The Spirit of Budo

While much has been written about the physical techniques of martial arts such as judo and kendo, the training of the mind is more important than superior technique. This book provides a clear introduction to Budo – the “inner way” of the martial arts.
Here are eighteen short pieces similar in style to the storytelling that characterises Zen instruction. Matters addressed include sportsmanship, achieving freedom of mind, training the inner self, developing an inner calm, and the four keys to learning – instruction, observation, inference, and personal experience. The reader is instructed on the cultivation of these Budo qualities, and ways are suggested in which the lessons learned can be applied to daily life as well as to the practice of the martial arts.

In 1947 I went round the secondhand bookshops in the Kanda district of Tokyo, which had miraculously survived the bombs, and bought many books on Budo and Zen. These books were now almost given away, and the whole group of ideals had been discredited. I began to translate some of these materials-no easy task. Already in 1946 I had published some short essays in small magazines. At first, editors asked for articles about the decorative arts or about ‘how Japan has changed’. But quite soon they were attracted to the theme of Budo. One of my earlier writings, ‘The Maxims of Saigo3 ‘, became rather well known. In 1956 my First Zen Reader, a collection of translations, was brought out by Charles Tuttle in Tokyo and had a big success. It was followed by a number of other writings-translations and some essays of my own.
This book consists of 18 articles which have appeared in the monthly Budo magazine and are reproduced here by the kind permission of the editor and my friend Mr. Kisaburo Watanabe. My thanks go to Mr. Katsuo Tamura, President of the Simul Press, for his co-operation. It may seem daring for a foreigner to write on Budo. Yet there are parallels in history. Ask anyone for the composer who uniquely represents the spirit of Hungary, and they will answer ‘Franz Liszt’. But he was taken from Hungary when a baby and could hardly speak a word of Hungarian: he was in fact a foreigner. Still, even true Hungarians find his Hungarian Rhapsodies worth listening to. May it be so with the 18 essays which are presented in this book.

Book Extracts

Perface to Spirit of Budo

Preface I began Judo in 1930 at the Budokwai in London, the oldest Judo club in Europe. I was 16 years old. Our teachers were the famous Yukio Tani, 4th dan, who was one of those whp had introduced Judo to the West, and Gunji Koizumi, an art expert and also 4th dan. Tani came from a line of jujutsu teachers; his grandfather had given exhibitions before the shogun. While Tani never learnt English well, Koizumi was a cultured man who spoke and wrote good English. The amazing success of jujutsu and Judo, demonstrated by Tani and others against Western wrestlers and boxers at the beginning of the century, had given them a magical reputation of wizardry in the physical realm. Phrases like ‘Verily the soft controls the hard’ (ju yoku go o seisu) became well known. Mitford’s Tales of Old Japan and Kaiten Nukariya’s1 Religion of the Samurai…

The Budo spirit in Japan

Bujin and the Gentleman 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…

Taking a New Look at Budo

In search of adventure at age 21, I managed to spend a year abroad, mostly in Germany and Czechoslovakia. I made my own living and did not take any money from my parents. To my surprise, I found that the Continental people expected me, as an Englishman, to behave in the traditional way. They expected me to be calm, very polite, and a good sportsman. If I said or did something ‘out of character’, they were disappointed. I began to feel that I was like an actor cast in a certain role which was not my real nature. On my side, I discovered many things. For instance, I was surprised to see the reverence of the Germans for learning: in Britain then, learned men were respected, but not reverenced as they were in Germany. But I was now meeting people who were not calm, not fair, not patient, and…

Inner Calm and Resolution

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…

Sincerity

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…

Being Sincere versus Being Right

After Judo practice I regularly went out with some Japanese student friends. They wanted to practise their English, and I wanted to practise my Japanese. So the conversation was a mixture of broken English and broken Japanese. Occasionally we were joined by others, who wanted to meet a foreigner. (There were not many of us in Japan in those days.) On one occasion, one of these Japanese students began a long talk about the world: ‘The old name for Japan was sumera-no-kuni, and world civilization began in Sumer in Mesopotamia. Sumer was obviously a mistake for sumera, and therefore world civilization began in Japan’. He said all this very earnestly, not aggressively, but often looking at me, evidently hoping to convince me. I could follow enough of his Japanese and English to understand him. He repeated himself often, which made it easier. It was obvious nonsense, and I expected…

