Judo is to give you something for life

Judo is not football. When we are young, we play football, and we are told, Try and win, try and win’. But the main purpose is to develop our physique. It’s not for most schoolboys to become professional footballers. In the same way, judo is to give you something for life, and for most of us it is not to become contest leaders. Dr Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, regarded judo as a training for life. He thought it was much better for this than ball games which are not natural activities. But fighting is a natural activity and if the natural activity can be spiritualised and made rational, so that instead of making enemies, you are making friends, then it will give you something for life.

Imagination and Open Judo

But it is much more than that. In order to safeguard the health of competitors, contest judo has become narrower and narrower. The rules have been narrowed down and every time they are narrowed, the opportunities for the small man are limited. And that means there’s a poverty of imagination. I suggest you should go back and introduce in your randori – which, after all, means free practice – open judo, in which everything is allowed except striking. Allow people to hold the belt; allow people to hold the sleeve. Don’t rely on winning as the sole objective but developing skill. This will help us in life. I am a big man and I was fairly strong, but I must admit against a short chap when he caught the end of the belt my heart used to sink because he could whirl in and put the belt over his shoulder …

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Weaknesses

Through judo training, we learn our bodies have limitations. We are weak in certain respects. These have to be corrected to some extent. The Japanese say that every man has seven big faults of character. In judo we learn how to minimise our faults and how to develop beyond them. We must not try and avoid the faults, but cultivate a proper method of dealing with them. For instance, if I am righthanded and I am left to my own devices, I will simply use the right hand more and more. But a good teacher will make me use the left side, and then the co-ordination of the whole body will be improved about the centre line. So it is to bring to life the left side which is relatively neglected. Judo should help us to do that, not only on the mat but in life.

Stances

‘Oh no, I’ve never been any good with figures.’ ‘I can’t understand these legal things.’ ‘I don’t get on with people.’ ‘I get on with people all right, but where I am no good is when I am on my own.’ All these are weaknesses, and judo should help us to confront those weaknesses with courage and go for them. A Japanese chess champion I knew could sit in front of the board for 10 minutes, a quarter of an hour, half an hour without moving a muscle and without making a move. His opponent was fidgeting, going to the lavatory, having a drink, lighting cigarettes. The old boy just sat there. After he had won, I talked to him and he wasn’t at all this calm figure, but a wisecracking Tokyo cockney. I asked, ‘How is it that your chess personality is so different to your ordinary personality?’ He …

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Training

We have training. Judo teaches us training. You have to train, but you have to be spontaneous. If you start being spontaneous without training, your bad habits will get worse and worse. If you are one-sided, you won’t naturally develop into two-sided. You will become more one-sided. When you see somebody who can’t type, they start with two fingers. If they go on typing like that, they won’t gradually use ten fingers. They will get better and better at using this terrible method. The hands move very fast like a couple of mad hens. But they never develop a good technique and the result is that typing is always a strain and an effort. Now the purpose of judo technique is to show you this and enable you to master what has been learnt in the past – and then to become spontaneous and free. You have to train and …

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Spontaneity

When the time comes, we have to jump. We should learn the right technique, but there is something else that judo can give us if we really train. We have our tokui waza – this is how I am going to win. We rely on it. But the psychological training is to go in and forget all your favourite things and just throw yourself in totally. It is very difficult to do. But if you succeed in doing it, something new will come. The body seems to move by itself. And quite often it is something that you are not very expert at. This is one of the things which the old masters stressed. That the Way comes to an end. You train and train and now you have got to forget that training and open yourself. This applies to life. We have got our pet techniques in life. I …

