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 for two months.’ He made it even more difficult by adding: ‘Develop ko-uchi and o-uchi. Just use those.’ He knew that I was getting very conceited about my judo ability.
The next two months were humiliating. The others soon found that I was using only ko-uchi and o-uchi, and so they simply kept their feet close together. I failed again and again and again. Of course this would have made a harai-goshi very easy, but I was not allowed to use that. So I had to develop some strategies to make them take a wide step occasionally. In the end I did get quite skilful at these two throws. Without the humiliation of those repeated failures, I could not have done so. (But after the two months, I did enjoy myself with harai-goshi.)
I have experienced the value of this sort of training in life generally. When I was small, I used to argue with my elder brother. I say argue, but in fact we just shouted at each other, interrupting all the time. As a student I used the same method, and because I was a judo man I could often seem to win an argument. The opponent would be cowed into silence.
Sometimes my argument was quite reasonable, but still I tended to shout it. That was my ippon-yari. Then I heard Dr. Kano say, in a lecture: The right way is not to try to overbear an opponent by force of wealth, or position in society, or physical force. He may become silent, but he will not be convinced. The right way is to use reasoning to convince him.’ From that time I began to give up my habit of shouting, and developed the art of arguing sensibly. It improved my life and reputation. Without that instruction from a respected teacher, I doubt whether I would have learnt it. Certainly my brother did not: in his vigorous old age, it still remained his favourite method of debating a point.
There is also instruction given by a teacher unconsciously, without a word. He teaches by his behaviour. I once saw a very neurotic man come to The Budokwai for lessons, who became very upset when he was told that first he must learn how to fall. He said, T have come to learn how to throw, not how to fall.’ The teacher, Yukio Tani, went across to him quietly and said: ‘You want to throw others. But they will have to fall when you throw them. So they must learn how to fall. Do you think you should be the only one who does not know how to fall?’
The man looked furious. He thought he was being mocked. He tried to slap Mr. Tani’s face. The teacher checked the blow, but did nothing else. He just stood there calmly. We young pupils were furious and were going to throw the man out, but a senior member waved us back and said to him quietly: ‘You do not know how to behave, sir.’ He took him by the arm to the changing room, and then out of the do jo. The teacher never referred to the matter, and I was very impressed by the perfect self-control shown by him and the senior member. They did not seem even to be angry. They treated this unbalanced man as if he were a small child in a tantrum. That was a surprise to me.