Virtues of Sincerity

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…

Spectators

Traditionally in Britain there have been two sorts of games: cricket, golf and fencing, which were associated with gentlemen, and soccer and wrestling, which were associated with the masses. In the so-called gentlemanly games, there was very little applause. At a cricket match 50 years ago, there would be only some occasional discreet clapping when a batsman scored a fine stroke. As the game became internationalized, there were audiences in foreign countries who did not have this tradition of self-control, and the behaviour of the onlookers became wilder. To this day, fencing is strict in its control of audience behaviour: anyone who attempted to barrack would be ejected. In golf, the foreign professionals comment on the good behaviour of British onlookers. They do not crowd the players, as they do in some tournaments abroad. In 19391 watched and took part in contests at the Kodokan and elsewhere; there was…

Western Chess and Shogi

Where Japan has kept to its traditions, the world has in fact been impressed. For instance, there are few games where there is less action than shogi, go or Western chess. The shogi championships are fought out in a quiet room with a referee and recorders. At most three or four honoured guests are allowed to watch. I have been one of them; it was an honour. I was invited because I had just received a 5th dan at shogi from the Japan Shogi Federation. The then champion Yasuharu Oyama wrote the certificate in his own hand, and I keep it as a rare treasure. In Japan, shogi is much more popular than chess is in Europe and America, though in the former Soviet Union it is encouraged. Our newspapers do not have a daily chess column, while the Japanese papers have a daily shogi and go column. Yet…

True 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,…

Yin and Yang in Budo

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…

Calm Prevails Over Fury

In making a Judo throw in contest, the Narrow school used to give this advice: ‘Have only one idea—to cast yourself completely into the throw. Have no doubts about whether it will succeed or not. Simply give a loud shout and throw your whole body into it. If you allow yourself to have even the smallest doubt about the throw, or even a thought about anything else, your movement will become hesitant. You have to be one-pointed, completely one-pointed. The throw must be the whole world, and you feel you are throwing the whole world’. I saw this demonstrated by Judo men of 4th and 5th dan, and I practised with some of them. The first months of this sort of practice at the Kodokan and other dojo training halls in 1939 gave me experience of how effective the Narrow Budo can be. I mentally associate it with the…

Admiral Drake and Tadamasa

We have a famous story about Admiral Drake, the British naval hero who lived at the end of the 16th century. The Spanish king equipped and sent a great fleet, called the Armada, to attack Britain. He had good reasons to expect the attack but did not know when the Spanish fleet would come. It must have been like Hojo Tokimune6 waiting for the Mongol fleet. Drake was playing a game of bowls when a messenger rushed in with the news: ‘A great fleet had been sighted!’ ‘We have time to finish the game’, Drake said calmly. And they finished the game. He then joined the British fleet, which then defeated the Spanish. (We were helped, just as the Japanese had been, by the weather.) This story is probably not true. I admit that when I heard it as a small boy, I thought Drake was a bit of…

Inner Calm

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…

Calm but Resolute

The outer calm, which so impresses visitors to Japan, is part of an external gloss, which may be no deeper than a thin layer. When we live in Japan with Japanese people, we discover how paper-thin it often is. Then some foreigners become disillusioned. In their first few weeks, they see only the outside—the ceremonial order and the happy matsuri (festival). Later, after having lived some time in Japan, they find out what happens after the matsuri is over. It can be something quite different: confusion and turmoil, bitter hatreds and infighting and even worse. But suppose they stay still longer and are able to go much deeper into the Japanese spirit. Usually they can only do this through real skill in one of the traditional Japanese arts. (In the same way, foreigners can make real English friends by becoming skilful at a traditional English sport like golf. But…