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The blind spot

And if you can, what happens? This is called the blind spot. It is something that is well known but is rarely thought about or analysed. The chemist, Linus Pauling, who was continuously creative over a number of years, said, ‘When I am confronted with a problem that defeats me, I concentrate on it for three weeks. Then I deliberately rely on my subconscious and throw away all thought of it. And then weeks, or months, and sometimes years later, the answer suddenly pops into my mind.’ Now, we have no explanation for these things. None. The great French mathematician Poincare tried to analyse it. He said, ‘ It means that there is something in my unconscious mind that is more intelligent than I am! It can solve problems which I can’t solve. I would hate to think that!’ We are given the chance in judo – there is a …

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Bushi of the Yin, Bushi of the Yang

One of the old texts say there are two kinds of bushi (the Japanese warriors) – the bushi of the yin (the quiet) and the bushi of the yang (the positive). The bushi of the yang, the positive, walks as if his feet would crush the earth. His glare looks as if it would powder rocks. He walks on with small steps uttering shouts which terrify the opponents. The bushi of the yin is calm. He walks steadily. He is silent. But the response is instant because he is not making the response – the response is coming from the beyond. These are some of the traditions within judo. And in judo we can try them. This is one of the things judo can give us for life: energy, courage – but also the ability in difficulties, or in triumph and success, to be free from it all. O-me-dame de …

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Outer and inner balance

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 …

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Judo and shuji

When I had been a few months in Japan and had learnt a few hundred of the most frequently occurring Chinese characters, and became able to read a sentence here and there which was written in those common characters, I felt quite pleased with my progress. But then I found that for anything beyond simple sentences, one would need to know not a couple of hundred more, but a couple of thousand more. I set to work, but began to get bored with the drudgery of it. Like most foreigners at this stage, I experienced a sort of oceanic weariness. Each new character had to be written out twenty times in order to learn it, but for each hundred new characters one learnt, it seemed that one forgot some old ones. ‘You cram them into your head in the day,’ complained one student, ‘but you find that in the night …

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The cherry tree

The cherry tree blossoms for three weeks. For the remaining forty- nine, nothing shows above the ground, but the roots are going deeper and deeper. The phrase in the Chinese Book of Change is: ‘The thunder is buried in the earth.’ The vitality is in the roots. That long time of apparent inertia, and the short period of blossoming, form a unity. It is not that the cherry tree is depressed and sad, and a failure for a long time, but then has a wonderful success, which is, alas, all too passing, all too quickly taken away. No: this is a single tree, not two trees. The human being, especially the poet, sees the moment of glory, and a long dull stretch when the life is in the roots as two things. But they are one. In the West there is a tendency to think of a tree or plant …

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Question

Does not competitive sport produce discord? If so, should it not be avoided by a seeker of the Way, whether as participator or even spectator? If people play golf or soccer or chess or judo, without counting points to make a match of it, that is not sport but healthy exercise (mental in the case of chess). It may create no discord, but it is tasteless and ultimately boring. If they count points, but are competing to make money or reputation, this is not sport but business. It does create discord among players and also often among spectators too. The essence of sport is that two or more agree to PLAY at being enemies, on a fixed field under fixed rules. They try with intense seriousness to win. If the sides are fairly evenly matched, so that sometimes one wins and sometimes the other, there is a special zest. They …

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Efficiency of the heart

Dr. Kano, the founding father of judo, put forward what he called 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 jujitsu 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 my opponent would become nervous, and would stop arguing against me. …

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Specialisation

There is a tendency in life to specialise. That is natural enough: to become a doctor or a lawyer, one has to study and practise for a number of years at different areas in the same general field. To be a good typist or computer operator, you have to become expert on a keyboard. To type in Japanese kana-majiri, one has to learn a much larger keyboard. When Western typists are told about the Japanese keyboard, with the 600 common characters in the middle and the two wings of further characters, and are told that Japanese typists know the position of nearly all of them, we tend to say ‘Impossible!’ But a good many Japanese manage it. Specialisation gives us a role in life: most of us earn our living by some kind of specialised skill. Brick-laying is a special skill: Churchill used to build walls in his garden, and …

