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 the masters of judo asked Dr. Kano: ‘What are we to do? They are beginning to attack us physically. How can we help defending ourselves?’ This was indeed the case – the local bullies, realising that they were on to a good thing, as the saying goes, were assaulting them with impunity. Dr. Kano’s reply was a surprise. ‘You have two good legs. Use them, and run!’ This was of course a great humiliation. Even famous masters like Nagaoka, Toku and Mifune had occasionally to run away, followed by jeers. They could easily have won in a fight, but they had to run. They mastered their pride and anger. I knew some of them in their latter years; they had an impressive dignity and self-possession. On one occasion Toku ran into a blind alley, and had no escape. He turned on his pursuers, and quickly disposed of five of them. He injured one man badly. The police did not pursue the matter as he was able to prove he had been attacked by them. Nevertheless, Dr. Kano expelled him for six months.

When I knew Toku he had had a stroke, from which he had partially recovered. He was master of the do jo at the Kodokan on most days, and was very insistent on politeness and correct behaviour. I saw him correct tiny details of a zarei sitting bow six times before he was satisfied and let the student go. Then he sat just inside the door of the dojo, and reprimanded students who came in with a slovenly bow. The word went quickly round the changing rooms: ‘The old man’s on the warpath!’ Then all the students entered with flawless bows.

I often practised with him, if one could call it practice. When he made the slightest movement of the hands in a sort of mock tewaza (a hand throw – which was about all he could manage) one simply jumped past him and landed with a crash on the far side. Sometimes one had to hold him up as one went past. All the young fourth and fifth Dans did this with the old teacher of their particular line. It made you part of his school, so to speak, and afterwards you would get a really good practice with one of his pupils, or one of his pupils’ pupils. All the tough young men went through this, and in a way it taught them humility – being thrown about by an old man in front of everyone. The idea was to prevent a young expert from swaggering, and with some at least it gradually became effective.

So if you feel that you have to spit in someone’s face, probably the safest target will be a seasoned judo man. But not a young man – he may not have mastered himself yet.

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