Trevor Leggett answers questions about Japan in 1985

Q: May I ask, what was the Japanese opinion of the spread of Judo, and the popularity of Judo, in the West, and the standards of the West? A: They rather deplore the fact that it’s become a sort of sport in that way. Q: What was it before it was a sport? A: It was a system of spiritual and mental training. Q: How did it become a sport? A: Well, I can say that after the war it was one way of getting back on to the international stage. Q: American influence? A: Partly American, but they agreed with it, they wanted to have some sort of significance, and they did it through this. But it can be practised, and should be as the fighting situation is one where the very, anyway, the very deepest instincts are aroused, and to be able to practise meditation in that situation …

Read moreTrevor Leggett answers questions about Japan in 1985

Exercise of the memory is not a burden

It is thought to be axiomatic today that to require students to memorise many things will produce robots and “stifle creativity”. No evidence is usually produced for this assumption; it is somehow regarded as self-evident. Let us look at a definite case. In the English educational system we have to learn 26 letters of the alphabet, some of which have differing block capital forms. But in addition we have to learn the number digits 1-9, and how to read them. The digits are international, on the page but sound quite different when spoken in the various languages. For instance, 92 is read by us as ninety-two, but in French it is read quartre-vingt-douze. Then we have symbols such as ‘=’ equals, ‘≠’  is-not–equal-to and so on. There are 30 or 40 of these that have to be learnt. Furthermore some of the digits 1,2,3…, are read differently when they are …

Read moreExercise of the memory is not a burden

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; …

Read moreOur minds cannot be typed in some way

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 …

Read moreThe Closed Fist of the Teacher

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 …

Read moreKangeiko and Shochugeiko

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 …

Read moreThe second kind of pupil

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 …

Read moreTeacher Out-of-date, Up-to-date

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, …

Read moreSome Shakespeare plays have helped me in life

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: …

Read moreToo much Man, Too little Man

Victor Hugo awakened the sense of compassion in France, as Dickens did in Britain

Victor Hugo,  was a supreme novelist. He depicted the miseries of the poor, and awakened the sense of compassion in France, as Dickens did in Britain. But Dickens could not create the beauties that the poet Hugo could express, even in translation. When I was a boy, I found Hugo’ s Les Miserables on my father’ s bookshelves. At the age of eight, I read it again and again; I find that I know some of the details better than most French people, who have, I suppose, read it only once. (It is a classic, and most of us read our national classics only once at most.) Whether it made me more compassionate I do not know, hut it gave me an insight behind the scenes of our vaunted civilization. It also showed me that happiness does not depend on being with many people. It can be solitary. The scenes …

Read moreVictor Hugo awakened the sense of compassion in France, as Dickens did in Britain

Do Social Service social service, on an entirely voluntary and unpaid basis

About 5,000,000 people in Britain do some form of social service, on an entirely voluntary and unpaid basis. That is about 9 per cent of the total population. In terms of man-hours, these volunteers make a contribution greater than that of all the paid staff in the social services departments of the local authorities. It has been found that the Welfare State cannot do all that is required. In many places, voluntary organizations are the only providers of, for example, youth clubs, advice centres, or preschool playgrounds. It is an interesting and important fact that more  than half these volunteers are young people under 24. Many of them spend one or two evenings a week in some form of service. Some go out in groups to do repairs and cleaning for old people living in dilapidated houses. Of course, often the work is not done with professional skill, but as …

Read moreDo Social Service social service, on an entirely voluntary and unpaid basis

One of them was a jewel

When the Shinkansen, the so-called Japanese ‘bullet train’ first came in, it was a great triumph of technology, and a national triumph also. All the kids heard about it. And they arranged to have parties of the children from the country villages so that they could ride on this train. A teacher told me about one such party, where for some reason, some oversight, it was not explained to the children that they were going to ride on the Shinkansen, of which they’d seen so many pictures and photographs. So they got on this train without seeing the engine and they were shooting along, when they saw another one on another track. The children all crowded to the side of the train, ‘Look, the Shinkansen! Look,the Shinkansen!’ And the teacher said, ‘Boys and girls, you’re in the Shinkansen. This is it! You’re in it. You don’t need to look at …