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Help

At many Zen monasteries, a training week can involve a good deal of strain. A man who felt himself to be a keen Buddhist in a general sense thought he would like to have the experience. So he made inquiries of a Zen teacher as to whether he would be allowed to join in such a week, and if so, what it would involve. ‘You may come,’ the teacher told him. ‘Almost anyone may come if prepared to stick to the rules: there’s not much sleep, there’s a strict discipline, and you have to be prepared to submit to rough treatment when you are slack. If I think it necessary, you may be required to sign a statement in advance before the local Prefect that you agree to whatever treatment you receive, and will make no complaint then or later.’ The inquirer, a bit taken aback, told him: ‘Unfortunately my …

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Limits of technique

The time comes when, for one reason or another, even the finest technique fails. In Japan there used to be (and for all I know, there still is) a certain distance, almost an antipathy, between some of the more fanatical judo men and the more fanatical kendo (fencing) men. The kendo men are supposed to say under their breath, or just think: ‘Oh yes, a kendo man against a judo man. Well, just pick up a stick (even an umbrella would do) and then one thrust in the throat, and he’s finished.’ That is what they thought, or what we thought they thought. And on the judo side, we used to look at them and think: ‘Yes, and when you haven’t got your little stick, what then, eh?’ Each side had stories about the other side. We used to circulate a story about a Japanese policeman who was a fourth …

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Humble

Judo is one of the Ways of inner development’, and an important element in one’s inner development is not to forget the sense of shame. When Dr. Kano founded his judo academy, some of the schools of jujitsu contained members who were litde more than street fighters; some of these had jobs as debt collectors; they could terrify debtors by a show of violence, and their harsh voices were specially cultivated by them. There is a humorous Meiji song: ‘When I drink sake, Spring opens up in my heart, The very debt collectors Sound like nightingales!’ Dr. Kano refused membership of the Kodokan to any who engaged in street fighting, and he expelled from the Kodokan any member who had been involved in it. When some of the local toughs found that the Kodokan men were forbidden to fight, they began a campaign of provocation in the street. Some of …

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Dr. Kano’s washing

In the East, a traditional way of washing clothes was to soak them in soapy water, jerk the dirt out of them, rinse and then dry them in the sun. In India the jerk was given by whirling the wet cloth in the air and slapping it down on to a clean flat stone. This does get the dirt out, but does not improve the life of the cloth. In Japan in the last century, they used to pummel the clothes with the fists to do the same thing. I heard Dr. Kano tell how he had observed the maids in his house doing this. He stopped them, and showed them how to hit the clothes with the edge of the straight hand, the thumb turned in. After a few weeks he gave some more instruction, on how to use the whole body in the blow. He checked their progress …

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Ingenuity

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 the 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 …

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The tradition of judo

In the Japanese budo tradition there are many particular ‘Ways’: kendo, the way of the sword; shodo, the way of the brush; kyudo, the way of the archer, and many others. Even other branches of culture, for instance music, have a connection with budo. An expert in the koto (a sort of horizontal harp), or the chanoyu (tea ceremony) always keeps a posture correct from the budo standpoint. That is to say, if he or she were suddenly attacked, their balance would be perfect so that there could be an instant response (not necessarily of a martial kind). I myself watched the once-a-year tea ceremony demonstrated at Daitokuji by the then Master of the Ura-senkei school, and I also often watched Michio Miyagi the koto master. I noted that from the judo point of view their posture was always kept in balance. We judo men believe that judo has a …

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]udo koan

This is one of the most complicated of the ways, and perhaps the nearest to life. It is a general training of the body and not concentration on a special aim with special instruments. But because of the complexity of the technique, many students become wholly absorbed in technical achievement, losing the one principle in study of the individual tricks. In judo there is no complete rest at all; always the balance has to be actively preserved under the push and pull of the opponent. The student is expected to find the truth of the Taoist saying: ‘The stillness is not the real stillness; only when there is stillness in movement does the universal rhythm manifest.’ In the series of photographs on the next page the attacker (on the right) finds a small chance and comes in. At the crucial moment the opponent will either shift his right foot forward …

