need courage. We haven’t had a war here—a major war—for a long time, but people who have been through some of the worst of war say that a Judo contest can sometimes be more frightening than actual danger. To that extent our contests are a very good training. It’s not a question of being frightened but still going through. That’s something inferior. If the training is pursued, there is an inner calmness. When We face something very extreme— perhaps death, perhaps ‘something even more unpleasant— then we shall know whether our Judo training has been going really deep. Perhaps you may suffer a medical catastrophe, while you are still young. The doctor looks at all the results of the tests and examinations, and says, ‘Oh’. And you will ask, ‘How long will it be before I get better?’ ‘Some …

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What Judo Teaches Us

We have to become able to meet disadvantages. In most sports, if there is some injury, people say, ‘Oh, you can’t expect me to go on; I’ve got a bad elbow’ or whatever it is. But in Judo we are trained to go on even with injuries. We know that the body is only 30 percent effective, perhaps only 20 percent effective. But we are not demoralized, and we can use the remaining 30 percent or 20 percent, whereas many people, if they are injured or feel a little sick, cannot do anything at all. They are completely knocked out. The ability to keep up morale in the face of disadvantages can be a great help for our lives. There is a saying in Japan, ‘Every man has seven faults’. Well, to know that we have faults but to go on in spite of those faults, to find ways of …

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Being Good on the Mat Isn’t Enough

In these writings Dr. Kano often says, ‘Find these applications of Judo to your daily life, and don’t just practise Judo on the mat’. When we fall in Judo, the first thing we learn is to fall with the whole body. If one tries, as the beginner does, to keep off the ground, then the whole shock comes on to one unfortunate wrist or elbow, which gets badly hurt. The right technique is not to try to keep off the ground but to take the fall with all of us. In the same way, when we have a failure in life, try to use our Judo experience and take that failure. But people tend to say, ‘Oh, wasn’t I unlucky?’ or ‘It was their fault; they let me down’ or more often ‘Well, I wasn’t feeling very well then, you know’. Dr. Tartakower, who was a great chess master but …

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The Will to Make It Happen

Now let me talk about an example which doesn’t apply to anyone else here. Suppose I am 60 and I want to learn a new and difficult language. People would tell me: ‘That’s absolutely out, absolutely out! At your age, you know, the brain cells are dying at the rate of 100,000 a day’. I look it up, and it’s true. I feel like clutching my head and crying, ‘Aaargh!’ That’s what they want me to do. But if I have faith, I think that I can do it with fewer brain cells and then find that in fact I can. As a matter of fact, if I look a bit deeper I find that I’ve got 10,000,000,000 brain cells, so at that rate they’ll last me 274 years. If I had been scared off, I should have been scared by nothing. In this sort of way, the experiences which …

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The Impossible Can Happen

One of the artists of the early part of this century was Eric Gill, and he remarked that in Britain we tend to think of art as something where you have to get out your easel, you get out your oils and you paint a lovely picture. Then you go and do something else. ‘So, art must be brought into our everyday lives’, said Gill. For instance, he designed new typefaces, so that art would be brought into what we are reading. His design, called Gill Sans, is very famous, and when we read something printed in it, we receive a vague impression of something beautiful. Perhaps we don’t know why that book or whatever it is gives an attractive impression, but it does. Judo can be brought into the smallest things in our daily lives. People often hold a pen near the very tip, so that they have to …

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Emptying the Mind

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 …

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Budo notes

Notes Kaiten Nukariya (1876-1934), a noted Buddhist philosopher and a Zen priest. In 1924, he became president of Komazawa University. Dr. Jigoro Kano was born in 1860 and graduated from Tokyo Imperial University in 1881, where he majored in literature and political science. In the following year he founded the Kodokan for the study and instruction of Judo. In later years he became principal of Gakushuin and Tokyo Higher Normal School. In 1889 he visited Europe to study educational institutions there as a member of the Imperial Household Department. He became the first Japanese member of the International Olympic Committee in 1909. He died in 1938 on his return voyage from Cairo where he attended an IOC meeting. Saigo Takamori (1827-1877), a leader in the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate and the creation of the Meiji government. His statue stands in.Ueno Park in Tokyo, showing him as a man of …

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Budo Glossary

Glossary dan, grade. Those ranking first through fifth dan wear black belts. For sixth through eighth dan the belt has red-and-white stripes. Ninth dan and above wear a red belt. harai-goshi, hip sweep ippon. The referee announces ‘ippon* when a contestant throws his opponent largely on his back, when a contestant holds his opponent for 30 seconds, or when a contestant gives up by tapping two or three times with his hand or foot. jujutsu, an old form of traditional Japanese martial arts, which unlike contemporary Judo involved hitting, kicking, stabbing and slashing. kouchi-gari, small inner reap osoto-garU large outer reap randoriy free practice tsurikomiy lifting and pulling waza-ari. The referee announces ‘waza-ari’ when a contestant throws his opponent but when the technique is not sufficient to qualify the attacker for ippon.

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