Saigo: A Man of Spiritual Strength

I was interested in the story and tried to read about Saigo. I asked my teacher of Japanese at the British embassy if he could find some short pieces about Saigo; He found a couple of books and selected a few fairly easy passages. I could improve my Japanese by studying them in advance and then with him. This was much more interesting than extracts from newspapers, which some other language students used. I remember reading about three samurai who had approached Katsu Kaishu8, asking for a letter of introduction to Saigo in Kyushu. Katsu suspected that these samurai intended to kill Saigo but wrote a note introducing them, in which he warned Saigo of what he suspected. He sealed it and gave it to their leader. Assuming that it was a mere introduction, they went to Kyushu, to Saigo’s small house. When he came out in his simple…

Chivalry and Budo

Old Traditions Breathe Fire into Present-day Life 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 Fifth Dimension of Chivalry

By Shakespeare’s time, the 16th century, a new idea was coming up. A big change had begun in 15th century England. (Perhaps Shakespeare himself was an example: he was at first despised because his father had not had the money to send him to a university. Yet he became famous in his lifetime.) The enormously popular poet Geoffrey Chaucer declared that a gentleman is to be known by his good behaviour, not by his birth. A man is a gentleman, proclaimed Chaucer, only if he behaves well. There was a verse of that time: ‘There are these four virtues—Honesty, Kindness, Freedom and Courage. No one can be a gentleman if he lacks three of them’. In other words, he must have at least two. It is typical of the British that this ideal does not require one to have more than two of the four virtues to be considered…

The Emerging Ideal of Budo

There was, however, another big gap in the gentleman ideal, which was never filled. I realized this gap for the first time when I went to Japan. Our list of virtues—Honesty, Kindness, Freedom, Courage and also Calm—says nothing about culture at all. This compares very unfavourably with the Japanese tradition. Of course, not all the Japanese warriors were cultured. But they were ashamed if they did not have some culture, and they respected culture in others, whereas in Britain the gentleman did not feel ashamed even if he had almost no knowledge of literature or music. True, a few refinements in behaviour were expected of him and his wife. But the ideal was fine character and especially self-control, and not culture. There were indeed many highly cultured and intelligent gentlemen. But culture and intelligence (dare I say it?) were regarded as extras, so to speak. They were desirable, but…

World Culture and Budo

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…

How Budo Contributes to World Culture

We recognize the Budo spirit of rising above the tiredness of body. We see it again, on a much deeper level, in the independence of money grabbing among many ordinary Japanese. In Britain we are used to giving tips for good service; we have always been surprised when Japanese refused them. (Perhaps recently we have begun to corrupt them.) But it surprises us when we see that this same spirit of independence and honesty does not extend to politics. In Britain we have financial scandals, but they never involve politicians. In the fiercely fought election campaign of 1992, there were many personal attacks on politicians from the other side and from newspapers. But there was not one accusation of financial dishonesty. I would guess that this is one of the new fields where the Budo spirit will show itself. The purification of politics is not at all impossible. In…

Impulsive Generosity

One of the most attractive features of the Japanese character is a sudden, uncalculating impulse of generosity. Much of the kindness in Britain is based on religion or a feeling for social justice. They are part of a lifestyle: the individual case is just part of that plan of life. But in Japan these actions are not based on any grand principle: they are spontaneous. (Of course in Japan, there is also the organized charity of religion and social justice.) To us, the sudden gesture of kindness seems to be somehow childlike. I do not mean ‘childish’; I mean that it has the straightforwardness and total commitment of a child. A famous psychologist has remarked, ‘It is only children who know how to give’. He explained that the adult people have always some anticipation or expectation of something in return for their gift. Or they give grudgingly, thinking of…

The Unforgettable Friend 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…

Is he a True Sportsman?

I have never heard of such a thing in the West. Sometimes in all sports contests one man wins by amazing luck against a clearly better man. But that is accepted. It is simply part of life. Even a very strict sportsman would accept it and not feel that he must try to change a result. In this Judo tournament, an English sportsman would probably think: ‘After all, I drew with him in our contest. His previous wins may have been against weaker opponents than I met’. Of course, there may be difficult decisions in sportsmanship. As a student I became fairly strong at chess and in later years I was in the BBC team. Every year the British champion gave a simultaneous exhibition against about 20 BBC players. I had the satisfaction of drawing against him four times. One of our team was a former Hungarian, now a…