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Beginners

One of my early lessons in the spirit of judo came when I had been practising for about six months. I was sitting on the edge of the mat, watching two beginners take their grading contest. Watching them was a boring business, and I was whispering to my next door neighbour about something else. I knew there was nothing to be learnt from a couple of absolute beginners. The referee, who was also my teacher, was walking round the mat as referees do. My neighbour had just said something a bit funny, and I was grinning as I half turned and whispered back to him. Suddenly I felt a kick in my side. We are not used to that sort of thing, and I nearly got up and walked out of the place. Still, I was very keen on judo, and I managed to go on sitting as if nothing …

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Kind-hearted

I knew well a judo man who was a fine technician and strategist on the mat, but he was too kind-hearted. At least, that is the only way I can describe his attitude in important contests. He seemed to be thinking: ‘If I beat this chap, who has come here with such great hopes, he’ll be very discouraged and depressed. It probably means so much to him, whereas I don’t really care if I just draw with him.’ We used to say to him: ‘Look, that chap doesn’t want your kindness. He wants you to go all-out. Against a better man, he wants to fail: then he’ll improve. He’s come here to fail.’ But nothing we said made any difference: he was too nice, he was too kind. Well, just before he went on the mat for one big contest, the teacher took him out of the hall, into a …

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Hard and soft

In one of the traditional scrolls of budo martial arts, there is a poem: Do not meet hard with hard, or soft with soft, There is no result and it is meaningless, Catch the flung stone with a cloth, Pin the wind-fluttered cloth with a stone. These general principles, and the poetic metaphors which illustrate them, can be a help in life. But they have to be understood. There are people who live always by hardness: they are fighters, pushers, shouters. If you meet them with fighting, pushing and shouting, there is no real result. You may defeat them for a time, but they are not convinced and will seek revenge. They will constantly oppose all you try to do, and can hold it up and limit it. Then there are people who live entirely by softness. At the first little difficulty or opposition in anything, they change course, or …

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Irrelevancies

When I was training in Japan, I knew a senior judo man who was expert in groundwork newaza, and especially armlocks. He was a small thin man, with very supple and wiry legs, and he could always somehow thread one through the gaps and wind it round the other man’s arm. Then he would put the lock on very fast. He was not an official teacher, but he used to go nearly every day to the Kodokan and practise his extraordinary technique. Some people used to watch him, but not from close up, because he would suddenly end that practice, and then call on the nearest man to go on with him. A splendid chance, one might think. Yet not many liked to take the opportunity. The reason was that there was something about him that was just a little vicious. He would put the lock on very quickly, and …

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Ippon-yari

The way to progress is: give up one’s ippon-yari, one’s strongest throw, for a time. The pupil who does this will look weak, until he gradually develops other techniques. People will laugh at him perhaps. They will say: ‘Oh, he cannot do much now; his old ippon-yari does not work any more, so he has given it up. And he cannot do much else.’ It takes great courage to be laughed at for two or three months by opponents whom one could easily defeat. One is not allowed to defeat them, because the ippon- yari is barred. Not many young judo men can do it, unless there is the support of a teacher. I can remember how when I was third Dan, I was tall and strong, and had a good harai-goshi (sweeping hip) which no one in the do jo could stop. Then the teacher said: ‘Don’t use that …

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Run-up

To deliver the cricket ball, the bowler has to make a long run-up. He runs towards the wicket, and then bowls the ball. With this method, he can make it fly much faster than anyone can do from a standing position. Similarly, the golfer needs a backswing for his drive, and a boxer needs some space to develop a big punch. If there is no space, it is only a push, not a punch. The judo man makes a tsuri-komi action to hold the opponent off balance while he himself swings into his throw. To know this principle can be a great help in life. Big emotional disturbances do not come suddenly; they need a little time to build up their force. The mind can be trained to recognise them while they are still in the early stages. When we hear some insulting remark about ourselves, in the first few …

