The limit of endurance

Some Judo training exercises are taken to the limit of endurance. In classes performing them – e.g. dragging the body round the dojo face down by the arms – the instructor has to watch carefully. While a participant has the energy to grunt Whew! or some such, he is not exhausted. But when one who is silent begins to turn pale, the instructor knows he should stop. If the class is going well, the instructor does not want to stop them. However, the atmosphere at such times is very delicate: if one is taken out, the whole energy tends to collapse; everyone feels that he too should stop. So the teacher may have to resort to subtle methods. He suddenly pounces on the silent one, picks him up by collar and belt, and brings him into the middle. He shouts: ‘How do you expect to keep going when you’re doing …

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Future champions

A Japanese boxing trainer, who had produced several champions, was asked by a reporter how he selected suitable trainees. “When a young lad comes here with his father, I know he’s not going to be champion material. I give him the lessons they pay for, and get him up to the level of ability they want. Then he goes. But when a boy comes here by himself, quite scared but determined, I know he’s had a row with his father. Then he’s going to take ME as his father, and then he’ll really train. He might turn out a champion.” © Trevor Pryce Leggett  


There is no need to practise humility as it is usually understood – that is to say, pretending one hasn’t got a skill or knowledge that one really does have. There are superiorities, and they should not be falsely concealed, any more than they should be boasted about. Because the superiorities, whatever they are, are still only little; once we raise our eyes from the immediate surroundings, we see we are like children who think that the hill at the back of their village is higher than the Himalayas. A saying in all the martial arts is this: “When you find yourself becoming an expert, and feel yourself puffing up like big frog, just go to the next pond, and you’ll find you’re only a little tadpole.” One famous Judo teacher whom I knew insisted that all his students should practise the flute; the shrieks and wails that proceeded from …

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Cutting off the bull’s horns (longer version)

Most keen Judo students come to develop special skill in one or perhaps two throws. These are not necessarily the throws which they took up naturally at the beginning, but throws recommended to them by the teacher on the basis of his long experience of physiques and facility of movements of particular kinds. As skill increases, the student gets more and more of his successes – such as they are – from these techniques. All such special techniques, however, have their limitations, and furthermore to concentrate on refining them leads to a failure to develop evenly. So there comes a point when the teacher tells him: “Now for at least three months give up those techniques which you have developed, and learn to use other ones.” One teacher used to call this “cutting off the bull’s horns”. And as a matter of fact, if the student is strong-willed enough, and …

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The meaning of Vairagya or non-attachment

He makes a picture of things as he would like them to be, however unlikely, and then says: “This is what I am asked to give up.” But no. He is giving up pangs of jealousy, of being thrown over, pangs of failure in ambitions etc. Why think: “I am giving up being a superman” when one would simply turn out to be very ordinary if one went to the world? Cats are not giving up being lions when they give up worldly life as an animal.

Jan Smuts and the stoep

Sir Douglas Busk told me that when he was a young diplomat in S. Africa he had to deliver by hand top secret documents from Churchill to Smuts on the latter’s farm Smuts did not trust some of his Cabinet, who were pro-German. Busk said that he was warned not to put even a foot on the stoep surrounding the house of the farmstead, as by the laws of Boer hospitality Lady Smuts would be bound to invite him for a meal. She would be absolutely charming to the British guest, but it would be a great torture to her. So to spare her this, Busk always kept away from the edge of the stoep that went round the house. Then Lady Smuts could just greet him as he waited for the reply; she did not have to invite him in, and it was understood that if he did not …

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