On Humour

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…

Life as a Laughing Matter

I will give an example. During the bombings of cities in World War II, citizens everywhere showed great courage. At the height of the bombing of London, some American newspapermen asked ordinary citizens of London about their feelings. One reporter said that he was amazed not only by the brave determination but by the cheerfulness of the Londoners. One working man had told him that he was not at all afraid of being hit by a bomb. The man said: ‘How can a German bomber kill me? First of all, he has to find London and then he has to find the East End of London. I live in Alton Street, Number 32. So he has to find Alton Street and then find Number 32. When he has found it, he has to drop his bomb on it. And even if he does, probably I’ll be out, having a…

What Budo Does Not Teach

The true sense of humour is entirely different from wit. It is almost never an attack on someone else. It consists in looking at one’s own misfortune from above and finding something to laugh at in it. Budo teaches calm endurance, but humour teaches more than that. I have visited some prisons in London and know what they are like. They are crowded. Britain has more people in prison proportionally than other European countries. On the other hand, there is less crime in Britain than in most other countries. I once read the memoirs of a former prisoner, who was sentenced to four years for burglary. He said that the food was very monotonous, and some of the prisoners appointed him their spokesman to complain to the governor. The governor was a just man and was respected. The prisoner saw him and stated the complaint. The prison food has…

Technical Training as a Means

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…

Achieve the Freedom of Mind

But soon afterwards I had a big surprise. Besides the main Judo display, there used to be short demonstrations of other bujutsu arts. There were some Japanese Kendo men in London. Also at the first display I saw, there was a demonstration of the weight-and-sickle against a swordsman. Later in the programme, a Kendo man came up again, but this time faced an opponent armed with what looked like two round wooden plates with a handle at the back. They looked like very thick saucepan lids. With these he was able to parry the attacks by the sword and finally win by smothering the swordsman’s arms and by hitting him on the face with one of the plates. There was no commentary, and the audience watched in bewildered silence—another Japanese mystery. Afterwards I asked one of the senior members, who said that the plates were indeed supposed to represent…

Jumping Beyond Skill

I found a clipping of an interview with M. L. Rostropovich, a world-famous cellist and conductor, in which he remarked: ‘I would rather hear a cello piece played with genuine expression, even if there are two or three wrong notes, than a perfectly accurate but soulless performance’. I also got a recording of Rostropovich conducting Tosca. This opera has no overture, begins with five great chords on the whole orchestra, and then the curtain goes up. The composer gives the tempo: the five chords are about three seconds each, so they continue for about 15 seconds. Then the opera begins. When he conducts this opera, Rostropovich thinks that the bare 15 seconds are too short. He makes the group of chords last nearly 40 seconds. ‘I know this is not what the composer indicated’, he says. ‘But I believe it is more effective as an introduction to the great…

Going Alone

Budo: Learning for Life In a small book of introduction to Budo entitled Budo shoshin-shu, there is a section called ‘Shukke-shi,’ in which Daidoji Yuzan12, 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…

Faith in Fellow Human Beings

Secondly, 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…

The 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 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…

Training the Inner Self

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…

A Source of 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…

Dynamic Words

 ‘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…

The Unforgettable Words of Tani

One evening, however, I felt very tired with a headache. At about seven, I picked up my towel and prepared to leave the dojo. Tani looked across and asked, ‘Where are you going?’ I replied, ‘I feel tired and I’ve got a headache. I’ll come tomorrow’. Tani asked quietly: ‘If a man rushes at you in the street with a hammer, waiting to kill you, can you say, “I feel tired and I’ve got a headache, so come back tomorrow”?’ Then he turned away. His words were like a thunderbolt. I went back on to the mat and practised. After half an hour he said, ‘All right, go home now’. Somehow I felt I did not want to. I went on practising, but he gave me a little push with a smile and repeated, ‘Go now, go now’. This time I went. Later in life, when I have promised…