Read moreOne of them was a jewel

Tips and icebergs talk

As you know, the iceberg is supposed to be ten per cent, or one per cent some people say, on the surface and the rest is hidden. My method of presentation here (it’s not the only one) is to present just a small proportion and people can find out the rest of the iceberg. In this method of teaching, a number of illustrations or stories are given, but they’re meant as, so to speak, seeds to work on. And unless they change our lives, then they’re just entertaining stories. I’m telling these stories because some of them have been helpful to me and so I have confidence in them. But it’s necessary that, like a seed, it should go into the ground. You know the parable of the sower in our Christian Bible. There’s a famous paint­ing of ‘the sower went forth to sow’ which has been adopted as the …

Read moreTips and icebergs talk

The Principle of Fairness

Nowadays a bully is despised very much. There has been a big change in British opinion on this question since the last century. Even as late as Kipling, at the very end of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth, you can find the idea that a new recruit in the army must be bullied, persecuted and frightened till he is nearly ready to commit suicide. Only then will he be “hardened” and be a good soldier. But now the climate of opinion is quite different. We feel that a man should indeed be hardened, but hardened in combat against opponents of his own level, so that he sometimes wins and sometimes not; or else hardened in struggle with natural obstacles such as heat and cold, lack of sleep and so on. But he should not be subjected to the casual cruelty of those who are senior …

Read moreThe Principle of Fairness

Sparks from the flint of the heart

In the last article, the case was given where something (say a garden) has been created with work and sacrifice. Then someone comes at night and deliberately destroys it. If he later admits doing it, and is asked why, he says: ‘Oh, I don’t need a reason. I just wanted a bit of fun.’ Now how is a man of Budo to react to that situation? I wrote last time how a Zen teacher said: ‘It’s no good trying desperately to forgive him a little. You have to drink that poison down, to the last drop.’ A Budo teacher said about a similar case: ‘Your personality is like a little cage; the bars are your feelings of Me and Mine. The bars are not fixed to anything; the only reason they are there is because you are hugging them to yourself. What has happened is like a crow, and it …

Read moreSparks from the flint of the heart

Onshi: Revered Teacher

Onshi: there is no single word in English. Revered teacher, beloved teacher: these are not natural English phrases. The single word ’teacher’ can refer to anyone from Verrocchio who taught Leonardo da Vinci, to an irritable old lady forcing spelling into unwilling children. Master can mean the head of an Oxford College (Master of Balliol College) to a barber with one apprentice boy. Some Continental languages distinguish: they use maestro for instance to mean a master pianist or artist, who also teaches, and a quite different word for an employer. In English we borrow the Italian word Maestro with that meaning. I suppose this shows that though we have respect for art and learning and science, we do not revere them or their teachers. Recently a new word has been introduced to fill the gap, but again it is a foreign word: guru. Originally this is a Sanskrit word meaning …

Read moreOnshi: Revered Teacher

Principle of Highest Efficiency

Dr. Kano put forward the Principle of Highest Efficiency as one of the central pillars of his system. He used to give illustrations in the physical field, which are familiar to all students of Judo; for instance, unnecessary force should not be used in making a throw, but just enough to make it succeed. This was contrary to some of the older Ju-jutsu teachings that the whole of the body-force should be put into the throw. Dr. Kano gave some illustrations from the field of ordinary behaviour. I remember when I heard him speak about argument and debate. I was then about seventeen years old, and very energetic. I sometimes used to get excited in an argument, and begin to shout. As I was big and even then fairly strong, sometimes the opponent would become nervous, and would stop arguing against me. So I found this quite a good method …

Read morePrinciple of Highest Efficiency

The Japanese Romaji is beautifully clear

There are specimens of handwriting by writers of various nationalities, all of them writing a personal letter in which they have no need to be formal or precise. They are written by an Eng­lish publisher of academic books, a French edi­tor, a Polish scientist, an Indian philosopher, an English sportsman, an Iranian secretary, and two Japanese, one of them a former Sportsman of the Year, and the other a Culture Medalist. Which are the two Japanese? It is easy to find them — they are the two which are easy to read, with all the letters well formed. If an English schoolmaster were marking these, he would at once give almost full marks to the two Japanese writers, and the others would get anything from 30 per cent to 80. The next thing we notice is that the other handwritings are different from each other and from the Japanese. The …

Read moreThe Japanese Romaji is beautifully clear

Buddha-nature, where is it?

Buddha-nature, where is it? It doesn’t seem to be anywhere. The teacher says, ‘But it’s here . . .’ It’s something which we know we haven’t got, and yet we have. One method of teaching this is through history. It’s no use citing examples from Chinese or Japanese history which take long expla­nations, so I’ll give one or two examples from our history. All of you can read silently. You can pick up a letter and you can read it. But in the Middle Ages and in classical times, they couldn’t do that. They had to verbalize; they had to speak it aloud before they could understand — that was the only way they could read. This was true of Japan too. A Russian captain in the eighteenth century, who was wrecked on the coast, was held in prison for a time till the authorities could investigate him. He complained …

Read moreBuddha-nature, where is it?