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Sacrifices

Some who are attracted to the idea of doing some inner training take it up enthusiastically at first, but become half-hearted when they understand what is required. ‘Three hours a day?’ they cry. ‘Oh surely not. That would mean sacrificing so much. No TV watching, no cinema, very litde social life – it sounds so depressing.’ This was put to a teacher, who remarked: ‘You look at it from the wrong side. What you have to give up are mosdy trivialities. Consider what you have to gain.’ ‘But there will always be a hankering to enjoy oneself, even if they are trivialities.’ The teacher said: ‘Not at all. Come with me to the local judo do jo? They went together, and the teacher asked the dojo master if they could have a word with one of the promising pupils. A young boy came across and stood in front of them. …

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Special duties

Foreign tourists often say how safe they feel in the cities of Japan. The police seem to be everywhere; you walk or drive for five minutes, and you are sure to see a policeman, in his blue uniform and white belt. That he has a gun is noticed by British tourists but not by others; after all, the French for a policeman is gendarme, which means literally can armed man’, just like the old Italian and Spanish word carabiniero. The tourist in Japan is careful about his behaviour; there always seems to be a policeman looking at him. If he becomes a resident, one day he gets a little surprise. He notices that some of these policemen are in fact life-size models. They are very realistic. Still, he can work out a strategy. Suppose he wants to park his car for just ten minutes. He sees a place, but it …

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Excuses

When relative beginners have a little string of successes, it is sometimes the first time in their lives that they have distinguished themselves in their own eyes. They do not realise that there is a good deal of luck in such contests, but feel that now they are on the highroad to success. They often become slack in training. I saw one such member of a judo club have a rough awakening. He had gone into the monthly grading contest with an air of confidence. He was decisively thrown almost at once. The next day he apologised to the teacher for his poor performance. I was rather off colour yesterday,’ he said. ‘That’s why I lost. I’m sorry.’ He went on to explain just how he had felt. The teacher looked at him without much interest. ‘You didn’t lose that contest yesterday,’ he said coldly. ‘You lost it in the …

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The dragon mask I

With age, a judo expert’s speed begins to decline and he has to find means to offset this against up and coming opponents. One of them is to establish a psychological ascendancy over a younger man who may be actually stronger in fighting ability. This can be done by preventing the junior from estimating the respective standards of ability. An experienced man can make an estimate easily in most cases by merely looking at the movement, but a young man generally cannot do it without something definite to work on, and he can be prevented from getting the information. The senior’s attacking policy is to attempt to throw only when it is certain to succeed – in other words, never to fail in a throw. This often means waiting for quite a time till the opponent takes some risk and so gives an opportunity. But promising young judo men take …

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The dragon mask II

When I was practising judo at the Kodokan in 1940, Japan and Britain were moving nearer and nearer to war. There was fairly widespread belief in Japan that they were being encircled by potential enemies. I experienced hardly any hostility on the personal level. There was, however, one man at the Kodokan, a tough young fifth Dan, who from the first looked at me in what seemed a baleful way. I will call him K. When we practised, it was indeed very rough. I came to feel that he had the intention of injuring me, and I suppose I fought back with corresponding aggressiveness. We did not often score points off each other, but it was certainly a rough business. K was a grim-looking fellow, who shaved about once a week (as it was then a patriotic duty to save razor-blades). I began to feel that I did not want …

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Onshi

To translate 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 (e.g. Master of Balliol College) or a barber with one apprentice boy. Some continental languages do make more of a distinction: ‘maestro’ for instance, means a master pianist or artist who also teaches, and quite a different word is used 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. …