Free from Fixed Ideas

There are some things which we have always thought to be natural and correct. We have never imagined that they could be any other way. Such beliefs may last all our lives. We never examine them. We think, ‘Of course, that is so’. Part of the inner training of Budo is to overcome such unconscious bonds. It must apply not only in the training hall but to life in general. It does not mean to change our ideas just because they are old or traditional. But we have to learn to see clearly where our beliefs are too narrow. Sometimes it is only when we go abroad that we find that people can think in other ways. But we must be alone among the foreigners; if our own countrymen are there too, we shall support each other. Then our fixed ideas will not change. The Budo principle is meant…

What’s Unique to Western Music

When I was a boy, I trained as a pianist. At age 15, I wanted to become a professional pianist, but my father would not agree. I was furious: I gave up music and took up Judo instead. Still, I can say that I knew about Western music. But when I first went to Japan, I had a surprise. I got to know an old Japanese lady, who had two daughters. Both played the piano, and when I went to their house, they invited me to play the piano. She would listen to that without saying anything. Sometimes they put on a gramophone record of an orchestra. Usually then the mother would go out of the room. I asked her once, ‘Don’t you like the Western music?’ ‘I don’t like the orchestra music’, she said. ‘It is all so high up: i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i. And she waved a hand high above…

Emptiness and Fullness

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…

Dr. Jigoro Kano and Judo

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

What We Learn from Judo

  Recently competitive sports have become popular in Japan, and often the question comes up as to the relation between competitive sports and Judo. The question is put in various forms, but I will present the two extremes. 1 There are those who attack competitive sports and say that since in Japan we have our martial arts (bujutsu) which are excellent for either spiritual education or physical education, or both, so what necessity is there for all the problems which will be involved in becoming enthusiastic to import sports? If we practise our own indigenous bujutsu arts, then we shall be encouraging the spirit of the Japanese people in a natural way, and it will also be a training in virtue. But the import of foreign sports will naturally affect the spirit too, and perhaps we should end up as foreigners. 2 Then again there are others who point…

Study for Yourself, Cultivate Yourself

One basic principle which he put forward came from Buddhism—Jita kyoei or ‘mutual benefit for oneself and others’. We in the West do not think so much in this way; we think just of a good man. The good man sacrifices his own interests for others. But in the East they contrast the merely good man with the wise man, who is able to benefit himself as well as others. And the view of Dr. Kano is that you cannot in fact do much good to other people, unless you have cultivated yourself. We tend to think: ‘Oh, no, no. Do some good to others. Never mind about yourself’. In such cases where it is a question of what to think and what to do, Dr. Kano recommended us to study for ourselves. Again and again he says in these writings: ‘Study for yourself, do research yourself, find these…

Bunbu Ryodo

A great second principle emphasized by Dr. Kano is Bunbu Ryodo. You will recognize two out of the four Japanese characters here: the second character bu, or the first character in Budokai, means ‘martial’ or ‘fighting will’ and ‘courage’; and the last character do, or the second character in Judo, means a Way, as distinct from merely a technical skill. The whole phrase means ‘Culture and Martial Power, Both Ways Together’. Now, bun means literature and stands for civilization and culture in general; bu, as you know, means fighting spirit. Dr. Kano was using a very old ideal in Japan: culture and power united together. Culture without power will be ineffective, and power without culture will be barbarous. Dr. Kano exemplified the ideal in himself; he invented Judo, and then he was a great figure in Japanese education, headmaster of two important colleges and the author of all these…

Training for What?

Dr. Kano says that we must not specialize in some training without thinking what the training is for. There is an important Confucian saying: ‘The true man is not a tool’. He is not an implement. Suppose we are paid to do something, say, to build a bridge. If we neglect the inner culture, the development of our intelligence and will and sense of beauty in our bridge-building, then we are just an implement that builds bridges. In the same way when we teach Judo, we must not just teach technique: we must develop our own intelligence and capacity for thinking. Judo is an inspiring system of training for life, because in Judo the impossible happens. In about 1903 my father saw Yukio Tani, who had just come to the West. My father was very impressed with Tani’s marvellous victories over wrestlers and boxers. Tani was very famous; he…