The special point of Budo is that the inspiration has to manifest at high speed

Some people think that Budo has no future as such, because its typical representatives have now become mere games. Like many games, they have dropped away from the ideal of training into the aim of winning, often as professionals entertaining a crowd. To win or lose a Kendo contest, they say, is the same thing as winning or losing a game of tennis. Now it is true that the Kendo man no longer has any expectation of using a sword to defend himself. His special techniques with a sword find no application in life today. Even Judo, with its ridiculously narrowed and artificial rules of contest, has lost most of its usefulness in self-defence; few Judo men today would know how to meet an angry boxer. But it is, in fact, very easy. You run in on all fours and pull him over by grabbing his ankles. The boxer has …

Read moreThe special point of Budo is that the inspiration has to manifest at high speed

The British respect sincerity , but unless it brings something good we feel it is often wasted.

An Indian scholar whom I knew very well once told me a story about a typical Japanese born in Meiji. This Indian lived in Japan in the early part of this century and lectured on Indian philosophy at a few universities in Tokyo. He was a great friend of Prof. Junjiro Takakusu. When the late Emperor Hirohito was crown prince, it was arranged that he would have an hour’s lecture on each of the world’s great religions from some outstanding authority. Prof. Takakusu was asked to select the lecturer for Hinduism, and he chose this Indian professor. (He told me that the young Crown Prince had listened for an hour without moving, and that at the end he asked intelligent questions.) This Indian scholar believed that India should not seek independence from Britain too soon. He said that Britain could do much to organize India, and that India would give …

Read moreThe British respect sincerity , but unless it brings something good we feel it is often wasted.

The Japanese have so much theoretical knowledge that sometimes they cannot easily make a decision

In fact, the Japanese have so much theoretical knowledge that sometimes they cannot easily make a decision. Of course, if a road branches into two, it is easy to make a decision: you go either right or left. But if it branches into five roads, it is far more difficult to choose. If it branches into 17, it may take a very long time to decide. Some Japanese feel that the safest thing to do is to choose a road which already has several people on it. But that is not really a decision: it is a sort of panic. How can the Budo spirit help to make us decisive? Let us first look at the causes of the indecisiveness. I believe that the main causes of the difficulty are lack of judgement, lack of confidence and lack of faith. Judgement cannot be developed by reading. Reading gives us only …

Read moreThe Japanese have so much theoretical knowledge that sometimes they cannot easily make a decision

Buddhist monks are in general far more educated than most samurai.

In a small book of introduction to Budo entitled Budo shoshin-shu, there is a section called ‘Shukke-shi,’ in which Daidoji Yuzan, the author, says that samurai should travel round and learn while they are young, as do the Zen monks. This book points out that Buddhist monks are in general far more educated than most samurai. It is because the monks ‘leave their homes: they leave their monasteries and make tours to visit other monasteries, where they study various other doctrines and also get to know other regions’. The author also says that many samurai just stay at home and draw their salary, without learning anything new except the place where they live. He recommends that samurai, like monks, should travel in order to learn and travel alone as the monks do. Really he is recommending something like a musha-shugyo errantry, not to study swordsmanship but to see new things …

Read moreBuddhist monks are in general far more educated than most samurai.

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.

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

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

Inner Self Training

Instruction: Learning through instruction consists mainly of hearing and reading. Some people say, ‘Instruction is wrong; let students find out everything for themselves by experiment’. That idea is nonsense. How can we say to a student? ‘Here are some copper, zinc, acid and wire. Now discover electric current! Geniuses like A. Volta, M. Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell took only about 200 years. Perhaps you can do it in an afternoon’. Clearly it would be impossible; he must have some instruction. For a negative-‘Don’t do that!’-the instruction alone should be enough. Judo beginners are often told: ‘Do not try to prevent yourself from being thrown by putting your arm out on to the tatami. It is dangerous. You may dislocate your elbow’. In life a similar instruction would be: ‘Do not drive a car when you are drunk’. These instructions may be followed, or not followed, depending on the intelligence …

Read moreInner Self Training

Four Keys to Learning

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 in 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 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 same …

