The principle of Maximum Efficiency — Saidai Noritus Genii,was stated in these words by Dr.Jigoro Kano. When I was sixteen, I heard him explain it, in his beautiful English, at the Judo hall in London. He said that it applies in every action in life: do not use too much force, and do not use too little. Use exactly the amount of force that is necessary. To do this, he said, is Right Use, Zen-Yo. He slso told us that this is the true meaning of the word Ju in Ju-do; to use too much force is Wrong Use, what he called Hardness or Go-do.
(The next day, he brushed some huge Chinese characters on a long roll of paper; it was framed and hung high on the wall of thd judo dojo in London. The words were read and then translated for us: Ju Sai Sai Go o sei-su: ‘the gentle Ju indeed controls the forcible Go’.)
In the lecture, he said that Zen-Yo or Right Use applied not only to the amount of force to be used, but also to the amount of material. He gave the example of a tank of goldfish. If the water is absolutely pure, the fish will die. There must be some green plants in it. But if there is too much green stuff, then too the fish will die. In order to live, the fish must have the right balance; Wrong Use—lack of balance—brings failure. That was the conclusion.
Well, he gave the talk to an audience of judo enthusiats, and of course we all listend with respect and even reverence to Dr.Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo. But as I sat there, I began to think: ‘Most of it is obvious. Why is he saying all this? It is self-evident. If I want to hammer in a nail, but don’t hit with enough force, of coure the nail won’t go in; and if I hit too hard, the nail will probably bend and the wood will be split. We don’t need to be told that sort of thing’. (Like many 16-year-olds, I was full of confidence in my own ideas.)
The only point where I did not agree was his statement that unnecessary force will bring failure. I thought: ‘No, that is not always true. The greater force contains the lesser force. So if greater force is used, it may sometimes succeed. If one hits too weakly, the nail will never go in.
But if one hits even very strongly, sometimes the nail will go in, though it will make a big Bang! But that is not necessarily a failure’. As to the goldfish, I had never kept any, and it made no real impression on me. I understood what he was saying, but I did not feel it had anything to do with me.
Then he gave some examples from judo, which I found really interesting.
So I came away from the lecture a bit dissatisfied. I could not understand why such a great man should waste his time telling us what everyone already knew. But I did not forget the talk. He had a remarkable presence, which in a way awed even the cheeky 16-year-old who was determined not to be over awed by anyone or anything. I came to know that Dr.Kano had been a big figure in Japanese education. Then from time to time I would find myself thinking: ‘What did he do it for? Why did he say these obvious things?’ Gradually I got the idea that there must be something which I had failed to grasp.
I came to see that Dr.Kano was not speaking about single incidents like hammering a nail, or keeping goldfish: he was talking about attitudes in life. There are people(was I one?) who always speak louder than needed, who close doors with a bang. In an argument, even when they could convince by reason, they try also to frighten others by using advantages of strength or money or status. In judo or Shogi or in life generally, they are always attacking, whether it is sensivle or not, and whether there is an opportunity or not. It is always Too Much.
Then there are others who do not want to commit themselves to any complete action; they try a little, and then wait to see how it turns out. It is always Too Little.
I slowly realized that we have to control our natural tendency, whether it is Too Much or Too Little, in order to change it into balanced Right Use of our actions and lives.
At first this seemed to be impossible. It would mean thinking about it all the time. For instance my elder brother was a Too Much man: When he stirred a cup of tea, he moved the spoon strongly, using the whole arm as in his boxing punch(he was a fine amateur boxer). It made a noticeable clink! It was somehow challenging and aggressive. When he was a boy, occasionally my mother would say to him: ‘Don’t stir like that. Do it quietly’. The next few times, he would take care and make no noise when he stirred, though he still used the whole arm. But that lasted only while he was thinking about it; he soon forgot, and everything was as before, ^ooking at many similar cases, I concluded that it would be impossible to act against one’s Too much or Too little mature for long.
But something about Dr.Kano’s words haunted me: such a great man would not be recommending the impossible. I began to observe some things which I had never really noticed before. When my boxer brother did things, he confronted them, almost ready to fight with them. He wanted to establish mastery over the spoon, to conquer it, so to speak. Then I noticed some of my fellow students at London University stirring their own tea in the canteen. Some of them would put only the head of the spoon into the cup, and cautiously stir the surface of the tea by moving just the fingers. It took them some time to dissolve the sugar. They were Too Little men, and it was as though they were a bit apprehensive—of something, it was not clear what.
I began to see this contrast everywhere: the Too Much men were ready to fight things, they almost hated them; whereas the Too Little men distrusted things, and in fact feared them. I applied the analysis to myself, of course; was I a Too Much man or a Too Little man? I came to a conclusion, but why should I tell anyone else?
Well, I had got something deeper from Dr.Kano’s remarks, but the problem still remained: how can we bring our Too Much or Too Little to a balance? I know now that I had seen examples of the answer at home in Britain and in other countries where I had been. But I did not recognize it clearly till I went to Japan. I had known it vaguely, but in Japan it stood out clear to see.
The Too Much man hates the material (or man) he deals with; the Too Little man fears it. What does the Man of Balance do? I saw in Japan not only artists but ordinary people, who loved the material they were using. They seemed to become one with it, to enter its very nature. I watched a carpenter take up a piece of wood to shape it. He did not know anyone could see him. Before he began, I saw him stroke the wood with his fingertips, as if it had been the arm of a child: ‘I won’t hurt you’. It was a surprise to me that when he did begin to plane, he pulled the plane towards him, instead of pushing it away as we do: it was an introduction to Japan as a ‘pulling’ nation as against the British ‘push’. He handled the plane gently but firmly, just in accord with the nature of the wood and Dr.Kano’s principle of Maximum Efficiency.
This was the solution to the problem: it is not that the Too Much man deliberately uses less force, or the Too Little man consciously makes himself use more. That still leaves the question: how much less, or how much more? The answer is to become one with the action and the material. Whoever it may be, there is no difficulty when I am doing something to his own body: for instance, if I clean my finger nails, I know exactly how much force to use. I never wound my fingers by too much force, or leave them dirty by using too little. I instinctively use exactly the right amount. And it should be so in life generally.
It may be a surprise to know that Churchill, the greatest orator in Britain for a century, was at first rather shy when talking to strangers. An experienced friend told him: ‘Realize that they are all like you: they are all shy. You must put them at ease’. He soon became fully confident in speaking. Again, a war hero famous for his daring in hand-to-hand fighting, said when he received the Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery: ‘As a boy I was terrified of fighting. But I realized that they were just as frightened of me as I was of them. After that, I never hesitated’.
In ordinary life, at a meeting some people will shout too much, while others are frightened and are not heard. But if a person feels that he is one with the audience, he will know how they feel, and he will find a way to speak effectively. It is true that there are times when it is right to shout; but it will be done not out of hate, but to warn or help in some other way; there are times to be silent, but then he will be silent on a basis of reason, and not out of fear. Dr.Kano’s voice was quiet, but his public lecture was firm and clear; we did not miss a word. I remember that he said that judo men should be careful not to misuse their skill, and he added: ‘The best security is to be surrounded by friends, and they are not made by swords’.
© Trevor Leggett