The Wide Range and the Short Range

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…

Judo in Real Life

Mental control is a very important part of Judo training. We need courage. We haven’t had a war here—a major war—for a long time, but people who have been through some of the worst of war say that a Judo contest can sometimes be more frightening than actual danger. To that extent our contests are a very good training. It’s not a question of being frightened but still going through. That’s something inferior. If the training is pursued, there is an inner calmness. When We face something very extreme— perhaps death, perhaps ‘something even more unpleasant— then we shall know whether our Judo training has been going really deep. Perhaps you may suffer a medical catastrophe, while you are still young. The doctor looks at all the results of the tests and examinations, and says, ‘Oh’. And you will ask, ‘How long will it be before I get better?’…

What Judo Teaches Us

We have to become able to meet disadvantages. In most sports, if there is some injury, people say, ‘Oh, you can’t expect me to go on; I’ve got a bad elbow’ or whatever it is. But in Judo we are trained to go on even with injuries. We know that the body is only 30 percent effective, perhaps only 20 percent effective. But we are not demoralized, and we can use the remaining 30 percent or 20 percent, whereas many people, if they are injured or feel a little sick, cannot do anything at all. They are completely knocked out. The ability to keep up morale in the face of disadvantages can be a great help for our lives. There is a saying in Japan, ‘Every man has seven faults’. Well, to know that we have faults but to go on in spite of those faults, to find ways…

Being Good on the Mat Isn’t Enough

In these writings Dr. Kano often says, ‘Find these applications of Judo to your daily life, and don’t just practise Judo on the mat’. When we fall in Judo, the first thing we learn is to fall with the whole body. If one tries, as the beginner does, to keep off the ground, then the whole shock comes on to one unfortunate wrist or elbow, which gets badly hurt. The right technique is not to try to keep off the ground but to take the fall with all of us. In the same way, when we have a failure in life, try to use our Judo experience and take that failure. But people tend to say, ‘Oh, wasn’t I unlucky?’ or ‘It was their fault; they let me down’ or more often ‘Well, I wasn’t feeling very well then, you know’. Dr. Tartakower, who was a great chess master…

The Will to Make It Happen

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…

The Impossible Can Happen

One of the artists of the early part of this century was Eric Gill, and he remarked that in Britain we tend to think of art as something where you have to get out your easel, you get out your oils and you paint a lovely picture. Then you go and do something else. ‘So, art must be brought into our everyday lives’, said Gill. For instance, he designed new typefaces, so that art would be brought into what we are reading. His design, called Gill Sans, is very famous, and when we read something printed in it, we receive a vague impression of something beautiful. Perhaps we don’t know why that book or whatever it is gives an attractive impression, but it does. Judo can be brought into the smallest things in our daily lives. People often hold a pen near the very tip, so that they have…

Emptying the Mind

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….

Budo notes

Notes Kaiten Nukariya (1876-1934), a noted Buddhist philosopher and a Zen priest. In 1924, he became president of Komazawa University. Dr. Jigoro Kano was born in 1860 and graduated from Tokyo Imperial University in 1881, where he majored in literature and political science. In the following year he founded the Kodokan for the study and instruction of Judo. In later years he became principal of Gakushuin and Tokyo Higher Normal School. In 1889 he visited Europe to study educational institutions there as a member of the Imperial Household Department. He became the first Japanese member of the International Olympic Committee in 1909. He died in 1938 on his return voyage from Cairo where he attended an IOC meeting. Saigo Takamori (1827-1877), a leader in the overthrow of the Tokugawa shogunate and the creation of the Meiji government. His statue stands in.Ueno Park in Tokyo, showing him as a man…

Budo Glossary

Glossary dan, grade. Those ranking first through fifth dan wear black belts. For sixth through eighth dan the belt has red-and-white stripes. Ninth dan and above wear a red belt. harai-goshi, hip sweep ippon. The referee announces ‘ippon* when a contestant throws his opponent largely on his back, when a contestant holds his opponent for 30 seconds, or when a contestant gives up by tapping two or three times with his hand or foot. jujutsu, an old form of traditional Japanese martial arts, which unlike contemporary Judo involved hitting, kicking, stabbing and slashing. kouchi-gari, small inner reap osoto-garU large outer reap randoriy free practice tsurikomiy lifting and pulling waza-ari. The referee announces ‘waza-ari’ when a contestant throws his opponent but when the technique is not sufficient to qualify the attacker for ippon.

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