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 appears, for instance, in Bernard Shaw’s 1905 play Major Barbara, where one character describes how he defeats the local fighters of the East End in London. When my father finally found out that I was doing Judo under Tani, he asked, ‘What is he teaching you?’ I showed him one or two of the techniques like kouchi-gari. My father said, ‘Oh no, that’s not the real stuff!’

What do you mean?’ I asked.

I saw him beat a huge man’, he replied. ‘And he is a small man himself, isn’t he? He must have touched some nerve centre to paralyze the huge man; he could never have thrown that big man otherwise. I expect he doesn’t teach you the real secrets yet’. My father could not believe that by speed, balance, technique and timing a big man could be thrown by a small man. The impossible happened.

In Judo one of the beauties was that any means could be used—absolutely any—provided that they were not dangerous for the opponent. There weren’t all these rules that we have now. And that meant there was a great scope for surprise and the exercise of intelligence. Surprise was very important, but as the rules are increased in number and the possibilities become fewer, it is more and more difficult to surprise anyone. We know everything that can happen: it is like a game of tennis, in which you know everything that can happen. You may not be able to do it, of course. But in Judo, you can practise for 20 years with the best Judo men and still suddenly come across something quite new to you.

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