Read moreFour Keys to Learning

Putting Life Into Life

The business of getting the necessities is, for many people, a boring necessity. It is livelihood, not life. For them, life begins only after the work has finished. This is especially true when the work has to be done alone, with no one to talk to. Making endless entries in computers down to scrubbing the floor and steps, it is said to be soul-destroying work, in which there is no progress. One is simply a replaceable element in a machine. From the point of view of yoga, this is a big mistake. It is in just those jobs where not much mental alertness is required that there is a better chance for inner progress. They are good conditions for practising a special form of meditation – the meditation on bare action. Normally when doing these jobs, the mind is full of stray thoughts. If there has been a quarrel recently, …

Read morePutting Life Into Life

Training for later experiences in life

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 …

Read moreTraining for later experiences in life

Technique can develop almost endlessly

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 …

Read moreTechnique can develop almost endlessly

Dr. Jigoro Kano in Judo

A lecture delivered at a meeting of the British Judo Federation The Buddhist Ideal of Mutual Benefit 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 …

Read moreDr. Jigoro Kano in Judo

With Faith in Fellow Human Beings

Many Japanese lack confidence in themselves. Even when they are expert at something, they are frightened of making some small mistake. This is perhaps because there is in Japan a bad habit of laughing at a mistake. All nations do this, but Japanese seem to do it more than others. When a foreigner comes up to me in London and asks, ‘Me from Hungary … where Westminster?’ I do not laugh at his baby English. I know that if I were in Hungary, I would speak baby Hungarian. I smile and point the way. He is not ashamed, and we both understand the situation. But sometimes a Japanese, who has a wonderful knowledge of English, hesitates nervously before speaking. He feels he must prepare a good sentence in his head before he speaks it. His nervousness makes me uneasy too. His literary English is too good for a casual conversation. …

Read moreWith Faith in Fellow Human Beings

The bujin must keep fullness during the waza

When one looks at a high-speed photograph of a ballet dancer in mid-leap, one can get an uneasy feeling. One knows that this figure is not really flying and must come down very quickly. Yet it remains impossibly hanging in the air. It is very unnatural and against the whole spirit of ballet dancing, which is movement. The photograph is frozen movement: it is a contradiction. So it makes some people feel uncomfortable, and I am one of them. Soon after I began Judo in 1930 at the age of 16, I had this kind of experience in connection with Budo. I was a member of the London Budokwai (yes, this is how it was spelt), the first Judo club in Europe. Every year we had a big public display, which was mainly Judo. I remember the exhibition of ju no kata (basic forms of Judo) by the two Japanese …

Read moreThe bujin must keep fullness during the waza

What are Japanese people really like?

When foreign people are asked to give a lightning impression of the British, many of them mention ‘mania for dogs, the gentleman ideal, honesty in politics and something called a sense of humour’. Then they go on to give individual opinions. Frenchmen say that Englishmen are crude and cold, and I have heard Japanese call us yabottai (unrefined) and also cold. Russians wonder why the English are always complaining, like Russian farmers. As to the dog mania, I admit that it is true. Often British people say to me: ‘What are Japanese people really like? I have talked to some Japanese, and they were all very serious’. ‘You forget that they had to use a foreign language to talk to you’, I would tell them. ‘They wanted to get their English sentences right—that is why they were serious. You would be serious if you had to talk to them in …

Read moreWhat are Japanese people really like?

The Unforgettable Friend whom I Met Only Once

Still, there are some who can keep the child alive in themselves. I met one such person when I first took a Judo contest in Japan. I had trained hard in Britain, but of course we were limited to what we could learn from the old Japanese teachers there and occasional high-grade Japanese players. I was fairly strong at harai-goshi and osoto-gari. On the other hand, I had never met a really fast kouchi-gari. As it happened, this first opponent was skilled in it. I was totally unprepared for his attack and lost the contest in a few seconds. I was knocked out of the tournament at once. The winners of contests then were given a little medal, a fact which I did not know. As I came out of the changing room into the crowd, someone caught my arm, pressed a little box into my hand and hurried away. …

Read moreThe Unforgettable Friend whom I Met Only Once

Budo and World Culture

To a few foreigners, Japan is a second home. I am excluding the sentimentalists who are fascinated by* the polite surfaces of Japanese life. Most of them are living comfortably sheltered from its deeper realities. Usually they can neither read a Japanese magazine or book nor speak more than broken sentences. These people are not at home in Japan, though they sometimes think they are. They are more like guests. Home is a place not only of security and affection, but of quarrels and struggles. Furthermore, it is a place where in the middle of the quarrels and struggles we give—and find—love. In spite of all the faults, we want to be there. A few foreigners can feel that about Japan. They know all the defects, but still want to be there: it is home. For still fewer of us, it is a sort of third home. We are the …