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Tricks

An experienced judo teacher can show a keen pupil one or two tricks which, if practised intensively, will get dramatic results in the first year. I remember a pair of friends who began judo at the same time, and worked together in a club in the country. In build they were thin and wiry, and also intelligent. They learnt from somewhere (not from me) two or three such tricks, and practised them more or less in secret, only with each other and a friend or two. They never used them in general practise. When they came up to The Budokwai in London, the central club for grading, they would execute one of these tricks, and win sometimes in four or five seconds. The opponent, completely taken by surprise, would go over – bang! It was like a magician’s trick, and they gained a fearsome reputation. It was also pleasant for …

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Manners

Among the judo fraternity in Japan, the roughest are the medical students. I practised once with such a man though at first I didn’t know where he came from. Now, normally in the dojo, people just come up and say ‘0-negai\ (‘Will you?’). But this chap came up and made a deep formal bow. ‘O-negai-itashimasu*. (‘May I have the honour of practising with you?’). ‘Oh, all right,’ I replied. When we started he was like a typhoon – all elbows and knees and hacks. Then he first threw me, and as I was getting off the floor, he drew himself up and said ‘Please excuse me.’ I thought, ‘Whew, what is this?’ Then, when I threw him, the same thing happened. He got up off the floor, stood straight and said, ‘Thank you very much.’ And then it was all elbows, knees and hacks again. I realised later that the …

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The killer instinct, the temper, the fury

It does get results, but there is something higher. One of the analogies that is given is the yacht. Many people think that the yacht can go fastest when the wind is directly behind, blowing forward. But the yacht can go faster if it is across the wind. The mechanical principle involved is different – the inclined plane – and the yacht can go faster than the wind. Most people find this incredible, but it can be looked up and verified. (There has to be a keel to hold the boat steady.) This example is given in Zen. The passions are not direcdy opposed, but they are crossed and so made use of in a spiritual way. The heart doesn’t run directly before the passions. It runs across them.

A lovely style

It is vital in the application of the spiritual principles, as in judo techniques, that they must work. One hundred years ago, Zen master Iida made quite a point of this. He said things may be very beautiful; things may be very appealing; things may be very touching, very kindly. But unless they work, they’re not Zen. And in judo I can remember a beautiful stylist. He said to me once, ‘You know, as I pick myself off the floor, they say, “Oh but you’ve got such a lovely style.”  

Cutting the bull’s horns off 

In judo, when the teacher tells us (and he says this only to people who are determined to improve), ‘You’ve mastered that technique. Now give it up for six months,’ we think, ‘What? I’m not allowed to do that? I go on the mat and I’m not allowed to do my big throw? I’ve got to try and do other things that I can’t do? I’ll get countered, I’ll look an absolute fool!’ Now many of us fail this test. We think, cOh no! I’m not going to do this.’ And we go back to what we can do, and we get some success. But those who have faith in the teacher and who realise the teacher has got faith in them, follow his advice and give up their favourite technique for a while. They begin to develop a free movement, not fixed on one point. They can move freely. …

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Tigers and rabbits

In our western sports, and in a good many other things too, the tigers won’t play with the rabbits. But in budo, however much of a tiger a man is – he’s in the club team, perhaps in the county team, perhaps in the national team, and practises like mad – he always gives twenty minutes of his time every day to give instruction to a beginner, to a complete beginner, in order to help develop this unity. The purpose of budo is not that some are performing stars and the others are just watching them, but that there’s a unity.

Specialities

We teach techniques which people can acquire. After perhaps eight years a man who’s very keen and has a good teacher, can get an extraordinary skill in one or two moves. He then identifies himself with that skill he’s got, and when he comes up to a contest he thinks, ‘This is how I’m going to win – by this special technique I’ve developed.’ Of course, the first aim is usually to find out what special technique the other man has developed so that one can guard against it. Well, you generally get confusing and conflicting reports about a prospective opponent. Some people tell you ‘Oh he goes off like a bomb at the beginning, but if you can survive that, he’s got nothing. He’s just got one terrific throw.’ And then somebody says ‘Oh no. He’s given that up altogether! He hangs on now until the fourth minute, then …

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