Read moreBudo and World Culture

Budo and Yin and Yang

In some texts of traditional schools of Budo like the Itto-ryu, there is a distinction between the Budo of yin and the Budo of yang. I first heard about this from a Judo teacher, long before I could read the Budo texts. It confirmed an impression that had been growing in me that there are two kinds of Budo. This is the sort of thing that some of the traditions taught: Before a combat, the swordsman of yin is perfectly calm. His expression does not change; he does not defy the enemy. He does not stare at the opponent wide-eyed or try to intimidate him with feints. He does not come forward with little steps, as if crossing a single-plank bridge, but he walks as if on a wide road, with a perfectly normal posture. This is a master who can hardly be defeated. The swordsman of yang, on the …

Read moreBudo and Yin and Yang

Real Sportsmanship

The true spirit of sportsmanship is appreciation of the game itself. The game must not be a means of national or group superiority. In the English soccer, the teams were generally representative of a particular town. Soccer originally did not have a strong tradition of sportsmanship; it was the sport of the masses. So the crowd of spectators was divided into two parties; each would applaud a goal by their own side but would be silent when the other side scored. But in a cricket match, the spectators—though supporting one side—would applaud a skilful stroke by one of the opposing batsmen. The true sportsman could appreciate an opponent’s skill as well as his own. He could rise above mere partisanship and view the game from above, as it were. This ability to rise above the immediate situation was one of the most valuable assets given by sport. Of course, the …

Read moreReal Sportsmanship

Being sincere versus being right in Japan

In 1938, my first year in Japan, I noticed how often the word ‘sincerity’ came up. Sometimes I was surprised at how it was used. For instance, before leaving Britain I had met the Japanese ambassador in London, Mr. Mamoru Shigemitsu. He walked with a stick, and I assumed that he had probably been in a car accident. Later on, I was told that he had had a bomb thrown at him by a Japanese nationalist. Many years later, I heard that Mr. Shigemitsu had met this bomb thrower, after he had finished his dozen years in prison. The Japanese press asked Mr. Shigemitsu how he felt about this man, and he replied something like this: ‘I have no resentment against him, because I feel that he was sincere in his beliefs’. A British politician would not say this. In fact, after an attempt was made to kill her by …

Read moreBeing sincere versus being right in Japan

The Spirit of Budo

The Spirit of Budo In this first essay I would like to recall how an Englishman, who was brought up 70 years ago in the traditional way, viewed the Budo spirit in Japan in about 1940, and to tell you how he sees the Budo spirit today. First of all, I should say a few words about the persistence of the ideas. When I was young, there were ideas of being a gentleman; doing one’s duty honourably and keeping calm under all circumstances were the main things in life. Culture was less important. In the romantic novels read by young people then, the plot often centred round some conflict of duty: the hero’s problem was just to discover what his duty was. Then he would do it and marry the heroine. She would never marry anyone who did not carry out his duty. In my teens, I did not much …

Read moreThe Spirit of Budo

Two Zen Stories

(1) TESSHU Tesshu was asked by a brilliant young fencer: “What is the inmost secret of the Way of Fencing?” He said: “Go to the Kannon temple at Asakusa and pray to be enlightened about it.” After a week the young man came back and said: “I went every day and prayed there a long time. Nothing came to me. On the last day as I was coming away disappointed, I noticed the inscription above the shrine: The Gift of Fearlessness. Was that what you meant?” “Yes,” repiled Tesshu. “Complete fearlessness is the secret of fencing. It must be complete. There are those who are not afraid when they face an enemy with a sword, but who are cowards when they confront the assaults of passions like greed, and delusions like fame. Complete fearlessness in the face of the inner as well as the outer enemies is the end of …

Read moreTwo Zen Stories

True Man of No Rank

Recently I wrote about a general impression that foreigners have, that Japanese people tend to put everyone into some rank or relative position.  The rank or position determines what the person is.  I have heard a Japanese say (and have read similar remarks) that without all the personal connections and relations, “I should be no more than a pinpoint on a blank sheet of paper”.  When we think just of brothers, they think of elder brother and younger brother; in other words, there is a fine distinction between the ranks.  Of course in life, people can change their ranks, and when they do, Japanese society treats them differently.  Or so it seems to us.  Seniority seems to account for a very great deal in companies.   Japanese are supposed to like long-lasting relations; they want to stay in a company for life if possible.  All this is the familiar picture as …

Read moreTrue Man of No Rank

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